UNITED PHONE LOSERS E-ZINE
Shoplifting For Dummies v3.0
issue no. 11 - June 25, 1999
this issue written by Rufus T Firefly
The dictionary defines shoplifting as stealing goods from shelves or displays of a retail store while posing as a customer. The law says shoplifting is a criminal offense - taking property with the intent of depriving its rightful owner. Conviction means a fine, jail or both. You, on the other hand, might see it differently. To you, shoplifting may just be a way to obtain something you really want but can't (or won't) pay for. Maybe it's your way of getting back at a job that pays you dick. Or maybe it's your only method of survival.
In the past several years, just about every type of person you can describe has been caught shoplifting. According to the National Retail Federation, at least one in ten customers have attempted to shoplift.
The ones who were caught didn't know how to properly go about it.
Female lifters have a few more options.
There are countless other ways, these are just a few to get you started. Use your imagination!
Stores pay special attention to people who:
wear clothes that are out of season, such as a coat or a sweatshirt when it's hot out.
You don't want to stand out at all. If you really need to lift something that will only fit in your big ski-jacket, you'll just have to wait for a cold day to do it. It's really sad that I have to say that, but you'd be surprised at how many people get busted because they look like damn fools sweating bullets in their big coats in 80 degree weather.
constantly look around, or constantly watch employees.
Try not to be too obvious when scoping out cameras and stuff. If it's bright outside, a hat and mirrorshades can do wonders! Otherwise just use the hat.
are not concerned with the price, size or color of selected merchandise.
If you just start pulling random stuff off the shelf, they're gonna know something is up. Act like you're considering stuff before you "buy" it.
get all jumpy and/or irritable when approached by an employee, or bluntly refuse assistance.
It does you no good to get unnecessarily nervous just because an employee is approaching you. Remember, you're "just a regular paying customer" as far as they know. (Unless they've already caught you on camera or something, but you don't know that for sure yet. More on this later.) You can be polite, and still get rid of them all the same.
EMP: Hi, may I help you?
YOU: (polite smile) No, thank you. I'm just looking.
EMP: Hi, may I help y-
EMP: Hi, may I-
YOU: Listen, man, I'm not goin' to jail for YOU, or ANYBODY!!!
YOU: Here, you can have the CD back! It's not *my* fault.. I got the idea
from a text file!! Go arrest the author, his name is Rufus T. Firefly!!
IF YOU MUST CAVE, TRY THIS WAY
YOU: Here, you can have the CD back! It's not *my* fault.. I got the idea
from a text file!! Go arrest the author, his name is Tsutomu Shimomura!!
There are many types of stores out there, and some make much easier targets than others. This, like most elements of a successful shoplift, is basically a combination of personal preference and common sense. These are a few observations I have made over the years, along with some of my preferences. This is by no means definitive. Fill it in with your own experience. Feel free to draw your own conclusions, and make your own observations. After all, every situation is unique in some way, and you'll have to do a lot of quick thinking to survive long in this hobby.
The obvious way to lift from a clothing store is the old "bring 4 things into the fitting room, bring 3 back out" method. The only problem with that is many stores give you a number tag when you go into the fitting room indicating how many items you brought in. The solution to this is simple. Before you take your clothes into the fitting room, hide things inside of each other. This should be done gradually, and out-of-sight.
Say you need a pair of jeans. First, wear a baggy pair to the store. Browse until you find your target pair, and quickly hide them inside a pair the next bigger size. Then you grab 3 more pairs of jeans. (Don't just grab any 3, though. This is one of the warning signs security looks for. Make it look like you're really considering each pair, turn them around, etc.) Then you take these 3 pairs, along with the 1st pair that has your target jeans hidden inside. If all goes well, the fitting room attendant will see you holding 4 neatly folded pairs of jeans. She'll give you a number 4, you go in, put the target jeans on under the baggy ones you wore (make sure you take as long as it would really take you to try on all 4 pairs) and then walk back out. You give the attendant back the #4, she sees you still have 4 pairs, and you're one pair ahead. Smile at the nice lady and walk away. Just try not to walk too funny.
