Shoplifting: The Secret Tendencies Sweeping our Schools


One of the biggest struggles when it comes to material objects is the fact that they cost money. Though this problem seems to apply to all people who buy things, there are some who choose to exempt themselves from this dilemma. Their “solution”? Shoplifting.
“Shoplifting is so easy, I honestly don’t know why people don’t do it,” student Carrie Butler* said. “Basically every time I go in to a store, I steal something. And I’ve never been caught.”
Twenty percent of students report that they’ve stolen food, making this the most commonly shoplifted item at Liberty.
“I shoplift food on a weekly basis,” student Fred Howell* said. “I typically steal sushi. First I approach a store and see what workers are there, go to an isle and scan it up and down. When I have what I want I’ll just walk out the door, or I’ll go up to the self-checkout and pretend to scan it, then just leave.”
While Howell is motivated to steal solely by hunger and a desire to save money, there is a wide variety of motives for people to steal.
Some students steal much less frequently, without planning or developing a method.
“I was at a gas station, and I took a candy bar. I hadn’t been planning on it. It was just in the moment. And then afterwards I felt guilty because I didn’t earn it or anything, and I haven’t stolen anything since,” student Tim Grey* said.
For some, even if feelings of guilt come with shoplifting, this is balanced by the goods acquired.
“People should feel a sense of regret for stealing, but at the same time, if they’re getting some free food, they should feel happy,” Howell said.
Also, in some cases shoplifting turns into an opportunity for peer pressure.
“If you’re with your friends, you wanna seem cool. It’s like, ‘let’s go shoplift and steal some food,’” Grey said. “You can definitely be pressured into it.”
To certain students, shoplifting can seem almost justified by the high price of goods and the wealth of large companies.
“If a t-shirt costs a cent to make by Chinese workers who basically work for free, and it’s being sold for $100, I mean, that’s something to consider,” student Eric Ross* said.
Student Amy Long* agreed. “If I wanted to protest capitalism, I’d steal everything,” she said.
Sales and Marketing teacher Chris Gapinski finds issues with this mentality.
“I understand a lot of people have just negative views toward business in general, that corporations are too rich, too big,” Gapinski said.
“But those corporates worked hard to get to that point, and companies like Apple and Amazon provide means to get really good products,” Gapinski said. “They’re providing us with that service that we need.”
In fact, Gapinski views capitalism as a major reason for our way of life.
“Capitalism built our society. That’s the foundational value of our country. Hating business for the way things are is the same idea as not liking someone because they’re really good at something. That doesn’t hold much weight,” Gapinski said.
Even so, there are other motives for students to shoplift beyond personal feelings toward capitalism. In fact, one of the motivators for student Maria Barnes* was the thrill or adrenaline rush from stealing things.
“Those 10 seconds right as you’re walking towards the door and you’re so worried that someone will stop you, or that you missed a sensor and the alarm will go off, there’s no feeling quite like it. And then when you’re out the door, you just feel so happy, like you can do anything,” Barnes said.
This feeling led her to shoplift very frequently.
“There was definitely a brief time when I was addicted to shoplifting, and I would do it whenever I had the chance,” Barnes said. “But I realized that the more I was doing it, the more reckless I was being. So I decided to stop just because I’d done it enough and I didn’t want to get caught.”
Getting caught shoplifting can lead to a major blight on a person’s record. According to Washington State law, stealing over $750 of property is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Basically if you fail, your reputation at school would go way down,” Ross said. “And if you get arrested, that would mess you up for life.”
Aside from those individual impacts, stealing can also lead to a cycle of increasing prices.
“Shoplifting is a vicious cycle,” Gapinski said. “If you decide to shoplift you are taking money away from a business, so they turn around and add the cost to the consumer, normally in the form of higher prices. That means when people shoplift, they are really hurting themselves.”
Junior Jake Sokoloski agrees that stealing is expensive for society at large, as well as detrimental to a person’s morals.
“The biggest reason to not shoplift is your moral values. If I stole food, then other people would have to pay for that food, and that’s just not right,” Sokoloski said.
Beyond any societal and economic ramifications, many see shoplifting as simply the wrong thing to do.
“You don’t steal from people you know,” Gapinski said. “So why would you steal from a business?”