I Was A Teenage Shoplifter

In high school, over the course of about four years, I stole thousands of dollars worth of magazines and Calvin Klein underwear. And I don’t regret it.

I used to steal French Vogues, Italian Vogues and Calvin Klein underwear. I was 15 or 16 when I started stealing the magazines and 17 or 18 when I started stealing the underwear. (I’m in my mid-20s now.) After I saw how easy it was to steal magazines, I started stealing underwear.

The underwear phase was literally an intense phase of a year where I just stole so many pairs of underwear that I haven’t had to buy a pair of underwear since.

Once I just walked out the Borders in the mall with French Vogue, Italian Vogue — each issue was something like $15. Every month it became a habit — I would go in and pick up the magazines and nothing ever happened. The alarm never went off. I got the shoplifting thrill. It was like, “I pulled this off, I should do more.”

For the underwear, I would go to Hex, which is now Macy’s. I would pick up six or seven boxes of Calvin Klein underwear — each pair was about $25 and came in its own box — go into the fitting room, put the underwear on top of my own, and walk out. So I would be wearing like six pairs of underwear. I would always take in seven or so pairs, but I would only steal five. After I came out of the fitting room, I’d put all seven boxes back on the shelves. I did this around once a month because I love underwear and it was easy.

The department store I went to was so slow that no one watched anything, so I specifically went to that mall. I knew no one would be on my ass and ask me what I was doing or anything like that. I never had a problem when I brought seven, eight boxes into the dressing room.

Of course, I worried about getting caught all the time. I would get so anxious walking out the door of the store wearing all those underwear. But I wasn’t stupid about my shoplifting — I would pay atteniton to the cameras, I would make sure there was absolutely no sensor or sticker in the underwear or even in the magazines. I was very meticulous about the whole process. But with all the precautions, I’d still be nervous about it.

I feel like it was that nervousness and anxiety that kind of propelled me to keep doing this — that rush that I got. It’s a weird feeling that you don’t get doing anything else.

After stealing underwear and magazines for a few years, I stopped when my friend got caught.

I was with her at the time, and she completely took the blame, and after that I was like, whoa, slow your roll, get over this, whatever your phase is. It was pretty traumatizing, seeing my best friend arrested and searched.

What happened with her was, we stole at a luxury department store. We were in the fitting room together and she was trying on women’s jeans and she tried on a pair of J Brand jeans, and I saw that they didn’t have a sensor. Mind you, these jeans were on sale for $40, so my friend and I clearly could have paid for them. But I was like, why don’t you just take them? She figured, okay why not? So I put them in her bag, and instead of walking out with out merchandise immediately, we stayed in the store and looked around more.

However, a sales associate noticed a pair of jeans were missing from our fitting room. After we had left the store and were outside, the police stopped us and said the department store was missing a pair of jeans, and my friend and I freaked out. We just had a guity conscience, so we completely surrendered with a white flag.

She felt so guilty and was so scared that she confessed and turned over the jeans. She got arrested and took all the blame, even though it was my fault for telling her to steal the pants. So seeing that and experiencing it alongside my friend and watching her take all the blame — clearly this was not something I could continue doing because of how badly I felt. I only decided to stop because my friend got caught and I felt so guilty. I never expected to get caught myself because I would steal underwear and magazines and never have a problem. Our actions were fucked up — clearly stealing is something one should not do — but I guess I also thought people wouldn’t think my friend and I were shoplifters. I thought people thought shoplifters are poor and come from a bad family. My friend and I are upper middle class and have stable families we still stole.

After my friend confessed I went to her car and drove around while she got handcuffed and put in the back of the police car. He took her to the department store and searched her in front of the entire store — all the employees were watching, all the customers were watching through the windows. She was basically humiliated, but it was obvious he was doing this to show her what she did was really fucked up and she should never do it again.

The department store pursued legal action, so my friend had to serve community service over the course of about a month. She had to pay legal fees, get a lawyer. And there were repercussions for our friendship — her mother was like, you are clearly a bad influence.

My parents do not know about this and they don’t need to know. She is still one of my best friends. Luckily, the incident is not on her record.

I feel like there were situations in which I was tempted to steal again, and thought to myself, oh this is really easy, why don’t I steal this Snickers bar? Or, why don’t I steal this magazine? But I don’t think I ever followed through with it because of the situation with my friend. I feel like unless you experience getting caught you feel like you never will get caught. That’s part of the problem with people who steal, because at first, you feel the thrill and you feel like a badass.

I wouldn’t say that I really feel guilty about my stealing because it’s rare that I regret things. I think I learned a lot and I think it’s better having gone through everything I did at that time. If I didn’t learn from it I’d probably regret it more. But now I’m like, it was a time in my life, I stole, I own up to it. I know morally it was wrong, it was bad, but I guess there’s a part of me that likes to fuck the system.

As told to Amy Odell.

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