Some attendants will actually take whatever clothes you want to try on and paw through them first to make sure you're not doing this, so before you attempt it you may want to try something on normally to see what this particular attendant does.
The real issue in clothing stores are those alarm tags or ink tags attached to everything. These are a real bitch to get off. You can bring two pairs of pliers to the store, and once in the fitting room use one pair on the front part of the tag and one on the back until it comes apart. The only drawback is that this might make noise and attract more attention than you want. An easier solution is to steal one of the alarm-tag-remover guns from the register when nobody's looking, or have a cool friend who works there get you one.
Bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, etc.)
These are easy, since you're pretty much left alone. The big self- contained bookstores make better targets than the mall ones. Basically you just take a book (paperbacks are easiest,) go to an empty shadowy aisle, check for cameras, and if all's well, stash it.
Be warned, though, there *are* security mechanisms. Some bookstores use the same "sensor-in-the-pricetag" as music stores. So peel off the pricetag. Also, make sure you check for stickers inside the book's dust-jacket, if it has one. Another device I've seen in use in Barnes are magnetic strips inside the books. These are long, thin, papery strips hidden between two pages somewhere in the book, which are de-sensitized at the register if you buy the book. They resemble those twist-ties you get with garbage bags, minus that wire in the middle. What you have to do is hold the book tightly closed, and look closely at the area where the pages meet the glue in the spine of the book. If you see a tiny gap in the pages, that's where the strip is hidden. So ditch the strip, and make sure you don't step on it afterwards.
That happened to me once. I had a book shoved in the lining of my jacket and I set off the alarm on my way out. Before I had the chance to panic, the counter-lady asked me to check my shoes - the damn strip was stuck to my boot! Apparently this happens often. Counter-ladies can be so helpful.
Gift shops (Spencer Gifts, Hallmark, etc.)
Spencer's, in case you don't know, is a chain of gift shops that reside in malls across the US. They sell cheap novelties, toys, cards, posters, costume jewelry, shirts, and more. What amazes me about them is how profanely easy it is to steal from them. If I were to recommend a training ground for new shoplifters, this would be it. The merchandise is haphazardly tossed on the shelves, in easily openable boxes. There are usually only one or two employees, and they're either too stupid to notice you, too busy bullshitting with friends (either in the store or on the phone,) or just not interested. More often than not, they don't even pay attention when you want to legitimately buy something!
If you use the old mall strategy of bringing in a shopping bag from another store and just filling it up with shit, you pretty much have it made. (No Spencer's I've ever seen uses alarm-tags.) Careful, though, some of them might have *a* camera, or those bendy mirrors. Also, every so often they might have a smarter employee, but the smart ones usually quit shortly after they discover how much the job sucks.
You may have noticed Spencers trying to change their image lately. Now they have all sorts of bandy mirrors all over the place, and rumor has it they have cameras behind some of them. Be careful..
Hallmark shops and other gift shops are similar, just not quite as easy.
These are very easy to steal from (as long as you stay away from the 20- pound turkeys.) This is an optimal survival method if you don't know where your next meal is coming from. Warning: the beer aisle is *always* watched. Another warning: NEVER shoplift glass jars or bottles. One false move and you've got a lot of explaining to do, not to mention a possible visit to the emergency room.
Big electronics stores (P.C. Richards, the Wiz, Circuit City, etc.)
These are some of the absolute worst targets. When you consider the fact that they deal entirely in small items that cost big money, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that they have some serious pumped-up security watching you. Only the slickest sonsabitches ever successfuly lift from these places.
Many a lifter have died this way...
Small computer/software stores (Babbage's, Electronics Boutique, etc.)
If there are any software places to lift from, these are they. Try to find one in a mall, and wait until it gets really busy. (Christmas season is best.) Since there are usually only one or two workers there, it's not too difficult for someone with the dexterity to quietly open the bottom of a box that they're "reading," pocket the disks AND the manuals (you may need the copy protection/serial numbers to use the program, unless you can get those another way..) and then quietly place the box, open end first, back onto the shelf. This can also be done with mice, joysticks, or whatever.
