I used to shoplift all the time as a teen – we all did, right? – but gave it up. My change may have had something to do with getting caught once in M&S, and being dashed in a cell by the police for a day. It was time to fly straight. At the time, I was broke, desperate and probably being really obvious about my thieving intentions.At this time of year, that's the general trend. In the buildup to Christmas, where consumerism is king and capitalism shoved in our faces so hard that January debt is practically a tradition, police forces tend to see an uptick in shoplifting attempts. In fact, retailers are set to lose £1 billion of goods to shoplifters in the final two months of the year, according to a merchandise availability report. In honour of the time of year when people feel the most pressure to buy things – and steal others – I talked to people about all the times they've been caught doing shoplifting.
I was 14. It was the first time my Mum had let me go shopping on my own with a friend, and we were in the Watford Boots. And yet I didn't just take, like, a little Maybelline mascara. I went on a heist. I stole about £200 worth of stuff like a dickhead and they "picked me up" as I was leaving, while my friend ran away.The worst thing was, after a huge bollocking they were like, "OK, you have half an hour to have an adult come and collect you. Otherwise we will have to charge you and take you down to station because of the value of the goods". I tried to call both parents but got no answer. So I started freaking the fuck out, which only made me then desperately proceed to call every single adult in mine and my parents' lives, and still none of them answered. But obviously I left panicked voicemails, so basically not only did I get arrested, but I ratted myself to every grandparent, auntie, mum's friend and friend's mum I could think of.
Once, about seven years ago in Primark, I was nicking some jeans that I needed for work. I was starting my own business and was so, so skint. I was so embarrassed when I was caught – that hot dread creeping over me, while getting frog marched to the office like a dick. I genuinely felt remorse for getting caught but I didn't feel bad about stealing from a company like Primark. I would never steal from a corner shop or independent business, but Primark? Fuck it. I got bollocked but I was honest with the security dudes and said I was broke, that I knew it was wrong, but that my circumstances had essentially forced me to steal as I literally did not have any money.Even now I'm tempted to nick a bottle of water from a supermarket if the queue is big. But I think a lot of Brits are like that because most have been in desperate times at some point in their lives and it's made them feel less guilty.
I was in Woolworths in Bolton when I was growing up and I was just shoplifting some records; I think I was about 13. I thought I'd managed to pull it off because I'd got out the front door but then the fucking store detective nicked me as I was about to leave. They called the police while they kept me behind in the back, all stern looks and that. Two police then came and walked me handcuffed all the way through Bolton town centre, from the store to the station – it was pretty shameful.I was only a child at the time so I was fucking scared. When they got me down the station they just gave me a bollocking, the classic, "Listen son, you're on a slippery slope with this type of behaviour" sort of thing, but it had me shaken up for a bit.
I was 21 at the time and had just nipped down to Topshop on my lunch break. This was back when it was super-easy to jack things from there: no accessories were ever security tagged so you'd just stuff something in your bag and you were done. I got a bit too full of myself and was very bait about chucking some jewelry in my bag, so got stopped by a plainclothes security woman on my way out.She said: "Do you have anything from Topshop in your bag?" and I immediately said yes. I knew I was caught, so didn't want to make a scene. I said: "I'm so sorry I'm having a really hard day!" which is hilarious – I think I was going for the Winona Ryder defense. They took me into this back room with three security guards, and I said I'd pay for everything. I managed to basically charm the room until this fucking jobsworth head of security came in and said, "Police Camera Action were here yesterday, and we wouldn't have to blur your face because you're over 18, how would that make your mum feel?"
They're a lot nicer to you when you're a teenager. As a 21-year-old they make you feel like a broke bitch.
It was a few years ago, on a night when my brother and I both got pretty hammered. We went to a Tesco to get something to eat but I had no money. So I was stood there, laughing, talking to this podgy security guard – little did he know, I had a spiced Moroccan tortilla wrap stuffed in my man bag. I eventually decided I didn't actually want anything but, as I go to leave, the guy grabbed me, twisting my arm around my back. He led me to this little temporary paddock by the tills, made up of those cages people pack shelves from. He told me to wait there, as he's calling the police.I was in shock and clocked my brother, stood in the queue. We exchanged a few looks while I basically cried inside. Then my brother threw down his shit and started tearing this paddock apart shouting "this isn't right!" The security guard tried to stop him but he shouted, "run, Ted, run," and after a tussle we both sprinted out. We were running for a while down the side of the Thames, sort of laughing to each other and shouting "fat cunt" back at the guy. Then we saw the podgy security guard coming up behind us and shat ourselves and had to split up to lose him. I totally didn't learn my lesson.@williamwastemanMore on VICE:Inside the World of Britain's Professional ShopliftersDoes Christmas Really Come Earlier Every Year?A Handy Guide to Drugs During the Festive Season