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Shoplifting (also known as PIE theft, five-finger discount, or shrinkage within the retail industry) is theft of goods from a retail establishment. It is one of the most common property crimes dealt with by police and courts.[citation needed]

Most shoplifters are amateurs; however, there are people and groups who make their living from shoplifting, and they tend to be more skilled. Generally, criminal theft involves taking possession of property illegally. In the case of shoplifting, though, customers are allowed by the property owner to take physical possession of the property (holding it in their hands or in a shopping cart controlled by them, for instance). This leaves areas of ambiguity that could criminalize some people for simple mistakes (such as accidental hiding of a small item or forgetting to pay). That is one of the reasons that penalties for shoplifting are generally lower than those for general theft.


Economic impact and response from shops

Retailers report that shoplifting has a significant effect on their bottom line, stating that about 0.6% of all inventory disappears to shoplifters. In 2001, it was claimed that shoplifting cost US retailers $25 million a day. Observers believe that industry shoplifting numbers are over half of by employee theft or fraud and the rest by patrons. Of course, if apprehended during the shoplifting, the merchandise is generally recovered by the retailers and there is often no loss to the store owner when the merchandise is surrendered to the store by the suspects. In addition, in many states retailers have the right to recover civil damages to cover the cost of providing security.

According to a December 23, 2008 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dimperio's Market, the only full service grocery store in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is closing because of shoplifters. [1]

Legal aspects

Shoplifting is considered a form of theft and is subject to prosecution.

Rights of store operators

In the state of California, and in most cases the rest of the United States and other countries, store employees and managers have certain powers of arrest. Store officials may detain for investigation (for a reasonable length of time), the person whom they have probable cause to believe is attempting to take or has unlawfully taken merchandise.[citation needed] At the very least, staff usually have citizen's arrest powers.

Generally, in the United States, the store employees who detain suspects outside of and inside the store premises are allowed by state statute limited powers of arrest and have the power to initiate criminal arrests or civil sanctions, or both, depending upon the policy of the retailer and the state statutes governing civil demands and civil recovery for shoplifting as reconciled with the criminal laws of the jurisdiction.[2]

Retailers in the United States may have the authority under state laws to request Civil Recovery Demands (Shoplifting).

Common shoplifting techniques

"Accidental" stealing

In "Accidental" stealing, a thief takes his place in the queue with the items he intends to steal, and pays for only one of those items while holding what he intends to steal in full view to cause confusion (or places said items into his pockets), while avoiding suspicion due to his apparent intention of payment. In the event of being caught, the thief can simply pass off the attempt at stealing as accidental. This method is also referred to as "left handing," a reference to the stolen item being held in the left hand while payment is made with the right.

Baby stroller boxes

This scam involves the use of baby stroller boxes, which tend to be quite large in size. A would-be shoplifter removes the stroller from the box and proceeds to conceal a large amount of merchandise inside. He then reseals the box and takes it to a checkout aisle, where he pays the purchase price for the stroller. If the scam is successful the shoplifter leaves the retailer's premises with the concealed merchandise.

Bagging, Simple

The Simple bagging tactic is when a shoplifter surreptitiously hides an item inside a bag that they have brought into the store (for example, a shopping bag from another store or a purse).

A more complicated method of bagging would need the shoplifter to have an empty dvd case, an active security tag and a bag from another shop. The method is, for when the shoplifter enters a major entertainment store, he will set off the alarm with his active security tag in his pocket. Security will know he has not shoplifted anything because he has just entered the store. The shoplifter will have in his bag an empty case shoplifted from a place like Gamestation, where they only have empty cases on display. The bag the shoplifter is carrying will say GAME or HMV or anything different to where the shoplifter is stealing from. Security will think shoplifter bought a game, DVD etc from that store and is setting the store's sensor off with that security tag on his DVD, which is known as tag pollution in the Retail Loss Prevention community and happens normally. Using sleight of hand, the shoplifter will swap the empty case in his bag with a real DVD case. When he leaves, security will just think its the same tag that set it off when he entered the store. This technique requires the shoplifter to have an active security tag in his pocket, a bag with a store name on it that sells DVDs etc, and an empty case, usually shoplifted from a store with empty cases. If security stop him as the alarm goes off, shoplifter's excuse will be that the alarm went off when he walked in and naturally goes off when he will leave, and when they check him and only see one DVD or CD etc, they will let him go.