Just make sure that before you try *anything,* the worker has seen you and asked if he/she can help you, so you can smile, politely decline, and claim to be "just looking." This will make him or her feel *much* more at ease with you than if you just walk right past them and start poking around in the back.
Music stores (Tower Records, Sam Goody's, Music Land, etc.)
Security in these places can be tight, but only because they get ripped off so often. Security is tightest in the bigger stores like Tower Records.
Speaking of Tower, here's a sneaky-ass thing they do when they bust you there. First they see you on camera starting to open that tape\disc\whatever. Then, really quick-like, the send a store detective down to sneak up behind you and TAKE A POLAROID OF YOU STEALING THE ITEM. No shit. I watched them do this to some poor schmuck. This is why I don't steal anything from there except the small paperback books and mags, which they don't seem to watch as well.
Mall music stores are generally difficult, although sometimes it's hilarious. A Sam Goody's in the local mall has a group of extremely stupid plain clothes store detectives they use. They kind of blow their cover when 1) you leave and come back a couple hours later, like after a movie, and the same guy is standing around "browsing" and 2) the 40-something year old man in the suit and tie is idly flipping through the Marilyn Manson discs while the guy with the nose-ring and the purple hair is apparently reading the back of "The Best of Manilow."
Watch out for detectives, watch out for alarm sensors embedded in the price tags and plastic CD frames, and watch out for cameras. These stores fall into the "difficult, but not impossible for the experienced lifter" category. Still, you're pretty much better off getting your music from other sources. (Read on.)
Wholesale "club" stores (Price Club, BJ's, Sams, etc.)
We've all seen these by now. They're basically ridiculously huge stores that sell stuff in ridiculously huge quantities for less than it would cost for that much in a regular store. ("29.95!! Why, that's a GREAT price for fifty pounds of paprika!!") The great thing is, since you're in a really big warehouse filled with really big boxes and really big containers stacked in really big piles, it's really easy to swipe something small out of a really big box while behind another really big box which is blocking you from view of the teeny tiny camera waaaay the hell up there on the ceiling. The BJ's near me just started keeping the computer software in locked displays (bummer) but there's still plenty of other stuff just laying out there. This is also a good source of books, batteries, office supplies, music, over-the-counter drugs (no counter!), any food you need, and basically anything else. The only drawbacks are 1) these are usually full of people and 2) you need to get a membership card to get in. Or, you can go with someone who has a card.
I forgot my card once (really) and got in by nonchalantly walking in right behind some lady who had hers, acting for all the world like I was with her, and smiling at the card-checker-guy. She didn't notice. Of course, you still can't really buy stuff without your own card, apart from food at the fast-food counter and snack machines they might have in there, unless you really are with someone.
Toy stores (Kay-Bee, Toys R Us, etc.)
These can be fun, if a little limited. Toys R Us keeps almost everything that's worth it (electronics, computer/video game software) in the pickup booth in the front, but if you're into toys, they are ridiculously easy. A few years ago I was heavy into action figures, and it's so easy to just crack open a package and shove one into your pocket that it's stupid. I still grab one every now and then for the top of my monitor. (Latest addition: Plastic Jeff Goldblum from "The Lost World." Heh.) If you're into bikes, the bike accessory section can be useful. Free inner-tubes for life! Batteries are also easy. Missing the little metal shoe from your Monopoly set? Get yourself a shiny new one.
Many toy stores, especially smaller ones, also have a large selection of "bargain" items out in racks. Items like slightly dated computer software, used video games, etc..
The big-box trick described above works very well here. Just grab a $20.00 Fisher-Price toy stove. The box is roomy enough to hold plenty of extras. I once worked at Toys R Us, and there was aways buzz about someone being caught doing the box trick at least once a week.
Here's a tidbit; an inventory guy at Toys R Us once told me that every single day, there is $500 worth of merchandise lifted from them. It's expected!
"Variety" stores (Target, K-mart, Wal-mart, Mart-mart, etc.)
