Risking Freedom for a Piece of Meat: Why Do People Shoplift?
1 in 11 Americans (approximately 27 million Americans) – no matter how poor or wealthy they are – takes goods from the store shelves and “forgets” to pay for them. Shoplifting is a national epidemic that’s costing the economy more than $100 million each day, with most criminals getting away: shoplifters say they are caught only once in every 48 times they steal. Meat, razors, baby formula, electronics, cosmetics, alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, and clothes are on the list of the most shoplifted items in the U.S.
And while one can understand the reasons why a person would steal an expensive laptop, it’s simply baffling for most why a college-educated and working individual would risk his or her freedom for a bottle of whiskey. And yet, psychologists have several theories why people engage in this kind of criminal activity without considering the long-term consequences, singling finances, emotional issues, peer pressure, and kleptomania. The typical shoplifter is not the beady-eyed criminal who has it all figured out and plans to make a huge profit off of the stolen items. It turns out, shoplifting is primarily an impulse.
The majority of shoplifters (excluding organized professionals who steal for a living) don’t plan their heists in advance. Getting something for nothing has a greater meaning for the average shoplifter than the value of the stolen item itself: for some it’s a substitute for loss experienced in a recent divorce or accident, for others it’s justified revenge against other people, the government, or big corporations. Many people steal as a relief mechanism for depression, anxiety, boredom, or just to spend their time differently.
Interviewed by Forbes, Dr. Read Hayes from the Loss Prevention Research Council talked about people’s tendency of stealing low-value items: “Most theft is greed, not need. They certainly don’t need the steak, but they talk themselves into self-justifying the behavior. It’s a big corporation; they charge too much; everyone does it.”
Barbara Staib from the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention confirms this theory: “There’s an acceptable level of dishonesty in society. Most shoppers think it’s okay to eat grapes. They think it’s a free sample. But do you see a sign saying you can eat grapes? No. It’s stealing.”
On a larger scale, shoplifting is a serious crime that negatively impacts small and large retailers alike. Losses of tens of billions of dollars – $35 billion per year only in the U.S. – are reported by retailers every year, the economy is constantly burdened by unnecessary costs, and the existence of many stores is continually endangered by shoplifters. In addition to all this, store owners and employees are constantly at risk of having legal action pursued against them, if they decide to adopt measures in order to protect their property rights.
False arrest, humiliation, and similar charges – most often the result of shoplifting prevention efforts – are the reasons why consumers decide to sue store owners. If you feel an injustice has been committed in your case, a criminal defense lawyer with experience in these cases can help clear your name and also receive compensation, if the damages you’ve suffered are notable. Call 773.908.9811 or visit https://www.chicagocriminallawyer.com and fill out a short form with your personal details to schedule an initial consultation.
About the Author
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.