Bag switching

Bag switching methods are generally attempted by a pair of shoplifters. Typically the first shoplifter will have a large bag and gather a large amount of merchandise quickly to attract the attention of a Loss Prevention Investigator. Once the first shoplifter knows that he is being followed he will conceal the merchandise in the bag. The first shoplifter will then switch his bag with the second shoplifter, who usually has a matching bag that is already filled with items that don’t belong to the retailer. Often the Loss Prevention Investigator will miss the switch and arrest the first shoplifter. Subsequently, the first shoplifter may claim false arrest and receive a gift card from the retailer in recompense.

Barcode counterfeiting

In barcode counterfeiting the shoplifter will bring in pre-made barcodes from low value items. These are then applied over the barcodes on higher value items. This allows the shoplifter to go through the checkout process, make a payment, have any security tags deactivated by the clerk and walk out without arousing suspicion. The shoplifter might be working in collaboration with the checkout clerk to ensure the incorrect prices go unnoticed.

Barcode switching

This is when a shoplifter switches the tags/barcodes between two pieces of merchandise, most likely putting the cheaper tag on the product they wish to obtain.

Booster boxes (bag)

A booster box is a device that allows a shoplifter to conceal a large quantity of merchandise on his person. These boxes are lined with metal or some other material to prevent security tags from setting off the security gate alarm at the exit. Alternatively, a shoplifter could line any bag with copper foil or a similar shielding device to stop the RFID tag setting the alarm off. Typically, professional shoplifters of large girth most commonly attempt this scam. The use of a booster box is most prevalent at clothing retailers because clothing merchandise can be easily molded to fit inside the box. It is not unknown, however, for professional shoplifters to attempt to use booster boxes to conceal electronics and DVDs.

Copper finger

A shoplifter may tape some copper foil to his finger and walk out of the establishment with the finger pressed over the RFID tag on an item in his hand. This will disrupt the signal so no alarm sounds when he leaves the building. If caught, the shoplifter might attempt to get rid of the copper foil knowing that he may be prosecuted for being "equipped to steal."

Many shoplifters combine this with the walk out technique.

Coupon returns

One of the more common scams involves returning items that were paid for partially with coupons. Some stores refund the entire item amount, including the amount discounted by coupons. Shoplifters involved in this scam often shop at multiple stores, and have family members return items so that no suspicion is aroused.

Defective software scam

A person buys a piece of software from a computer store, exits, opens the software, and records serial number/CD key for single license of the software purchased. After at least a few hours the same person re-enters the store where he bought the software and complains to customer service that the installation disc is defective. Most computer store policies allow same-item exchange for opened computer software, so the person is given a different copy of the same software. The scammer now has two licenses after only paying for one.

Demagnetise in store

Stock that has an acousto-magnetic tag on it (mostly DVDs and CDs) is demagnetised in the store by the shoplifter so that it will not set off an alarm on leaving. The shoplifter will place a very small but powerful neodymium magnet (power N48 or higher) on the acousto-magnetic tag, put the item down, wait for about a minute to ensure demagnetisation and then walk out with the item. This technique is used with cheaper CDs and DVDs as Blu ray discs and higher value merchandise may have hidden tags.


A group of two or more will enter a store and try to distract as many employees as they can. Generally amateurs, they engage sales employees and security guards in different ways to keep them occupied. They are persistent and will take all the time they need. One or more will ask for help while another will be near the items of choice. The accomplice nearest the merchandise will await a perceived safe time to steal.

Double cart

Two shoplifters are usually involved with this scam. They fill two carts with goods and approach the checkout. They load the checkout with the high value goods first. The cashier scans the items and removes the security tags. One of the shoplifters bags the items and places them back into the now empty first trolley. As the second trolley is being scanned the first shoplifter leaves with the first trolley while the second shoplifter stays at the checkout. The remaining goods are scanned and the cashier awaits payment. The second shoplifter excuses himself to go and get a forgotten wallet, and leaves the remaining goods at the checkout. Meanwhile, the first shoplifter has had time to load the high value goods into a vehicle.

