Social Question

njnyjobs's avatar

Have you accidentally stolen something while shopping?

Asked by njnyjobs (7567points) March 25th, 2010

. . . was it a conscious accident?
What was the item?
How did it happen?
Did you go back to return it or pay for it?
How do you feel about the whole event?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

25 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Yes, I once had something in the child area of the shopping cart. it rolled under my purse and I did not see it until I was putting stuff away in the car.

I weighed taking it back and paying, but I was in a hurry. So, I didn’t.

I justified it to myself by saying that I didn’t go back when they overcharged me either.

sleepdoc's avatar

Yep happened last week. Had a protein bar at the bottom of the basket that didn’t get rung up. We figured it was such a small thing that we wouldn’t worry about it.

Dog's avatar

I was at a garden store and as Ioaded the bags of soil into my truck I found a pair of garden shears between them that had not gotten rung up. I went back in and paid for them.

At Costco they forgot to ring up a box of fire logs on the bottom of the cart. I was in too big a hurry to bother returning them so the next time I went in and purchased logs I asked the cashier to ring it up twice.

To me life feels a little off kilter unless I am squared up.

MissAusten's avatar

The one time I know about, was when I forgot to put a case of bottled water on the counter at the checkout. The cashier didn’t notice it, I’d forgotten it was there, and the employee bagging the groceries didn’t notice it either.

It wasn’t until I got home and looked at my receipt that I realized I’d “stolen” the water. I felt bad but was too embarrassed to take it back to the store. Anyway, it kind of made up for the time I did pay for a case of water but accidentally left it behind when I loaded the groceries into my car. Yes, I would forget my head it if wasn’t screwed on.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@MissAusten You seem to have a thing about bottled water. LOL

MissAusten's avatar

I think it’s more of an “out of sight, out of mind” problem. Maybe I need to put it IN the cart instead of UNDER the cart!

jbfletcherfan's avatar

LOL…could be.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think so. Like others I have accidently forgotten something under my cart at the supermarket (I almost never use the bottom of the cart so I easily forget), but either discovered before I walked out, or once the guy bagging groceries noticed before I paid.

If I realized I had accidently “Stolen” something I would go back and pay for it. I guess maybe if it was something very small like a candy bar I might not bother, not sure. But my MO is to make things right. Several months ago I realized a cashier in DFW airport gave me too much change, $10 too much. I had already returned back to the waiting area at my gate, and I walked all the way back over to the food area to give it back to her. Not only to do the right thing, but also because I thought she might get in trouble for having the drawer off at the end of her shift.

ubersiren's avatar

At Christmas time, I got a string of garland for free. I bought two, but the girl only rang one up. I didn’t even notice. My husband told me when we got to the car. Since we’re bad people, we didn’t return to pay for it. This wasn’t our forgetfulness, it was their employee, so they lose. I can’t look @Dog in the eyes now.

Silence04's avatar

I was in a store at universal studios in Orlando. I picked up one of those customized name tag things (like a small license plate with your name on it).

Then my friends were outside yelling at cause they were about to run somewhere. So I ran with them, not realizing I still had the name tag in my hand.

20 seconds later a cop grabbed me and charged me for stealing! I had a $200 fine and was not allowed back at the park for 3 years. All because of a stupid $3 name tag that I forgot i was holding.

Needless to say, I’ve never been back and never will.

ubersiren's avatar

@Silence04 Aw man, that sucks! That happened to me with a pair of sunglasses, only I realized it before I was caught and returned them. This was in Canada, so maybe they’re more relaxed about that sort of thing there…lol.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@ubersiren I doubt that. Theft is theft anywhere.

ubersiren's avatar

@jbfletcherfan I know, that was a joke. ;)

whitenoise's avatar

I once thought I had and then I didn’t. It’s a rather long – embarrassing – story.

Dog's avatar

Funny @ubersiren. I was making no judgment on others at all. I just do not feel balanced if I do not correct errors. Maybe I feel like it is a karma thing. I was given the wrong bag at a craft fair. By the time I realized the error the fair was closed and the vendor gone. I have two candles by my bath from that bag and even though it has been 2 years I still think of that vendor sadly when I see them. I should pitch them.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@ubersiren sorry…...........

semblance's avatar

I am an attorney and I know a lot about the subject of shoplifting. This could happen to anybody. Thankfully, I can’t say this has happened to me personally. When it does come up it can be a legally scary situation because if store loss prevention personnel witness the act they will assume that a criminal theft has occurred. In most states where the merchandise is truly removed by accident, a criminal theft is not committed because there is no specific intent to steal. However, both loss prevention personnel and police are understandably skeptical and are almost certain to reject a shopper’s claim that, “It was just a mistake.” Also, juries tend to be very tough on defendants who are charged with shoplifting. If you do get into this situation and are nabbed by store loss prevention employees, keep to your story that it was a mistake and refuse to sign any papers admitting guilt. Consider yourself lucky if you get off with simply having to pay a civil demand to the store of several hundred dollars and are not charged criminally. If charged criminally, talk to a lawyer about whether diversion of deferred sentencing is available rather than risking going to trial.

