How to Spot a Shoplifter

March 7, 2011

I took my boys to the mall this Saturday to get haircuts. While I was waiting, I walked down to Books-A-Million to look around. I spent a few minutes looking around and then as I was about to leave the store, I noticed two kids. They weren’t really doing anythign suspicious but I still had the urge to see what they were up to. One of the boys was wearing a fairly large camouflaged jacket. As I watched them, I noticed that appeared to be up to something. They kept peering over the aisles. Usually people looking for books aren’t so concerned about what’s going on around them. So, I decided to pursue this further.

The boys left that aisle and went towards the mall entrance of the store. I noticed one of the boys was carrying a paperback book. They walked to a secluded part of the store by the cash registers. Meanwhile, I followed—acting like I was just browsing. I lost sight of them for a few seconds. They appeared again and headed straight for the exit. The kid with the jacket hesitated before he walked through the sensors, which threw up a HUGE red flag in my mind. I followed them out into the mall. They were walking kind of fast but they were still close enough that I saw the boy pull the book from his jacket.

I ran up behind him and put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Did you steal that book?”

He was startled and let out a little yell.

BUSTED!

He said, “No.”

I said, “Yes you did. I saw you. You need to go back to that store and pay for that book NOW!”

He shrugged his shoulders and headed back to the store. He walked in and put the book on a shelf and walked back out again.

I shouldn’t have let him off so easily. I should have taken him to the manager and humiliated the thievery out of him. But, I didn’t. Hopefully, he learned his lesson.

So, how did I know he was going to steal? Well, I’ve had a lot of experience catching shoplifters. I worked 9 years in the grocery business and during that time, I made it a game to catch crooks. Over those years, I learned what to look for. Here are some of my pointers for catching shoplifters:

1. Body language – shoplifters will often times appear nervous. The boy had the book in his hand and he wasn’t looking for anything else so there was really no reason for him to be hanging out at the store. He was looking around a lot, which is a pretty good giveaway that he was up to something. If you want to deter a shoplifter, make eye contact with them. That will freak them out.

2. Look for bulky clothing or big bags. It was a little chilly here Saturday so his coat wasn’t out of the ordinary. But, it did make me suspicious. Afterall, a shoplifter has to put their goods somewhere.

3. Look at what they’re carrying around. Shoplifters usually go for the small, high-dollar items. In this case it was a book. Most shoplifters go for stuff like batteries, cigarettes, cosmetics, or medicine. If they’re walking all through the store with these items in their hands, look out.

4. Try to see them actually hide the item. If you don’t see them hide it, then you have to be careful in making an accusation. Sometimes they get cold feet and dump the item somewhere in the store. I never got burned by this but I could see how it could happen.

5. Watch for the exit. Once the shoplifter has stowed the goods, they aren’t going to want to hang around. So, they usually make for the exit pretty quickly. The boy on Saturday hesitated before he walked through the sensors at the exit. This was a huge admission of guilt. People who don’t have stolen goods on them, aren’t going to hesitate to walk through sensors.

I only approached this kid in the mall because I saw him take the book out of his jacket. I knew that he hadn’t gone through the check out line so I was pretty sure he had stolen the book. Knowing that, I just couldn’t let him get away with it. I’m hoping that it scared him straight.

I really wish we had some sort of public humiliation for thieves. Pillories would be nice.

63 responses to How to Spot a Shoplifter

  1. Leland,

    Clearly you acquiesce in regards to the aforementioned “bar patrons”. You reference me in your earlier post and state that I am coming in heavy handed. I am. By design. I don’t suffer fools lightly. They say ignorance is bliss. In this instance it is a clear and present danger to our society at large. These people make up the jury pool because we have to let them. No wonder we get the screwed up convictions they hand down. Seriously, imagine Courtney, Kasey, Tinman, Devin and Imtos deliberating in the jury room trying to decide your fate. That shit is scary. I would rather fight a lion than rest in their imbecilic nonsense.

