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shoplifting poem
by william carlos williams

poems of the month

orpheus in soho

a seriously sexy man


measuring my face

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

wine and roses

confession from belgrade

gloss on rilke's ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit: poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of
wolves ?

the rubáiyát of omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

the love of pierre de ronsard




good riddance to mankind

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400 revolutionary maxims

nice men and
  suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper


art, truth and bafflement




the three bears

three albanian tales

a little creation story


lazarus the leper



an occitanian baby-hatch

ancient violence
in the amazon

home sweet home no longer

helen's tower

schopenhauer for muthafuckas


after a first cataract operation

single track in the snow

never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

a note on the cathars


londons of the mind
& dealing death to the caspian


a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope


this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

a holy dog and a dog-headed saint

fools for nothingness

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

the visit




metamorphotos NEW LINK



tombeau de kurt schwitters

three movements of melting ice




Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland

houses for the dead

french megaliths

a small town in france






















compulsion, crime - or getting your own back ?

Anthony Weir

Capitalist Philosophy

One of the most potent and ridiculous Capitalist Doctrines




Much of this web-page was written before the 'Banking Crisis' of 2008.
It is now obvious that shoplifting is a tiny matter
compared with the shameless criminality of banks in lending (at interest)
what they did not have and engaging in malpractices which cost millions of people real money.
Anyone working in a bank or 'the financial services industry'
(the Mammon of Usury) has voluntarily implicated him/herself
in the greatest financial swindle of all time.
Supermarkets, themselves swindling their suppliers, as well as small businesses,
are swindled least of all by petty shoplifters.



My Russian friend wrote to me to say
'When I was a student, just after the USSR collapsed, and Wild East Capitalism arrived,
I worked as a night watchman in a shop. When something had disappeared from the stock
the owner divided its cost among the staff - including the night watchman - and
docked their wages accordingly.
It was an expensive fashion shop and people frequently stole items —
so I soon had to quit, having learned the lesson of social justice.'


In recent years the Criminal Justice System in the UK
(which I prefer to cal
l the Imperium of England
and its Immediate Celtic Colonies
has started to take the view that petty pilfering is a technical offence
- like not wearing a seat-belt, or speeding -
rather than a moral outrage.
Police now impose statutory fines on the spot
which must be paid within 28 days.
These fines are similar to those imposed for minor motoring offences.


Nevertheless, it remains true that
the world is run by the criminally insane, high on greed,
psychopaths who make millions work so that they can play
power games, make war on small nations,
manufacture better and better killing-machines,
run vast prison services and gulags,
and divest a teeming planet of its resources,
its flora and its fauna.

These people are bankers, investors,
Venture Capitalists,
the Christian Churches (especially the Vatican) :

the rich who want to get richer.

They are also Crime Ministers
and International Agonisations
including those involved in 'Aid'.

These people define Civilisation,
they make sure that the poor breed ever more
to provide labour.

And when the poor start to get richer,
they stamp on their replacement underclass.

They want to urbanise us all,
drivelise the world, manufacture our minds
as well as all the rubbish they have sold us
as they tell us it's what we need in order to
hold our brainwashed heads up high.

The barbed-wire roll
of the World Dictatorship
of Consumer Capitalism
slowly unwinds
and reduces us all.




2023 update:
a view from the business side of the tills

The Guardian, London, March 2024


...which, if you are a poor person of a beautiful colour
living in the Southern states of the USA,
could get you put away in jail
for a very long time indeed.

May 2016

Stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger is not a crime,
Italy's highest court of appeal has ruled.

Judges overturned a theft conviction against Roman Ostriakov
after he stole cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (£3 / $4.50) from a supermarket.
Mr Ostriakov, a homeless man of Ukrainian background, had taken the food
"in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment", the Court of Cassation decided.
Therefore it was not a crime, it said.

A fellow customer informed the store's security in 2011, when Mr Ostriakov attempted to leave a Genoa supermarket with two pieces of cheese and a packet of sausages in his pocket - but paid only for breadsticks.

In 2015, Mr Ostriakov was convicted of theft
and sentenced to six months in gaol plus a €100 fine.