thriftymaid's avatar

yes, twice when kids were young. pain to drive back to the store, go in, and pay. have to for the kids’ sake though.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Yes! Only once! I had a pack of batteries that slipped down into the corner of the cart in between the metal mesh, and I didn’t notice them until I was taking the bags out of the cart. The main reason I didn’t go back in the store is because I needed to take a shuttle that was already there when I realized the mistake, and I would have had to wait at least 30 minutes for another one. Even if I had been at my leisure, I don’t think I would have gone back to pay for just one thing.

nikipedia's avatar

When I was in middle school (probably 12 or 13 years old), I was hanging out at the mall with a couple friends. I found this nail polish that I was really excited to buy. It was gold, had flecks of glitter in it, and most excitingly, smelled like vanilla.

So I picked it up with the full intention of purchasing it. But after wandering around the store and giggling with my friends for a while, I completely forgot it was in my hand as we walked out of the store. We got about fifty feet away before I realized that the nail polish was still in my hand.

Horrified, I raced back to the store. I was so embarrassed as I explained what had happened that I couldn’t even bring myself to buy it. I just apologized a thousand times and left the store as quickly as I could.

JLeslie's avatar

@semblance I remember hearing a story when I was young, about a very young child in Georgia who had stolen a popcicle froma local store, and when his mother realized she made him go back to the store, apologize, and pay for it. The shop owner called the cops and the whole thing went too far, I think they arrested the kid or something, can’t remember. It gained publicity because it was a black kid in the south. The kid had already gotten away with it. Can they try to prosecute someone if they bring the item back or try to pay for it to make things right? I know you can’t just pay for something at the time of the crime and make things better, but this is different than that.

semblance's avatar


Once the person forms the specific intent to steal and takes some affirmative act exercising control over the goods the crime is complete. Contrary to popular belief, in most states this is so even if the goods have not been removed from the store. Saying you are sorry later and offering to pay for it do not erase the criminal act, even if the confession and surrender of the goods is completely voluntary. The strict application of the law in this area is very harsh. So, yes, someone can be legally prosecuted in the situation you describe.

Having said that, my personal opinion is that prosecution under those circumstances is extremely poor judgment by the store owner, the police, and the prosecutor. Not every criminal act has to result in a criminal charge. There is an area where discretion can be exercised and the situation you describe certainly called for that.

The whole subject of retail theft, detentions, prosecutions, and penalties is, to me at least, a fascinating one. There are about 5,000 people in the US arrested every day for shoplifting, and my understanding is that does not even count the ones who are detained and let go with a civil demand and a warning not to return to the store. In essence there is an entire shadow world out there, manned largely by an unregulated private police force – store loss prevention personnel – and most people are almost completely unaware of it, even though they brush past it in their daily lives.

MissAusten's avatar

When I was three or four I stole a candy bar while grocery shopping with my mom. I just picked it up while we were in the check-out lane, and held onto it until we were getting in the car when my mom noticed what I had in my hand. She made me go back into the store and hand it to the cashier while I told her what I’d done and apologized. I was terrified and cried the entire time. I don’t remember the incident, but it was always one of my mom’s favorite stories to tell about me. Apparently I was afraid I’d be shipped off to jail.

A few years ago, my daughter accidentally stole a paperclip from a book store while shopping with my sister in law. The paperclip was part of a display, and my daughter was playing with them while she waited. When it was time to leave, she walked out the door without realizing she still had the paper clip. Yes, a paper clip of all the stupid things, but it was some kind of cutesy decorated thing. They walked to an ice cream shop, and while they were eating ice cream my SIL noticed the paper clip and asked my daughter where she got it. She said, “I forgot I had it, but it’s from the book store. I forgot to put it down.” My SIL took her back to the book store and made her give it to an employee with an explanation and apology. My daughter was so scared and upset, that when they left the book store she puked all over the sidewalk. She was about seven at the time, and still gets upset if anyone mentions it!

JLeslie's avatar

@MissAusten That is the type of story that I was talking about, imagine if they had called the cops and put her in handcuffs? Even if she took it on purpose, she learned her lesson.

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

I was holding a pair of socks in my hand and I completely forgot to put them on the checkout counter. I realized just after I walked out the door, and I ran back in and bought them.

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