Why Shoplifting Should Be Considered an Olympic Spectator Sport


Okay, so shoplifting isn’t legal or nice. On the other hand, it can at times be a spectator sport…and the Olympics have officially seen some pretty strange competitions over the years. Curling, a total snoozefest unless you’re an addicted Canadian. Race walking, which does cover ground at impressive speeds but looks just too ridiculous for words. Any number of the “extreme” sports.

So, if the Olympics Committee can solve the legality issue, why not shoplifting?

Oh, sure. It’s illegal, immoral, and generates bad karma for the practitioners, not to mention lost profits for the stores and higher prices for consumers. Picky, picky, picky.

Don’t get me wrong. My extremely limited career as a low level shoplifter is long over, as described in the post titled, Why I Quit Stealing: Karma (aka Spiritual Psychology). I’ve learned far too much about payback being a b*tch to ever advocate store theft as a way of life or even a limited avocation. In fact, I’ve become very careful about that. Today, for instance, I handed the checker at Walmart a packet of make-it-yourself ranch dressing, saying,

“Please charge me for four of these. Last time I was in, I accidentally left without paying for three of them. Found them under my notebook when I got to the truck, figured it was simpler to take care of it later, rather than put the store and me both through the hassle of looping back through the line again.”

The cashier, an elderly, white haired lady, nodded. “We appreciate honesty.”

“Oh,” I smiled, “I’m not all that pure or anything. I just figured out karma a long time ago; two bankruptcies were enough.”

Still, shoplifting incidents by other fools occasionally lead to fascinating spectator events. The sign shown in the photo (below and above) caught my attention today. It’s posted in the window right beside the door at the Beverage House in Sierra Vista, Arizona, where I go to buy cigarettes for the smokers in our house (which do not include me, but hey). That sign says it all, at least if you’re a store owner out west with an attitude and a willingness to take care of your own business.

The anti-shoplifting sign posted in the window near the door at the Beverage House in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

The anti-shoplifting sign posted in the window near the door at the Beverage House in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

The Beverage House

When I noticed the sign, my Canon PowerShot camera leaped from its hip case, right into my hand. “I’ve got to get a picture of that sign,” I told the guy behind the counter. “That is freaking awesome.”

“The owner means it, too,” he replied…and told me the story of the last shoplifter said owner had seen leaving the premises with purloined goods.

“He keeps a hammer under the counter. When the guy ran for his car, right there at the curb, the owner grabbed the hammer and chased out the door after him. Didn’t get him stopped, didn’t get the goods back, but he did smash the car’s rear windshield.”

“Made him feel better, at least,” I surmised, picturing the action as something I’d have enjoyed watching play out. The store clerk nodded in agreement; it gave putting the hammer down a whole new meaning. We didn’t discuss what it was the shoplifter stole, but it had to have been a bottle of booze; the cigarettes are all behind locked doors. Ergo, the light fingered fellow obviously intended to get hammered, but probably didn’t count on, you know, getting his car hammered as well.

He’s certainly not been back to the Beverage House since.

The Town Pump

Multiple decades ago, while I was finishing up the requirements for my psychology degree at Montana State University, I worked for a while a the local Town Pump convenience store and gas station in Bozeman. This was in 1969, when self service gas was still unheard of in our neck of the woods. Every car that pulled in for gas received personal attention from an attendant who not only pumped the fuel for the customer but also cleaned all available glass on the vehicle, checked the oil, and eyeballed the tires to see if any of them looked low on air, all for good measure.

One fine sunshiny late summer day, a low slung convertible pulled in, top down. The driver said, “Fill ‘er up.” When the full service had been provided and my shift partner was putting the hose back in the holder on the pump, the fool behind the wheel pulled right out, heading for the street, eastbound out of town.

By the time he’d made it clear of the fuel island and halfway to the pavement, my extremely ticked off buddy had already yelled at him and, taking a quick sprint at the moving vehicle, had also launched himself across the rear deck of the car, sliding on his jeans across and down on the other side. Stunned at seeing the attendant right in his face and me coming up fast on the other side, he gave it up, hit the brakes–and paid up.

Admittedly, that one turned out to be more of a participation sport than a spectator sport, but it was fun, anyway. Both of us pump jockeys were high on adrenaline for the rest of the shift, knowing we had a great story to take home to our wives that evening.


If ever there were a time of financial desperation that should have motivated me to go back to shoplifting, it was during the first eight months of my marriage to my third wife, Rose…but I’d figured out karma (not to mention reincarnation) by then, so that wasn’t happening.

We did, however, get to watch a great shoplifting spectator sport event during that period. If memory serves, it was somewhere around March of 1981. The morning was crisp and clear, snow still on the ground, but spring was on its way. We’d stopped in at the Albertson’s grocery store on Main Street in Billings, Montana, spending what little coin we had on far fewer groceries than we needed. We’d just left the parking lot when a big Indian (aka Native American these days) burst from the store at a dead gallop with a screaming assistant manager from Albertson’s in hot, aproned pursuit.

