I was very sheltered when I was younger. Consequently, I went through a good portion of my life blind, afraid, naïve and, ultimately unhappy, because I was unable to recognize the shortcomings which were propelling my disadvantages. I was, however, fortunate enough to make friends who helped me see through the idealistic veneer which had been constructed around me. There are too many of these individuals to name, but if any of them read this I would like them to know that ignorance may be bliss, yet this bliss is transient-nothing can compare to the perennial empowerment which full knowledge enables us to amass, and the fierce independence which consequents this empowerment-and so words will never fully convey the gratitude you have all inspired within me.

This essay, and others to follow, is my attempt to lend a helping hand to those who are still facing the same disadvantages which I faced before but, for one reason or another, haven't yet fully conquered them. Because humans are by nature myopic, my essays will be limited to my own personal experiences. They will cover subjects which I have personally encountered, and may offend some individuals or breach their personal sense of morality. I realize that no one will be able to full empathize with everything I write, and I therefore ask that my audience do what we all do with every author we encounter: take whatever useful extract you can, and move on to something else.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way advocating or encouraging shoplifting in this essay; I am merely providing those already inclined to such actions with advice culled from my own personal experiences. I generally believe that if you're going to do anything, you might as well do it right. I am in no way liable or responsible for the actions of others who choose to read this essay. You are the only one who can tell you what to do.

"The ultimate effect of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools."

-Herbert Spencer

When it comes to shoplifting, there really is no definitive, all-purpose guide one can rely on (except maybe wisdom and experience), simply because people take different things from different places for different reasons. It depends on who you are, and your target location. I personally tend to gravitate toward books, pharmaceuticals, and certain articles of clothing.

However, there are a few tricks of the trade which are applicable to basically any location. It is these tricks which can make the difference between a novice and a veteran. The purpose of this essay is to give people who haven't stolen before, but perhaps want to, a better sense of expertise so that their eventual execution has a better chance of being successful. Obviously, there can be no guarantees-I'm just a disillusioned seventeen year old writing an essay, after all-but personally, there are a few things which I wish someone had told me before my premier pilfering escapade.

CONFIDENCE

The first thing you should know before setting foot in any store is that it is essential to be confident. Believe it or not, confidence is the major factor which will determine the success of your attempt. It doesn't matter if you're smooth or sophisticated (I am by nature extremely clumsy and awkward); it just matters if you act like you know what you're doing.

Most people who have never stolen before are under the impression that all stores are as heavily guarded as military barracks, seething with security guards and other store officials just waiting to pinpoint maladroit shoplifter-wannabes.

This misconception is what makes the following bit of advice so very important to know:

MOST STORES DO NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT WHATEVER IT IS YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE.

Come on, let's get real. What is it you're going for? A book? A CD, maybe? A bra? A soda? In the grand scheme of things, the disappearance of ONE lousy item doesn't matter much to most stores. They will eventually get more of whatever it is you happen to take. Which is why most stores aren't very well supervised-their "security" system usually doesn't transcend a collection of lethargic checkers; in fact, most checkers aren't even allowed to go after shoplifters. If they catch you as you're about to take something, then you'd better just split-but as soon as it's in your sleeve/pocket/whatever-it-is-you-store-stolen-merchandise-in, there's really nothing they can do about it. Just walk out of there slowly and proudly.

The closest most stores come to having their own specialized security personnel is that, once a month, a security guard will come to "supervise". With the exception of pharmacies (who need security guards more often because they host class 1, 2 and 3 substances) and malls (which always have security guards) these security guards are kept in rotation amongst a lot of big name stores, like Target or Vons. Again, this is nothing to worry about: though they may be there for the whole day, these officials' "patrols" normally don't span much more than a few minutes, and even then it's really a very half-hearted attempt. Just wait for them to leave, then head to your department.

Another thing to remember is that it's a lot more trouble (and work) for store officials to try to catch you then it is for them to let it slide. If your theft isn't a common occurrence for the store, chances are they will let you get away once in a while. This is not an open invitation to flagrantly waltz by every checker and stupidly flash your stolen goods-it's more of an "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon.

