Shoplifting: Why and How Men And Women Steal Differently

Shoplifting is a problem for retailers across the board, whether they sell high-priced luxury items or deeply discounted merchandise.

However, in contrast to organized retail crime, people do not generally consider themselves as criminals if they taste a few grapes in the supermarket, pocket a small item while paying for others, or take food they can’t afford to buy. In other words, usually honest people simply don’t think it’s a big deal to shortchange the cashier upon checking out. But it is.

Even small offenses have a big impact. Stealing increases the prices for paying customers in order to cover the losses, takes money that could be spent on higher wages for employees, and creates an atmosphere of mistrust between customers and shop employees.

The means and methods of stealing are as varied as the number of thieves, but a few generalities apply.

An interesting aspect to consider when implementing your loss prevention program is the differences between male and female shoplifters.

Men Steal To Provide For Their Family

Male shoplifters are driven by age-old stereotypes that say they must provide for the family. Embarrassed about not being able to afford something, they simply take it. When caught, they justify the theft by saying they do whatever it takes to provide, that their family needs to eat, or that their wife and children spent the money they worked so hard for. It’s notable that when men steal, they nearly always explain that their family — rather than they — needed something.

How Men Usually Steal

Men tend to either hide an item under their coat or simply walk out the door with it as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Pride allows them to justify their actions: they think that because the staff didn’t stop them, they aren’t really stealing.

Women Steal To Provide Comfort

Women, however, steal to provide for their family at a level beyond their means. In other words, they shoplift to provide comfort that would otherwise be unaffordable.

They tend to shoplift as a way of saving money. They might switch price labels or use tricks to get discounts in order to ‘treat’ their husband and children to items otherwise outside their budget. Women justify stealing personal items such as cosmetics by saying they don’t spend money on themselves but only on their family.

How women usually steal

Typically, women aren’t as bold as men in their methods. They are more likely to resort to tricking rather than outright shoplifting and justify the theft by not outright stealing, but by paying a reduced price. When shopping, they may hide a few items in their purse (e.g. a fancy cut of meat) and continue through the check-out to pay for the bulk of their purchase.


The issue with a little five-finger discount is that women and men alike feel it is no big deal to steal. Retailers need to continue to educate the public of the consequences of shoplifting, as well as invest in modern loss prevention systems to deter thieves before they can strike.

However, knowing the motives behind the shoplifting can help drive these educational programs and helps your loss prevention staff to tackle each offender in a more educated and rather proactive manner. In addition, it will help to know what suspicious behaviors to look out for in the future.

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