Every year, billions of dollars worth of goods are stolen from retailers by people who are looking to flip them for cash, use them to survive in hard times, or simply for the thrill of the heist. It's an illegal, unprincipled practice, but sadly some people seem to think it's not a big deal since they figure the companies make enough money as it is. This idea is further enhanced by the fact that a lot of these companies' stores don't do much in the way of pursuing or prosecuting thieves.
Whether it's a father-son duo who use a duckling as a distraction for their theft, or an astoundingly complex ring of book thieves, these people never cease to amaze with how low they're willing to stoop to get what they think should be theirs. Here are some of Reddit users' tales about the stupidest, craziest instances of shoplifting they've ever seen.
An Unusual Choice Of Hostage
“I used to work at a grocery store that had an open salad bar where you could make your own salad, get it weighed, and then pay for it. One time we had an interesting character come in wearing his pajamas.
First, he went to grab a two-liter of Mountain Dew, then he came to the salad bar, set the Mountain Dew down, and started STUFFING his pockets with salad, toppings, dressing, everything from olives to cheese to tomatoes.
We had our loss protection guy go confront him, but pajama man pulled a knife on him and said, ‘I want this freaking salad.’ The cops were called and they came, weapons drawn.
The guy then grabbed his Mountain Dew as if holding it hostage and said, ‘IF ANY OF YOU MOVE, I’M GONNA STAB HIM!’ At that point, some people were laughing at him. Of course, one of the cops made a move towards him and he stabbed the bottle of Mountain Dew. Then the cops searched him and pulled out heaps and gobs of mushed salad, dressing, and toppings.”
What A Terrible Thing To Lie About
“When I was at Best Buy in college (about 10 years ago now) I worked in the ‘Media Department.’ Every now and again this one guy in a wheelchair would come in and pick up a few DVDs.
We’d ask him if he needed help and he’d get angry with us and say he was fine and didn’t want any help, which is fair enough. He’d buy maybe one or two DVDs and leave. However, every time he left the store the sensors at the door would go off. The idiots who worked loss prevention up front would just let him go because he’d tell them, ‘Oh, this happens all the time, it’s just my wheelchair.’ The loss prevention guys always bought it and he’d be on his way.
After several weeks of this happening, a new loss prevention guy started his first shift. Wheelchair guy came in and did his usual thing, but the new employee noticed on the cameras that he was stuffing DVDs in his backpack. As he was leaving, the sensors went off as usual.
New guy asked to see his receipt and the man refused, giving his spiel about how it happens all the time because of his wheelchair. New guy wasn’t buying it and pointed out that we have customers in wheelchairs all the time and the sensor never goes off for them. Then the guy in the wheelchair STOOD UP and bolted out of the store. Yeah, impersonating a disabled person for theft purposes has gotta be some bad karma for him.
Another small but funny anecdote from that job is that whenever a new Insane Clown Posse CD came out, we’d always find the jewel cases and wrappers busted open in the bathroom. Every single time; classic ICP fans. I think we lost more of those CDs than we actually sold.”
He Nearly Died Laughing After Witnessing This
“When I was a teenager, I once picked up my mom from her job at Costco. I walked around for a bit and at one point I saw this rather portly woman in a pink muumuu looking suspiciously at hams.
She looked around for a bit and then, to my shock and amazement, she put it up her dress and between her thighs. I could’ve died right there. I was thinking, ‘YES! She’s going to get away with it!’ but the story isn’t over.
Being the luckiest person alive that day, I witnessed her at check out, about to pay at the register…when all of a sudden the ham dropped out from under the dress. The cashier and everyone around were just staring. The woman looked at the ham, looked at the cashier, then started yelling, ‘Who threw that ham at me?!’ over and over. I darn near pooped myself laughing.”
He Was Recruited For His Special Abilities
“A friend of mine in high school was quite the thief. He mainly stole bottles of Captain Morgan from the supermarkets and sold them or drank them with his friends. One day I took him to an Albertsons and he went in and came out with a bottle of Jack. Upon returning to the car, a man knocked on the door and asked if he could speak with him. My friend looked at him like he was crazy and said no way. The man said he saw what he did and assured him he wasn’t in trouble, and that he just wanted to talk to him. My friend agreed and got out to talk to him away from the car, and after about 5 minutes he came back.
He explained that he went over and met 3 other guys who had apparently been casing the Albertsons themselves because they had a decent sized library inside and little to no security. The guys ran a book-stealing ring. The man said he saw my friend go in and out with the total ease so they wanted to recruit him for an upcoming job. They explained that he would get paid up front and it would be only a couple hours of driving around hitting different bookstores. He agreed because he is a mischievous loon and told me he liked the idea of making money that way. He never got caught.
It was all pretty Oceans Eleven if you ask me. One guy inside would make sure no security people caught on while my friend had a list of books to retrieve. He would gather them up in one aisle, enough to fit a duffel bag, and remove the security stickers. Then they would use Bluetooth headsets to give the command for the guy with the bag to come in and fill it up.
They would leave with 50+ books on a good day and they then sold the books on Amazon for a ridiculous amount of profit. My friend would make $500 for 15 minutes of work/thieving.”
