Kayak Theft, And Other Characteristics Of The Female Shoplifter

Pulling a Winona. The five-finger discount. You can come up with all the cutesy nicknames in the book, but when it comes down to it, shoplifting is a big, ugly monster that has landed many women in a heap of trouble. So, we were instantly intrigued by The Steal, a new nonfiction book by Rachel Shteir, that explores the cultural reasons behind, and historical history of, sticky fingers, and the 27 million Americans who commit the crime each year. We went right to the source, Shteir herself, with our questions on why women, in particular, shoplift and what are they are out to gain.

How would you describe the woman who shoplifts? Does she work, does she have a family, is she affluent...? Is there even a specific type of woman?
"There is no typical woman who shoplifts. Affluent women shoplift, as do impoverished drug dealers and middle-class women. But in my research I did find that women talked more about shoplifting as an illness than men and connected it more to loss and grief."

What are the most popular items that most women steal?
"Cosmetics is one of them. Household products."

In your research, what's the craziest thing someone's stolen?

"As I report in my book, someone tried to steal a kayak. Whether you call that shoplifting or not depends on how you define the crime."

What types of stores are the most targeted?
"All types of stores are targeted, but probably department stores and big box stores are among the most targeted"

Is shoplifting an addiction? And if so, how can it be addressed and resolved?

"Some people believe that shoplifting is a behavioral addiction, like gambling. They believe that education programs, behavior modifications, and in some case, certain drugs, can, if not cure it, suppress the urge to steal."

For shop owners, what's something they can do to prevent shoplifters?

"Probably the most easiest thing shop owners can do is pay their employees more. If employees are not well-paid, they will look the other way when someone shoplifts."

The Steal, by Rachel Shtier, $17.07, available at Amazon.

Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Group

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