In Britain, an asylum-seeker caught stealing similar items
is likely to be deported back to a country where s/he might be tortured
or executed.


shoplifting and self-checkouts (2022) >



In 2005, the cost of retail "shrinkage" in the U.K. was £4.3 billion: 1.33% of total turnover.
An estimated 38% of this - some £1.5 billion - was due to theft by employees, some of them, of course, security staff.

This page was written a few years before an article appeared in The Sunday Times (London), of 17th December 2006, averring that shoplifting had now become a serious pursuit of the hypocritical rich, who claimed to be "resisting" huge mark-ups, third-world sweat-shops, military dictatorships, globalisation, and even Swiss smugness - while, of course, getting something for nothing, which seems to become more important the richer one becomes.

There are two million people defrauded in the UK every year.
These are mostly scams perpetrated on ordinary gullible people.
There are very few prosecutions - because the police need proper evidence,
and, moreover, the victims are too embarrassed or ashamed to 'make a fuss'
and possibly make a bad secret situation public and worse.



If you are seen to shoplift in France, or Spain, or Germany or Italy, or any number of European countries, the shop-owner or the security staff will, generally, either come up to you before you leave the store and remind you to pay for the items you have concealed about your person, or they will accost you as you leave the store, bring you to an office, and, with very serious faces, make you pay for the goods that you attempted to steal.

There is sometimes a queue of other shoplifters at this busy
'alternative till'.

Sometimes, they will ask you to pay 10% more than their value - to cover the costs of hiring security-staff, or as a little bonus to the diligent shop-assistant. They sell their goods.

In France, Italy etc. shoplifting is regarded as a technical offence (like exceeding a speed-limit), committed by students, the poor, the powerless and depressed - whereas in the more vindictive anglophone countries it is regarded as a moral crime against society.

Insofar as there are local newspapers in France,
shoplifting and other trivial crimes are not gleefully reported.
This marks a striking difference from anglophone cultures
whose newspapers are based on the principle of lurid and squalid 'revelation'.

Because of this, in anglophone countries the pilferer/thief will be watched, and allowed to leave the store. Then they will apprehend her or him dramatically, frog-march him or her back into the store - and call the police.

Singer-Celebrity Courtney Love's youthful theft of a Kiss tee-shirt from a Woolworth's in Eugene, Oregon actually led to a period in reform school!

In many stores there are dummy cameras to fool shoplifters. There are also hidden cameras in different locations designed to entrap shoplifters. This is, of course, illegal. Security firms are hired on their (quantitative) reputation for catching shoplifters, not (qualitatively) for preventing shoplifting (which is incalculable). Entrapment helps to improve the statistics in a competitive market.

Now CCTV cameras in big stores are connected to the internet so that neo-fascist collaborators can sit at home snooping - and inform the store.
This is Big Brother Next Door.

In Germany, many shops quite legally display signs announcing that any shop-lifter must pay a “Fangprämie” or fine for being caught - perhaps 50 euros- to the store if caught.

This excellent idea has, typically, been perverted in the US, and, more recently Britain. In the past few years, police have shown increasing reluctance to get involved in minor shop theft, so in Britain and America a new, and much more scary development has taken place: "Retail Loss Prevention" by private firms.

In 2009, over 80,000 people were apprehended in England alone and accused of shoplifting. Although many of these accusations were false and without any evidence whatsoever, the firm "Loss Prevention" extracted money from their victims as "compensation" for large shops (such as Boots) and as "Administration Fees".

People were blackmailed by threats of civil action, though not a single civil action was initiated against a single accused person. A civil action is an expensive business, so "Loss Prevention" frightens people further by telling them they will have to pay the substantial court costs if found guilty.

But the BBC followed one case where a woman had been falsely accused of stealing lip gloss (!) from Boots. No evidence of theft could be produced either by 'Loss Prevention' or Boots - whose statements conflicted with each other as well as with the blackmailed victim. Had the case gone to court (which in all likelihood it would not) it would have been thrown out immediately, and the firm would have been ordered to pay court costs. The victim might then have been in a position to take "Loss Prevention" to court for wrongful arrest and detention.

'Loss Prevention' has an impressive website which gives the implies that it works with the police, entirely within the law, is legally kosher, and suitably sanitised.

But they, like many 'Security Firms' actually entrap the genuine shoplifter and ensure that a crime that has been committed, so that they can apply pressure. This may seem to be better than calling the police, a most expensive service for which they pay nothing. But whereas the police require evidence and procedure, 'Retail Loss Prevention' agencies do not.