These are some of my favorite targets (no pun intended.) They have lots of good stuff, ripe for the picking. Their security can seem tough to beat at first, but once you get the hang of it it's the easiest thing in the world. You basically just have to be aware of every camera in the place. (See "Cameras," below.) Most of these stores also employ plainclothes detectives, so watch out for those.
The fitting rooms in these stores can be *extremely* useful. Not only can you pull the fitting room trick described in "Clothing Stores" above, but you can sneak other merchandise into a garment from the shelf and then transfer it into your own pockets once inside. Also, the clothing in these stores is hardly ever tagged with those annoying alarm sensors.
The music section can prove fruitful if you remember one thing; NEVER STEAL THERE!!! Music and electronics are the most heavily watched areas of the store. Solution? Find a CD you like, bring it to a dark shadowy aisle far away from music or electronics, and then cut the plastic frame off with your handy-dandy pocket knife. Or, you can use the afro-pick method.
What's the afro-pick method, you ask? Well fine, tough guy, I'll tell you. First buy any cheap CD (yes, BUY) but don't pay for it in the music department. Pay at the regular registers. That way you also get to take home the plastic security frame. Now, once you're home, get one of those long-tooth combs commonly known as an "afro-pick," and start playing with it. It shouldn't take you too long to figure out which teeth to cut off the pick so that the remaining teeth fit nicely into those key-holes in the frame. Try it out. With a little luck, you now have a working key you can bring on your next shopping expedition.
Some, but not all, of these stores have the music section set up so you have to pay for anything from there in that section, so you won't be able to do any of this. Or, the regular registers might snap the frame off for you as well. In this case, if you still want one of their CD frames to play with, check the trash out back. There are always a few broken ones, with the locks intact.
Small businesses ("Mom-and-Pop" type places, privately owned)
Let's get one thing straight. Big companies like K-mart can take millions in losses thanks to people like me, but if you steal from some guy's family business, you could be hurting him, his family, and so forth. That is not very cool.. UNLESS of course you have a reason to want revenge on a particular store owner. But.. I'll save that bit in case I ever write a revenge file.
Part common sense, part personal preference. Listed below are some time frames in which to work, along with a few pros and cons. Again, this is nothing definitive. Use your own judgment, and stay alert.
TIME FRAME | PROS | CONS
Picture this. You grab something, find an aisle with no people, and stash it. All seems to be going well. But then when you try to leave, there's the entire cast of NYPD Blew waiting just outside the door for you! "How ever did they know?" you ask yourself as they cuff you and chuck you in the back seat of a nice car with pretty lights.
You meathead. Stores are full of cameras these days. But fortunately, they're easy enough to beat if you remember one simple thing... If you can see the camera, it can see you. So if *you* can't see *them*... You figure it out.
Very rarely do you find a store that has every inch of the place on camera. So what you do is find a spot that isn't. Usually it'll be an aisle with big & bulky items or just uninteresting ones. Common ones in K-mart-type stores are the luggage aisle, the garden-tools setion ("Hey, that's a rake in your coat!") and the sporting goods or exercise-machine sections. Find a safe zone in your store before trying anything.
Cameras are taking all sorts of shapes nowadays. Often they'll just be cameras, easily identifiable as such. But if you don't immediately see any cameras in a place, consider the possibility that they might be hidden. And a few stores have gotten sneaky and started using obvious and hidden cameras.
Where might you find them hidden, says you? You may find them behind mirrors, speaker-grills, or even exit signs. My K-mart hides theirs in shiny, dark, half-spheres in the ceiling. A few clothing stores which have walls lined with mirrors have cameras right behind some of the mirrors. Use your brain and look for anything a camera may be able to see from behind.
If you plan on taking more than a passing interest in this particular hobby, you should be prepared for the inevitable. It happens to just about every shoplifter eventually, and it can mean you're fucked. But not if you know how to handle it right.
First, I'll let you know some of the possible consequences of your actions.
(This applies to the United States. For info on the laws in other countries you will have to check for yourself.)
