From casually following the shoplifter across the parking lot, to paying for the thief’s stolen goods before he leaves, people share what they did when they saw someone stealing.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
I worked at Blockbuster Video in college. They used to tell us to be on the lookout for people who would try to steal the movies by using a paperclip to undo the mechanism that kept the DVDs locked.
On a normal day, that meant looking out for someone who kept looking over his shoulder while leaning really close to the shelves.
One day a guy comes in, says hello, and then proceeds to pull a giant black trash bag out of his coat pocket. He goes to the section right in front of the register where we sold brand new movies (non-rentals) and started dumping movies into his bag. It was like watching the grinch go around our store. He didnt rush. He didnt try to hide it. He went down at least three different aisles before leaving. On his way out he said, You folks have a nice night.
Then, he calmly walked out and headed down the street.
We all stood there dumbfounded.
I was so shocked that I didn’t do anything.
I was in line at the grocery store. The woman in front of me has two baskets, one of which she was sliding with her foot along the ground.
She unloaded the one she was carrying onto the conveyer belt, but just pushed the other along. I was watching this unfold, trying to decide if I wanted to call her out. I weighed the reasons she would be stealing, looked around to see if anyone else was seeing this, and just couldn’t bring myself to do something about it.
As I checked out, I watched her pick up the second basket, walk over to a closed register, and transfer her stolen items into the bag of paid for items.
It’s a bizarre feeling, knowing you probably should confront the person, but not wanting to get involved. I’ve stepped in once before when physical violence seemed likely, but watching a woman steal food is different. I don’t want her to go to jail, I don’t want her to starve if she can’t afford the food. So, I just left her to tempt fate another day.
This happened when I was around 10 years old.
Every Saturday morning at 6, my brother and I used to watch Yu-Gi-Oh! For the uninitiated, the series revolved around a card game. Naturally, when the merchandise came out, we went to buy ourselves a deck of Yu Gi Oh! cards. Since we had saved up enough money to only buy a single deck, we bought it and split it into two to play a game.
Fast forward a few weeks, and the frenzy caught up. It was everywhere. The best players had the legendary cards and were considered gods. My brother being the more competitive one, decided that he needed to build up his deck. I (the crafty one) needed to buy glue, so we went to the same store, and split ourselves to get whatever we needed.
I come back to find him stuffing his pockets with something, but I don’t take it seriously (He was 8, what did you expect?)
This happened a few times before he got caught. And when he did, that charming eight year old devil of a delinquent told them he didn’t understand what they were talking about. Needless to say, he was let off with a warning.
Basically, I did nothing until he was caught. Then, I pretended to be Thor and berated him for being an incorrigible shoplifter.
Completely by accident, I stopped a shoplifter.
I was doing a teacher training exercise for my PGCE at a museum, with my toddler along due to a childcare fail. He had been Such a Good Boy that I decided to buy him a treat in the shop as we left. At this point, he dropped all pretence of being a Good Boy, running riot through the aisles demanding All The Things. So, as I finally got to the checkout with more treats than intended. The checkout assistant popped his treats into a paper bag and handed it to the Darling Little Boy, who promptly scooted for the door as I waited for the card machine to connect with the payment authorisation.
Just as he got to the exit, I uttered Get Back Here NOW! in the voice, known only to Irish mammies, teachers, and the Bene Gesserit. This had the desired effect of causing him to spin round and return to me.
Right on his heels, however, was a teenager who had also been exiting, with some goods he had not paid for. He handed them meekly to the checkout assistant, apologised to both of us, and left.
The checkout assistant and I just about held ourselves together until he was out of sight before falling with laughter.
I saw a guy steal a pack of cigarettes from a corner store. The clerk saw him do it and yelled in protest, but if they gave chase, they’d have left their store unattended.
I don’t know why that bothered me so much but it did. I followed the thief (from a distance) for two blocks. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I followed him anyway.
At the two block mark, I saw two cops on bicycle. I told them what I’d witnessed and pointed the guy out to them. They confronted the man and found the cigarettes and did an arrest. I provided a full statement.
This fellow wasn’t stealing essentials. He just didn’t want to pay for his nicotine habit. That really got me steamed.
I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks later when I get an official commendation in the mail from the Vancouver Police Department for assisting them.
I did nothing.
I was sitting on the stairs overlooking a busy pedestrian street just off the Embankment underground station in London. A scruffy-looking guy in his thirties walked towards me. He sat down and started telling his story. Hooked on drugs, lost his job and his girlfriend. Sleeping rough, etc.
