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The Art Of Shoplifting

Updated on March 4, 2017
Gwenneth Leane profile image

Gwen has written numerous short pieces of fiction with various themes. She enjoys writing short stories because they are slices of life

Lost in the Crowd


Is anyone Looking

“Can I help you, Madam?”

“No, Sir, I was just looking for the underwear.” Oh, no, he’s seen me. What will I do now? I’ll just make out I’m looking at these artificial flowers, that might throw him off.

“The underwear is in the next aisle, Madam.”

“Yes Sir, I was just browsing.” Oh, there’s Judy Mears over there, I’ll speak to her, that’ll prove I’m not doing anything wrong.

Is anyone looking? Yes, the camera is looking. To day, most store have a camera placed strategically and the shop lifter will be seen. Some shop lifters are ver



“Hello Judy, haven’t seen you in ages. In town for a day’s shopping, are you? How about we have a coffee together, the café is in the basement.”

“No, thanks, Anne, yes it’s been a long time no see. I have been very busy, still am. I must fly, see you.” I don’t want anyone to see me with her. She is always in trouble with the Law.

“Next time we can have that coffee, goodbye,” stuck up snob, never did like her. Is that detective still following? I’ll go upstairs and see if that will get rid of him.

Nobody can catch me. But what if you were caught? In South Australia, shop lifting is considered a form of theft and dealt with under the Criminal Law Consolida


Shoplifting – an Ancient Art

It was the early shoplifters that caused Australia to be colonised. One wonders how many people deported to Australia as criminals were shoplifters, who for one reason or another escaped the death penalty and were deported.

As early as 1698, the Shoplifting Act was passed as deterrent legislation to make all shop lifting of property worth five shillings or more and certain other thefts punishable by death.

London shopkeepers were keen to get this legislation passed by Parliament. The Act did not give the stores the respite from shoplifting that shopkeepers had expected.

The eighteenth century had celebrity shoplifters. Jane Austin’s aunt, Jane Perrot, was apprehended in 1799 for apparently stealing a card of lace from a store at the same time as she was purchasing some lace. She was goaled until her trial.

One’s position in society does not make a person immune from shoplifting. There are many shoplifters among the rich and famous. One American study suggested that Kleptomania struck the rich and famous more often than the poor.

Why shoplift? The urge to shoplift is called Kleptomania and strikes any time anywhere any generation any person.

Shoplifters steal $30- billion from North American retail stores every year. They do not make the headlines but they cost us dearly as prices have to be marked up to account for stolen merchandise.


“Hello Anne, how are you?”

“Ben Miller, how you scared me half to death, you shouldn’t accost a woman in that manner, you might get a handbag around your ears.”

“Beautiful women always attract me. Are you well, Anne, you don’t seem your old self. Been in trouble shop lifting again?”

“Ben, do you think I’m really beautiful? Besides, why would I be shop lifting? My husband provides for me handsomely.” Ben doesn’t know I’m husbandless since a year ago, jobless, and nearly homeless.

“Sorry Anne, don’t get narky with me.”

“Then don’t go around scaring people half to death. Besides, I don’t like the way you inferred that I’m a shoplifter. I’m a very respectable woman.”

Another Ruse

“Excuse me, Madam, the Manager would like to see you in his office. It’s that door on the left down the corridor.”

“Thank you sir, I’ll be right there. I must go to the lady’s room first.”

“No, he wants to see you right now. I shall come with you in case you get lost.” She’s a clever operator, very had to catch.

“Oh all right. Ben it has been nice seeing you. It’s just a little misunderstanding about a lay-by. See you soon Ben.” Trust him to come along at the wrong time. He’ll tell his wife and she’ll spread it all around the town that I was caught shoplifting.

“Sir, I feel sick, I’m going to puke all over the place, and I must get to the rest room real quick.”

“Madam, this way, quick, before you spoil the stock.” I’ll push her away from these dresses. I don’t want to smell like a pigsty for the rest of the day.

In bondage for an uncontrollable impulse? a desperate need? Or to prove the powers that be can be beaten?


Dodged the Issue

“Rhonda, I didn’t see you there, I wasn’t feeling too good and was just going to the rest room for a spell.”

“Anne, it is nice to see you again. I heard you had gone away for a while, Rhonda. Just a bit of a spell, you know. Look I must go before…” She doesn’t need to now I spent three month in prison. I must get away from here quick.