We pulled over and parked, not wanting to miss this.

How big was the NA gentleman? Well over six feet, for sure, probably somewhere around six-four and 220 pounds or so. The Albertson’s employee chasing him stood maybe five-eight or five-nine, stocky enough in his own right. He chased the bigger man clear across the lot, but he couldn’t catch him. Close but no cigar. Had that Indian been stealing horses in the old days, he’d have returned to his tribe in glory, justifiably boasting of his exploits and showing off his newly acquired treasure.

Which is quite likely what did happen, more or less. The store dude ran out of wind and the Indian opened the gap, loping on yonder, up over the rise, and gone. Which was probably a good thing; had the smaller man actually managed to join battle with his foe, he might well have found himself on the short end of the coup stick before the cops could arrive. We were too far away to make out precisely what the big guy had purloined, but the Indian Wars were not over. Indians 1, Albertsons 0.

The Stolen Chocolate

I didn’t witness this one personally, but once upon a time, Pam had a friend who stuck her hand in her jacket pocket and discovered–“Ew-w-w-w! The chocolate in my pocket all melted!”

What her friend had not realized until that moment is that my redhead is truly and honestly psychic, ultra-intuitive, and (when she’s on her game) likely to nail you for stupidity in a heartbeat. Pam saw the sticky mess on her friend’s fingers, the brown stain marking the jacket, and knew. Instantly, she told her bud,

“Stolen chocolate melts in pocket!”

The woman stared at her in shock. “How did you know?!”

My wife later reported to me that the look on her friend’s face was priceless, well worth the price of helping her clean the jacket.

That definitely qualifies shoplifting as a spectator sport, or at least an episode of America’s Dumbest Criminals. Not only that, but I’ll bet our readers have a few stories they could tell, too. Put them all together, and maybe we really could get the Olympics Committee to consider adding shoplifting–or Shoplifting Chases–as a spectator sport that would be worth watching.

If that does happen, I’m betting on the owner of the Beverage House with his hammer, ready, willing, and able to merrily beat all shoplifters to a bloody pulp. He’ll bring home the gold, and he won’t even have to steal it.

7 thoughts on “Why Shoplifting Should Be Considered an Olympic Spectator Sport

  1. I saw one about six months ago, when the shoplifter came running out of the store and jumped in his running car, that was backed into the parking spot. By the time he got the car in gear and started out of the parking lot, the manager was standing in the door, aiming his shotgun. We hear about those fairly often, here in the wilds of TN.

  2. ROFLMAO! I absolutely LOVE the shotgun episode. Now, did the wannabe criminal mastermind have the good sense to stop at that point, or…?

  3. He got his rear window shot out, and kept going. They caught him about a mile down the road.
    They had a slow speed pursuit right through the middle of town here the other night. I never did find out what they caught him for. Katy and I were leaving McDonalds and heard a bunch of sirens. We waited and saw a pickup go by with about 9 cop cars right behind him. They were going about 35 mph. When they all passed, we went on about our errands. Three more cop cars passed us going a bit faster and when we got to where we were going, we found them all at the bank right next door. This was about 10:30 at night. We asked the convenience store owner what was going on and he told us that the pickup turned into the bank parking lot and they all followed him in. They arrested him and he was sitting in the back of one of them. We thought that was the funniest looking car chase we had ever heard of.

  4. I like that. Just tell the cops, “Didn’t get the license plate number, but just look for a car with its back window shot out….”

    Slow speed chase and it wasn’t even O.J. Simpson? Huh!

  5. When I was a young whipper snapper fresh out of high school me and two of my friends went to the mall to shop(lift). We ended up getting caught. Two of us were 18, the other was 17. This was on a Sunday. We were taken to jail but not put behind bars. Because this was our first offense, the cops actually let me write a check to pay our bail. After we were released we discovered the 17-year old actually had $70 on her, which was more than the value of what she stole. She was also the one who was seen helping herself to unpaid good, rendering all three of us as thieves. In 1975, $70 was quite a bit of pocket change. I actually got away with one of my pickings – a leather purse that had scuff marks on it, so the mall cops assumed it was mine. We never did go to court and the cops (the real ones) said if my record was clean for 5 years, the ‘incident’ would be expunged from my file. I’ve never stolen a thing again after that incident.

  6. That sounds like a mighty educational experience. And you’re certainly right about $70 being a chunk of change in ’75. Just one year earlier, in ’74, McDonald’s advertised “a meal and change for a buck”. 99 cents got you a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke.

  7. Pingback: Why I Quit Stealing Stuff: Karma (aka Spiritual Psychology) | Ghost32Writer

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