Fake returns

The shoplifter picks up an item from the selling floor and tries to receive money for it at the return station. Typically the shoplifter will state that he lost his receipt. He may threaten the cashier in wanting to talk to the employee's supervisor and to avoid confrontation the cashier will ring up the return and give the shoplifter the value of the merchandise. (See refund theft.)

False alarm scam

The shoplifter places a tagged item into a legitimate shopper's bag, and waits for him to exit the store. As soon as the alarm goes off the shoplifter has time to leave with his stolen goods.

Fitting room bagging

Typically this scam is seen in large clothing retailers. This scam generally preys upon the common Loss Prevention policy of prohibiting the apprehension of shoplifters when the act of concealment is not actually witnessed by an investigator. The shoplifter enters a retail establishment with a large bag, and then selects a large amount of merchandise and takes it to a fitting room. Once inside, the shoplifter conceals the merchandise in the bag out of sight of store employees and store investigators. In addition, it is common to leave clothes in the dressing room that one does not wish to purchase. This technique is not effective where dressing room supervision includes the checking in and out of clothes by number of items.

A very effective method is to go into store with a bag, and within the bag have the bag of the store inside it, for example, hiding a Topman bag in the plain bag. Go to changing rooms with desired items, remove tags with chosen method (professionals have detachers used by cashiers), put detagged clothing in the shop's bag, put plain bag inside the shop's bag so its hidden. Leave store. This technique requires you to buy a piece of clothing inside the store beforehand so you have a bag with their name on it.

Alternatively, detach tags in changing room and walk out with item underneath your clothes.

Gift card cloning

In this scam, a normal store gift card with no value attached is stolen from a store. The shoplifter then clones the magnetic strip on the back of the gift card and makes a copy or copies of it. The original gift card is returned to the store by the shoplifter. Once purchased by another customer, the gift card is activated, and the monetary amount applied to the legitimate gift card is passed to all the cloned gift cards.

Grab and run

A common shoplifting technique is known by the Loss Prevention community as a grab and run. A shoplifter enters a retail establishment usually with prior knowledge of what he is looking for and moves very quickly toward the merchandise he or she wishes to steal. Once the shoplifter has found the merchandise, he or she proceeds toward the nearest store exit, usually while walking. Due to the short amount of time that the shoplifter is inside the store, persons who attempt this scam are seldom caught or, in some cases, even detected.

Less common is for a group of people to rush into a store, grab as much merchandise as possible, and then rush out. The speed at which this happens as well as the large number of people involved make this approach difficult to stop.

Half technique

The shoplifter walks into the store and takes two of the desired soft light items (like underwear), then opens a bag to make it appear as though he is getting money out to pay for the item; instead he drops one of the items into the bag, and puts the second item back to suggest a change of mind.

Jewellery in the pocket

A variation of the half technique is for the shoplifter to hide a small item of jewellery in a trouser or jacket pocket and either pay for the item of clothing or proceed to the changing room where, out of the eyes of the cameras, the piece of jewellery is transferred to a bag or pocket being worn.

Metal-lined clothing or containers

Metal-lined sacks, containers, or clothing (such as aluminum foil-lined undergarments) allow a person to shield the RFID tags attached to merchandise concealed on his person from the scanners at the door of a store (see Faraday cage). 2001 Colorado House Bill 01-1221 made it a misdemeanor to possess, use, or know about and fail to report others who possess RFID shielding devices with intent to foil anti-shoplifting devices.

Milkshake subterfuge

A less common shoplifting technique used for smaller high-dollar items is the milkshake subterfuge. A milkshake is purchased by the shoplifter and taken into the store. The shoplifter proceeds to drop small heavy items like jewelry into the milkshake. On leaving the store the milkshake is unlikely to be searched.


This requires the shoplifter to have a newspaper, enter a small scale retail bakery and put a sandwich in the newspaper and walk out. This is potentially very effective as most bakeries do not have CCTV and are not expecting to be shoplifted. Walking into a music store or entertainment store with a newspaper instantly raises suspicions and is not done by professional shoplifters.