“We can have a catch up coffee when you are feeling better, I’ll be in touch.” Wonder where she went for her holiday, maybe they her caught shoplifting and it goal.

“Yeah, sometime, must run.” Uh- uh, it’s too late.


“Yes, Mr er-er-er.”

“Come this way, please.” Thought she could get way didn’t she.

“I’m feeling very ill, I must go home.”

“Good try. You don’t look very ill. There’s little mater of shoplifting you have to talk to the manager about. You were seen putting a pair of nickers into your bag. Come this way.”

“You mean I’ll be searched?” Good job I put the nickers into Rhonda’s bag. She didn’t see me. She’ll be livid when she gets home and sees them.

“Yes Madam.”

“But I don’t have anything in my bag, see.”

“You’ll have to prove it to the manager.”

“You don’t have any right to treat me like this.”

“Madam, shop lifting is an offence. Here is the Manager’s office. Go in.”

“Seems it’s not very long ago you were here in my office, promising that if I didn’t report you to the police, you would go straight. That was my last warning. If I find anything in your bag or on your person, I’m throwing the book at you. Now let me look in your bag.”

“Well? See? I’m clean. I could report you for false accusations.” Don’t think I can but it might frighten him off.

“You’re in luck this time Madam, I will catch you. I don’t know what you’ve done with the nickers but you won’t be so lucky next time.”

“It helps to be on the right side of the law.” Hmm they think they are clever. I’ll show them what shoplifting is all about.

It's the little things in shops that excite shop lifters


Kleptomania – a sickness?

Kleptomania is the inability to refrain from the urge to steal items and is done for reasons other than personal use or financial gain. First described in 1816, kleptomania is classified in psychiatry as an impulse control disorder. Alternatively, some of the main characteristics of the disorder, which consist of recurring intrusion feelings, an inability to resist the urge to steal, and a release of pressure following the theft, suggest that kleptomania could be an obsessivecompulsive spectrum disorder although this is disputed.

The disorder is frequently under-diagnosed and is regularly associated with other psychiatric disorders, particularly anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse.

Over the last 100 years, a shift from psychotherapeutic to psychopharmacological interventions for kleptomania has occurred.

Kleptomaniacs or shoplifters do not face the death penalty or even prison.

Rich or Poor

The urge to shop lift overcomes the rich and the poor.

Kleptomania is no respecter of people.

Help is available but release from the bondage only comes when the desire to be free becomes a strong desire.


Shop lifting is considered a form of theft and can be dealt with under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act of 1935.

Shop lifting offences amounting to $150 or less provided the person is over 18 years of age and the victim consents the shop lifter may be issued with a shop lifting infringement under the Shop Theft Act 2000. In these circumstances a caution will be issued and payment to the goods taken be made.

I the cost of the goods taken is more than $30.00 the shop lifter will be required to do community services and will not be required to go to court.

How Popular is Shop Lifting

$2.00 - $200.00


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    • Gwenneth Leane profile imageAUTHOR

      Gwenneth Leane 

      16 months ago from Glen Osmond, Adelaide, South Australia Australia


      Thank you for commenting on the story of the shop lifter. I'm glad that you thought the information interesting. I was wanting to do just that. I appreciate your comments

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      16 months ago from Orlando Florida

      Clever little story into the mind of a shoplifter. I liked the side bar info on shoplifting and kleptomania.

    • Gwenneth Leane profile imageAUTHOR

      Gwenneth Leane 

      16 months ago from Glen Osmond, Adelaide, South Australia Australia

      Thank you billybuc for your encouraging comments.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Really a very interesting way to deliver a message...I love how you wrote stories for the different scenarios. Well done!

    • Gwenneth Leane profile imageAUTHOR

      Gwenneth Leane 

      3 years ago from Glen Osmond, Adelaide, South Australia Australia

      Thank you for you comments. I was struck by the change of atitudes from capital punishment to visiting a Psychologist was amazing.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi Gwenneth, this was an interesting story and I didn't know there was a impulse disorder which can be involved with shoplifting. I suppose most assume an individual is simply doing it to get something for free, for the thrill or out of a basic need. It is interesting that for some this could be a form of OCD. Great Hub, voted up.

    • Gwenneth Leane profile imageAUTHOR

      Gwenneth Leane 

      3 years ago from Glen Osmond, Adelaide, South Australia Australia

      Thanks Jodah for your encouraging comments. I wondered if it would be interesting.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting story and information on the prevalence of shoplifting Gwenneth. I enjoyed this. Voted up.


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