The same attitude applies at a more basic level to motoring: there are cameras and traps on British roads, but rarely any of the elaborate 'slow-down' warnings that are so common in France. Radar in Britain is used mainly to create offenders, whereas radar in France triggers flashing lights to make the motorist slow down. Traffic Wardens are instructed to entrap motorists who, for example, park briefly in a 'Loading Bay', rather than to advise them to park elsewhere. Thus I was once fined half of my weekly income, a sum which a member of the lawnmowing classes would simply regard as a fee.

In Germany, the act of theft is legally committed only if you hide an item. The Bavarian State Supreme Court pronounced on this:
“A person carrying an item openly, leaving a store in which he is not physically prevented from leaving [by way of a barrier etc.], to look at display racks on the footpath in front, does not commit a theft of said item, even when turning his back towards the racks...”

But in the British Isles and USA the pilferer is marched to a store-room. If a 'Retail Loss Prevention' firm is not plying its profitable trade, he or she is kept there until the police arrive (which may take a hour or two), he or she is then arrested, cautioned, taken to a police-station, cautioned again, searched, put into a cell to wait, then, after half an hour or an hour, interviewed by detectives (!),fingerprinted, photographed and has a DNA swab taken from his or her mouth.
Many forms are filled in.

A solicitor (attorney, advocate) may of course be requested by the criminal. But if he or she, caught in flagrante, 'admits guilt', this is hardly necessary.

The process and procedure take an hour or two, the thief is given back the property that was taken off him on arrival at the police-station, and is given a piece of paper instructing him or her to attend a Court hearing on a certain date. My own experience of this proceeding (for example after being caught in a Virgin Megastore - what happened to them, ruthless Mr Branson ?) is that the police are themselves embarrassed by the pettiness of it all, and are quite jokey while they do their dreary duty.

In exceptional circumstances, the criminal is kept in the police cell overnight and brought to Court the next day to be sentenced: to pay a fine or go to prison.

All this costs a great deal of money. The shop does not sell its goods.
The police waste their time - most of it on paperwork. The criminal court wastes everyone's time.
The crime-statistics are boosted - and the prison population, too.

No wonder that the United Kingdom has the highest per-capital prison population in Europe: higher even than Burma/Myanmar or Singapore. It has not yet reached the gargantuan level of the United States, which is less a land of the free than a land of the locked-up - with notorious examples of prisoners on Death Row for 23 years, just for having the 'wrong' (i.e. beautiful) skin-colour.


In the past,
many shopkeepers ended up
with almost-empty tills,
and went bankrupt,
not because of shoplifters

(deserving and undeserving poor, perhaps)
who were transported to Australia
for their crimes (at the very least),

but because the rich and the titled
and the undeserving rich
were at liberty to refuse to pay their bills.



techniques of shoplifting >

This strategy is not likely to succeed.
If shoplifting in a large store, always wheel around 180 just before the exit,
just to check if anyone is following you.

Unless the shoplifter (or framed citizen) is simply handed a form of blackmail by a Retail Loss Prevention 'operative', with Notice to Pay hundreds of pounds in 'compensation, fees and costs' on pain of civil summons to a County Court, the compulsive shoplifter goes through this procedure every time he or she is seen to steal - whether it is a tin of beans, a book, or a box of candles. The financial wizard, on the other hand, who makes millions of dollars or pounds disappear, is rewarded with a million-dollar bonus. Public servants "fiddle" expenses
The British law on theft, therefore, is a cynical mockery of natural justice - as is a great deal of criminal law which allows the Big and/or Important Boys (such a members of the august and obscure Privy Council) to get off 'Scot-free', while the small fry are fried.

I have seen a shoplifter taken away from Eason's, an ugly, aggressive stationery chain-store with hidden cameras in Belfast, for stealing a 2003 Diary which by the end of February 2003 had been marked down to half-price and was almost unsaleable.

So much for a 'just and equitable society'!

Selfportrait as my fingerprint.

For other shoplifting activity in Belfast click  HERE .

It has recently been established that activities involving "getting one over", "pulling a fast one" on a person to whom you are made to feel inferior, or on a business, organisation or government, produce the same minor euphoria as certain drugs or alcohol, and can easily become addictive.

