Why do Good People Shoplift ?

Some people turn to alcohol or overeating, others turn to shoplifting in a time of stress.

Everyone deals with difficulties differently. When people turn to prosocial ways of dealing with extreme stressors, it is likely that those around them will praise their decisions. Cycling, going to the gym or turning a new page in your diet when going through a rough patch is likely to make you look like a hero to your friends and family. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people don`t turn to such means. It is more likely that a person dealing with an extreme new change in life will turn to less acceptable means of coping, such as excessively drinking alcohol, taking drugs or overeating. If a person decides they have had enough of making their life worse through those coping mechanisms, their friends and families are likely to praise them for their courage in getting help. But what happens when someone turns to an illegal activity, such as shoplifting, to deal with what seems like the insurmountable in their person situation? The shame and discouragement can often be coupled with the threat of a criminal conviction and criminal record. Due to the surrounding stigma it is rare that people will reach out for help in this area until they are backed into a corner.  

As explained in the attached article, often times people turn to activities such as shoplifting when they face life’s most difficult challenges. There tends to be no good explanation for the behaviour, and those engaging in it can’t usually connect it to their surrounding struggles, but experts can and do. 

Michael and I have experienced this countless times in our practice. People of otherwise unblemished criminal background, or close to it, end up being charged with theft under $5000 or fraud under $5000. Usually they can’t explain why they did it and it is not because of financial need. During our interview it doesn’t take long to identify triggers in the personal life of the person to help explain why they may have done what they are accused of. Once potential areas of concern are identified, a plan can be developed to help ensure that the stressors can be dealt with in an alternative and legal way. From then on, the legal end of the problem is turned over to us and we go to the prosecutor and advocate for the client’s interests. 

When facing charges of theft or fraud, having competent legal counsel with experience in the area is crucial. With the right guidance, plan and advice often the situation can be turned to a positive. If the problem is ignored, especially a criminal charge, it will not go away; it will get worse.