Did you witness shoplifting?

Have you yourself seen a person shoplifting?

What did you do? How did events turn out?


Since this is asking for personal experiences, it’s a better fit for our In My Humble Opinion category, not Factual Questions. I’ll move it for you.

Hell. I participated.
No lasting emotional scars.

One time, when I was about twenty, I became friendly with a bunch of pretty wild teenagers in a small provincial town in France. They’d take me into a shop and get me to ask the proprietor for something complicated in English, while they grazed the shelves for items they desired. Don’t know why they bothered shoplifting, really; you could get a bottle of wine for a franc or two back then.

Years ago I used to take seasonal jobs between Thanksgiving and Xmas to supplement my income as a department store shoplifting dick. So, yeah, I’ve seen tons of it.

On my own time I’ve seen it. About 6 months ago I saw a tough looking teenage girl in a Walgreens pocket a bunch of candy bars and just walk out. Not a felony and not the jurisdiction I work in so all I could do is tell the first employee I could find. Don’t know what happened after that.

Worked about 4 months as security for a chain of drug stores. Spend about 90 minutes to 2 hours wondering one of the stores then move on to the next. I learned early on to not worry about the cheap stuff, every bust no matter the cost meant a trip to court. The most common stops were teeny bopper girls stealing makeup. Others were teen age boys taking sports cards and older women taking food items. Even after I quit, I was still subpoenaed to court for many months. Store management wanted me to go and paid me $50 each time even though I was no longer an employee. The saddest bust was an 82 year old woman that had over 200 shoplifting arrests. Found out during one of the court hearing that she was worth about 10 million dollars. To her, shoplifting was a hobby.

When I was working as a stocker at a grocery store, another employee and I were sitting in the deli when a group of kids comes out of the store and one pulls a notepad out of his pants and shows his friends. We walked outside, told them we saw what happened, and we’d like the notepad back. They returned it to us and rode off on their bikes. It was obviously just for the thrill in this case, what kid desperately wants a lined notepad?

A boyfriend in college used to shoplift for kicks. He was a jerk.

I saw some of the aftereffects of shoplifting some time ago. I think I may have posted about it.

I was at Aldi, just entering the store. Two uniformed people (I assume some kind of store security) had a man stopped and were directing him to empty his pockets, open his coat, etc. A number (like maybe 50) of deodorant containers fell out of his clothing.

I didn’t stay to see what happened next. It seemed rude to stand there and gape.

A guy in front of me at Chipotle grabbed his food and ran out with paying for it. Cashier said she knew exactly what he was going to do.

Witness personally, no, but working at Blockbuster, I saw the post-mortem quite regularly. People stealing movies and even games. Made me so angry.

I worked at Target for 4 years in the early 1980s. One day, a couple came through my lane and set a large box on the counter and said, “We decided not to buy this.” NBD; people did that all the time, and I rang up their other stuff.

Several minutes later, the code for “All male employees come to the front of the store ASAP” was announced, and the couple were brought back in. (This was done when the security folks anticipated trouble.) Whenever a woman was caught, a female employee had to go in the room with her, and one of the cashiers was asked to witness this.

And what, you may ask, was this?

The woman lifted her dress, and revealed that she had indeed shoplifted a 13-inch TV (keep in mind that this was the early 1980s, so that thing was heavy!) by carrying it out BETWEEN HER KNEES.


Not long after I left, I heard that a large shoplifting ring composed entirely of employees was broken up, and one of them was the store manager’s teenage daughter! The ones who were minors, including the daughter, were to have all charges dropped if they made restitution within a certain period of time. IIRC, the manager’s daughter had to pay back something like $3,000, which is about $7,700 in 2021 dollars.

When we were still in high school, another Target co-worker was there the day that security called all the cashiers and told them, “If you see a stereo with a $29.95 price tag on it, just ring it up, and we’ll deal with the rest later.” One of my classmates rang up the mis-tagged item, and the man was arrested when he tried to return it for full price at a store across town, something the other stores had been warned about. She had to go to court and testify, for which she received an excused absence from school.

Long ago I stopped at a gas station. I went inside to buy a snack. A young guy was walking toward the cashier with a 12 pack of beer and just kept going. The clerk yelled something but he got out the door and that was that. I have no idea what happened.

A few weeks ago, I saw a young woman boosting a can of juice at a campus cafe. I told the student running the register, who replied, “Oh. Well, I don’t know what to do about that.”

And I worked at a bookstore with a man who went on to work at a university bookstore, where he was arrested for pilfering tens of thousand of dollars in books and cash.

A few weeks ago I was walking into the door of a Speedway gas station and I saw a guy waiting in line pick up some candy from a display and pocket it. Then he paid for his gas and left. I was next in line (the guy didn’t see me come in and he grabbed the candy before I was in line), so I told the guy working the counter “hey that guy in front of me totally just pocketed some candy.” The cashier was like “Huh, do you think I should turn off his pump?” and I was like “Uhm, I don’t know…” and then the cashier told me to hold on. He went in the back and I think talked to a manager or supervisor. I think maybe they stopped his pump while they reviewed their cameras? I’m not sure, I checked out and left before anything became of it.

The way I saw this was that the guy had two and as a distraction threw one of them on the floor so that all twelve bottles broke and then run with the other. The clerck said to me: “Why did he do that? Now I have to clean up, mark two cases stolen and after all he must have known that I’m the only one here so I cannot run after him. What a jerk!”

I used to work the overnight shift at an Eckerd’s Drugstore in a college town. It was very common for college-age males to make a beeline for the beer cooler, pick up what they wanted, and walk out. I’d flap my hands and say, “Come on, man, don’t do that…” but that was about the extent of it.

On a road trip some years ago we stopped at a fast food burger place. It was busy and packed. After ordering food we waited at the back of the crowd. It was noisy so I was not sure when they called our number, so after a few minutes I returned to the counter with my receipt and the server said they just called that number and someone grabbed it and disappeared outside (they evidently did not check a receipt). They just remade our order with no fuss. Probably not the first time that happened.

Another time when I was a teen working at a sporting good store the manager stopped a guy wearing a trench coat walking past the registers. The guy opened the coat and had bunches of clothes still on hangers hanging from the inside. He did not argue, handed everything over and left the store (the manager just let him go).

Off the top of my head, I can only think of one time I saw blatant shoplifting, in person. I was probably 12 or 13 years old and helping out at the register. I still have the image burned into my memory. The cashier was ringing up a couple, the woman went around to a different part of the counter, grabbed two packs of Smints (remember Smints) and put them in her purse. I was the only person to see anything and in too much shock to say anything.

Now, those are just in person. I’ve seen lots of shoplifting on our cameras. Sometimes in progress but usually after the fact because something makes me decide to go back and check the cameras.
Just last week I caught someone changing the price on something. The cashier told me that a customer just bought something with a big orange $1.69 sticker on it that was originally $5.99 and she knows that the item was just put in the store and certainly not discounted yet…also there was a big discount bin full of stuff with the same $1.69 stickers.
I pulled the camera footage and it confirms the item didn’t have a $1.69 sticker on it when she pulled if from the shelf but it did when she got to the register. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good shot of her actually applying it.

In any case, she’s a regular customer and the next time she’s in, she’ll be asked not to shop here any more.