A survey conducted by discount vouchers peddlers VoucherCodesPro has revealed that one in five people admit to stealing items at supermarket self-service checkouts, adding up to £1.6bn ($2.4bn) worth of items every year, so frustrated are they with the ineptitude of their surrogate machine slaves. This has, naturally, been picked up by the press and featured in newspaper reports that pleasingly contain such archaic terms as pilfering (say it with me, folks: pilfering, isn't it nice?) but then again, we're threatening to prosecute people for "vagrancy" now, so why restrict our pre-industrial revolution nostalgia to language? We might as well go full-on medieval and chop these thieves' hands off. After all, £1.6bn (almost €2bn) does add up to a lot of unexpected items in a lot of bagging areas...

read more


Inevitably regarding all property as theft (from the planet), always withdrawing (rather than withdrawn) I was a compulsive shoplifter. That is to say: a white nigger.
I have been in prison for stealing groceries.
Prison opened my eyes like those of the Sleeping Beauty.
I learned that the British actually like (almost as much as the punitive Americans) to have a large 'criminal' population to punish: they live in a feudal culture of revenge and punishment. Anglo-Saxon cultures inculcateinternal anger, which is vicious. Other cultures tend to externalise their anger more - and are despised by the Anglo-Saxon would-be world-rulers.

Prison was a strange and not unkind kind of awakening.

My life was shaped by shoplifted books which I could not possibly have afforded:
from Njál's Saga to Maupassant and Zola, from Euripides to Dostoyevski, Kafka, Steinbeck, O'Connor, Hesse, Hamsun,and Grass, (whom I was reading while my contemporaries were tinkering with engines and talking about girls); later on came Vesaas, Genet, Atwood, Atkinson...and a whole host of writers, for we are living in the Golden Age of the novel in English, which I am so well-equipped to appreciate.
Thus otherwise-unavailable worlds and world-views were revealed to me in 1950s Belfast - and since.

I first started stealing books when I was pretty young., maybe in the late 1940s. On Saturdays I used to take the bus to Belfast city centre and go to the brighter of the only two general bookstores in Belfast. There I would stand and read books, though which ones I have no idea. Biggles, perhaps ? After a while I was prevented from doing this, so instead I stole a book at a time, one a week. It was amazingly easy. For some reason (I think probably the danger of catching TB) I was not introduced to public lending libraries. The nearest one to my childhood home was poky and squalid. In fact I didn't start to use public libraries until I was over thirty. By that time they had become pleasant spaces, and I realised that I could order books even before they were published. At University I had used Inter-library Loan facilities, but I did not realise that these were available to Public Libraries, through which I even borrowed a book which had been sent from California.

When CDs were introduced, they seemed almost to be made just for stealing.

Shoplifters of the world - Steal silence! Steal peace!
You have nothing to lose but the pale shade of liberty.

In my teens I graduated rom books to vinyl records. Later, living 'below the bread-line' after I left home, I diversified into foodstuffs, household equipment and the occasional small objet d'art. Now in my eighties, I restrict myself mainly to pocketing a spotty banana from an odious supermarket, allowing it to ripen further, and then sauteeing it butter with fennel seeds to eat as a dessert with fromage blanc.

The London Review Bookshop reports a fondness by shoplifters for philosophers.
“Our most-stolen authors, in order, are Baudrillard, Freud, Nietzsche, Graham Greene, Lacan, Camus, and whoever puts together the Wisden Almanack.

“We caught a gent last Christmas with £400-worth of stolen books in his trousers and elsewhere. We grabbed all of the bags back, but he returned about half an hour later to reclaim a half-bottle of whisky and his dream journal, which had been at the bottom of one of the bags of stolen books. As we showed him the door he told us: ‘I hope you’ll consider this in the Žižekian spirit, as a radical reappropriation of knowledge.’”

In the British Isles, shoplifters are regarded with the same smug outrage that is visited on Roma.
In France and Italy it is assumed that many people will steal from shops if they get the chance. In Italy it is a kind of national sport, like driving through red traffic-lights or ogling pretty women.

When scheduled flights to Italy leave large British airports, police are drafted in to arrest Italians - who have stolen small items from the very-inviting airport shops - who are then very surprised to miss their flight, spend the night in a police cell, and receive a hefty fine in court the next day. So, if there are groups of Italians at an airport, be very careful - even if you are a blond Finn.

