Looking . . . in all the wrong places (‘sorry, Johnnie Lee)

The headline on the news feed at 94 Rock in Norfolk NE said “Madison County Sheriff Looking for Shoplifter.”

This is not a request one should broadcast!

But one of the reasons that kind of search happens is because, too often, people look in the wrong places.

Two good places to look for a shoplifter would be Craigslist’s ‘creative’ and ‘skill’d trades’ sections — though the latter title itself has been stolen from: Someone nicked the ‘e’ from ‘skilled’, cleverly replacing it with an apostrophe (‘) mark, reckoning that since the character count remains the same, no one would notice.

Sadly, Johnny Cash is no longer among us, as he was the best (shop lifter) that’s ever been. He’d have been totally right up for this job, if you could have caught up with him.

The efforts of ‘lifters’ involve risks often unacknowledged as they plan their capers. That’s because the aspiring lifters fail to take advantage of the ever-growing assortment of training videos — like this and this — available on Youtube. They may sometimes be overlooked as potential training videos because these films tend to offer ‘how to not‘ rather than ‘how to’ lessons.

Hardly surprisingly, Amazon isn’t the best place to shop for shoplifting training tips — Google is. A quick searach there will reveal the likes of “The shoplifting bible,” “How To Shoplift” (by a former loss prevention officer), “Shoplifters Anonymous” (a site sub-titled ‘anything you read might be fiction’ — but offering such tips as, “Wear clothing that isn’t notable whatsoever.”), “How to shoplift like a pro” (which describes one person as having “amassed over $10,000 in stolen merchandise” in three years, without once being stopped by a loss prevention person), and, as you might expect, a blog entitled “Shoplifting 101“. On the latter, an artist discusses shoplifting issues with loss prevention people — one of whom, a young woman, is described as being “dressed in a beat-up denim jacket and Levi’s,” another, a young man, as being ” dressed casually; He looked like a college guy, maybe a grad student; He had on a sweater and jeans”  — both clearly following the advice offered above to aspiring shoplifters: “Wear clothing that isn’t notable whatsoever.”

Another site offers “A Guide to Shoplifting!” (note the exclamation point!), the value of which you might immediately question when you see the site’s name — not being repeated here as this is a family blog (intended not just for aspiring shoplifters of all ages but other folks, too).

Then there’s the reddit page that’s essentially a list of links to issues to do with shoplifting.  Clearly, there’s more information available on this topic than we’re prepared to discuss here.

But some of these sites unintentionally offer veiled suggestions to that Nebraska sheriff who’s “looking for [a] shoplifter”: Advertise in college newspapers. Loss prevention people, while declaring that “everybody (young and old, of whatever race) does it,” often note that college students are among the most frequent offenders — or, at the least, among the most frequently apprehended.

Sadly, that says something about some of the kids whose parents are spending upwards of $30,000 per year to educate their offspring so that, supposedly, they’ll be better equipped to ‘move up’ in today’s ever-more-competitive world. Clearly, the parents didn’t mean move ‘up the river’ — as in go to prison. Not that a sizable number of shoplifters do get sent up the river — unless, of course, their apprehension involved a felonious assault by the lifter.

Fortunately for young (and older) lifters, due to the litigious nature of today’s society, loss prevention personnel are increasingly being told to err on the side of caution in pursuing an apprehension. Chases across parking lots, once a mainstay of the loss prevention procedures handbook, now are largely a thing of the past, as are physical confrontations. “There are lawsuits there,” one loss prevention person was cited as saying on the Shoplifting 101 web site.

If they were asked to offer one bit of advice to aspiring (and actual) lifters, loss prevention workers probably would offer the same advice they’re being given by law-suit-wary employers: “Keep your hands to yourself!”

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