Have You Ever Accidentally Shoplifted?

I watch lots of clips from late-night talk shows, and a common question asked to guests is, “Have you ever shoplifted?” Usually the guest has some charming story about how they stole a candy bar as a kid and their parents made them apologize.

I can honestly say I’ve never intentionally stolen something from a store, even as a child (the thought never even occurred to me). However, a few days ago, I accidentally stole something. I’ll tell you what I did when I discovered the mistake, and I’m curious about what you would have done.

I was at the checkout line in the grocery store. I had about 10 items in my cart, which was one of those dual-layered carts. Most of my purchases were on the top layer, and I had a few drinks (juice, milk, etc) on the bottom layer.

I checked out, bagging my groceries in my reusable bags while the clerk tallied up the items. I then steered the cart out to my luxurious 2003 Camry and loaded the bags into the trunk, along with a big bottle of orange juice from the bottom of the cart.

Something was off about that last part. I couldn’t remember giving the orange juice to the clerk. I checked my receipt, and sure enough, it wasn’t there.

What would you have done?

My instinct was to walk back into the store with the juice and pay for it, which is what I did. But I had other options. I could have mentioned it the next time I was there to reconcile the difference. Or I could have simply not paid for it at all, justifying the high costs or lack of security (this honestly was not an option at all, but people justify odd things to themselves all the time).

Are there any options that I’m missing? Was the option I chose the only ethical option? Have you ever accidentally shoplifted?