The Root Causes of Shoplifting

The Root Causes of Shoplifting

Why Shoplifters Steal

According to national studies, nearly one in every 10 people in the United States engages in shoplifting every year. Retailers estimate that they lose more than $13 billion in merchandise to shoplifters annually. Researchers have found that men are as likely to shoplift as women, and that shoplifting takes place in pretty much every type of retail establishment.

The Root Causes of Shoplifting

In a study conducted by MasterCard International, researchers identified two types of shoplifters—dubbed the “professional” and the “non-professional” shoplifters.

They found that 75% of those arrested for shoplifting claimed that their act was not premeditated—that they had not planned to steal anything before they went into the store. The non-professional shoplifters gave a wide range of reasons for their act, including:

  • Depression (multiple studies conclude that about one in three shoplifters suffers from depression)
  • Peer pressure
  • Thrill seeking

Researchers found that shoplifters rarely stole things because they couldn’t afford to buy them. In fact, the study showed that more often than not, people bought items at the same time they shoplifted. Frequently, the items stolen were not items that the person either wanted or ended up using. Researchers concluded that non-professional shoplifters steal because of the feeling it gives them…power when they feel powerless, worth when they feel worthless. Other explanations that non-professional shoplifters cited included substitute for some recent loss, justified payback, and relief mechanism.

By contrast, those considered to be professional shoplifters typically steal to resell goods, either to support a substance abuse problem, or because they would rather shoplift than get a real job.

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