Calling someone a shoplifter is a polite way of calling him or her a thief. A robber usually breaks into a place to steal goods or money. Or he or she may have a weapon that they threaten to use. But a shoplifter doesn’t enter a place illegally, doesn’t use a weapon or threaten anyone. So, he or she cannot be such a bad person after all, right? Maybe they are desperate for something and don’t have money or they have a compulsion to want to get caught. That’s often the case because they do it out in the open.
Of course, there are professional shoplifters who are not desperate or have a compulsion or want to get caught. They just want to take without paying for it. Sometimes they take from other shoppers such as when my niece put her purse down for two minutes in a dressing room at a store to go to the entrance of the area and look at the three-sided mirror. When she returned her purse was gone. By the time her mother called forty-five minutes later to report stolen credit cards, the thief had already gone to another store that was a twenty minute drive away and used it to make purchases.
In the early 1970’s, while going to college I worked as a stock boy in a department store men’s and boy’s clothing section. Although I did not observe it happening in our area of the store, supposedly there was some shoplifting going on in other sections. Management brought in a security guard dressed in full regalia including gun and holster during the December holiday shopping season. The fellow looked and acted like Warren, the character who replaced Deputy Barney Fife after Don Knotts quit the Andy Griffith Show. Warren was played by a very good comedy writer and producer by the name of Jack Burns, one half the famous Burns and Shreiber comedy act (“you know what I mean, huh, huh?”)
The Warren in our store walked all over the place and acted like he was an important fellow. Some of the older sales ladies felt a teeny bit safer with him around while others thought he was making the customers nervous. It all came down to a boil one day when these two no-nonsense looking police detectives came into the store unannounced and asked “Warren” to come downstairs to the manager’s office to help them fill out some paperwork. As it turns out, when “Warren” walked into the private office, he was immediately surrounded by a couple of policemen who asked him to put his hands over his head while they took away his gun. They then handcuffed him and asked him to say hello to his wife who was already sitting in a chair in the room with her hands cuffed as well. It seems that a plainclothes officer was also walking through the store and arrested “Warren” for running a shoplifting racket with his wife and another salesperson in my area.
That was the last of the store hiring security guards with guns. The store chain- Wieboldt’s- itself went out of business in 1986. The store location where I worked was in the Lincoln Village mall on the far north side of Chicago. The mall was gutted and totally renovated. A large cinema complex that gives a choice of ten different mini-theaters was put up in the open area behind the store. You can’t shoplift at a movie house, right?