“He Must’ve Been A Kleptomaniac”
“Around 9 or 10 o’clock one night, I was shopping at Walmart with my mom and younger brother. We were standing in line to check out and I was looking around the store watching the world go by.
Off to our left, I saw a police officer walk in and he was met by a Walmart employee in casual business dress who had ahold of this 20-something-year-old dude. I guess the employee was from loss prevention because he then turned the guy over to the cop.
The cop cuffed him and started walking toward the door, the kid trailing behind him. The thief made eye contact with me as he was walking and, with a quick, sly grin, grabbed a box of Little Debbie oatmeal cakes from an island display on his way out. I could not believe the audacity; he must’ve been a kleptomaniac or someone who just literally couldn’t resist the urge to steal.”
The Father Was Setting A Terrible Example For His Son
“I was standing in line at Kmart and there was a guy in front of me with his kid. All of a sudden I see movement on the checkout belt and the kid has put a DUCKLING on the belt.
The cashier was dumbfounded and tried to tell him he couldn’t just put a duck on the counter, but the kid cut her off and started loudly spouting facts about ducks while she just stared at him in shock.
Then the father casually walked out of the store with their basket of stuff. As soon as he was gone, the kid ran after him and left the cashier sitting there with this duckling on the checkout stand. When I left the manager was arguing with animal control, who had apparently told him to call the game and wildlife department. Every time I go in there now I wonder what happened to that duckling.
Once the weirdness of the duck wore off I felt terrible for the little boy. His dad was teaching him that crime is perfectly fine. As an animal lover, I was also horrified that they had this young animal that they just abandoned because it’d served its purpose. That’s a terrible lesson, too. I hope the little boy has found a more positive influence in his life than his father.”
She Never Stopped Denying Her Transgressions
“I recently bought some stuff at a party store and as I was on my way out, not really paying attention, I heard a loud, ‘HEY!’ behind me. It was one of the store greeters but he wasn’t yelling at me, he was yelling at this lady in front of me. Apparently, she decided to load up a whole shopping cart full of it and casually tried to stroll out the door with it.
However, unlike most retail employees, this guy actually followed her out into the parking lot. She just kept walking at a casual pace, pretending that she didn’t hear this guy SCREAMING at her.
When she got to her car the guy started to take a picture of her license plate. The exchange from there consisted of her saying, ‘I DIDN’T TAKE NOTHING/I BOUGHT THIS!’ with the guy yelling at her to show him the receipt and her just repeating, ‘I DIDN’T TAKE NOTHING!’ Eventually, the guy just grabbed the cart from her and brought it back the store, and she didn’t put up a fight.”
He Was Determined To Be A Vigilante
“I was on my way home from a late night at the office when I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. I live in a pretty rural area and at night the parking lots and general area are pretty empty. I got what I needed at the store and was in line to pay for it. The store was pretty empty, too, and there was just one couple in line behind me. I paid for my few items and walked back to my car. As I was putting my stuff in the back seat of the car, I heard some yelling coming from the store.
At that moment, a young man was running out the front door at full speed across the parking lot with two bottles of Smirnoff, one in each hand. Behind him was the couple that was in line and two staff members chasing him, yelling ‘STOP!’ The guy was charging across the parking lot and his trajectory put him right in front of my car, right where I was standing.
As he got closer, I put my hand out to signal for him to stop, thinking he was going to barrel me over. But somehow my hand connected with his face in mid-air and he was knocked back onto his butt. One of the bottles went flying out of his hand but it was cheap plastic so it didn’t break. I remember thinking, ‘Why didn’t you steal the good stuff?’ For whatever reason, in the moment, I was worried about the bottle and not him so I immediately grabbed for it as it rolled away.
As I was getting the bottle the guy got up and continued to run toward the street with the other bottle in his hand. I turned to run after him, but before I could react someone ran past in pursuit; it was the guy that was in line behind me! He was running fast, catching up with the kid. They ran across the huge, empty parking lot and just as he was about to grab the kid and pull him down, the kid threw the other bottle to the ground and cursed aloud, still running. The guy chasing him stopped and grabbed the bottle.
As the guy was walking back, the kid stopped across the street and yelled, ‘What is wrong with you people?!’
We gave the bottles back and were thanked by the store staff. I probably should have stayed out of it as I could have been hurt or worse, but in the moment, I was determined to be a vigilante.”
You See A Lot Of Stuff Go Down At Walmart
“TVs walk out of Walmart all the time, and I saw a few happen while I was doing my two years of cashiering there. Granted, our loss prevention folks were usually on their heels, but the door greeters would be too occupied giving a sticker to a little kid or helping some someone onto an electric cart to check for a receipt.
Also, I’ve seen tons of people think they can shove a ton of merchandise into a container and only have to pay for the container. I had one woman come through my lane pushing a cart with a single trash can in it, lid on. The way she was pushing the thing made it obvious that it was filled with stuff, so I immediately took the lid off and started scanning the contents. She just quickly walked away.
