Dear Straight Talk: I am writing about my friend. She has a problem with shoplifting, maybe even an addiction. I would like to help her stop before she gets caught because she is over 18 and it will result in a criminal record. I have known her for years. When we were younger, I shoplifted makeup a couple times with her, but it scares me too much and doesn’t feel right to steal. She is a good person except for this. Over the holidays she stole so much stuff it almost made me sick. Does anyone on the panel have shoplifting experience and if so, how did they stop? Maybe it will help her. — Sammie, Toledo, Ohio
Matt, 17, Tustin: I have friends who shoplifted and were caught. One was stealing earrings for his girlfriend. He had stolen jeans multiple times before. He was devastated when they told his coaches at school. Jail time is an obvious consequence, but finding examples of things dear to her that could be lost might help even more.
Taylor, 14, Santa Rosa: I’m like you; I can’t shoplift. My mom taught me early. After I took a small knickknack, she made me return it and apologize. The store clerks thought little four-year-old me was cute, but I was embarrassed.
Even at Safeway near my school, people pick things up without paying all the time. It’s wrong, but I don’t feel it’s my place to step in. Maybe getting caught will scare her enough to stop. That is what stopped my mom and aunt when they were young. They and their friends would play a game of “whoever steals most without getting caught wins.” My aunt would always get caught. Finally a clerk called the cops. It scared them enough that none of them stole again.
Brie, 20, Santa Barbara: I’m a manager in retail and I see how much inventory gets stolen. My store is easy to steal from, yet corporate does nothing about it. Shoplifting makes prices go up because stores lose revenue.
Gregg, 20, Los Angeles: I used to shoplift clothes, but after my friend lifted a hat and spent the night in jail I stopped. Anti-theft technology in stores, especially malls, is outstanding. She WILL be caught. The repercussions are severe and last for years. It ain’t worth it.
Lauren, 20, Ithaca, N.Y.: Lots of friends have gone through shoplifting phases. From witnessing them, I think shoplifting would lessen if the associated adrenaline rush was sought elsewhere. Telling someone to stop often just makes someone do it more. Express your concern and offer other ideas for thrill-seeking, both recreational and emotional. Think of things that are legal but have uncertain outcomes.
Katelyn, 17, Huntington Beach: Visit Shoplifters Anonymous at www.shopliftingprevention.org. They offer self-help and support, even for those with a pending court case.
Dear Sammie: Show your friend this column. It will communicate your concern and maybe someone’s comment will resonate with her.
Many teens shoplift. Shoplifters are usually depressed and stealing takes a further toll on their soul life. Most are scared out of the phase, others are caught, many continue stealing.
The best thing you can do is tell her parents (anonymously if you must). The embarrassment of being caught by loved ones may help her quit before she ends up with a criminal record. Plus, if her parents know, they can get her professional help for a habit difficult to kick. Don’t delay!
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For more discussion, to ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit straighttalktnt.com or write P.O. Box 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628.