Is it normal to feel guilty about shoplifting when you’re not actually stealing anything?

My wife and stepdaughter went shopping the other day, and it ended up causing more work and stress for me.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Nick, you already do so much every day and, frankly, you are a hero. How could you do any extra work?”

While I like the way you think and hope you can with talk to my family members and coworkers, I feel I should explain.

After they returned home, my stepdaughter was quite excited about some of her clothes and had plans to wear a new shirt the next day. When she got the shirt out to try it on, though, she found that the store that was an hour away had left one of those terrible anti-theft devices on it.

The inventor of these devices was apparently an evil genius, as they seem impossible to remove unless you have a special machine. And since it was already late and I was exhausted from spending my day watching television, I recommended that we try to find a store the next day get the item removed.

This was not the first time we had bought clothes with the lock left on them, and we learned previously that the devices are difficult to remove. Removing them yourself can also cause problems such as tearing the clothes, spraying ink on them and releasing hordes of locusts.

So the next day we went to a store that we hoped could help us. First, though, I wanted to buy a dryer vent tube at a local hardware store because I thought it would be fun to crawl around in the crawl space that night.

I told my daughter we had plenty of time for me to carefully study dryer vents for a good 30 minutes, so of course I arrived at the clothing store immediately after it closed. Undaunted, my stepdaughter and I went to three other stores, and none of them could help us. They all told us that they used different types of evil anti-shoplifting devices, and their machines would not work on our shirt.

Why are there so many types of these devices? Are there teams of mad scientists somewhere constantly creating new types of these intricate locks?

Daunted, we continued our quest anyway and we finally found a store that could remove the device. Unfortunately they would not remove it because of a store policy.

“Is it store policy to be jerks?” I thought to myself. I assumed, though, that the policy is because they don’t want to help shoplifters who have stolen clothes from other stores. Thinking about that for a moment, I immediately felt guilty.

“I wonder if he thinks I stole this?”

“What if I had stolen it? What if I was going from town to town stealing shirts that are way, way too small for me? My mom would be so disappointed.”

“He probably thinks I have some cool crime nickname like ‘Bugsy,’ ‘The Nose,’ or ‘Doctor Doom.’”

I should add that I often feel guilty walking out of a grocery store if there is an employee there who is watching for shoplifters.

“What if she thinks I stole this? What if I accidentally stuck an extra apple in my grocery cart. Just play it cool Nose, just play it cool and you’ll make it out of here.”


My stepdaughter suggested we buy some other clothing items and then just throw the original item in to see if he would remove the device, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to play it cool enough to do that.

Another employee suggested that we might be able to remove it at home with a knife or something like that, but then I just imagined that he thought we were master criminals with knives and other devices all over our house, and I couldn’t hear the rest of his explanation.

We quietly left the store not knowing if we would have to drive an hour back to the original store or if my stepdaughter would just need to cut a hole in the shirt around the nefarious lock. Maybe that would be fashionable.

We stopped by a dollar store to get some paper towels, though, and noticed that they had some clothes for sale outside of the store. I grabbed our shirt out of the car and made a plan to sound trustworthy when I went into the store.

“No problem” the employee said before I could get halfway through my rehearsed explanation, and he passed the device over some magnet, watched the lock magically pop right off and then pulled a piece of metal out. It all took about three seconds.

“Here you go,” he said.

“You are my new best friend,” I replied as I struggled to hold back my tears. “I can’t thank you enough. We have been all over trying to get that off of there and no one could help us. This is my favorite store!”

“Do you need anything else?” he said, apparently not as impressed as I was with his wonderfulness.

“Uh, yeah, paper towels. We’ll be right back,” and then we walked around the store for a good 30 minutes happily buying paper towels, mysterious make-up items and a wide range of other inexpensive items.

And then when we went to pay, I was worried that the other store employee who was nearby would think we were stealing the shirt I had been carrying around the whole time, so I felt guilty about that, too.

Luckily, my new best friend was at the register, though, and he rang up our groceries while I considered if I should hug him or try to friend him on Facebook.

And then my stepdaughter and I finally headed home happy that she could wear her new shirt to school, we could once again wipe up messes at home and I could work for an hour in the dark crawl space trying to put in the new dryer vent.


10 thoughts on “Is it normal to feel guilty about shoplifting when you’re not actually stealing anything?

  1. So great to see I am not the only one who feels like a failed criminal mastermind while shopping.
    I automatically exclaim “it wasn’t me” when anyone triggers an alarm.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of an early episode of “Full House” in which Stephanie *SPOILER ALERT* accidentally shoplifts a sweater—I think it was a blue cashmere one—when she misunderstands what credit is. You see, DJ took an identical sweater off at recess to play kickball, and a maintenance worker accidentally mowed over it as it laid on the grass. Danny Tanner, DJ and Stephanie’s dad, paid a lot for the nice sweater, and DJ didn’t want him to know she had ruined it. In an attempt to help her older sister, when Stephanie walked out of the store with the new sweater, the alarm went off, but the store employee thought it was because of someone else’s purchase who was walking out at the exact same time Stephanie was, allowing Stephanie to leave with the sweater not knowing she had stolen it. There was an important lesson at the end of the episode in which Stephanie learned what stealing was and DJ learned about honesty. Oh, Stephanie! What will she do next?

    Liked by 1 person

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