The Darkly Beautiful Art of Shoplifting

September 22, 2015 — 70 Comments

shoplift 3

I just shoplifted a few items from Ulta, an overpriced makeup superstore.

Note: I’m not condoning shoplifting, or in fact, instructing any of you to do so.

As a matter of fact, this is a work of fiction.

If you get caught, and pull this article up on your phone to show security officers how you were led astray, they will laugh at you.

However. I KNOW some of you snapperheads are going to read this and become inspired to shoplift.

So, some basic rules.

1. Don’t ever shoplift from a liquor store, pawn shop, or anywhere the owner is strapped. You want an IPhone, not a bullet in your neck.

2. Don’t steal from people. Don’t steal from small mom and pop stores. There is honor among thieves! Go after the big retail chains. They pay slave wages, factor shoplifting into their overpriced inventory and are run by scumbags who deserve it.

3. Stay calm. Be upbeat and friendly if spoken to. Dress like a mediocre middle class white person, even if you’re not.

4. Have some of your friends, the ones who look like they drank too much tequila and woke up in a public bathroom, walk around acting suspicious. They will divert attention from you, dressed as a respectable suburban drone.

5. Don’t get cocky because you weren’t popped in Target. They have a crazy good camera system. They see EVERYTHING. They’re just not bothering your small-potatoes ass until it’s a felony. Then it’s hello, jail time.

6. Don’t cran your neck looking for cameras like an amateur. Pretend to reach for stuff on top shelves.

7. Never run unless you have been caught. If someone with a walkie talkie and pants up to his nipples accosts you are, RUN LIKE HELL

8. Wear shoes that are easy to run in (see # 4)

9. Stick a toddler in your cart and give him stuff to hold. Those little shits grab stuff all the time. Just hand it back and scold your kid. Don’t feel bad using your kid to steal. That little financial drain is the reason you have to shoplift anyway.

I had the money to buy what I wanted. As a matter of fact, I bought some things as well. That’s actually one of the techniques to avoid getting caught. Make a purchase.

So why did I steal?

Because. Like a whole lot of other things I shouldn’t do, I get a high from it. It appeals to the rebellious punk buried alive inside me. It’s my “fuck you” to the man. (yes, I just said that, deal with it).

But ever since I had a kid, I rarely shoplift. I don’t want to have to call Little Dude from county lock up to come bail me out.


I learned to shoplift from an expert. When I was in junior high my absolute best friend (well, my only friend) was Jayce, the other white girl in my school. Her older sister, Kelly, five years our senior, was the sister I never had – and my mentor in the art of the five finger discount.

Kelly and Jayce were the two sweetest girls on the planet. Kelly in particular had an angelic quality about her that made everyone adore her. Shoplifting expertise was so incongruous with her outward demeanor, no one ever suspected her.

She was also a heroin junkie, constantly bouncing in and out of methadone programs and rehabs. But that personality of hers – she was just so NICE. Even my mother loved her. More than me.

Jayce grew breasts one night the summer between elementary school and junior high. So began her foray into the world of bad girl-dom.

I was a good girl, a nerd, an A plus student. Running with Jayce and Kelly allowed me to take a trip to the dark side, the side with cigarettes and drinking and Jayce’s stories of the boys who felt her up in her backyard at night.

Every so often I would cut school and take the ferry from Staten Island into Manhattan with Kelly and Jayce. Crowded anonymous Manhattan was the perfect setting in which to learn shoplifting techniques.

Kelly taught me how to locate the “blind spot” in a department store, where security cameras can’t see you. To use the receipt from a purchase to go back into the store and walk out with the same item, unpaid.

She taught me how to go up to the jewelry counter at a department store, and confidently ask to see watches – and then pocket one practically right under the salesperson’s nose.

That was one of my favorite moves. I have to punch myself in the face to stop myself from pulling that one in a crowded Nordstrom’s at Christmas time.