He didn’t ask for money.
‘See that little shop over there?’ he pointed at a small sandwich place. ‘I’m going to steal a baguette. I just have to. What can they do? I’m hungry. Watch me.’ I didnt stop him. I didnt offer to pay for it.
He entered the shop, took some time to make his choice, reached for a baguette and walked out. Calmly, as if this was a daily routine. It probably was. He looked at me over the heads of a moving crowd and waved. With a happy grin on his face he opened the baguette and meandered his way back into the crowd.
I popped into my local shop a few months ago. As I entered, I noticed someone had inconveniently placed their bike right across the automatic doors meaning you had to squeeze round it to get in.
The meat section was at front of the store. I stood there next to a man wearing a scarf which covered half of his face, who was picking out some meat and putting them in his bag. It took me about 10 seconds to twig what he was actually doing. Once I realised, I said hey to him, he tried to run. I grabbed his bag — we ended up playing tug of war with it. My handle broke and he ran for it, running first into the wall and then on to the bike. I tried to chase but he was long gone.
Not sure what possessed me to fight; the store manager gave me a bit of a lecture on it though – they were insured, it happens all the time and wasn’t worth the risk of getting hurt. So the next time I saw someone running out with a stereo, I calmly stepped out of their way.
My school has a store we call the Ranger Outpost. The teacher who runs it gets 3 to 4 kids for every class period to work at the Outpost. We sell chips, sodas, oatmeal, coffee, cookies, cheese sticks, etc. I work at the Outpost during 1st block. During the first semester, I had only one other partner working in it with me for 1st block. Let’s call him Brad. So Brad is a senior who plays football. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile in my life. He always gave me the feeling that he would attack me at any moment. I hated asking him to wash dishes or bake cookies because then he would always give me the look like he was ready to slam my face into concrete.
So one day, I had just gotten done with everything I was supposed to do so I was just sitting around on my phone. Brad, obviously, had done nothing all day. I looked up from my phone and this dude had his hand underneath the cabinet with like eight meat sticks in his hand.
So what did I do? Nothing.
I wasn’t about to risk losing my pancreas over a few meat sticks. So I didn’t do anything about it. Eventually, our teacher found out he was stealing just because he wasn’t good enough to hide what he was doing. So everything worked out in the end.
I deal with shoplifters daily. Sometimes, they’re just little kids being naughty. Sometimes, they’re older people who are hungry. A few times, they’re desperate mothers trying to feed their kids. In these cases, I speak to the kids, call their parents. If the shoplifters steal food that’s meant for eating (and not reselling) let’s just say I may or may not have paid for bread more than once In my life that I had no intention of eating.
Most times, they’re members of theft syndicates, or addicts trying to feed their addiction. I call the cops with no regret.
I’ve only seen someone steal ONCE. I walked up to him and said: ‘Get out of my store before I call the cops.
My girlfriend and I were second in the checkout queue at the local supermarket, and in front of us was a man with his young son, probably about 4 years old. While Dad was unloading his trolley onto the belt, the son stood mesmerised by the childrens books that stores love to place by the tills in order to induce tantrums. But there were no tantrums here.
He looked up at his dad. Back to the books. Back to his dad. He picked up a Moomin book (hey, its Finland, what else was he going to pick), and calmly walked round his dad and the cart, looking intently at the checkout assistant to make sure she wasnt going to catch him either. Thats where I nearly cracked up, he had this priceless I know this is wrong and Im doing it anyway, try and stop me! look. Having gotten away with it, he hauled himself up onto a bench and started flicking through the pictures.
My girlfriend hadnt noticed a thing, and my Finnish is terrible, so I had to explain to her what had just happened so that she could tell his dad. Dad sat next to him and calmly explained why we dont do that, and he brought the book back and handed it up to the assistant. No tears, no drama, but I got the feeling he wouldnt be trying it again any time soon.
I saw a lady putting a bunch of children’s books into her bag at the bookstore once. She looked down the aisle at me and caught my eye. There was a moment she looked apologetic and ashamed. My inner alarm bell was ringing. Should I turn this crook in to the store authorities? It would probably be the right thing to do, after all.
She was stealing children’s books, after all.
For her children to get an education.
The store was a multi-million dollar chain store. It had insurance to offset loss. The lady was a struggling mother with bad shoes and probably inquisitive children at home who wanted to read. Not such big a moral dilemma. I smiled, nodded and looked away. I left the aisle.
I’ll quote the late, great Abbie Hoffman when I say, Steal This Book!
Especially when it’s for the children.
