For most people, the term shoplifting conjures images of a teenager shoving a bottle of liquor, or some makeup in their pocket or backpack and trying to make it out of the store without getting caught.
While directly and intentionally concealing merchandise is one obvious form of shoplifting, those who habitually steal from retail establishments may have much more involved systems to help them get away with their offenses. Some of these forms of theft are complicated, which is one reason why lawmakers sometimes refer to shoplifting instead as retail fraud.
Any attempt to deprive the owner or manager of a retail business of the full value of an item could result in shoplifting or theft charges. All three of the behaviors below sometimes play a role in shoplifting and can therefore lead to someone getting arrested.
Altering or switching the price tag or barcode
Imagine that you could change the price of a $90 purse to a tenth of that price with the judicial application of magic marker to the barcode or a simple swap of price tags.
That is exactly the approach that certain shoplifters employ. They may print their own barcode and stickers to put on items and trick a company’s cash registers. They might also swap out packaging or price tags from one item to another so that they only pay part of the items priced.
Hiding items in the cart or inside other items
Your husband is with you, and the store has the same pair of sunglasses he has asked for several times. Given his upcoming birthday, you decide to put them in the cart, but you carefully tuck them down where he won’t see them.
If a loss prevention or security professional spots you doing that, they will most likely assume that you intend to take the item out of the store without paying for it. They might detain or arrest you without you ever making it to the cash register.
Changing payment methods or monetary denominations
Some people try to trick or underpay a cashier by using multiple forms of payment or handing them first one denomination of cash and then asking for it back to pay with another. That might mean that the customer pockets extra money and the store loses. Cashiers and managers alike may detain you or flag you for monitoring in the future due to things that you do while paying for your purchase.
Once you understand what makes store professionals suspect you of retail fraud, it can be easier to fight back against pending retail theft charges.