    With regards to you saying something that would impress someone at a bar, the answer is a resounding NO. Your limp wristed attempt at peace making echos of one that does not know what to say in reference to the subject matter at hand.

  2. Just call me the bartender. Hahahahaha

  3. @John: Wow, that’s a lot of hate you have in there. Actually my “limp wristed” attempt at peace making echos of one who enjoys discussions with people who disagree with me. Although in this instance I wasn’t disageeing with anyone. I was happy to hear your expertise on the matter. By all means set her strait, but she’ll learn the lesson much quicker if you don’t kick her in the teeth while you do it.

  4. John said: “…Seriously, imagine Courtney, Kasey, Tinman, Devin and Imtos deliberating in the jury room trying to decide your fate. That shit is scary…”

    My default action if I’m on a jury is “Jury Nullification” (look it up!) — even if the defendant breaks the letter of the law, if the would-be sentence seems too harsh or otherwise goes against my values, then I’m acquitting, regardless of what the judge says.

    Leland said: “…By all means set her strait, but she’ll learn the lesson much quicker if you don’t kick her in the teeth while you do it.”

    I agree to this too. Comments of the ‘personal attacking’ nature need to be toned down.

  5. Hey BG,

    You are missing the point. That was a hypothetical situational jury room. You are digressing. Their collective ideology would never allow them to think that rational. You are using common sense which they don’t seem to possess. Courtney says it best: I’m not a lawyer either. Hahahaha No truer words have been typed in any of the comments. You can read their collective thinking below.
    Our only hope is that you are the appointed jury foreman.

    Kasey Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 10:36 am
    No offense intended, but I think you were way out of line to follow, confront, and touch him.

    Devin Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
    It sounds like you committed assault on him. You were way out of line.

    Courtney Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 4:09 pm
    By definition, yes I think what you did could be construed as assault if they (or their parents) wanted to pursue it that way: “an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.” You don’t have the protection of being a law enforcement officer on your side. I wouldn’t have touched the kid – I think you got lucky.
    Courtney Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 4:13 pm
    Or if you like the legal definition of battery better: “an intentional unpermitted act causing harmful or offensive contact with the ‘person’ of another” (where ‘the person of another’ extends to items such as clothing or items held in the hand). You don’t even have to touch someone to assault them. whereas battery is limited to physical contact.

    Courtney Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 4:31 pm
    I’m not saying what they did was right. I’m not even saying what you did was morally wrong. I’m just saying that you had no legal backing (you weren’t even protecting your own property) and you are lucky that they aren’t even bigger jerks than they were, because technically they COULD have legal backing to accuse you of a civil crime.

    Courtney Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 5:03 pm
    Lon – I’m not a lawyer either But I’m sure as heck not going to test the a$$hattery of a random parent over someone else’s property. I would have alerted the manager and/or mall security, and left it at that.
    Courtney Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 5:06 pm
    JLP – my point is, they weren’t stealing your property. It would have been different if it had been a) your store or b) your house and personal property, because I think there is more gray area concerning reasonable actions to defend YOUR property.
    And if someone gives you an unwanted hug, I think that’s actually considered sexual assault, by definition…