Kelly was a loving daughter, a devoted sister and a total delinquent. Her parents owned a little beach house on the Jersey shore, which Kelly used to break into routinely and rob. And leave notes apologizing.

I spent three years in junior high under Kellys’ expert tutelage. I was an avid shoplifter all through college. I hate to write that I’ve never been caught, because even though it’s the truth, I feel as though it will jinx me.

Jayce turned into a full-blown bad girl in high school. I was still trying to color inside the lines at that point and we never spoke after the ninth grade but we nodded hello to one another every morning, when I passed her outside the high school. All school year long she stood outside with the other degenerates before class, smoking cigarettes and weed.

One day, in my junior year of high school, the phone rang. It was Jayce. She hadn’t called my house in years. I knew why she was calling, before she even said it.

Kelly had died. She drowned in the bathtub early one morning, while high on heroin.

My heart broke into a million pieces. My mom wept bitterly. I reconnected with Jayce then, briefly, but intensely. My mother and I spent all three days sitting with her family at Kelly’s wake.

Back at school, we resumed only our nod ‘hello’ in the morning. The last time I saw her was the day of my high school graduation.

I heard through the grapevine that Jayce got married and had kids almost right out of high school. I never spoke to her again.

I haven’t even thought of her or her sister in years.

But this morning, when I put on my stolen lipstick, I though of Kelly, Fagin to my Artful Dodger. And I wrote this story in her memory.

Did you ever shoplift? What other delinquent activities did you engage in?
Can I call you if I need bail money?
Talk to me. I’m listening.

Follow me on Instagram. I take pictures in superhero underwear because I crave validation.

70 responses to The Darkly Beautiful Art of Shoplifting


    Oh man…Randy and I just had a conversation about this recently. I was a pro when I was a kid.


    Your life…should be a movie. No, a movie would never be long enough unless it was done in seven parts like Harry Potter. A television series – like SOA only real.


      I LOVE SOA! There are so few tv shows that I watch. That was one!
      I don’t think my life is quite as interesting as that show, though. Maybe I need to join a motorcycle gang for awhile? It would make great blog fodder…


    This brought me back to middle school. I never shoplifted, but my bad-girl friends would shoplift things for me. Once I hit high school, I went down the cheerleading path, and my bad-girl friends went their separate ways. One also died my junior year of high school and it was sad and surreal. I may write about that.


      It’s interesting how the end of junior high, kids split up and go down different paths, isn’t it? I resisted her bad-girl world, but I suppose I ended up there anyway. Just not in high school.

      It is surreal when you’re that young and a contemporary dies. If you write about it, make sure you tell me, okay? xoxo


    I never shop lifted – too chicken shit about getting caught. But when it came to rule breaking, I got into that seriously when I bought my own truck and ran coast to coast. We used to run heavy – detouring around highway scales; run way over legal log hours and doctor documentation to cover it up; haul illegal loads with forged paperwork; “borrow” other’s trailers and use them without permission; break customs and immigration regulations regularly; cross bridges way overweight (once crossed an 8 ton bridge while grossing 46 tons); run without permits (once delivered a load from Halifax to Seattle and Phoenix and returned loaded in a truck that was not registered in the US); switch licence plates to make equipment appear legal that was not; run with reduced or malfunctioning brakes or safety equipment; haul extremely oversized and weight loads without permits (once hauled a load that was 32,000 pounds over weight and got paid extra for every pound); used to run radar detectors in states where it was outlawed; used amphetamines, crystal meth, cocaine, etc., to stay awake while driving; smuggled drugs across international borders; hauled illegal liquor loads; speeding when possible; at night driving wrong way on one way streets to get to city deliveries; and so on.
    That’s just a small list – and I rarely got caught, in fact sometimes I had police escorts when doing this stuff. I recall hauling an oversized load with permits and a police escort in New Brunswick and the officer was in a hurry. He asked how fast the truck would go and I told him – just over 90 mph with the light load I had. He told me to go as fast as I could and he would stay ahead of me – and so we did. ha! It was a hoot – flashing lights and all-we did 300 miles in 3 1/2 hours.