There is a donut store that always gives my sister free donuts.
I asked her about it once and she told me that the owner absolutely loves her because she once drunkenly chased down a man that stole five Powerades from the store.
She was not successful, but apparently the store owner just appreciated her attempt at vigilante justice. Who knows what she would have done if she had successfully caught up with the guy. Regardless, I bet it was pretty funny to watch a drunk girl in heels run after a shoplifter.
I was in a convenience store once when I spotted this teenage kid blatantly stuffing things under his coat. He actually looked at me and smiled, and motioned for me to keep quite. I walked up to the register planning on saying something to the clerk, but just then a police officer walked through the door, and I spotted another one coming across the parking lot. The clerk was an older gentleman who was completely out of it. I could see that, and I guess the shoplifter could too. I’m sure he thought he could get away with what he was doing. He was just heading out the door when he spotted the cop. He ducked his head, and tried to hurry on by, but I called out: Hey man, aren’t you going to pay for that stuff you crammed in your coat?
Immediately the kid breaks into a run and, as he goes through the door, he ran all over the 2nd officer. The first cop made a lunge for him, and within seconds they had him against a wall, patting him down. He had about a 100 dollars worth of merchandise stuffed in his pockets, and they quickly had him in handcuffs, and were escorting him to the nearest squad car.
It was my good deed for the day.
Some years ago, during a break from school, we went to the local grocery story to grab some lunch. At the grocery store we were getting some sandwiches and noticed two girls walking around very, well noteworthy. They didnt seem to look for anything, they just wandered around – which is quite weird because, well its a grocery store in the middle of a beautiful summer day.
We decided to follow them and see what they were up to, at some point they grabbed a couple bottles of Smirnoff Ice – this was THE teenage favorites among alcoholic beverages.
They walked a couple isles further and they squatted down in the middle of the isle acting like they had to tie their shoe laces, put the bottles in their bag and got up again.
We decided to speak to someone in the store, but couldnt find anyone – never saw the girls again.
We laughed and laughed and laughed…
I used to work in a supermarket, in the Beer, Wines and Spirits section. There were cameras and security guards and there would always be one member of staff on the floor in the department.
One day the security guard and I were reviewing some CCTV footage to see if we could spot anything that wed missed.
We saw one of my colleagues putting bottles of whisky on the shelves. Next to him, less than two feet away, we saw a man hide a bottle of whisky in his jacket and walk off. My colleague continued stacking the shelf, completely oblivious to what happened.
As this was filmed the day before there was nothing we could do but laugh! Obviously the next time that colleague came to work we rushed to show him the footage and laugh some more at his expense.
A friend and I used to run regularly after work. The route would vary but often took us the same way through the local village and loop through housing estates back home.
One night as we passed the local grocery store, a middle aged man furtively glanced out of the door and ran – full basket of groceries in hand. Seeing him run, still carrying the basket (rather than carrier bags you would usually leave with) – it was immediately obvious what was happening.
Unfortunately for him, we were certainly better prepared for a footrace. As we bore down upon him, he realised that he wasnt getting away and dropped the basket, sending it skidding down the road. Not fancying a closer encounter, we picked up the basket and returned the contents to the shop – much to the surprise of the cashier.
After a quick thank you we were back to running – the only memento being a funny blip in my running data right around 17 minutes in.
As a customer, I didn’t do a single thing.
Me and a couple other people were waiting to get into a Target one morning. An associate came to the door and apologized for not opening on time, and continued saying most of the staff didnt show this morning (huge mistake on their part). We walked in and started shopping as usual. I had to get new headphones for work as I like to listen to music while I work. I noticed another guy filling up a back-pack (not too discretely) with electronics. He looks over at me and before he can say anything I say Hey man, what you do is all you – I see and know nothing. He replies, cool, and continues filling his bag. I left the aisle and made my way to the front to pay for my items. Seconds after I get in line, the guy pops up behind me with a soda and candy bar. I pay for my items and walk out the store. I calmly get in my car and drive to work.
When I got to work, I told a friend and he asked me what was the guy stealing as all the high valued items are behind glass. I said, thats the thing, this guy was stealing the Platinum Edition video games, but not just any Platinum Edition games, the one that were also discounted. For the non-gamers, after a game is released and sells well, about 6 months to a year later, they re-release the game as as Platinum Edition and its usually about $15-$20 instead of the usual $60+. The games this guy stole were roughly 4075% off sticker price. He also stole a few earphones, and phone chargers. Maybe $200 worth of merchandise if he was lucky. And for the record the guy was in his late 20s to early 30s.