    Tinman Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 9:55 am
    It’s interesting to listen to the overall tone of this discussion. JLP, you should consider yourself lucky that these mall rats weren’t just slightly further up the knowledge ladder. Here’s how it goes: instead of returning the book one of them uses their cell phone to call the police.
    Police: Sir, are these your children?
    JLP: no, but…
    Police: Did you touch this child?
    JLP: yes,but…
    Review of the stoe’s security cameras would show you stalking them around the store and then exiting right behind them. The mall security cameras would then pick you up leaving the store and following them, then show you possibly trying to grab one of them (no audio on the mall cameras, sorry). By now the little children have called their attorney fathers who have you arrested on the spot. Have a nice day, see you in court. Never, ever touch a child who is not yours unless you have the explicit permission of the parents, period.
    Tinman Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 11:06 am
    JLP, congradulations on your recent induction into the Moral Police Squad! The policemen’s “focus” would be, first and foremost, on the safety of the “children” to the total exclusion of your “alleged” shoplifting complaint. You would, of course, be exonerated after review of the store’s security camera providing it caught the little urchin stuffing the book in his jacket. That would be little solace to you during your multiple court appearances. Can you afford the legal fees, time, and the stigma that would attach itself to you? Talk to the many innocent people who’s lives have been forever altered when they thought they were doing “the right thing”. Ask if they would do it again? Never, ever touch a child who is not yours unless you have the explicit permission of the parents, period!
    Side bar: You have a great blog
    Imtos Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 11:07 pm
    Wow… comments like the ones in this section confirm my theory that road rage and internet hostility go hand in hand with the notion of anonymity…t is scary to think not only that kids get away with shoplifting now days but also that people can “type” (ie, talk) with such inimicality about issues that have nothing to do with them!
    What is wrong with society? Why do we feel the need and urge to reprehend the actions of others so quickly?
    No one here was at the mall with JLP. No one knows about the risks or actions that JLP took or did not take. Yet, everyone here is fast to type and conclude what ever they wish to conclude. The truth is that only JLP knows the facts and circumstances of his actions. Notice that he is not asking for legal or any kind of advice from the readers. He is just commenting about things that happened at the mall. And since none of you were at the mall and saw what JLP is talking about, then your opinions of what is wrong/right are only your opinions and therefore should not be used to conclude that what JLP did was wrong or right. Neither from those who support his actions, nor from those who condemn it…

  6. John) I read all that earlier — and I agree with your conclusions. You just don’t need to be so harsh about it…
    🙂

    When I read stuff online from people, I take most of it with a grain of salt. Now, if someone prefaces their text with “I am a lawyer, and….” then I pay attention.

    BTW, I am not a lawyer, economist, or a professional on practically any of the topics discussed on this blog — likely similar for the other people. We are just trying to learn from each other, and my opinions have probably swayed people, and likewise, I know others opinions on topics have swayed me.

  7. John,

    Am I giving an opinion about JLP’s actions? Do you see one anywhere in the post that you like to quote so much?

    If you read and think about what you read in the post, you’ll notice that I am talking about something that I have information on: the fact that you are judging and opining about something that you have very little information on. There lies the difference, it is not subtle, but it requires that you stop and think, which you clearly have shown not to be good at. I have the information (ie, your post, JLP post and everyone elses post) based on this infomration, I state an opinion. On the other hand, you have very little. You have the not so detailed facts of one of the parties involved. Since you presume to know so much about law, would the accounts of only one party be enough in any court of law to determine anything? Stop watching so much Perry Mason and realize that nothing entitles you (or anyone else in this board) to condemn (or not) JLPs behavior. Lats time I checked, our legal system was composed of Judges and/or Jurys, which, after getting the facts from BOTH parties, determine the outcome of a case. Not random Joe Schmoes like yourself, who think they are so righteous that can serve as God, Judge and Jury.

  8. Dear Imtos,

    Please take some remedial english classes in college. They will help you with sentence structure and consequently allow you to convey your thoughts more eloquently. It allows the reader to easily understand exactly what you are trying to say. You do not end a sentence with a prepositional phrase. Notice the quote below;

    There lies the difference, it is not subtle, but it requires that you stop and think, which you clearly have shown not to be good at.

    Based on your fragmented thoughts I’m not really sure what you are trying to say. It appears to me that you missed some classes in junior high dealing with writing. But based on what you penned YOU would probably have said RIHGTING. Notice the verb penned in the aforementioned sentence, it means to put to paper. Maybe your mom can help you again. It is quite evident to me that you didn’t matriculate after high school, which, if I’m not mistaken, was public school.

    I called you out for giving an opinion about people giving an opinion and condemning them for giving an opinion. Dude, you are hilarious.