    I tried to appear as clean and legal as possible when crossing into the US. Then one night I arrived at customs at 2 am and the officer on duty was pilled to the gills – his pupils were huge, he was fidgety and nervous, his speech was fast, and he was in a rush to get rid of me – as I grinned.

    So, I haven’t shoplifted, but breaking the rules is not new to me. 😀


      Paul, you’re a total bad ass!
      Actually, now you scare me a little. You’ve led quite the life of crime, huh?
      What made you convert to being a law abiding citizen?
      Have you actually converted to being a law abiding citizen?


        Ahhh, all done the name of giving better customer service Samara. It was a game, and I would pick and choose when to break the rules – always I would prefer to run legal but when that was not possible, I would break whatever rules I had to. I never had an accident or incident that was related to rule breaking (I’ve had others hit me when I was legal and such). No need to be scared – you’d have enjoyed it – I must confess the adrenaline high is addictive. 😀


    Growing up in L.A., I had several friends who I grew upwith who got lost in gangs and drugs. Horace Garcia, Eddie Trajuillo, Richard Rodriguez (Yeah, I had mostly Mexican friends — it was L.A.) I look through my old elementary school photos every so often and remember days of dodgeball and monkey bars, long before gun shots and shooting up. They were good people in bad circumstances. But like you, I still think of them fondly and always will.

    And yeah, I tied shoplifting once. At the store with my Dad. He was a cop. He saw me and smacked the crap out of me right there in the candy aisle. Probably why I became a fireman. And never shoplifted again.


    Love you! Cray-cray and all!!


      I was just thinking about you, because if I recall correctly, didn’t we once have a joke long ago that involved me and your mom, going shoplifting? We DID! As bizarre as that sounds! hahahaha

      Yep. I am cray cray, especially lately. I think I took the “fuck-you” pill when I turned 46. It’s so liberating. xoxooxoxox


    Did it when I was 12. Set myself up in stationery for life. #ThinkingClever 😉


    I had a mom well trained in Italian-Catholic guilt. In high school, the thought (and fear) of getting caught quashed any attempt.


      I am hoping to squash all the criminal instincts out of my kid, too!
      Ugh – sorry it took me so long to respond! I missed a whole bunch of comments.
      Hey, thanks for reading! xoxox


    A great tribute to an old friend. Another lovely piece of writing.


    I was such a little shit when I was a teenager. Still am really, but I put my thieving ways aside after I got caught in Famous-Barr when I was 16. They tried to scare it out of me by telling me I would be tried as an adult, but I was all whatever! I knew the law and the limits and that I would only be given a fine because of the low value. Not getting away with it kind of took the fun out of it. Besides, I learned to steal my parents’ cigs and liqueur and that was way more fun.


      It’s amazing how we learn to cultivate our criminal instincts now, without the accompanying criminal behavior.
      Hey – thanks for reading! I somehow missed a whole bunch of comments! xoxoxo


        Mostly now I just fuck random people. It’s not safe (condoms help, though), but it’s mostly low on the danger scale and gives me the same thrill. I probably shouldn’t admit to that, but whatevs.


        You’re not going to get any judgement here! Have you read my blog? 😀


        I have read! Not all, but a lot. Had I not I would probably be a little more PG.


    When my son was 6, he took a key chain from a bucket at the register and I made him go back to talk to the manager and apologize. 🙂 I had friends in middle school who were always giving me gifts like scarves and lipgloss and I had no idea they had shoplifted them until my mother enlightened me and told me that there was no way they had the money to get those items. Great story, Samara! 🙂


    There’s no way I am confessing to any illegal activities on a public website, sorry.
    But I’ll just say that shoplifting today is different from shoplifting 30 years ago – more cameras hidden in glass domes (so you can’t tell where it’s pointing) and RFID tags can get you caught easier.


      I think if you confessed to shoplifting 35 years ago the statue of limitations is up on that one.
      hey! Sorry it took me so long to respond. Somehow, I missed a whole bunch of comments. Derpy.


