Why do well-off people shoplift?
Chef Antony Worrall Thompson has apologised for shoplifting from a supermarket. But what makes people steal things when they have enough money to pay?
Worrall Thompson has apologised for his “stupid and irresponsible actions”, after being cautioned by police for leaving a branch of Tesco without paying for small value items. He had reportedly done this on five separate occasions.
The 60-year-old has spoken of the shame of letting his family and friends down. The big question, he says, is “why”.
Experts agree that in these cases, shoplifting is rarely about genuinely needing the item that is stolen. It is often about seizing the opportunity to momentarily exercise control when the perception is one of powerlessness.
Research by retail consultants Global Retail Theft Barometer and Checkpoint Systems has suggested a new wave of middle-class shoplifter is targeting high-end delicacies from supermarkets in order to maintain a lifestyle they could no longer afford. These are people who appear to be reputable and often justify their actions by arguing that they have become victims to the economic recession.
But in most cases of stealing by what psychologists describe as “non-professional shoplifters” - those who don’t steal for profit or resale, or to feed a drug or alcohol addiction - there is much more going on.
A devastated Worrall Thompson, in an interview with the Daily Express, said that he was unable to comprehend what compelled him to take items such as onions, a sandwich, cheese and wine.
“I’ve been racking my brains to think why on earth did I do it and what was going through my mind at the time,” he said.
Experts say this is a typical response from a “non-professional shoplifter”.
Shoplifting is generally a reaction to some kind of loss and a need to fill a void - real or perceived, says Barbara Staib of the National Association For Shoplifting Prevention in the US.
“Shoplifters are generally honest citizens,” she says, adding that research has revealed a “direct correlation between depression and shoplifting”.
She explains that while other people might turn to alcohol, or binge eating, others turn to shoplifting.