Shoplifting and Theft

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​Shoplifting Methods

There are several methods used for shoplifting.

  • Price switching. Changing the price from one object to another. More common in mom and pop shops. Still happens in the big stores.
  • Grab and run. Forget all the finesse and stealth. Just take it and run like mad. Best done in groups because, "they can't catch us all."
  • Restroom and fitting room changes. "I was wearing this underwear when I came in! Honest! Besides you can't sell them now cause you really scared me!"
  • Distraction. This happens a lot more than many people realize. It could be a child or an elderly person. It could be intentional as part of a scheme or opportunistic, you were simply busy.
  • Booster bag or box. False bottomed boxes. Specially rigged bags. Devices designed to conceal items so they can just leave with them.
  • Fraudulent returns. Many professional shoplifters will buy one legitimate item and steal 5 or more of the same item. They then duplicate the receipt and return the 5 stolen ones. Prosecution is tough on these so be alert.

Loss Prevention Tips

Identify the items most commonly stolen from your shop, and watch the items, not the people you think might steal them. You never know what a shoplifter looks like. It could be a priest or a homeless person or even a movie star. So know what is most often stolen and watch people as they operate in that area.

Customer service is the key to prevention. Shoplifters need to be unobserved. Training your employees to offer good customer service and explain why.

Proper placement of merchandise. Jeans by the door!?!? Gone in a flash. Place your volatile merchandise in areas that you spend the most of your time. Keep them in plain view of you and away from rapid exit points.

Security Devices. The cost of this technology is coming down so as a small business, consider the investment.

Cameras and monitors. A few cameras will help you monitor your area a bit better and provide evidence of the crime for prosecution.

Mannerisms that may trigger your 'sixth sense'.

  • Loose and baggy clothing.
  • Sunglasses inside.
  • Unseasonable clothing.
  • Random selections without regard to price.
  • Watch for the big oversized bags or boxes.
  • Continuously looking around.
  • Sweater / coats draped over the arm.

The following information was copied directly from the Internet. I thought it was well written and offered a good overall view. Consider just running a search on shoplifting online and see what others have to say.


There are many types of shoplifters and just as many if not more reasons why they shoplift. The following is a sampling of information and discussion available.

Some shoplifters are categorized as "grazers," such as in grocery type stores, they go through, and like cattle, they graze... opening a package or box as they go, and eat, drink, snack, et cetera and either replace or discard the leftovers or packaging without paying. Others shoplift for need, want, on a dare, to supply their "vanities" (cosmetics, perfumes, et cetera). Some shoplift as a profession. Most shoplifters generally have enough money on them to pay for what they are stealing. The manner in which shoplifters operate varies widely, and has been documented on in-store video and personal observation by "Loss-Prevention" personnel again and again. The thefts are carried out by individuals, pairs of suspects and by well organized "teams" of professional shoplifters. Often the boldness of some of these thieves shocks even well seasoned police and loss-prevention specialists.

Make no mistake by thinking these are non-violent criminals. There have been numerous shoplifting incidents that have started on a small scale and escalated to robbery, causing injury, and in some incidents even death. Your business should review it1s procedures on shoplifting, actions to take and/or NOT to take, decisions of whether to apprehend, detain, et cetera and insure that policies/guidelines are adhered to by employees.

Some things to watch for ("Red Flags") that may indicate shoplifting is in process or about to occur are:

  • The shifting of merchandise in the business. Most businesses have their more expensive merchandise in particular areas, watch for merchandise that has been picked up and moved to another area of the store or business. (If a team is working in tandem one will generally pick up, move and replace an item or items then leave it and a second person will come in, pick it up and leave).
  • Watch for distraction techniques. Loud noises, rude customers, demanding customers, spanking and screaming at kids, asking for an item behind the clerk (to get them to turn around) have all been used as distraction techniques to aid shoplifters. (If the cash drawer or locked cabinet is open... don1t turn your back!) This list goes on and on and makes for a good discussion.


The following are just a few basic actions/procedures to aid in deterring theft/shoplifting. There are many, many more that are workable and effective.

  • Maintain ACTIVE floor workers (sales and stock clerks). Greet everyone as they enter (Now you have not only acknowledged their presence, but you may be able to supply a description).
  • Make a statement to customers like, "If you need help with anything just wave or look my way, I1ll see you".
  • Re-stock shelves, don1t leave gaps in merchandise and a full shelf makes it possible to tell at a glance if something is gone and on the same note, if you don1t keep your merchandise out how can you sell it? This constant stocking, straightening, et cetera also keeps you mingling with the customers, and if there is a thief he/she is not alone and out of sight to steal.