So far as I know, Frank Zappa was not a regular shoplifter.

The Italians and the French, however, recognise that shoplifting is the silliest and highest-risk of all 'crimes'. That it is, in fact, a pseudo-crime.
I am not talking about those people who shoplift, often to order, items worth hundreds or thousands of pounds/dollars/euros.
The chances of an unprofessional being caught are very great, and the return is tiny.
Small-time shoplifting is either a 'crime of opportunity', and thus is undetected, or it is a (largely-female) pseudo-crime of compulsion, whose in-store detection boosts the police success-rates. The police detection-rate of real crime is unbelievably low: less than 20%.

Shoplifting is also a symptom of certain diseases of the brain, especially Herpes simplex encephalitis. Although I suffer from some obscure and minor kind of encephalitis (undiagnosed), my shoplifting probably pre-dates it. In any case, I would not wish to justify shoplifting on medical grounds, for the medicalisation of society has long since exceeded the bounds of sanity. I would justify shoplifting from all but small and specialist shops on the same grounds as the punishers: supermarkets and chain-stores rip off their suppliers (and ultimately the planet) causing the poor to get poorer, themselves and their shareholders and Elected Representatives and rulers to get ever richer.

Police brutality ?

The busiest time for anti-shoplifting goons is midday/lunchtime.

Neither the police (of course), nor the judiciary, nor the legal profession have raised their voices to prevent the ridiculous waste of money involved in prosecuting people (usually women) who pilfer underwear, food, or marker-pens. If shops insist on doing everything to make their goods tempting, they should do their own dirty work. They happily make a profit of up to 1000% on what they sell - partly, I suppose, to cover the huge costs of CCTV cameras and the staff to operate and maintain them.

Britain with its notorious voyeuristic culture is completely besotted by Closed-circuit Television systems. Whole towns are under minute supervision, and many open roads, too. The insane 'War against Terror' is even more disquieting than you think.

shoplifting poem by william carlos williams

While Anglophones love to have criminals to fear and punish, they are amazingly indulgent towards big-time criminals such as Stock-market insider-fraud, tax-evaders, and other 'white-collar' criminals who defraud not only the state but pension funds as well. These are high-status macho criminals. Shoplifting is a female crime of low status - and, of course, the lower the status of the crime the more severe the relative punishment. Fiddling expenses, on the other hand, is almost never prosecuted. It is, more even than 'crimes against humanity', the most common crime of executive Heads of State.
Had Jean Genet been British, he would have been executed before he became one of Europe's greatest and most uncomfortable writers. Genet observed that police depend on criminals for their job-security and thus are bound into a vicious circle. The same is true of the anti-shoplifting industry, which now includes not only 'consultants' but counsellors - richly feeding off and dependent upon petty criminals.
Only in Britain (and, of course, the United States) would the compulsive and foolish Oscar Wilde have been so viciously treated.

Sitting like a normal at a desk
ogling a screen
I know that what is normal
is grotesque.

Shoplifting Blog

According to the Facts About Shoplifting link on the (semi-literate) Shoplifters Alternative website, one out of every 11 people in the United States is a shoplifter.
How denunciatory the other ten people would be is harder to establish. Ethnic/cultural origin and family background would play a part. Probably one or two would regard it as relatively harmless and understandable (given the way goods are displayed in shops where staff congregate talking around a till), while one or two would regard it as more outrageous than sexual harassment, or religious or racial intolerance.

Shoplifters Alternative tells us that now, at last, shoplifting is being looked at as yet another Process Addiction over which some people could be powerless. (A Process Addiction is a compulsive behaviour in which a person becomes dependent on the whole behavioural process for a result, rather than on a chemical. Gambling, sex, collecting things and ambition are just four obvious, different and much-encouraged examples of process addictions.)
An addictive 'rush' can be induced by specific risky behaviours that can alter a person's emotional state through the release of adrenaline. As with jay-walking (or bungee-jumping, rock-climbing or bomb-defusing) the addictive effect of shoplifting is enhanced by success - i.e. by not being apprehended. People continue to do it even after they are caught and shamed and fined or sent to prison.

There are many acceptable things
as dishonest as shoplifting:
being a judge or jihadist,
for example; dyeing one's hair
and shaving - and pretending to care.