'Not' Shoplifting

In a country where you can conceal an item and not be charged, a shoplifter might wait until the CCTV is on him and make it obvious he is, for example, putting several chocolate bars in his pocket. Since he knows the CCTV will continue to be trained on him he may walk around the store for a little while before putting the chocolate back but he will hold back one chocolate bar. This technique is generally considered very high risk and is rarely done.

Alternatively, a person may conceal something like Playboy magazines or purple dildos and their excuse may be that they were too embarrassed to pay for it. If caught, this may be offered as an excuse in order to receive a lighter punishment.

Opening the item

The shoplifter gets a small valuable item, quickly puts it in a pocket, so that CCTV cameras and store staff don't notice. Then the shoplifter goes to the public toilet, opens up the item, and flushes the wrapping down the toilet. The shoplifter is sure to unwrap the item so that alarms will not go off when he or she leaves the premises which he does by simply walking out of the store with the concealed item. To combat this, many stores have policies barring unpaid merchandise from being taken into restroom facilities. Some stores even place alarms at the bathroom entrance to further prevent items from being taken in.

At a supermarket bakery a person may pick up a doughnut or biscuit, possibly by opening a packet, and eat it in the store while walking. Other customers might think that he walked in with it. It may be done with any item that can be eaten or drunk easily such as a bottle of water. It may also be an item in a grocery store which is consumed while browsing. An empty can can be discarded on any shelf in the store.

Alternatively, with DVDs or other disc type merchandise, the shoplifter picks up the item and walks away to look for additional merchandise. Elsewhere the shoplifter very precisely cuts a slit in the cellophane wrapping at the case opening. Using a plastic knife (most commonly, but it can be anything rigid and flat that will do little damage to the disc, such as a popsicle stick) the shoplifter pops the disc from the internal clasp and slides the DVD out from within the case. He then discards the item's case in the store and exits with the disc hidden. Often this is not discovered until the item is purchased and opened legally.

Out the wrong door

This method requires a common outside door with two diverging doors from the vestibule: one for an entrance (which is not usually supervised) and one for an exit. Two people enter the store. One person retrieves merchandise from the selling floor. When this person is ready to leave the store, he waits at the entrance door. The other person walks around to the exit, walks into the vestibule and activates the entrance door on the way out, and the person with the merchandise also leaves. Sometimes the second person will just distract the cashiers while the person with the merchandise waits for some unknowing customer to enter the store and activate the entrance door.

Another variation is to exit through a fire door. Although these are alarmed, by the time staff respond, the shoplifter will be long gone. Many stores now have fire exit doors that operate with a delay—the alarm is set off several seconds before the door can be opened.


Two shoplifting accomplices will enter a store. The first shoplifter will pick up, for example, two small chocolate bars. With the chocolate in his hand, he will 'pickpocket' his accomplice, but in actuality drop the chocolate in his pocket. When the accomplice tries to leave, he will say that he never knew what happened or that he knew the accomplice.

Alternatively, the accomplice who does the pickpocketing will, as seen on the CCTV, actually put the chocolate in the accomplice's pocket and pull out a wallet. This technique from a pickpocket perspective is known as the phantom wallet, so that when the pickpocket's victim touches where his wallet should be he feels something, and assumes it is his wallet.

CCTV operators who have knowledge of pickpockets will assume that the phantom wallet technique is being used. Video

A shoplifter who works alone will put the product into the bag or shopping trolley of a person he doesn't know, and when the stranger leaves the store with it or actually buys the product, the shoplifter will approach the person outside, directly or indirectly.

Power failure

In the event of a power failure where all lighting and CCTV goes out, the shoplifter quickly grabs as much merchandise as possible and calmly leaves the establishment before power is restored. Some stores have their security equipment on battery backup, however.

Razor finger

This technique involves using a razor blade to remove or destroy security tags on merchandise. The razor blade is taped onto the fingers with medical tape to give the appearance of an injury. The blade is then used to cut off or destroy the security tags. This technique was used in the book Evasion.