The Art of Shoplifting

The "Art of Shoplifting" is an article that has circulated the web since 1995. Remember, people read this stuff and so should you. Know what they are thinking and you will be able to stop them.

This is the original article on shoplifting featured in Rabelais that is at the center of this issue. This article is not reprinted to encourage any person to commit any illegal act, but for purposes of informing discussion of the issues at hand.


Shoplifting is a topic that is practically relevant to many and it should therefore not become an exclusive craft confined to a small shoplifting elite. On the contrary, shoplifting is an art that deserves the widest possible dissemination. For your convenience we have printed below a step by step guide to shoplifting. Good luck.

Within capitalism, most of us are either (1) alienated from our labor and hence dependent on the ruling classes for commodities as basic as food and clothing, (2) excluded from the division of labor, in which case we are likewise dependent on the State, or (3) performing unpaid and/or unrecognized labor and hence dependent on patriarchal relations for food, clothing, et cetera. In any case, our access to resources is severely limited by contemporary relations of domination. One partial solution to this problem may be to STEAL.

Sadly, however, many people living precariously on low incomes tend to either: (1) avoid shoplifting for anachronistic moral and/or ethical reasons; or (2) remain ignorant of the better methods and techniques of shoplifting, thus failing to maximize their lifting potential.

From the onset, the golden rule of theft should be enunciated: NEVER STEAL FROM SOMEBODY WHO COULD CONCEIVABLY BE A COMRADE. Hence kicking into a house on Bell Street with a beaten up old Mazda in the yard is irresponsible and counter-revolutionary!

Be careful, too, about taking stuff from small 1corner store1 type shops -- you could be ripping off someone in a situation not dissimilar to your own. On the whole, it is best to play it safe and go straight for the big corporate.

Some people will suggest that shoplifters are a selfish breed, since 1we all pay for it in the end1 through inflated prices to cover losses and so forth. However, comrades, this and closely analogous arguments are used to justify lowering wages, breaking unions, lowering corporate taxation and taxation on the rich and corporate sector we may as well sell ourselves into bonded slavery now, or join the Liberal Party.

No, the injunction against stealing from capitalism is itself a capitalist ideology and should be spurned as such. Although we have been taught that 1thou shalt not steal1, an order historically backed by threats of divine retribution, this should not for one minute stop us from taking the redistribution of wealth into our own hands. Believe me, no-one is likely to do it for us.

What follows is a list of effective methods and observations that may prove useful.
Preparing oneself for the big haul:

  • If possible, you should always have some money on you when intending to shoplift, because if you1ve got none, it1s rather hard to argue that to steal the item was a spontaneous decision. As a result, if you1ve got no money and are caught shoplifting you are more than likely to be charged for burglary as well as theft.
  • Buying something at the same time that you steal stuff doesn1t necessarily ensure success. Approaching staff for items you are absolutely sure they don1t have is just as good. Think of something that you know they don1t have (i.e. a doona cover with a specific pattern on it or something equally obscure) and pretend that you are looking for this, so that you have an excuse for being there. If staff are ever suspicious of you or ask if they can help you, ask them if they1ve got the thing you are sure they don1t have. Never screw this up -- if you do you will have to buy the item or they may realize that you are there to steal.
  • It is always a good idea to carry a bag although you should never stash anything in it -- if security/sales staff are on you the first place that they1ll check is your bag and it may just get you off the hook if they can1t find anything suspicious inside of it.
  • Remember that there is no such thing as a standard store detective -- there is no qualifying dress code, age, race, gender or class. Grandma will bust you this week and next week it1ll be a 5 year old kid.
  • Just as there is no typical store detective nor is there a standard shoplifter. Security do not go looking for the poorly dressed people. They may pick on you out of boredom, but remember, only an unsuccessful store detective picks on poorly dressed people. By the same token don1t believe the stale myth that suits + dresses = more successes; security anticipate that professional shoplifters will dress up a bit. Wear whatever you want.

