Stealing doesn’t “stick it to the man”

It is time for shoplifters to reevaluate their actions and consider their effect.


illustration by Ellie Grever

As young children, we are taught, plain and simple, not to steal. With a line of sight approximately two or three feet under the adult world, we marvel at the high-hanging security cameras, learning from our parents each time we come across them that those are meant to catch the bad guys, and learning that if we, for some reason, attempt to steal, we will be caught – like the bad guys.

But, from our innocent childhood into our more enlightened adolescence, things change. Many of us stay with the anti-stealing mentality that has been so ingrained in us, but a fair amount of us challenge those ideas, learning that there is more to the world than black and white worlds of good and bad.

Perhaps we learn about the system of capitalism and feel that we need to stand up to it. Perhaps we learn about poor practices of a certain company with how their goods are produced. Perhaps we are out of money but think that stealing a little something here or there has no consequences in the long run, so we make an exception for ourselves and do one of the first things we were taught not to do.

The problem, though, is that people who steal – even if their booty is simply a necklace from Forever 21 or earbuds from Wal-Mart – are more similar to the “bad guys” we were taught about throughout our childhoods than they might like to believe.

To the people who believe that stealing from a big corporation, say, Walmart or Forever 21, will “stick it to the man” and harm the money-hungry, greedy CEO, we encourage you to think about the deeper impacts.

While a company’s production conditions for low-wage workers may repulse you and offend you to your core at times, stealing from that corporation does nothing to protect those low wage workers and does nothing to punish the top of the food chain. In reality, this will harm the minimum wage workers who bear the consequences of your actions and have to answer for the stolen items. If you have a sense of social justice in your heart, you ought to realize that this is selfish behavior.

To the people who steal just because you can, it is time that you evaluate the cause and effect. If you wander through a mom-and-pop Brookside shop, eyes peeled for merchandise to steal, the effects of you sliding that candy bar into your pocket don’t end when you eat the candy bar. Small business owners are people like us, who rely on profit to continue renting the spaces they occupy, who rely on profit for their livelihood. If you steal from them, you affect their well-being, along with that of their employees.

It is time that we all return to the mentality that stealing, plain and simply, is bad. It is time to realize that even if we are not the richest of our friends, compared to the majority of the world, we are incredibly privileged.

When one stashes her haul of earrings, eyeshadow palettes, lipsticks, her conscience should feel full with guilt for those she is stealing from – not the CEO, not the high-ups, but the mom and pop of the Brookside shop, the minimum wage worker of Wal-Mart.