I saw a young teenager steal the extra nacho cheese at a movie theater, which I think costs like $1 each. When I got to the cash register, I told the cashier to charge me for the price of it, he did.
As it turned out, the teenager walked past me to take a phone call as I was walking into the theater. I told him that I had paid for it, and after a moment of freaking out thinking I was going to rat him out or that I worked for the theater or something, he said thank you and took his seat.
No big story, no scene.
I was working in the family Sporting Goods store behind a counter stringing a tennis racket when I spot a guy in the baseball aisle stuffing a glove into his sons jacket. I waved one of the other employees over and he got my dad and the two of them intercepted the guy on the way to the door. They retrieved the glove and kicked the guy out with a warning to not return. His face was in our rogues gallery. That was 44 years ago, so no handy cell phone camera and no security cameras either, but he didnt know that.
All I could think was Really! Thats what you want to teach your kid? To shill for a thieving father?
This happened two weeks ago. I distracted an employee so he wouldnt notice the mother with 2 children in the basket putting a package of chicken in her diaper bag.
I figured, of all the things to steal frivolously, this mom was looking to feed her family and didnt need the storm that comes with getting caught shoplifting. If she is resorting to that, obviously things arent going well for her right now.
I know it was illegal, the cost gets passed along to us the consumer, its morally wrong, whatever… She didnt know I was an accessory to the crime nor did anyone else. She made it out safely and didnt take anything else that I noticed in the short time she was there.
What made me reflect on this is, it pisses me off when I see children pocket some candy, or an adult shoving a shirt down their pants at Wal Mart. But I had no reservations to help her out. I guess everything comes down to perspective.
I was at a coffee shop near my home, and saw a homeless guy came in asking to use the bathroom. And before he left, he grabbed a bag of chips. I couldn’t bring myself to call out the theft, but I also didn’t feel right to just let it pass. So I offered to pay for the chips. I told the clerk that the homeless guy ran off with a bag of chips, and I wanted to pay for it. I said I don’t want any trouble for anyone. The clerk seemed a bit surprised, almost angry somehow. I had to explain twice what I saw and what I was doing. She took my money nonetheless.
Now that I think back, maybe the guy came to that coffee shop often, and probably took stuff often, and the clerks just let him because probably they’re like me, couldn’t bring themselves to take food from a seemingly hungry guy. Maybe they weren’t happy about me paying for the food because by doing so, the guy wasn’t invisible anymore. This one incidence, we all need to acknowledge the guy exists, and he needs food. Maybe that makes people uncomfortable. I don’t know.
I paid for the chips, my coffee, and left.
I followed him.
I was at a national sporting goods chain, looking for a new tent, when I saw a young female employee calling after a man who was walking out of the store with a new duffel bag in his hands. I gathered that hed not paid for it, so I just casually started walking after him.
Now understand, Im six foot, 200 lbs, with a fairly imposing manner.
He was trying to act casual, just strolling across the parking lot with his loot, and I followed him well back. Not running, not chasing, just following him. He walked all the way across the parking lot, then across the road, then through the parking lot on the other side, at a normal walking pace, and I just… followed him. I never got closer than fifty yards, and even kept my hands in my pockets. I was the picture of non-aggressiveness.
As he reached the middle of the (huge) parking lot on the other side, he disappeared behind a shrubbery, and then emerged at a dead sprint – minus the duffel bag – on the other side. I kept casually strolling until I circled around the bush, saw where hed dropped the bag, picked it up, and casually walked back to the store.
When I got back, I handed it to the employee, who had been watching with a look somewhere between amusement and horror, and she opened it up and found that it was filled with electronics.
When I was a mere 18 year old (and still very new to the business of retail), I was working a late shift at a retail store that stays open for 24 hours. It was a pretty large store (think CVS). The manager was downstairs with another employee. Therefore, I was at the very front register, next to an entrance (that leads to a parking lot), at 12:30am. A man walks in; I notice that he looked a bit….well, shady. I smile at him and he stares back. I shrug it off since I always got the weird ones at that time.
Then I noticed that he walked to the alcohol section. Five minutes later, he walks out of it. He gave me the stare down again, while walking. I noticed that he had a bottle of alcohol in one hand. I was going to say something, until I looked at his other hand….which was fingering what looked to be a gun in his pocket. I could tell it was pretty heavy; it seemed to weigh down his baggy pants which outlined its shape. The handle was sticking out, and I could see the trigger. I guess he saw me looking at it because he gave me this snarky grin (with like three gold teeth), winked, and walked out. I called my manager after that. She said I did the right thing by not confronting him. We looked at the security footage after that. Not sure what happened to him after, but that was the last night where I worked the night shift. I was NOT willing to get killed… over alcohol anyway!