Shoplifters Alternative defines two categories of shoplifters: professional and non-professional. A professional shoplifter steals to resell merchandise (usually for a fraction of its retail value), perhaps in order to satisfy other addictive behaviour such as drug-taking. Although there are gangs of professionals who steal very expensive items, most professionals are poor.

The non-professional shoplifter is someone who obtains some emotional satisfaction from the process of stealing successfully. This individual is not stealing just for monetary or material gain but (also) to medicate a feeling of injustice or an internal conflict.

Reasons for non-professional shoplifting include the attempt to overcome unresolved issues toward an authority figure; a sense of social injustice; a sense of entitlement to overpriced goods (or due to the aggressive environment of the shop); the relief of stress through the adrenaline rush associated with the process of stealing; the abatement of emotional discomfort linked to feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, grief, powerlessness or boredom.

Shoplifting in Belfast

Walmart (Asda in the BritIsles) is, of course, the greatest robber baron in history.
The world's poorest are forced by supermarkets to subsidise, by disease, starvation and labour,
the underpriced groceries and clothing of the rich.

In an article titled "Shoplifting Can Be Addictive" by
Shoplifters Alternative, the authors claim to describe the process that occurs as the shoplifter enters a store until he or she leaves. This alleged dynamic "involves a concurrent continuum of tension and excitement as the shoplifter contrives to conceal an item and eventually or quickly leave the store with it. Tension builds as the shoplifter encounters potential threats to the process and a sensation of excitement each time a possible threat, such as a salesperson or hidden camera, is overcome. The ultimate "high" occurs when the shoplifter's tension turns into excitement as he or she successfully leaves the store without being caught. This "high" temporarily relieves the emotional dilemma, whether positive or negative, that precipitated the theft process."

This wacky analysis has been dreamed up by someone who has never shoplifted. To some (especially poor) shoplifters he whole process is stressful. Leaving a shop without being apprehended does not necessarily produce much of a "high" - it can just as easily produce a feeling of relief. To complicate the complex, a Shoplifters Alternative survey found that 80% of shoplifters said that they didn't even think about getting caught.

In another piece of tergid jargon, they say that published reports suggest that there are no specific demographics that delineate the profile of the 'typical' shoplifter from others. However, it has been found that adults steal more than teenagers (only a small proportion of offenders caught are under 18), and that one third of those caught find it difficult not to re-offend. (In France untilrecently I still stole food items from supermarkets, such as cheeses or coffee under my armpits or in underpants. In Northern Ireland I did the same in Asda-Walmart, just to keep my hand in, for there the tag-alarms are often not manned, so (for example) printer-cartridges can be stolen even without cutting off the security-tag!)

Shoplifters Alternative sensibly considers shoplifting to be distinct from kleptomania - because 'the stealing-behaviour' of a kleptomaniac is impulsive rather than due to a compulsive psychological/physiological need. Kleptomania is also not premeditative.

What many store-owners refuse to realise is that crude fluorescent lighting, harsh décor, screaming displays of goods (not to mention tinnily-broadcast aggressive music and advertising) encourage not only panic-attacks but shoplifting as well.

On the other hand, some supermarkets (especially in France, where employment costs are very high) now consider they can save more through staff wastage than they lose by stock wastage.


Shoplifters tend, of course, to regard their (often infrequent) activity as a victimless crime, no matter what background they have. After the first occasion, many people quickly become addicted to the little satisfaction of stealing something and getting away with it. Some, indeed, may not plan to steal when they first go into a mall or hypermarket or store, but they can't help it once they're inside. This suggests that there is, after all, no difference between addictive shoplifting and kleptomania.

Other websites remark that soon as a new anti-shoplifting measure is introduced - whether directed against theft by staff (more than 50% of the loss-value of all store-theft) or by potential customers - people find some way to beat it. Stores, needless to say, spend millions of dollars trying to stop shoplifters: a bit like trying to catch water in a sieve. The cost of prevention and of shrinkage are passed on in the retail price.