Receipt matching

The receipt matching scam involves using receipts to match merchandise codes on the receipt to items found in a store. Most retailers use company-specific merchandise codes on their merchandise so store personnel can identify the location more quickly and efficiently. Additionally the merchandise is used to verify merchandise that was purchased at a particular retailer during a return. This information is printed onto the receipts of purchased merchandise.

Typically, shoplifters will search the retailer’s parking lot or trashcans looking for a receipt that has a high dollar item on it. The shoplifter then enters the store and compares the code on the receipt to the code printed on the relevant store merchandise. Once the shoplifter finds a match he will take the merchandise to the return area and receive money for it. Typically, to avoid detection, shoplifters will use a piece of paper with the merchandise code they are looking for written on it.

Another variation is to purchase the target item, then leave the store, and send an accomplice in with the receipt to obtain the same item. The accomplice can either return the item right away for cash, or leave the store with a second targeted item.

Receipt passing

A person walks into a retail store and buys a high-value item, such as an iPod. On the way out he gives the receipt to his accomplice who enters the store, receipt in hand, picks up the same high-value item and a low-value accessory. At the checkout he shows the receipt to the cashier explaining he already bought the item, but walked back to buy the accessory. The accessory is then purchased. This method is combatted by having merchandise locked.

Receipt-less returns

This method is typically used when the thief desires money as opposed to merchandise. The shoplifter steals an item of their choice, using the method of their choice. He then damages the item. This can be done by making a hole in a cloth-like item, breaking the chain of a necklace, tearing the sole from a shoe, snapping something plastic, or using any other damaging method specific to the item type. The damaged item is then taken back to the store. The thief is normally given a refund without question as it is the law in many countries (such as the UK and US) that faulty items must be refunded.

Rope and fenceline

In large retail stores that have open garden areas, two shoplifters will attempt to steal merchandise in this manner: one shoplifter will wait outside, while the shoplifter inside will take a cart full of merchandise to the garden center. The shoplifter inside will then tie the merchandise to a rope, and throw the rope over the fenceline, and the shoplifter waiting on the other side will untie it and take the merchandise.

Self-checkout scam

At some larger retailers customers have the option of using self-checkout lanes, in which customers do not interact with employees at all when making purchases but check themselves out at a computer. Customers are expected to scan the items that they wish to purchase, insert payment for the scanned items, then bag the items and leave the store. Shoplifters have been known to purchase small items with these machines, and place additional items in their bags without paying for them. A UPC for a small inexpensive item may be keyed in after placing a pack of cigarettes on the weighted scanner. Many shoplifters intentionally act slightly confused when using these machines, and act as though they are attempting to scan the item which they wish to steal, so that, if confronted, they can claim that they took the additional items by mistake.

The majority of self-checkout machines have scales under the shopping bags (where the items are placed after scanning). The scale checks that the weight of the scanned items is the same as reaches the bags. If there is a discrepancy, the supervising attendant is signaled to come to the station for assistance.


This scam involves footwear at major shoe stores or department stores. On finding the desired pair of shoes, the shoplifter asks the salesperson to retrieve the required size shoe from the stockroom. After trying on the shoe which the shoplifter wishes to wear out of the store, the salesperson is sent to retrieve a new size and the thief states that he will do a size comparison in which the shoplifter's own shoes are then left with him. Once the store associate is sent back to the stockroom, the shoplifter simply walks out with the new pair of shoes leaving the old pair in the box. Store associates assume that they must have had a change of mind and discovery is usually made when the same pair of shoes is summoned by a new customer. If seen by other store associates or door/greeting associates, the shoplifter explains that wearing the new shoe immediately is preferred.

Shoe Box switching

A shoplifter walks into a shoe store and finds an expensive pair of shoes. The shoplifter wears the expensive shoes. Old shoes in hand, the shoplifter finds a cheap shoe box and places his old shoes in it. At the cash register, the cashier, having been told that the new shoes are being worn, scans the box.

