Do stores really prosecute shoplifters?

When you shop at small and large stores alike, you may notice anti-theft signage. One common example of such a sign features a pair of eyes above the words, "Shoplifters will be prosecuted."

However, do stores actually follow through on their threats? Do they prosecute people who may have stolen only a $20 necklace?

Yes, shoplifters often do get prosecuted

In many cases, stores really will call the police on people they think have shoplifted, whether the items in question are a $1 glowstick or two expensive pairs of shoes.

However, there can be issues even if a store does not get the police involved at the time. A store may instead require you to sign an agreement that you will never return to the store. If you do, you would be subject to criminal trespass charges.

Stores may also ask you to pay fines. For instance, say the manager accuses you of taking a makeup cream that costs $15. Surveillance video appears to show you pocketing the item, and it was in your pocket when store security officials approached you. You gave the item back and signed some paperwork agreeing not to return to the store. End of story, right? In some cases, no. A store could pursue civil recovery and mail you a notice that you owe it a fine of, say, $350. It still has the option of getting law enforcement involved if it so chooses.

What is the takeaway? Even if the company chooses not to press charges for alleged shoplifting, you may still face a lot of hassle and end up owing a significant amount of money, especially if the store cannot restock or resell the merchandise.

The financial toll is immense

Many stores are so stringent when it comes to shoplifting because of the financial toll it exacts. Shoplifting alone could even be the reason that a small business is about to go underwater.

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