HOURS

If you can, it helps to control when it is you pull off your heist. Generally, the later in the day you go, the better: customer traffic tends to be at its highest from noon to five, sometimes six. Teenagers arrive in higher concentrations from six and onward, but your main concern is to avoid family hours: stores are really only going to monitor their aisles from noon to five because those are the hours when families tend to shop, and store officials are supposed to cater to families as much as possible. It's essential to bear in mind that store officials aren't the only ones you need to watch out for. Though most people probably won't care about what you're doing, there is always the chance that a fellow customer will choose to turn you in. This is especially true if the customer happens to be older. So avoid contact with other customers as much as possible.

Sometimes, in fact, stores will try to be sneaky and have "plain-clothed" sentinels monitor the aisles. Recently, a friend of mine was caught trying to steal a button from an over-priced booth by an old woman who, as it turns out, was actually working the booth herself. While I was disappointed that my friends' first caper was a disaster, I still admired the ingenuity of the scheme.

If anyone is standing next to or, more likely, near you while you are looking at something, always assume they are watching you and wait for them to leave. When dealing with these undercover agents, novice shoplifters will usually panic and assume that taking a long time to look at an item is an indicator of guilt. This is simply not the case. Until you take the item of your choice, you are just a regular customer, and you have the right to look around for as long as you like. It is panicking because you think you're taking too long to act that looks suspicious. Stand and stare for as long as you like-and if you draw the attention of some kind of official, stare at the item for an even longer amount of time just to piss them off.

CONTAINERS

A lot of items which people choose to steal are in some sort of container. It is these containers which trigger the store alarm at the front door. It depends on where you are, but it is generally a good rule of thumb to remove the item from its container before proceeding. The method for this procedure is one I have affectionately termed "palming", after the famous magicians' technique, because it involves extensive utilization of the palm.

Basically what you do is take the desired item in one hand (your better one) and hide it behind the others in that row. With the other hand, take another item and pretend to look at it while you try to pry open the container of the desired item with your fingers. Usually, palming alone won't open most containers: you'll have to use your best instinct to determine whether or not there's anybody around you. When you're sure there isn't, take the item in both hands and open it regularly. The package should already be weakened by the palming, so this should go through rather quickly. Then, hide the item in a pocket or your pants or whatever, and place the empty container behind other regularly packaged ones, so that it is not immediately visible.

The container equation is especially true for CDs, which is why I generally don't like to steal them. I like having the jacket and lyrics and all the pretty artwork; for me, it's part of the reason I buy them. The only time I do steal CDs is if they're being sold through independent booths and I deem them to be substantially over-priced, because booths have no alarms or sensors.

But, if you're going to steal CDs, you'll need a jacket with a deep pocket (preferably on the reverse side). You can have something else besides a jacket; the idea is that you're only going to be able to take the disc itself, so you'll want to make sure that it doesn't break and reduce scratching as much as possible. Also, you'll need a blade of some sort-a pocket knife will do just fine.

(I don't recommend CDs for your first attempt, because they are generally the most heavily guarded item in any store).

Basically just go over to the CD you want, and be ready to pull out your blade at a moment's notice. BE ABSOLUTELY SURE NO ONE IS LOOKING AT YOU. Cameras don't count-unless you're in a mall, no one is even watching them about 90 of the time.

You know that annoying white tape with the band name on it? The one that takes forever to peel off? What you'll want to do is slip your blade between this tape and the edge of the CD and draw the blade along the edge, so that you tear the tape away. DO NOT TEAR ALL OF THE TAPE AWAY-only tear enough so that you can open the CD, slip out the disk, and put it in your pocket. Immediately hide the opened case underneath a stack of others so that it is not visible. Then leave.

This whole process should take no more than a few seconds, which is why I don't recommend it for anyone's first shoplifting endeavor. It helps to practice the blade technique on CDs that you buy until you can do it just right-fluidity is pivotal to your success.

That's basically the extent of my shoplifting knowledge. If anyone has any other helpful hints, I would love to hear them.

Mais pour maintenant, j'ai finis.

Au revoir.