The 7 Habits of a Highly Successful Shoplifter

What you never dared to ask a shoplifter!

In my career as a professional thief catcher, I have detained between 5 and 10 shoplifters a day, over 17 years that works out at more than 20,000 shoplifters caught stealing in various retail stores. As you can imagine, I consider myself a bit of an expert on shoplifter techniques.

Most people have no idea of the staggering scale of shoplifting which costs retailers and ultimately consumers billions of pounds every year. The general public largely consider shoplifting a trivial and ‘victimless’ crime. Before I get to my list, I think we need to talk about the Law on Shoplifting.

So what is shoplifting? Well you won’t find it on the statute books under that term. Shoplifting is Theft! Under the Theft Act 1968, Theft is defined as “A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and

‘thief’ and ‘steal’ shall be construed accordingly.”

What does that mean? I hear you ask…Well there are 5 areas that have to be proved before a person can detain another for theft;

1 Is the act dishonest? i.e. was there concealment?
2 Was there appropriation? ie did the thief use the property as if it were his?
3 Is it property?
4 Does it belong to another?
5 Was there an intention to permanently deprive the owner of it ie not just borrow

Well now you can see the problem in catching them, you have to have seen the entire sequence from start to finish of the thief entering the store, approaching the item, concealing the item, leaving the store and making no attempt to pay for the item.

Shoplifter or Customer?

There are some very funny articles on the web on the subject of stealing and the rationalisations of the theives who do it. My favourite is “The Art of Shoplifting”, I have to share a quote from that esteemed treatise, Golden rule one, “NEVER STEAL FROM SOMEBODY WHO COULD CONCEIVABLY BE A COMRADE”. In fact that article is full of little golden nuggets.

But I digress, on to the top 7 habits of a highly successful shoplifter;

1 – Act completely normal. Most people get caught because of their body language, looking around to see who is watching you is not normal behavior.

2 – Dress according to the environment. Don’t wear long coats in summer or look like most people’s idea of a LA gangster.

3 – Try to be “in and out”, don’t hang around but at the same time don’t be in a hurry either.

4 – If you use props, make sure they are new. Using a tired old and crinkly shopping bag is a giveaway.

5 – Don’t worry about CCTV, it can’t jump of the wall and run after you. 9 times out of 10 no one is watching anyway.

6 – Be confident.

7 – Always remember that you WILL eventually get caught so be prepared for that eventuality.

That’s it but I bet you were expecting me to explain shoplifting techniques, weren’t you? Well that is for the next article.

In truth, very little will deter determined shoplifters. CCTV is redundant when not backed up by CCTV operators in conjuction with Store Detectives (SD’s) or guards. Few stores have security guards and staffing levels are low. Those shoplifters who are unlucky enough to be caught will only return to shoplifting the next day to pay off their fine.

Ultimately, all you can do is to try and make it harder for them. Look out for my next article of that very subject.