What drives people to shoplift?

By: Juli Taylor
Port Hardy High
Port Hardy, BC

What drives people to shoplift? Is it that they don’t have any money? Or are they trying to act cool or daring around their friends? Maybe they do have money, but they’re not in the mood to pay. Whatever the reason, shoplifters affect everybody and the consequences of shoplifting can be a burden on everyone.


When people steal from stores, the stores may have to raise prices in order to make up for the lost merchandise. In turn, this affects everyone who patronizes the stores, causing them to pay more for the goods.

When a store notices that many of their shoplifters happen to be teens, they tend to become suspicious of every student that comes into their store. This can be very frustrating for those youth who are paying customers. In fact, it might actually discourage people from shopping there, causing them to spend their money elsewhere. This also results in less business for the store. Stores try to do everything they can to discourage people from trying to shoplift. Most stores in Port Hardy have policies about backpacks and bags such as leaving them by the door or behind the counter, so people will be less tempted to put things in their bags. Those people that think shoplifting is acceptable and there are no repercussions, are wrong. Shoplifting is never okay; there are always consequences for peoples’ actions.

Businesses also use other methods to prevent shoplifting, such as cameras, security systems and special alarms that detect people leaving the store with stolen merchandise. Most stores have a zero tolerance policy against shoplifting. If the shoplifter happens to be a youth, a call to the criminal's parents is made, the RCMP becomes involved and the store might press charges. The shoplifter is usually banned from the store for up to a year. They could also end up in court, and, if convicted, a slap on the wrist probably won't be the only consequence.

Stores in Port Hardy average a loss of $6,000 to $10,000 in merchandise due to shoplifters. Most stores don’t raise prices to make up for losses due to shoplifting. Therefore, the money comes directly out of the stores' profit, making it hard for businesses to thrive in the North Island's already struggling economy. Some stores, such as Overwaitea Grocery, already have a shoplifting factor built into the prices. Other stores, however, raise prices on everything in the store up to at least 10% to make up the profit lost by shoplifted goods.

Shoplifting not only affects youth criminals, but it also affects student shoppers. "I think it [shoplifting] gives teenagers a bad reputation", says Mike Pearson, grade 8. The majority of students interviewed feel they can comfortably shop in most stores in Port Hardy, but they also feel that they are treated differently than adults by store employees. Some of the students interviewed have been falsely accused of shoplifting; most of them while shopping in a large group. Stores tend to be more suspicious of people in large groups and teenagers are more likely than others to travel in groups when shopping. Many students feel that it reflects poorly on teenagers in general when people their age shoplift. Grade 11 student Sara Campbell comments, "I think it’s stupid for people to shoplift; they make prices go up. I have to spend my hard earned money, they should have to spend theirs". Students also don't have a very forgiving attitude to other students who shoplift and give teens a bad name. "If they get caught, it's their own fault," says Gregor Gamble, grade 10.

Students who shoplift may not realize that their poor choices affect store owners, employers, employees and teenagers in general. Shoplifters don't see that their new CD or shirt just cost the community more money. In the end, nothing good comes from shoplifting; all you end up with is something that will be cool for a couple of weeks and consequences that will last much longer.