Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Shoplifters of the World

I used to shoplift when I was a kid. This shouldn't surprise anyone, since I think I've documented my adolescent (and pre and post) crapulence fairly well.

Occasionally, I'll look back on my younger exploits and wonder if there was any sort of deep psychological thing behind them, but I don't really think there was. Being bad was exciting and fun, even if I did spend most of my middle and high school years in constant trouble due to the consequences of my antics. In the case of shoplifting, stores had things I wanted, I didn't have money, so I shoplifted. Pretty simple, really.

I can't remember when I started, but I do remember that I soon perfected a technique. I would get an empty bag, then load up what I wanted when nobody was looking. This seemed to work better than the usual "jam a bunch of stuff in your pockets or under your shirt" technique employed by others. When taken to the grocery store by my parents, I'd get a bag, load it up with bakery cookies, Archie Comics, and whatever else appealed to me. I must have told them I had saved my money or something if they asked how I was buying things. Sure, it was risky, but later that night eating chocolate chip cookies in my bed catching up on Jughead's latest hijinx, it all seemed worth it.

From there I graduated to the mall. A friend and I would ride our bikes there and I'd get a bag from a store, then load up on records and dirty magazines.

We never got caught, which is pretty remarkable, considering that we would be conspicuously unconspicuously hanging around the magazine stand on the other side of the naked lady magazines, waiting to slip them into our bag.

Maybe I felt my luck was up, or guilt got the better of me, because I stopped. I'm not sure for how long, but I stayed on the straight and narrow for a while.

Until a toy store moved in to the spot by Eckerds. This was within biking distance, and I used to go up there to buy models. They also had a big display of Star Wars figures. This was after Return of the Jedi, when I felt I was too old for what were, in my eyes, children's toys. Today, of course, I know many professionals who buy Star Wars figures, but back then we didn't have those sort of role models.

So I figured it was OK to steal them. I'd wait til the teenaged clerk wasn't paying attention (which didn't take long), take them out of the box (I know! I was destroying the resale value!), and slip them in my pockets.

Looking at pictures of the figures on the internet, it looks like I ended up getting most of them. Again, I don't see how I got away with it.

Then came the end of my shoplifting career.

I went to the grocery store with my parents,  got an empty bag and walked over to the toy section of Walgreens. I had seen this pretty boss looking little vehicle earlier, and it was gonna be mine. These were vehicles that weren't really in the movies, they were just cash grabs, so I felt I was sort of justified in stealing it.
Admit it, that's a pretty cool toy.

I had it in my hands with the open bag on the floor. I was subtly glancing around to make sure nobody was watching. As soon as I slipped it in my bag, an old lady and her granddaughter appeared at the end of the aisle.

"Don't do that," she said.



I felt my stomach drop. Then they left. She was already talking to the manager up front. Holy crap, I thought. I'm finally going to get busted. My parents are just over in Publix and are going to have to come over and get me, minutes after they let me go. I am in such trouble.

They were obviously talking about me, and had seen me carrying the bag, so I thought my best course of action was to see if I can casually walk out the door. OK. Let's give it a shot.

"Can I see your bag?"

Oh crap.

"Oh yeah, sure," I said,  my insides churning like a cement mixer.

The mustached manager gave me a suspicious look and said, "Maybe we should staple this up for you."

And he did.


Seconds later I was out the door. I saw him talking to the lady, but by some fluke I was free. Free! I wanted to kiss the sidewalk.

I was scared straight. I didn't shoplift again. Now I am pillar of the community and a few months ago even mailed a 20 dollar bill to a restaurant when I thought I had stiffed the waitress. I'm sure whoever opened the mail spent it on drugs or a neck tattoo, but at least I sort of balanced the scales a bit.

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