Shopping cart magic

Shopping cart tricks are often disregarded by Loss Prevention personnel. Typically, older or professional shoplifters attempt this scam. The scam works in the following way: when the shoplifter first enters the store, he locates an empty shopping cart. The required item is typically placed on the bottom or under the baby seat. The shoplifter then finds a few inexpensive items and places them in the shopping cart. At the till he removes all the merchandise with the exception of the item he wishes to steal. This item may well be overlooked by the cashier.

The shoplifter may just leave it in the bottom of the cart, as the cashier may not even look or notice that the shoplifter left another item in the cart. If caught, shoplifter will just say that they had forgotten about it. This is especially easy where the checkouts are on the side of the cashier, and not facing the cashier directly.

Shopping cart passing

Shopping cart passing is usually attempted by a pair of shoplifters. The first shoplifter will gather the desired merchandise into a shopping cart and take it to the register. The cashier will then ring up all the merchandise and place it in bags. Once the total is rung up, the first shoplifter states that they forgot their wallet in their car. The first shoplifter will then exit the store and most cashiers will put the shopping cart off to the side and resume ringing up customers. At this point, the second shoplifter moves in and grabs the cart and walks out of the store with the stolen merchandise in bags.

Stealing CD/DVD keys/serials

Many people download full version games or software from the internet but cannot use it to the full extent without a valid license. There are three main ways of stealing CD keys; 1.Copying the serial using a cell phone or pen and paper. 2.Taking a photograph of the serial using a cell phone or camera(cell phone is more commonly used). 3.Concealing the serial with a brochure, catalogue or pocket. If spotted, suspect will be prosecuted for criminal damage for opening the cellophane.

TV theft

A shoplifter fills a cart with about two weeks' worth of groceries and a DVD and pays for them at the register. In the meantime an accomplice approaches the store's door with a TV. The two meet up at the doors and pass through simultaneously, with the TV on the far side of the associate/greeter. As they pass through the doors the TV will set off the alarm. When the greeter asks the shoplifter carrying groceries to show his receipt, he claims that the DVD in the cart set off the alarm. The person carrying the TV will be outside waiting for the person with the grocery cart at the getaway vehicle.

Walk out technique

The walk out technique is the process of browsing the store, collecting the target items, and simply walking out of the store with items in hand. This seemingly impractical idea can potentially be very effective if the shoplifter's appearance and attitude are not of a suspicious nature. This tactic is usually limited to stealing small amounts of clothing and is generally only done in large department stores that have multiple entrances. If an alarm sounds, the shoplifter will continue to walk calmly. Also see 'Grab and Run.' Another technique is to wait for security to leave the main doors, and then to walk out with the item. However many CCTV cameras instantly move to the door when an alarm sounds, so the shoplifter's face will be on CCTV. If the person is spotted on a subsequent visit, he may not be arrested for the earlier shoplift as most Loss Prevention officers only arrest people for on-the-spot shoplifting.

A variation of this scam is to select a store where customer service is close to the main cashiers’ row. After selecting an item to be stolen, the individual removes all tags and major packaging and proceeds to customer service where he will attempt to return the item without a receipt. If a refund is refused then the individual will simply leave the store and if stopped claim he had tried to return the item without a receipt. CCTV may spot the shoplifter removing the packaging.

Alternatively, a shoplifter may pick up an item of clothing (usually a jacket) and just walk out of the store. This is very effective for clothes where the items have tags on them that are very easy to remove.

Anti-shoplifting options

Shoplifting may be prevented and detected. Both options contribute to sound strategies.

Closed circuit television

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring is an important anti-shoplifting technology. Retailers focusing on loss prevention often devote most of their resources to this technology. Using CCTVs to apprehend shoplifters in the act requires full-time human monitoring of the cameras. Sophisticated CCTV systems discriminate the scenes to detect and segregate suspicious behaviour from numerous screens and to enable automatic alerting. However, the attentiveness of the surveillance personnel may be threatened by false reliance on automatics. CCTV is more effective if used in conjunction with electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems.[citation needed] The EAS system will warn of a potential shoplifter and the video may provide evidence for prosecution if the shoplifter is allowed to pass checkout points or leave store premises with unbought merchandise.