    Never shop lifted. I’m for the most part a rule follower. The only rules I tend to break are the ones that won’t harm anyone else or the ones that don’t have dire consequences if I get caught. Which means I CAN’T GET ARRESTED IN TEXAS, OK? Bail money or not, we only have two days and I HAVE to be back Tuesday or my kids are alone and I’ll have DSS after me. There was one time I broke a huge “rule” and narrowly escaped jail. Had cops staking out my apartment. I’ll have to tell you that story in person… over a few drinks.

    Gretchen Kellaway September 22, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Sometimes I look back on who I was when I was a child, a teenager and it’s all hazy and shadowed, like my mind wants to not want to remember. Then I read something (usually by you) and I start to reflect and remember.

    This was so brilliant Samara!


    I used to steal bras. Try getting taken home to your parents for stealing bras…….


    Nonfiction: When I was a shift supervisor for Schmee-Vee-Ess I would steal expensive (they were to my hourly wage) perfumes from the locked cabinet at closing. That was the last I shoplifted. In fact, I can’t shoplift as a customer, I don’t know where the cameras are and I’m paranoid as hell.


    Samara, I know Ulta. We have one of those in my town. I go there once in a blue moon for good foundation. 🙂 I think I stole little candies once, but I that’s as far as I went. I’m so sorry about your friend. I bet she would have loved this post. xo


    I have a friend that works at Walmart and she said she caught a woman stealing turkeys by putting them up her skirt. Now that’s talent.


      How could she fit a whole turkey up her skirt? Wasn’t that bulky?

      I’m so sorry for taking this long to respond. Somehow, I didn’t see all the last comments on this blog post. What the hell??


    I understand the whole adrenaline rush from stealing things. When I was at University, I stole some gouache paints to use on my Set Design model assignment. I loved the rush so much I vowed never to do it again.

    Great writing, great story, thank you.


    I was a member of the bad girl crowd, but not all-in, just a poser. Just enough of a bad girl to scare the shit out of my parents, but never one to get caught. We had a Fagin in our group who later reformed and is now an upstanding member of our little, rural community.

    Mostly. I suspect she has a secret life.


    I grew up as a black kid in a city with only white people so it was virtually impossible for me to steal. So, I was the foil and my buddies did the stealing. As a ten year old our little gaggle of thieves included me and an Aboriginal kid (you call them American Indians down there) and two white kids. Thanks to the terrible prejudices against Aboriginals and U.S. Culture portraying blacks as pimps and gangsters in the 70s, if me and Pauly were in the store our white accomplices could have stolen a fridge for all the store clerks would have known. And yes, I always bought something. I had a paper route, so I didn’t have to steal. But I did rather enjoy the free boxes of chips, dirty magazines, cartons of cigarettes, and huge bottles of soda my buddies lifted. Good times. Sorry to hear about your childhood friend. One of the white kids in the gang I stole with died way too young as well.


      I apologize for just getting back to you. somehow I missed all the last comments on this story.

      Aren’t Aboriginals Australian? And may I ask, what city did you grow up in? I’m curious what city has only white people. That’s how it is where I live now, and I detest it.


        In Canada “Indian” is considered racist so we refer to our indigenous peoples as Aboriginals or “First Nations” depending on the context.

        I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is my childhood hometown. It’s above North Dakota and is cold as fuck. I still hate myself for moving back here after having escaped to live in Vancouver for many years. It’s what we do for our kids right? Move to places so anodyne that criminals avoid it fearing not jail, but death from boredom. Today it is a diverse mix of people of many creeds, but in the seventies and eighties when I grew up it was ninety five per cent white people. And like my family most of them were the whitest people you could imagine – not white like Jersey Shore, but white like Lawrence Welk or Little House on The Prairie (which literally had to have been invented by a guy who got lost in a field while passing through here on the way to Toronto or something). The “establishment” culture of the city is still white but that doesn’t affect me because I’m not a part of that club. I’m just happy I don’t feel like such an outcast when I go to a movie or the mall or …


    I think I am now ready to start my life of crime as a super villian!


