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?


9 Responses to “Have You Ever Accidentally Shoplifted?”

  1. Joseph E. Pilkus III says:

    I have absolutely walked right out of Giant grocery with an entire 24-bottle count of water on the bottom of my cart and also walked right out to my car. I laughed, waked it back into the store, and my friend (a cashier) and I had a great laugh, paid for the item and resumed my day. Yeah, a bit embarrassing…but funny

  2. Once I bought a broom, and then I got home, I realized that it didn’t have a dustpan attached. I was certain that it was supposed to have a dustpan, so I returned to the store, and there was my dustpan, which had stuck in the prongs used for hanging the brooms. I considered talking to someone about it, or bringing the broom in again, but I finally chose to just walk out with the dustpan. Morally speaking, I had payed for the dustpan, so “shoplifting” it didn’t bother me. If anyone stopped me, I could explain my position. No one did. I guess that’s kind of the reverse of accidental shoplifting – purposeful non-shoplifting. 🙂

  3. Candy Mercer says:

    Yes! And I could not do a thing about it! I stole a pair of sunglasses from a convenience store. I traveled a lot for business back in the day when there was no cell phones or internet. (How did I do that?) I stopped in a small town, and bought provisions, holding the sunglasses in my hand the whole time. Walked back to the van, put them on and drove a couple hundred miles. It was only then I realized, OMG I stole these! I think cause I absolutely acted like I owned them LOL. There was no way to know the name of the store to even call information to get a number or address. I suppose, in retrospect, I could have noted it on my map, and hit it on the next time through and paid the 5 or 6 bucks, but I was not that together/felt it was not that level of transgress.

    Every now and then I might discover a small mistake on my Safeway receipt, and sometimes I have discovered things that have not rung up when I pore over the receipt at home, and I do not do anything, because I have also discovered overcharges and also not done anything, so they are in rough balance. If something was really off either way, I would make amends/ask for recompense. Safeway is the only store this happens at!

    OMG I just thought of another time, and this was more an overwhelmed thing. We were moving cross country and we needed two cat crates, when I bought them they were nested. We were buying a whole lotta of other stuff at Target for the move and the bill was large. I did not check it fully until we got to our new city and I had to submit receipts for expenses reimbursement. I saw I was only rung up for one crate not two. But we were down to counting every dollar at this point in the process and I was thoroughly overwhelmed with finding a house and a job while living w 3 cats in a hotel room. So I didnt do anything to make it right with Target, I might have “put it on the list” even, but I am pretty sure I never paid for them.

  4. Derek says:

    I bought dumb bells once – the bar and weights were separate items. In order to carry the weights with less effort, I put them on the bars. When I brought it through the checkout, the clerk only scanned the weights and not the bar. I did not realize the mistake until I got out to my car. At that point I realized I paid too little and returned to fix the mistake. I could have driven off and saved money. I decided to do the right thing.

  5. dmvp says:

    I’ve had that happen a few different times, and I always go back into the store and let someone know. I’d feel too guilty if I didn’t! I DID have that happen once and the cashier said it was her mistake and let me keep the item without paying! That was back when my kids were young and I was tired! I don’t recall exactly what the item was though. I even used to get my kids donuts while we were shopping for groceries and make them hold onto the little plastic sleeve once the donut was eaten so I’d remember to pay for them at the checkout.

  6. I remember as a kid (~13) going to the mall with my mom. While she was shopping in one store, I went over to the Waldenbooks to see if they had the newest Animorphs.

    They did!

    I was so excited that I grabbed the book and ran out of the store to show my mom. Of course, she had a minor, subdued freakout and walked with me back to the store for us to buy it. I remember feeling super-nervous and embarrassed once I realized what I’d done, but no one else in the universe noticed or cared.

  7. Candy Mercer says:

    The cost of not doing the right thing seems to be much higher than any of the prices of the goods in these cases.

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