A NEW breed of shoplifter is ransacking our stores – brand-obsessed and shameless.
They steal just for thrills, and only bother with the most luxurious loot.
It is a growing trend, with supermarkets reporting premium items being swiped.
A Global Retail Theft Barometer report found that goods worth BILLIONS were stolen from stores in the past financial year.
Here, two career women tell The Sun why they steal only the priciest items — and how their posh accents help them get away with it.
We have changed their names but the jobs they do are real.
MELISSA SIMMONS, 45
MELISSA lives in London with husband Matt, 47, an IT software designer, and
their son Marcus, four. She says:
“I’VE been shoplifting and getting away with it since my early twenties. I get
such a buzz from walking out of a shop without paying. It’s like I have
scored against the world.
“I always target upmarket stores — why would I shoplift anything I didn’t want
“My weakness has always been beautiful clothes and shoes.
“In my thirties I earned a good salary but since the economic downturn I have
been struggling for work and I hate not being able to buy fabulous clothes.
“So far I have been nabbed twice and had the store detectives called in. But
each time I have been able to talk my way out of it, crying and apologising.
“When you sound posh, like I do, the police seem more likely to believe your
excuses — that it was all a mistake and you accidentally put the items in
your bag and forgot to pay.
“I know that’s probably wrong, but it is the truth.
“At home I have two wardrobes full of stolen clothes and shoes, which must be
“I would say I have stolen more than £15,000 worth of goods. I know I should
feel guilty, but in fact I think, ‘How clever am I?’.
“I do think shoplifting could be a new addiction for many respectable
housewives who are struggling in the recession.
“We all want lovely things but can’t afford them.
“I tend not to steal food as I think supermarkets are now super-vigilant but I
can completely understand people like me wanting to steal honey or
“None of my friends know I shoplift but I forced myself to tell my husband.
“He was predictably horrified and told me I had to stop for the sake of our
“We are short of money but we’re not on the breadline. So why do I do it? I
have to confess it is an addiction, a compulsion. I had a perfectly happy
childhood, went to private school and then to university. I wanted for
“Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that I am an adrenaline junkie — I love
sports like skiing and hate life to be boring.
“At school I was a bit of a rebel, dyed my hair and had a few piercings. I
need to live life on the edge. When you’re shoplifting you are on such a
high — every sense is alert and it takes every ounce of my cunning.
“I have become so good at walking into a shop and immediately sussing out
where the security guards are, the placement of the CCTV, the attitude of
the staff and the presence of security tags. It’s like a game to me.
“Each time I think, ‘This is the last’. But it never is.
“Since having my son it’s become even easier, because a woman pushing a buggy
is rarely suspected and there are so many places to hide goods.
“I always dress smart and speak pleasantly to the sales girls. People rarely
watch me closely.
“I can see it is wrong, but it’s not like I am stealing from a person, just a
faceless company who can claim insurance.
“My disposable income has fallen but I still want my fix of luxury items.”
LINDA MARSHALL, 33
Works in human resources at PR firm
LINDA is single and lives in Manchester. She has been a shoplifter ever
since she was a university student. She says:
“Shoplifting is like my adrenaline sport.
“As I’ve got older my shoplifting habits have changed.
“Now I steal luxury food that I couldn’t afford to buy, such as biscuits,
cheese and alcohol, and also designer items such as dresses and shoes.
“When I first shoplifted I was a respectable student at Sheffield University.
“I remember standing by the stack of books in the university bookshop, my
“I needed this big textbook on Freud for my psychology course but it was so
expensive that to buy it meant I wouldn’t be able to go out partying that
“Suddenly, from out of the blue, I saw my hand snake out, pick up the book and
stash it under my coat.
“Then I walked out of the shop, my heart racing.
“As I walked away down the street I started to smile.
“I’d got away with it. It was so easy! This big book was mine, for no money at
“My upbringing told me I should feel ashamed — my dad is a teacher and my
mum’s a housewife — but I didn’t.
“I felt daring and very alive.
“It gave me a high like I had never experienced, and from that moment I was
“I kept it secret from most of my friends.
“I did tell my best friend but didn’t admit the scale of my shoplifting as she
said I was stupid and would get caught.
“Shoplifting became my secret “thing”.
“While everyone was complaining about having no new clothes or nice food, I
was out stealing designer items and the luxury food we wanted, like posh
cheeses and expensive biscuits. After I left university, I just carried on,
and over the years have found myself shoplifting more and more.
“I live by myself so I don’t have to bother trying to hide the things I steal,
and I get such pleasure from looking over my “free” goods.
“I am totally addicted. I reckon I have shoplifted goods worth a total of more
“I have been arrested three times, and twice I have been taken to the police
“But I have managed to avoid being charged as I keep very calm and explain
that it was all a mistake.
“I’m very plausible and I think sounding educated helps.
“I know my luck will run out and next time I may well end up in court.
“But this only makes shoplifting more exciting for me.
“It’s like playing Russian roulette, and I feel that my life would be so dull
and boring without it.
“I’d never steal from small retailers, just big chains who won’t feel the
“Of course, morally I know it is wrong and I tell myself that when I settle
down and have kids that I’ll stop.
“But until then I know I will carry on.”
THESE shoplifters almost certainly have a void in their lives but it is more
likely to do with their relationships or lifestyle than an empty fridge.
For addicts, the rush of adrenaline and empowerment is so overwhelming that
they forget the potential consequences of being caught, prosecution and the
devastating effects on their families.
Sadly, once the thrill of shoplifting takes hold, it is a difficult addiction
Pain and hurt for victims
SHOPLIFTING does leave victims despite what some thieves claim.
It affects shops and staff, impacts directly on communities and can encourage
wider criminal activity.
Reducing retail crime is an essential part of improving perceptions of a
local area and helping people to feel safe.
NICRO is committed to turning lives around and creating a better South Africa. Don't let shoplifting drag you down, get help for yourself or a loved one today!