Electronic article surveillance

Electronic article surveillance (EAS) is second only to CCTV in popularity amongst retailers looking for inventory protection.[citation needed] EAS refers to the security tags that are attached to merchandise and cause an alarm to sound on exiting the store. Regularly, even when an alarm does sound, a shoplifter walks out casually and is not confronted if no guards are present. This is due to the high number of false alarms, especially in malls, due to "tag pollution" whereby non-deactivated tags from other stores set off the alarm. This can be overcome with newer systems and a properly trained staff. Some new systems either do not alarm from "tag pollution" or they produce a specific alarm when a customer enters the store with a non-deactivated tag so that store personnel can remove or deactivate it so it does not produce a false alarm when exiting the store. However, with tags that are stuck onto merchandise with glue (rather than being superimposed on) the shoplifter can easily scrape off the tag in their pocket.

Loss prevention personnel

Loss prevention personnel will patrol the store acting as if they are real shoppers. They may try on merchandise and browse the racks, all the while looking for signs of shoplifting and looking for possible shoplifters. Many large retail companies use this technique, and will watch a shoplifter conceal an item then stop them after they have exited the store. These types of personnel must follow a strict set of rules, however, because of very high liability risks. Many big retail or grocery stores like Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Zellers, Nofrills, Loblaws, etc. have an LP to keep an eye out for shoplifters or to catch runaways. Most of these stores use secret codes to alert management, LPs and associates of shoplifters. LP is a very crucial job in that they act as an ordinary shopper and have to follow the suspects all around the store by foot or by johning the cameras, and watch every move the person makes so that they don't face a lawsuit for apprehending the wrong person. Usually if it's a big arrest that's going to be made, LP will call management or associates for back up.[citation needed]

Uniformed guards

The presence of uniformed guards acts as a deterrent to shoplifting activity and they are mostly used by high end retail establishments. However they are also used in stores like Target and Wal-Mart.

Exit inspections

Shoppers in some stores are asked when leaving the premises to have their purchases checked against the register tape.


Shoppers in Brazil often have to leave their bags at the door on entering a store, and to receipt inspections when leaving. At popular restaurants called "comidas á kilo" (food by the kilogram), it is usual to ask customers to return a "bilhete de liberdade" (liberty ticket) to the doorman. This is handed to the shopper along with the receipt for the customer to return to the doorman at the exit, which is usually only a couple metres away.


In all 50 states, shoppers are under no actual obligation to accede to such a search unless the employee has reasonable grounds to suspect shoplifting, and arrests the customer or takes or looks at the receipt from the customer without violating any laws [3][4] or if the customer has signed a membership agreement which stipulates that customers will subject themselves to inspections before taking the purchased merchandise from the store. In the cases of Sam's Club and Costco, the contracts merely say that it is their policy to check receipts at the exit or that they "reserve the right". That wording does not specify the results of non-compliance by the customer, and since they did not have a right to re-check receipts in the first place, it may not be legally binding at all. The purchaser who holds the receipt owns the merchandise. Employees who harass, assault, touch, or detain customers or take their purchased merchandise may be comitting torts or crimes against the customers. They may have a contractual right to check your receipt, but legal experts report that they do not have a right to cross-check it against the merchandise in your cart (which would hold up the line a lot longer). [5].

Close customer service

Floor attendants are instructed to greet, follow, and offer help with customer shopping. Shoplifters are not comfortable with this attention and may go somewhere else where they can work unnoticed.

BOB mirrors

Bottom of basket mirrors are commonly used in grocery stores where the checkout lanes are close together and the cashier might be unable to see the entire basket to ensure payment of all items.

Locked merchandise

Some expensive merchandise will be in a locked case requiring an employee to get items at a customer's request. The customer is either required to purchase the merchandise immediately or it is left at the checkout area for the customer to purchase when finishing shopping. This prevents the customer from having a chance to conceal the item.

Another way of locking merchandise, especially popular in liquor stores, is to place a secure, store-administered hard-plastic cap on a regular bottle top. Once purchased the clerk will remove the cap with a store key. It is not otherwise easily removable.

Many stores also lock CDs and DVDs and Video games in locking cases, which can only be opened by the checkout operator once the item has gone through the checkout.

