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Why do people shoplift? Top 10 reasons

Shoplifting is one of the most common but least detected and reported crimes.

If you are reading this, maybe you or your loved one has been recently convicted of shoplifting. Or maybe you want to know the signs of shoplifting addiction. Or you might wonder if repeat shoplifters need help or counseling. Here we will review why people shoplift and later we will talk more about shoplifting addiction and treatment.

Why do people shop lift?

1. Self service sales methods – Stores and shops display prepackaged goods openly rather than behind high counters, closed cupboards or open shelves beyond a customer’s reach. Self services makes shoplifting easy.

2. Drug addiction – The need for drug money can cause some people to shoplift. Shoplifting is thought to fuel drug trade, because it provides the income some addicts need to buy drugs.

3. To make a living – Some people shoplift to survive and either sell or barter what they steal.

4. For spending money and status – Research has consistently shown that juvenile males are more often involved in theft than other groups and who need spending money to buy clothes or items which bring social status among their peers.

5. To own the goods – Shoplifters also take enjoyable things to own and consume.

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6. Psychological temptation – The psychological orientation towards the “unconscious” shopper that entice tempting acquisition of goods and impulse buying contributes to shoplifting.

7. Low risk – About 1 in 150 shoplifters actually gets caught. In combination with the low chance of getting caught, shoplifters can offer a believable excuse, such as forgetfulness and intention to pay.

8. Lack of tracking and security – The stock control in shops is so deficient and retailers simply do not track shoplifting. As long as theft and damage of goods, does not rise above 2-3% of goods sold, retailers pay little attention to shoplifting. Additionally, retailers are often unwilling to pay for extra security and prevention measures and instead rely on local police to enforce laws. And finally, stores can be designed that make theft prevention difficult.

9. Mental health disorder – Stealing without needing to is called kleptomania and is an impulse control disorder. Experts think that this mental health disorder accounts for up to 5% of shoplifting cases. More on signs of kleptomania here.

10. Low fines – If caught for shoplifting, typical sums charged are $250 for adult shoplifters and $120 for juveniles. These low fines may not provide enough incentive for shoplifters to stop stealing.

EXTRA REASON why people shoplift…

11. Depersonalization – People seem to have fewer inhibitions about stealing from shops than from private individuals, because a corporation is seen as an entity rather than a person. Some shoplifters believe shoplifting harms no one except an anonymous business that can take the losses as a tax write-off.

Is shoplifting an addiction?

Shoplifting can fuel drug addiction, but it can also be an addiction of its own, especially if a person impulsively steals without the need to do so. If you have questions about shoplifting, please leave them below. We will be happy to help you, no matter your situation.

References sources: Problem Oriented Guides for Police
Hot Products: Understanding, Anticipating and Reducing the Demand for Stolen Goods

Photo credit: cabbit

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8 Responses to “Why do people shoplift? Top 10 reasons
10:25 pm August 20th, 2012

One reason may be because they are jealous of people who have a particular hobby,like if they secretly wished they were into hair and beauty,they’d steal makeup or something?

9:48 pm September 18th, 2014

I’ve been shoplifting for about 4 years now. Knock on wood I have never been suspected. My friend who has stolen well over 10k of items showed me the ropes. At CVS, for example, I act calm and collected and pretend that I am shopping. I am an attractive female who dresses nicely, carries and giant expensive hand bag and slyly put the items I want in my purse when no one is looking. I hit up the same CVS hundreds of times. Only twice the have the alarms went off, but I just keep walking out acting like nothing is wrong. As long as a manager, customer or worker doesn’t see you, you’re pretty free and clear. I make sure once I do hit that store up, I do not return for a long time so not to bring the heat on myself. Now, as far as clothing, my friend brilliantly informed me that there are no cameras in the dressing room. So I “shop” picking out the items I wish to take and hide them under the items I will eventually put back. ( I usually pick up a coat or anything with pockets to hide the tags and sensors in. Not once in the years I have been doing this, has the store clerk counted my items. Once I am in the dressing room. I carefully tear off the sensor and tags (just to be safe) put the sensor in the pockets, put the items I am stealing in my purse and walk out of the dressing room. Now, the clothes with the sensors I either but on the rack in the dressing room, or back where I found it and walk out casually. Has worked like a charm every time. **** the corporations and their over priced sh*t that probably costs $1 to make in sweat shops in Cambodia. I never once felt guilty for taking these items and actually feel elated that I get to walk out with brand new awesome clothes/jewelery/makeup. Like I said, after I hit up a store, I usually don’t return to those stores for at least a month or more.

V. Marie
3:34 am August 12th, 2015

I am not sure what has brought on my shameful addiction to this as I am in my early 50s now and have been doing this for almost fifteen years. Alot of the stuff I take i don’t even really want and I give it to needy friends etc I have that are in between jobs etc. The feeling during the lift is euphoric but afterwards there is a very shameful guilty pathetic feeling very unrewarding for me. I would never steal from an actual person but the stores do not phase me. Maybe there is something in life I am missing suddenly I am not sure but it is very impulsive and addicting to me.

3:39 pm August 24th, 2015

Hello Marie. You are not the first or only one to shoplift our of unknown reasons. Maybe you are just not yet aware of what’s driving the urge to shoplift. You can find more resources and counseling sessions here

2:27 am October 24th, 2015

My wife has had a problem with shoplifting. In years past,she has been arrested twice; she went through a required modification behavior class. I thought she had been rehabilitated until today! I caught her with a box of bandaids in her pockerbook that she stiole I confronted her, she said she didn’t why she did it. She said she hardly remembered doing it. Help?

1:51 pm October 26th, 2015

Hi Mike. Maybe she is suffering from kleptomania. Has she been assessed by a professional psychologist or a licensed psychiatrist?

4:21 pm November 7th, 2015

yesterday i go to the supermarket i try a lipstick in a cosmetic area and i love that color and i shoplift that lipstick when i already in the cashier i did not pay that and one security guard ask me if i have the bill of my grocery and i said yes and he ask me if did i buy a lipstick because they saw in the cctv that i stole the lipstick. We go to the manager office abd they investigate me i dont know why i do that things i have money but i prefer to stole than to buy please help me i dont know what to do.

7:14 pm November 9th, 2015

Hello Jessica. Being a shoplifter is not an easy way of living. I believe you should enrol in a program that helps shoplifters stop their urges and get to the bottom of the issue. I found this program on the Internet: and I hope it can provide some useful resources for you.

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