On entering the maze:

  • As soon as you enter the store, check out the sales people. First impressions often count here. You could find a valuable blind-eye turning ally in younger or less-affluent employees. Alternatively, an employee can often stand out as a more wishy-washy gullible individual -- so even if they see you they are likely to be too gutless to mention it, either to you or to security.
  • Don1t be put off by signs such as 1shoplifters will be prosecuted1 or 1security police patrol this store1. Often this is just bluff anyway, and in any case there is no security measure that cannot be undone by a clever shoplifter or a quick talker. Do, however, keep your eye on security and be on the lookout for video surveillance cameras.
  • Try to find where the video surveillance monitors are and who is watching them; often they are not even looking at them. See if you can get a glance at their monitor. Often it is one monitor hooked up to 20 cameras which changes sequentially (every 30 seconds or so). Other times it1s one guy in a room looking at 50 screens while reading the paper or glued to the box. These monitors are usually pretty small and have a wide aperture, showing more of the room but not enough detail to adequately see what you are up to.
  • It is a good idea to keep your back to the camera as much as possible without looking suspicious. Check out cameras (hold-up cameras) are often set up to check on employees, so they are not hard to keep your back turned to.

Blind-spots and other lifting techniques:

  • A blind-spot is a section of the store where you are barely visible and can thus feel free to both dump and collect stuff, without fear of being seen. Display units can make perfect blind-spots -- they ensure security is confident they have their eye on you, when in fact they can only see your top half -- at the same time they enable you to keep your eye on security. For these reasons, the best blind-spots are usually below the chest -- around waist high. Blind-spots are good for loading into the lip of your jeans or into a jacket.
  • Make sure your blind-spot is not under surveillance. Never hang around your blind-spot for too long. Most of all, be careful to never lead security to your blind-spot.
  • A good method is to take everything you want to your blind-spot and collect it all later in one go, or better still get someone else to collect it for you. Getting someone else to collect for you can be a great system, particularly with exchanges -- which I1ll come to later. If you are really pedantic, or you think that they are watching you, then load up, go to the toilets and pass the stuff under the wall/partition of the cubicle to a waiting friend in an adjoining cubicle and get them to leave with it.
  • Speaking of dunnies and change-rooms, one of the oldest tricks in the book is to put more than one garment on a hanger (works particularly well with women's underwear), go to the change-rooms and put the garment underneath what you are wearing. Alternatively, if you are a woman, you can slip your old bra on a hanger and put on the new one. Don't be put off by the staff as you enter the change-rooms -- they are usually quite disinterested and so long as the number of hangers you exit with matches the little plastic number they've given you they'll be satisfied.
  • On the subject of women's underwear, the lingerie department is ideally suited to male shoplifters -- not only is it the perfect excuse for looking embarrassed or suspicious (they have come to expect this), but staff are less likely to harass you by trying to help you and will be more sympathetic generally.
  • Exchanging crap for more crap: Exchanging things -- that is, taking the redistribution of wealth into your own hands by refunding yourself for an item you never paid for, or swapping something you stole that you don1t want for something you do want, or swapping something that you don1t want that is un-stealable and therefore

Refundable -- is a whole new ball game.