This one was just plain stupidity courtesy of the management at our store: a customer brought in a laptop that was very old and wanted a refund on it. They didn’t have the receipt, but they had the box…kind of. They had painted a sailboat and the word ‘FRAJILE’ on it, covering up all UPCs and serial numbers. Without asking anyone from electronics to approve the return, some stupid assistant manager gave the customer a gift card for the amount they claimed the laptop was worth. I still have a picture of the box somewhere, it was hilarious.”
The Assistant Manager Was A “Known Pervert”
“I was inadvertently an accomplice to some rather bizarre shoplifting. In Washington State, if you file for unemployment you just don’t sit on your butt and collect your wages. I broke my arm and in order to get my unemployment I needed to be working part-time or I had to spend 40 hours a week at the unemployment office looking for work.
A friend of mine worked at Spencer’s in the mall and agreed to give me light duty while my arm healed so I could collect my unemployment benefits with minimal effort. His assistant manager, a 40-year-old woman and known pervert, was usually the person I worked with. This gal had convinced me that at their store they got ‘sample’ boxes of product they sold and were told to use them so they could ‘explain’ any questions or concerns to the customer.
This assistant manager constantly had me ‘sampling’ product from the company. I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that she, at one time, sent me into the bathroom with a bottle of lubricant and ordered me to touch myself with it. It was some kind of ‘tingling’ stuff which actually burned a little bit. I remember having to ‘review’ the product before her and 2 19-year-old girls who giggled the whole time.
When we did inventory, everyone narced on me for having several bottles of stuff I took home. When I explained that I was given the items and told it was okay, I was excused for having them. That woman somehow never got in trouble for it. They just kind of shrugged it off. In fact, the district manager liked her so much she was given the Spirit Store (seasonal Halloween store) to manage the next month. It was very weird. I think I ended up with $200+ worth of naughty goodies from those 3-4 months of work.”
He Didn’t Even Care About The Stuff
“Growing up, I knew a guy who freaking LOVED to steal. His family had money but the thrill for him wasn’t having the thing, it was the getting away with swiping it. He would eat an apple while walking around the grocery store, just to see if anybody would say or do something. He’d swipe small stuff basically any time he was in a 7-11. It was amazing, because he’d constantly got away with things, too.
However, he did get caught stealing a package of AA batteries from Target once, and when the cops showed up and searched him they found like 30 packets of Kool-Aid in his underwear. In addition, he once stole a fishing pole from Walmart. He stuffed the handle down his pants, put the top end up his shirt and out his sleeve, and walked out with his arm in the air, waving giddily at strangers.”
He Used The Chaos Of Black Friday As Cover
“When I worked at Best Buy, the best shoplifting I ever saw took place on Black Friday during the mad rush. The store was so crowded that you could barely move and all the employees were basically stationary in one section, so I viewed the full scope of this scheme after the fact on the video cameras.
First, the thief entered the store and headed to the media section to grab a karaoke machine. He then went to the home appliance section where no one was shopping at all (who buys a refrigerator on Black Friday?) and proceeded to dump the box out behind a bunch of vacuums and furniture.
Then he walked around the store and put a ton of stuff into the empty box and then checked out with only the ‘karaoke machine,’ which cost $100. They never took it out of the cart because it was big and heavy so they just scanned the barcode.
Loss prevention estimated that this guy managed to steal over $1,500+ worth of high-quality stuff inside that box. He even managed to get a Bose 3-2-1 surround sound system in there. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. He paid in cash and walked out with no problem.”
Things Got Real Muddy Real Fast
“This happened when I worked at a pharmacy as a cashier. A young guy, 18 or so, came in one day and stuffed a few bottles of cologne and perfume into his pants/sweater. The cosmetician noticed and approached him about it.
He bolted like Usain Bolt and was at the exit door in about 2 seconds flat. She yelled, ‘Stop him! He is stealing!’ causing an off-duty police officer who just happened to be in my line to drop every single thing in his hands and run out the door behind the kid.
The cashier guy next to me took off too, so I handled the line of customers while those guys were out busting criminals. They ended up tackling him behind the store and there was a huge hill he was trying to run up which was incredibly muddy. The cop tackled the kid and the cashier dove on top of the cop. They came back all covered in mud; it was glorious. Also, there was no one in line when they got back, so I like to think of myself as the hero that day.”
The Loss Prevention Guy Was Asleep At The Switch
“When I worked retail I was an assistant manager of an electronics department. So many times people would just walk out with merchandise and as an employee, only department managers and loss prevention people are allowed to accuse or physically restrain people who are believed to be stealing. The rest of us just have to wistfully watch them go, mainly because they don’t want us getting stabbed or taking a baseball bat to the chest following some guy out to the parking lot.
Despite this, I once actually got into a tug of war with a guy over some laptops. The thieves were trying to load up a cart to walk out with and as they were nearing the entrance I tried to reach in and grab the laptops out.
I got one, but as I reached for the second my arm hit the cart siding and alerted them to what I was doing. The guy and I then got into the tug of war and he ended up yanking the laptop out of my arms. He booked it for the door and managed to get away because the loss prevention guy was chatting up a customer instead of doing his job.”