The professionals, the desperate and the sick

23 January 2012 - 02:17

In addition to professional shoplifters, Michael Broughton, director of the Institute of Retail Risk, said some steal because they are desperate and in need.

"It is fairly obvious that they would be caught, having eaten a pie and hidden the paper, or they might try to hide a loaf of bread under their dress. It is quite sad. Although the shops are hard on them, they're also understanding," said Broughton.

He said in Johannesburg recently a man was caught hiding some products in his clothing. He was arrested but pleaded not guilty. His defence was that he had not stolen because he was still in the shop.

"The magistrate said that the store was no longer in control of the goods because he concealed them with the intent to steal and he was found guilty," said Broughton.

Then there are the amateurs, including those who steal "for kicks" such as teenagers taking a CD or someone who might think something is too expensive and slips it into his or her bag.

There are also those who suffer from kleptomania.

"They can't help themselves. A friend of mine ran a pharmacy in Johannesburg. A woman would arrive in a Mercedes-Benz - they were stinking rich. She used to drop stuff into her handbag like you won't believe and then pay for a Lip Ice."

Staff would call her husband and list the products she had stolen. The bill would come to thousands of rands and he would simply pay every time.

UK celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson is hogging headlines for stealing cheese and wine five times over Christmas.