  • If you plan to steal something and then make an exchange always take stuff that people are likely to take back like sheets, or other obscure household items. If questioned you can say to them "as if I'm gonna keep the receipt, I didn1t plan to bring it back". Books and other small but expensive items such as computer software are also great exchangeables.
  • Stealing women1s underwear and cosmetics are the perfect alibi for male shoplifters who specialize in exchanges. Male customers always mess up buying stuff for their girlfriends/wives/mothers and when it comes to lingerie, it1s just too easy for a guy to look goofy, have sales staff sympathize and all too quickly agree to exchange or refund the items. This works particularly well around Xmas time when you can tell them you bought it for your mother but she already had that one.
  • Never take an exchange item to the store you stole it from and make sure the other store (e.g. Myers in Doncaster as opposed to Northland) has the same item before you take it back.
  • Make sure you have chosen your item before you approach anyone for an exchange. Also, tell the people in the first department that you want an exchange without mentioning receipts -- they should send you down to the appropriate department for your other item and then ring up this department providing a referral, which if you are lucky will mean you do not have to provide a receipt given that everything appears legitimate.
  • The first time you exchange a stolen item for another product make sure you get something un-stealable in return, like a video, watch, or something else kept behind a counter, so that the second time you do it, even if you don1t get an exchange receipt they will not suspect that it is stolen.
  • Exchange receipts are a pain . Sometimes smart sales people will write a cross the original docket 'no original receipt' which is a problem, so if you have a bit of money on you, it is a good idea to exchange for something that costs a little bit more so that they have to give you a cash receipt.
  • Don1t freak out if they call security while you are acting out an exchange -- as returns will often require security1s signature this is quite standard procedure and nothing to worry about.
  • If you1re having problems getting an exchange, big department stores normally have consumer rights people located upstairs somewhere -- they can usually be contacted by information telephones. These are people with big egos who like to wield power and the sales staff, who are much lower down the hierarchy, are usually pretty freaked out by this power. If you do get the ego from upstairs on side, they will organize a sales person to look after you and after the egomaniac goes up upstairs again, they sure will -- because the sales person does not want to reprimanded by the same person from upstairs more than once, you will be practically able to get them to do anything that you want them to. A good technique is to tell the person upstairs a different story to the one that you tell the sales person. You can get angry at this stage and tell them that they screwed you around, that you don1t want an exchange any more and that you want a refund now and they will usually comply.
  • Be wary of the long term employee -- you1ve got to know when to stop. Be particularly wary of the head of sales or middle management who have been working there for a long time (sometimes 20 years or more) and are not as scared of the big guys from upstairs as are the newer employees. You can often convince some of the younger staff that they are allowed to do refunds if you tell them that you used to work there.
  • Another commonly used technique is to take an empty bag from the same store with a receipt in it for previously paid for items and then nick the same stuff, which gives you the perfect alibi.
  • Better still, if you1ve got some money, find two things that are worth however much you1ve got, take them out of the store and stash them somewhere, then go back in and buy the exact same items. While leaving the checkout, make a big deal about it. "Am I doing the right thing? Will she like it? Will it fit him? et cetera" and then "what the heck!" (Make sure you don1t go overboard and push them to mention keeping the receipt or worst of all mention it yourself!) Pay for it. About half an hour to a couple of hours later (not too long) take the stuff back to the same sales people and they1ll usually give you cash without a receipt because they remember selling it to you. If you pull it off you1ve got a cash receipt and your stolen goods which you can exchange at another store.

Leaving the store safely:

  • Always double back just as you are about to leave the store so that you can check if anyone is following you (99.9% of the time they will follow you out of the store before they approach you). Alternatively, go up and down an escalator or in a lift and press every button in the lift and it will be obvious if anyone is following you.
  • If people are watching you, whatever you do, do not try to discreetly dump stuff unless you are absolutely sure that you can get away with it. If caught dumping stuff they usually won1t charge you but they may mess you around for a few hours.
  • If you are caught dumping stuff never let a store detective know it was because of them. Always make out it was a result of a sudden guilty conscience. Never let a store detective know that you know that they are on to you, because they won1t put them on you the next tim​e. That way you get to know store security and are able to keep your eye on them as much as you can.
  • If you want to have a bit of fun and don1t plan to continue shoplifting that day, or ever, or you just don1t give a shit, go up to a store detective and treat them like a sales person, asking them for help et cetera. It is just as embarrassing for them to be caught as it is for you. It is always a good thing to break their spirits or at least bring them down every now and again. Alternatively, use reverse psychology on them. Say "I1m going down to such and such department. I1ll see you down there". Often they1ll be too embarrassed that they1ve been busted and think that you won1t do it now that you1re being watched and you will have the run of the mill.
  • NEVER GET TOO CONFIDENT or you will start to make silly mistakes.

Finally, if you get caught -- lie your teeth out!

Never admit to premeditation. Always say that the opportunity arose, so you took it. Don't act tough or be  smart. Cry. Bawl. Admit a guilty conscience. Beg them not to call the cops. Tell them that CSV will take your kids off you and then weep.

Even though some stores say they have a policy to call the police it is not necessarily true and they may, after lots of tears and admissions of guilt, just get you to sign a statement which says you1ll never enter that store again. If the cops do arrive, it's a good idea to act scared shitless because they may assume you1re a first offender and not bother to check your record. Don1t antagonize the filth -- it is their personal discretion as to how bad you get busted.

You are most likely to be charged with 1theft1 if caught shoplifting, but you can be charged with 1burglary1 as well if you don1t have any money on you. 1Equipped to steal1 is what you will be charged with if, for example, you have a slit in the lining of your jacket for concealing stolen goods. 1Obtaining financial advantage1 and 1deception1 are what you are likely to be charged with as well as 'theft', if caught exchanging stolen items.