    I think I once stole a bar of chocolate from the local shop when I was 9-years-old. Do you think I’ll now receive a shoal of letters from aroused women wanting to explore what lies below my criminal mystique?


    I am just curious, if you would get caught now, would it not be embarrassing? I guess this is the reason most people won`t shop lift in the first place.


    That is a beautiful tribute. I like to think those we honor in our writing, even if it’s just in our paper journals, can see and appreciate the sentiment. 🙂
    I used to steal candy bars from the Milky Way on Ralph Avenue across the street from Glenwood Houses. It was owned by some friendly Arabs; or were they Indian? I really don’t know… Either way, one day in high school my friend Kendra, the Amazonian Irish girl, told me that the owner of the Milky Way said that either I come pay for all the candy I stole or he will call the police on me if I ever show my face in his store again. I freaked out and almost cried until she fessed up to making it all up to teach me a lesson. She and I never hung out again but I also never stole Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Snickers from the Milky Way again. I think I also may have stolen press-on nails from Rockbottom in the Georgetown Shopping Center in junior high… 😉


    I have never shop lifted anything. I am a rule follower and have really bad guilt. I would make myself sick with the karma that I’m sure would be coming for me.


    This is so well written and touching, thank you!


    Shoplifting was a my first delinquent activity flowed by drinking, then smoking and then drugs. My friends and I had no money, so we went to the local chain drugstore and stole makeup. Then it escalated to cheap earrings from the equivalent of today’s Clare’s stores and then a few of my girls stole g-strings from Joyce Leslie. I do get the urge every now and then because it would be so damn easy, but I’m not getting into trouble while serving my probation time for a dumb lipstick or something. The papers would have cum all over them.


    Shoplifting has always been that one crime that’s barely a crime to me, but only if you do it at big corporate douchey stores that overcharge for every item anyhow. You can always use your one phone call on me 😊


    Shoplifting eats away the profits at stores; I’ve heard some of them lose 5 , 10% of the profits. It’s a bigger issue than most people think… In the end we all need to pay for it, as the cost is included in the prices. I knew this guy who worked at s hardware store, who told me that people tried to steal literally everything, like power drills, workbenches, hammers and nails. Theft wax part of his daily job, very hard to stem. I am not being judgmental – I don’t think many thieves realize what the mechanics and statistics are.


      I won’t ever shoplift again.
      I mean it.
      Thank you for reading!


      In the day and age that they mark up shit to take care of shrinkage, by god somebody better go in there and make it shrink! Their deception and enslavement came first, not the thieves.


        Wait, what???


        But shoplifting doesn’t punish the corpoarations; they pass on the cost to all of us, consumers… including you. If anyone would like to make the life of corporations harder, it is better to consume less, to buy only the stuff that you really need and to only buy in stores that have the right policy… on top of that, the risk of that action for yourself is lower too 🙂


    The very people who are claiming victimhood are the greedy who steal with a corporate title. They are and represent the three E’s. Entitlement (they think and believe they are above the law while making the law their own private bitch), Enslavement (they employ slaves in third world countries, not workers or craftsmen) and finally; Evil. They are that.


    So, I just discovered your blog today, which makes me wonder where I’ve been…and have spent the last hour reading and loving recent posts as well as some of these older ones, because I can’t stop. You’re such a wonderful, talented, honest writer, and so funny – my favorite combination!

    My confession: I was a good nerdy girl, and only stole a bottle of nail polish once in 6th grade with my best friend newly turning bad-girl, and was so afraid of being caught I never did it again. Although I can get away with anything, because no one ever suspects me. And I’m so sorry about your friend, what a great way to honor her.


      Oh, a new friend!!! Yay! I love new friends.
      Thank you so much for reading, and commenting. I am so grateful that you relate to, and enjoy my writing.

      Let’s go steal some nail polish together…

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