Shoplifting—Harmless Thrill or Serious Crime?
PICTURE the following scenario. The front door of a department store opens, and through it enter two teenage girls dressed in style. They walk down an aisle to the cosmetics section. A uniformed security guard follows but stops when he is about 30 feet [10 m] from them, assuming a stance with his arms behind his back. He watches the girls as they casually finger the lipsticks and mascara.
They glance at the guard, who is keeping his eyes on them. Emotion wells up inside them. One of the girls moves to the nail polish and picks up a couple of bottles. Her nose wrinkles as she pretends to evaluate two similar shades of red. She sets one bottle down and picks up another of a slightly darker hue.
The security guard lowers his gaze and turns to look in the opposite direction. As if on cue, the girls slip lipsticks and bottles of nail polish into their handbags. Their faces look calm, but their emotions are now boiling. They stay in the aisle for a few more minutes, one gazing at emery boards, while eyebrow pencils occupy the other’s attention.
The two look at each other, exchange nods, and begin walking to the front of the store. The security guard steps aside, and they smile at him as they pass. Moving to the cell-phone accessories directly opposite the cashier, they look at the display. Whispered comments about the leather cell-phone cases pass between them. Then they start toward the exit.
With each step, the fire inside them heats up and increases the pressure of fright and thrill. As the girls cross the threshold, they feel like screaming, but their lips remain closed. Once outside, an emotional rush paints their faces redder than any makeup could. The storm inside them dies down, and they sigh deeply with relief. The girls briskly stride off, but they cannot stop giggling. One thought fills their minds: ‘We got away with it!’
The two girls are just imaginary, but the scenario we have described is only too real. Shoplifting occurs an estimated one million times each day in the United States alone, but it is a global problem. As we shall see, it causes tremendous harm. Most shoplifters, however, pay little heed to the devastation they cause. Even many who are able to pay prefer to steal. Why?