In the 'good old days' of the 1960s, before global warming was even dreamt of (though the hideous overpopulation of the planet was a concern for some), I could walk into a record and hi-fi store with a large raffia bag and casually put a big Bang & Olufsen tuner-amplifier into it and walk out. With the same bag I subsequently stole many LPs - classical, of course. My large raincoat, bag and beard were simply ignored in favour of my 'polite' accent and interest in Sibelius symphonies - even though I bought nothing in the store!
I am, if anything, ever-anomalous. Today, I would have to be much more subtle and savvy. But today, such items can be obtained so cheaply that I prefer, in the lovely twilight of my life, to buy them through eBay or shoplift them without fear of prosecution through Torrent (P2P) and other sites.


"Experts" say that the most popular stores affected by shoplifters are grocery stores.
Thefts from retail outlets occur mostly in urban main shopping areas. The figures for the city of Sheffield (England) have remained steady over several years at about 3,000 - which is, of course, is an unquantifiable fraction of offences committed.

update 2023: shopflifting out of control :
stores need to up their game


Anthony Weir

Apart from the paid-for carton of apple-juice, this man is also carrying
2 x 250g packets of coffee in his armpits, two Rocamadour cheeses
in his underwear, and a flat sheep's cheese in each pocket.


Shoplifting is - in the short term at least - one of the only profitable addictions.

Compulsive fraud is another.

Especially when carried out by salaried staff in 'the financial sector'.




However, as I have got older, eBay has come into being, and shoplifting has lost its appeal.



shoplifting poem by william carlos william


Notes on Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) from a once-suppressed website:

"In any EAS-system a generator sends a signal at defined frequencies to a receiver. This creates a surveillance area, usually at a checkout aisle or an exit. Upon entering the area, a tag or label with special characteristics creates a disturbance, which is detected. The exact means by which the tag or label causes this disturbance is the distinct characteristic in a EAS-system. For example, tags or labels may alter the signal by using a simple semi-conductor junction, a tuned circuit composed of an inductor and capacitor, soft magnetic strips or wires, or vibrating resonators.

Radio frequency, harmonical and acousto-magnetical systems are currently the most used. RF labels are comparatively large in size (40 x 25 mm) and easily shielded. The necessary amorph metals are mainly produced by the Siemens subsidiary VAC. Harmonical systems are still in common use in Europe (in the US only libraries still use them). The labels (small metal strips) respond to the electromagnetic fields at the gates . The reponding part is a 0.02 mm thin ribbon of amorph metal onto which shorter permanently magnetic strips are attached. if “active” these strips are not magnetised. At the register these strips are magnetised thus, for the detector at the exit breaking the strip down into many smaller, non-detectable bits. “Swept-RF” systems cover a varying frequency range of 7.4-8.2 Mhz. The alarm is caused by the phase difference in the tag-signal and the transmitter signal. In Germany the food store chain of Tengelmann seems to one of the main users of this systems. The labels are obvious on the outside of packaged (food containers must be sealed), about 2-3 mm in thickness and easily removed. Even de-activated (i.e. magnetised) labels may set off an alarm if passing close to the antenna, where the magnetic field is about 10times higher than in the centre. (Maximum distance is 1.2 m)

Microwave technology (commonly in inconspicuous overhead detectors, such as boxes hanging from the ceiling at escalators) works with a transmitter emitting two signals to excite the tag. The first is HF carrier signal (902-906 MHz in the US, 2404-2486 Mhz in Europe; specific for each system), the second a lower frequency modulation signal of 111.5 kHz. This non-propagating signal limits the HF field to the desired surveillance zone. Tags used are composed of a microwave diode and an antenna. The tag when introduced into the field re-radiates a combination of both fields. The modulated signal causes the alarm.

Acousto-magnetical systems, initially developed around 1990, are by now dominant in the US and becoming more frequent in Europe. One of their advantages is the low cost of individual labels of a few cents. The labels are about 40 x 8 (to 14) mm in size with a thickness of about 1 mm, thus still easily detected by the smart shoplifter. Unlike harmonical systems the label is de-magnetised at the register.

Electromagnetic systems create a low frequency (ususally 70 Hz to 1 kHz) electromagnetic field between two pedestals. The field continuously varies in strength and polarity. In response to the changing magnetic field the tag material abruptly changes as the field strength varies. This change causes a signal (rich in harmonics) of the fundamental frequency. The system identifies these harmonics, in relation to signals emitted.

EAS might work, but, what are the bad guys to do if no label is attached, it has been removed or never mind the alarm going off, you are out the door before anyone reacts?

