Financial TimesFinancial Times

The price of shoplifting is getting dangerously high

By John Gapper

29 Sep 2023 · 3 min read

When young, the writer Susan Sontag used to frequent the Pickwick bookstore in Los Angeles and shoplift works of literature. “Each of my occasional thefts cost me weeks of self-revilement and dread of future humiliation, but what could I do, given my puny allowance?” she later wrote.

That made her a snitch, in the definition laid out in a classic study of retail theft in a Chicago department store in the 1960s. Snitches were amateurs, mostly women who would pilfer purses and accessories from the beautiful displays. Then there were boosters, a much smaller number of professional thieves who were systematic and ruthless.

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