Dummy cases

Some stores will use dummy cases, also known as "dead boxes", where the box or case on the shelf is entirely empty and the customer will not be given the item they have paid for until the transaction has been completed, usually by other Store staff. Some stores have been known to take this idea further by filling the dummy cases or boxes with a weight, similar to the weight of the actual item by using a weight specially made to fit inside the box. This causes the shoplifter to think that the box is full, trying to steal it and ending up with nothing. This is especially popular in movie rental stores such as Blockbuster.

Personnel policy

The choice of store and security personnel can strongly affect the ability of shoplifters to succeed. All personnel must be trained in the techniques shoplifters use to steal merchandise and the proper actions to take.

Test shoppers

Test shopping is a strategy to test the detection means in a shop. Subject of testing is primarily the alertness of surveillance staff and of the staff operating in the shopping areas.

Notable cases

A noted legal case involving shoplifting occurred in 2001 when actress Winona Ryder was arrested for shoplifting at Saks Fifth Avenue department store in Beverly Hills, California. Ryder was eventually convicted of misdemeanor theft and vandalism and will be eligible for expungement of the conviction after finishing probation. Ryder was originally convicted by a jury of felony larceny/vandalism and was sentenced in a nationally televised California Superior Court proceeding in December 2002.[6] In 2003, Will & Grace actress Shelley Morrison (who played Rosario Salazar) was arrested for shoplifting at a Robinsons-May store in California; the charges were later dropped. In early 2006, former White House aide Claude Allen was arrested for an alleged return scam at a Target store in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Jean Eaton, while mayor of Albert Lea, Minnesota, was accused of stealing hundreds of dollars worth of clothing from Marshall Field's stores in Rochester, Edina and St. Cloud in an alleged clothing swap scam. Eaton had claimed that police acted illegally when they executed a search warrant that gathered evidence used to support a felony theft charge against her.[citation needed] Eaton later reached a plea agreement with Olmsted County prosecutors to have the felony charges dropped, by entering into an adult diversion program, which includes restitution, and possible community service.

Positive views

Yomango (In Spanish slang, "yo mango" means "I steal") is a shoplifting movement that originated in Barcelona (Spain) in 2002. It is billed as an anti-consumer lifestyle.

It gained publicity when clothes were stolen from a store, put on and worn back to the store in a "fashion show". Some people claim that it is intended to be a parody of the Mango clothing line popular in Europe. Actually Yomango consider themselves as an informal community aimed at diffusing practices of social disobedience. The kind of shoplifting promoted by Yomango may even be a tactics of direct re-appropriation and redistribution of wealth. Yomango is connected with the European movement against labor and social instability.

See also


Further reading


  • Hoffman, Abbie (2002), Steal This Book, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, ISBN 978-156858217-7 
  • Budden, Michael Craig (1999), Preventing Shoplifting Without Being Sued, Westport, CT: Quorum Books, ISBN 978-156720119-2 
  • Cupchik, Will (1997), Why Honest People Shoplift or Commit Other Acts Of Theft, Toronto: W. Cupchik, ISBN 978-189634207-8 
  • Christman, John H. (2006), Shoplifting: Managing the Problem, Alexandria, VA: ASIS International, ISBN 978-188705664-9 
  • Hayes, Read (1991), Retail Security and Loss Prevention, Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, ISBN 978-075069038-6 
  • Horan, Donald J. (1996), The Retailer's Guide to Loss Prevention and Security, Boca Raton, FL: CRC, ISBN 978-084938110-2 
  • Kimieckik, Rudolf C. (1995), Loss Prevention Guide for Retail Businesses, New York: Wiley, ISBN 978-047107636-0 
  • Sennewald, Charles A. (2000), Shoplifters vs Retailers: The Rights of Both, Chula Vista, CA: New Century Press, ISBN 978-189003518-1 
  • Thomas, Chris (2005), Loss Prevention in the Retail Business, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, ISBN 978-047172321-9 


Simple English

Shoplifting is theft by stealing goods or money from a retail store. Shoplifting is punishable by law enforcement.

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