If you're a minor (usually under 18, but in some states it's under 16):
If you're a legal adult (18 and over, 16 and over in some states)
So how do you avoid this, you ask? Simple. Store employees, even security dudes, are never quite sure of your sanity before they approach you. You could be a cmplete and total violent psychopath for all they know. So be one. If you are approached by security, go totally fucking pissing shitting crazy. Foaming at the mouth is optional. Scream incoherently and throw the merchandise DIRECTLY at their face(s). Then RUN LIKE FUCKING HELL. If you do all this quickly enough, they won't know what hit them for an extra few seconds, giving you that much more of a head start in the event they actually chase after your ass. You'll probably be scared shitless, especially if it's your first bust, so use that. You'll run much faster when you're pumped on adrenaline. And stay out of that store for at least a few months, at least not during that shift. This is the *only* way to save your ass, unles you've got one of OJ's lawyers. Remember, the first responsibility of store employees and security dudes is to get their merchandise back while ensuring their own safety. Actually catching you and sending you up shit's creek is only the second. Not very many security or asset protection guys are going to risk getting killed by some psycho (you,) especially if they've got their goods back anyway. Forget everything you may have heard about talking your way out of it, etc.. this is the ONLY foolproof escape method.
In case you do get chased, you should have an escape route planned. Run through alleys, woods, even backyards, whatever will be most difficult to follow you through.
f your car is in their parking lot, leave it. You can come back later, preferably a couple hours later, dressed completely differently, and pick up your car unnoticed. You don't want to just run back to your car and peel out since some places have the parking lot on video, and every parking lot has bystanders. You don't want your car described (or taped) and possibly the plate read. (If you just run off, they'll assume you didn't drive there in the first place and so won't bother going through any tapes to see which car you came out of.)
If you get busted in a mall, you'll need a bit more planning to save you. Before you go into any mall store for the purpose of ripping them off, make a mental note of the nearest "big" store. By "big" I mean a store like Macy's, JC Penney's, or Stern's that has its *own* doors leading outside, not the mall entrance. This way if you get busted, you can haul ass into this store and leave the mall that way. Mall security is generally a bit slow to communicate with the actual stores, they just watch the halls. So if you can haul ass out of your target store, through a big store (which they won't expect, they'll expect you to go for the main entrance), and off mall property fast enough, you're home free. Of course, if the store you're running from is right near the main mall doors and nowhere near Macy's, then hell, go for 'em.
If you turn and see mall security exit through your same doors and start looking around for you, head for a full area of the parking lot (without people, just cars) and hide under a car for a while. This has saved my ass a few times. Security wouldn't think you're dumb enough to do that, so you'll be fine. Only once was I still under a car when the family came back, so I rolled out from under holding up a shiny quarter, smiled at the poor confused dad, and said "Found it." Then I walked off and caught a bus out of there.
If you do get busted and stay busted, the police will be called, and you'll be "peacefully detained" until they arrive. "Peacefully detained" means they just yell at you a lot, demand to know who you were working with, threaten you, and remind you of all the horrible shit that's going to happen to you. Then you're in for whichever of the above lists applies to you, plus possibly more. Check your local laws.
Just remember, the employees and the security dudes have *no* legal right to search you, or even touch you. What they count on is people being scared of them. Only the real police can legally search you and/or kick your sorry ass. So you don't wanna be there when the real cops arrive, because that's the point at which you are officially fucked.
Well, that about wraps up this file. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you learned a few things. I'm more or less retired from this sport these days, but I'm always looking for new ideas. If you'd like to get in touch with me and possibly contribute to a future edition, if you have any questions, or if you'd just like to arrest me, email me at the below address.
v. 1.5 - minor updates made, very limited release amongst pals - 04/98
v. 2.0 - more updates, method or two added, released to the Internet - 06/99
v. 3.0 - Becomes an official UPL issue, thereby taking on a new format and being released on the United Phone Losers web site.
Feel free to pass this around, archive it, zine it, or whatever, as long as it stays intact.
This is for inflammational porpoises only. The author isn't responsible for the actions of anyone but himself, and even some of those are debatable.