    This board, as you call it, provides for people, even you, to render an opinion about the subject matter that JLP chooses to express. That is why there is a comment box at the bottom of the page. It’s not subtle, but it requires that you stop and think. Now that was funny.

    My experience with law is extensive and and I am well versed in courtroom testimony. I have testified in all levels of state court and federal court.

    Let me answer your question: Since you presume to know so much about law, would the accounts of only one party be enough in any court of law to determine anything?

    As a matter of fact, yes. Let’s say that you are the arresting officer (that would be scary for the citizens of our country, but for the sake of argument bear with me) and no one assisted you in making the arrest. You were also the only witness. During the testimonial phase of the trial you are the only one to provide testimony. The defendant enacts his fifth amendment right protecting him from self incrimination. The only witness called to recount the evidence is you. Unless the defense attorney can repudiate your account of what happened, your version is all that is needed. The District Attorney in every single county of this country does this on a daily basis. The verdict would be rendered guilty based on the account of one witness. It is a common and everyday practice in this country to invest in the authenticity of a police officers testimony until his credibility has been impeached.

    You state, and I quote: On the other hand, you have very little. As a matter of fact, I have five fingers on each hand. I’m not really sure what you mean because your sentence structure and formulation of idea’s is quite simply, awful.

    Based upon your writings, you appear to be half witted at best. Remember, spelling counts! What do these words mean: infomration and Lats?

    Here is another sentence that makes no sense to the reader: If you read and think about what you read in the post, you’ll notice that I am talking about something that I have information on: the fact that you are judging and opining about something that you have very little information on.
    Once again need I point out that you do not end a sentence with a prepositional phrase. You must be from the department of redundancy department.
    My phraseology is well endowed and you have entered into a battle of wits as an unarmed opponent. Yes, I said it, you have a little one.
    Let me put it to you in your own vernacular: You don’t rite so gude and you ain’t no goude at it.
    You probably think you are well versed in the area of ordering Vino. You ask for the list at dinner to impress your friends but always settle for the house wine because you really are, benighted.

    Sincerely,

    Joe Schmoes

  9. Dear Imtos,

    What does the following quote mean?

    I have the information (ie, your post, JLP post and everyone elses post) based on this infomration, I state an opinion.

    This appearence of a sentence sounds like this when the parentheses are removed: I have the information based on this infomration, I state an opinion.

    This is not a proper sentence in any english class in America. This is why people in other countries think we are stupid. You make an attempt to refute my earlier claim, but, your rhetoric is elementary. My claim is that ignorant people are making ignorant statements. You have proved my point without my help. Print your response, take it a high school english teacher and read it out loud. They will have no idea what you are trying to say. Your harangue is eerily reminiscent of something one would read from an adolescent.

    Please explain the following: There lies the difference, it is not subtle, but it requires that you stop and think, which you clearly have shown not to be good at.

    What is it exactly that is not subtle? Are you saying that I am not thinking? I am thinking and that is why I am able to strafe your ramblings. You make no sense at all. I had my fourteen year old son read your response and he scoffed at your paragraph. Perry Mason would be utterly confounded by your rudimentary rantings. Perry would consider you an insult to any legal proceeding.

    I don’t presume to know the law, I actually know the law and have doled it out to Joe Schmoes like you.

    Sincerely,

    John
    Aka: Joe Schmoe the bartender

  10. Hey Imtos,

    The first paragraph in your initial response is actually a run on sentence. See the below quote to verify the fact.

    Wow… comments like the ones in this section confirm my theory that road rage and internet hostility go hand in hand with the notion of anonymity…t is scary to think not only that kids get away with shoplifting now days but also that people can “type” (ie, talk) with such inimicality about issues that have nothing to do with them!

    What does Imtos mean? Aren’t you actually hiding behind what you detest, anonymity..t

    Sincerely,

    Joe Schmoe the Bartender

  11. You stole a book? To the pillory!

    • Magnus,

      I bet if there were some serious/humiliating punishments for thievery, we’d have less of it. Don’t you think?