I was working the graveyard shift (10 pm to 6 am) at a AMPM Convience retail store with one other individual, usually. This night, I was working solo (she finally showed up 4 hours late) at the time.
I walked around the end of an aisle to see a young man (about 22 or 23) stuffing a large expensive bag of beef jerky down the front of his expensive black leather jacket. His back was to me.
I walk very quietly (I have scared the heck out of people, especially at 6 foot 3 inches tall and about 250pounds). I was right behind him. He was making much more noise than I was. I cleared my throat. He still had a hold on the bag, arranging it in his jacket.
He turned slowly, and stared right into my chest. His gaze finally came up to my eyes. He slowly lifted the bag out of his outer clothing. He handed it to me, and I pointed to the hanger it came from. He expertly slipped it on the hanger.
He said that wasn’t the only one, and repeated the process another seven times, then unzipped his coat to show me there was no more.
I had him dead to rights, but the only thing I could do and keep my job was what I did – I had to let him walk. I had to tell him 3 times to leave, he was so blown away he was not getting punished. He thanked me profusely.
I was walking towards the entrance of a store when a lady came barreling out. She was followed by the employees. The employees were screaming:
Someone help! Stop that thief! Help Help AHHH
So I bolted after the lady. She had a bag full of clothing and electronics. She dropped stuff out of the bag as she ran towards her car and got in. I got there in time to grab the door and hold it open so she could not close it. I noticed a bit too late that the lady had a getaway driver. I ended up getting my foot ran over (miraculously nothing broke but it hurt a lot!), my hand got scratched on the car door as it was sped from my grasp and I got the living daylights scared out of me.
Luckily I was able to get the license plate number and a semi okay description of the lady and the driver in the car. I also got a 15% off your entire purchase card from the store for my trouble.
All the same thought, dont chase after shoplifters, not everyone is as luck as I was to get away with just a bruised foot and big scratch. I was lucky I didnt get shot or stabbed or completely run over. Its not worth the risk of serious injury.
I did nothing, since the shoplifter was someone known to me!
This is about 10 years ago when my mother and I used to live in a modest 2 bedroom apartment. It was small but sufficient for us. In the penthouse above a lady about 8 years older than me with a newborn kid and her mom used to live and they got friendly with us. It was probably because my mom and said lady, lets call her S, were both single moms and the age difference between her and me was also less.
Anyway, one day we went to a nearby store together, to get some provisions. S tagged along when she saw us going and at the shop after we took our change and left, she deftly picked up a packet of chips and hid it in a bag she was carrying. This was a mom and pop run store which we frequented and I asked her once we got outside to pay for it saying that she forgot. Of course she wouldnt agree. Her justification – they already make enough money, this wont matter.
To think that they were wealthy enough to afford a penthouse but didnt want to pay for a packet of chips. Karma is mysterious though and catches up. A few months later we found out that the penthouse belonged to her brother who was in the US and when he returned with his wife and kids he promptly kicked out his sister and even his mom from the penthouse!
They are living in a much smaller one bedroom last I heard.
Many years ago when India did not have the RFID chips in the clothing, I saw a teenager coming out of trial rooms with less clothing than what he went in with. As I observed, I figured out he was wearing one on top of the other and was camouflaging them under a loose fitting denim jacket.
I gave him a couple of eye contacts to show I knew what he was doing and hoped he would place them back, but he did not.
He was able to beat the security systems of the shop and step out with no incident.
I was caught in a dilemma – should I inform the security or let him go?
I finally decided not to inform the security; however, I could not go without having a word with him.
I walked up to him at the parking lot and looked him in the eye and said, I know what you are doing. Trust me, it is not worth it. Please do not do it again.
He looked back at me and said nothing but give me a nod to show he understood.
I trust he stopped!
I went to a 711 not to far from where I work in Washington DC around the same time high school kids were being let out. The line was unusually long with students with gym bags and backpacks waiting to buy candy, Gatorade, and other sweets.
I was standing behind a kid who could not have been anymore obvious. He knocks over a bag of chips in front of the register, kneels down and instead of putting it back, he puts it in his backpack. At least 3 to 4 other students saw him do this while the cashier was checking another student out.
D.C. is an expensive place to live, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that student did not have money to pay for a bag of chips. The last thing I would have wanted to do was stop a hungry kid from eating.