Some department stores have begun to install EAS gates near first floor elevators, so if the alarm is sounded there is is enough time to inspect a suspect before his or her exit from the shop.

Future developments include: Smart labels sending signals, not only that goods are there, but how many.
Ink-filled cartridges which ruin fabrics if not removed by a machine.
And of course the microscopic chips woven into garments which broadcast their whereabouts anywhere in the world.

click for

Links for EAS-distributors:

UNISEN “The technology leaders in Global shoplifting prevention”: [21.07.02]. Great pictures and explanations for a wide variety of RF systems: e.g. “Menhir”, “Glass Menhir” and “Universal QG System” are dual pedestal systems with a standard detection frequency of 8.2 Mhz (variations from 1.8-10.5 Mhz available) and a detection range of 1.3-1.9 m, obviously same technology, different packaging. “Aisle system” with a limited range of 1m for supermarkets. Also available the “Sologard System” a sort of single “Menhir” for use with hard tags (i.e. textiles) only. They also distribute “Universal RF labels” “which are “paper thin self adhesive tags, to protect any type of non-metallic, hard goods items.” sizes 3 x 3 and 3 x 6 cm (“with simulated bar-code to deceive shoplifters”. BEWARE!). Very useful is their “Tags and systems compability chart” [21.07.02], an the system tuning manual: Can they be possibly be so daft as to keep all this information public ?"

See also:

[Abridged with permission from the website:]



a note on

by Professor Laurie Taylor

Most of the stories we used to hear about bank heists told of the careful planning which had gone into the robberies. We learned how the gang of masked men had struck at a moment when the bank was relatively free of customers. We read how they had first fired shots into the ceiling to terrify the staff and how they had then smashed their way through the protective glass to prevent the cashier from sounding the alarm. They'd then ransacked the tills, seized a massive haul of cash, and made off in a getaway car driven by another skilled professional. The spokespersons for the police and for the bank talked of the 'expert planning' that had gone into the robbery and the likelihood that it had been organised by a criminal 'mastermind'.

In a perverse sort of way I used to relish these stories. There was something truly dramatic in the idea of a group of professional criminals sitting around a table in a dimly lit cellar plotting their next adventures. It was easy to imagine the mastermind carefully laying out his plans, plotting the route to and from the bank, going through procedure inside the bank, arranging for the getaway car to draw up at the precise moment the robbers came running out with their bags of loot.

This all meant that when I began to conduct research on professional criminals I was particularly anxious to talk to someone who could give me the real lowdown on a typical bank robbery.

I met just such a man. He was articulate and highly intelligent. Everything you might expect in a criminal mastermind.

But nothing else fitted my fantasy. When I asked about how a bank robbery was planned he almost laughed in my face. He told me that the last robbery in which he'd been involved had been thought up in about five minutes by him and a group of mates during a lunchtime drinking session.

After three or four large drinks someone had suggested 'doing' the local bank. Had anyone got a 'shooter' near at hand? Someone had. That was all that was needed. They finished their drinks, climbed into a car, tootled round the corner, dashed into the bank, fired a couple of shots in the ceiling and then collected the bundles of notes which the eager cashier pushed over the counter. Then they strolled out, climbed into the waiting car, drove to another pub and 'divvied up' the proceeds.

But what about everything I'd read in the paper about the careful organisation and planning, about the bravery of the bank staff in the face of the attack, about the clever timing of the raid, the skills of the getaway driver, the 'mastermind' behind the whole operation?

It was, he told me, all nonsense. The bank had a vested interest in describing the raid as the work of skilled professionals. Did they really want to admit that any old crowd of local hoodlums with a gun could rob one of their branches so easily? Did they want to admit that their cashiers handed over the money without any show of bravado?

And exactly the same went for the police. If they failed to catch the culprits they could blame their failure on the professionalism of the criminal gang. If they did make an arrest they could enjoy the special praise which would accrue from their having smashed a "mafia-like" operation.

© MMXI Laurie Taylor

There is not so very much difference, it seems, between 'casual' shoplifters and 'casual' bank-robbers. Neither in the way they 'operate', nor in the way they are 'talked' up by their victims, the press, security firms, the police, and anyone else who will benefit from unchallenged hyperbole.



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