I have a friend who steals. More accurately, he's a friend of a friend, and whenever I see him he always has a story or two of things he's recently stolen.
It's little stuff. Usually food. He can definitely afford to buy food, so it's not about need. And I don't think he gets much of a thrill out of stealing, like those suburban housewives Oprah did several shows on in the early-2000's. Usually he just says that it was too expensive and the employees were distracted and can you believe that they charge €3 for six ounces of quinoa salad and €6/kilogram for shallots?
Even though he could afford these things, the justification is usually about the price. There's an element of street justice there - that people are getting robbed on a daily basis by the rich and the powerful, so why isn't someone like him allowed to tip the scales back ever so slightly? If corporate grocery stores hand over 30% of the money we pay for food to rich people who don't need it, why not cut into their profit margins a little?
I could never steal because I know I'd get caught the first time I'd do it. I've never done an illegal drug and I waited until my 21st birthday to have my first alcoholic drink (former Bilerico editor Serena Freewomyn bought me my first drink because she's awesome). I drive at the speed limit when in the US and I always carry my residency card on me in France. I never got to have sex in a state with a sodomy law before they were declared unconstitutional in 2003 and I've never jumped the metro turnstile, even though I have gotten on a bus without a ticket if it was for one or two stops while feeling all badass for stealing public transport.
The last time I told him to stop stealing. Does he really want to end up in front of a judge and have to explain why a middle-aged man with a small, regular income stole a chocolate bar? I get vicariously nervous when he tells me that he steals, I told him, since there are cameras everywhere nowadays and even if an employee isn't standing next to him that doesn't mean that no one is watching.
Here's his secret, according to him: only steal from places with rich customers. He's probably right. The discount grocery store in our neighborhood has cameras everywhere and a security agent at the door. The security always annoys me since it's always a man who's standing around, doing nothing, while two or three women are running the cash registers with a huge line and he never stops acting like a cock to help the hens by opening up another line. It's inefficient and sexist and insulting to the customers, but that's another post for another day.
There's this organic food store that I was in only once looking for unpasteurized milk for cheese-making and didn't end up buying it since it was €3 a liter. That store has no cameras or mirrors and has a few hidden corners, according to my friend.
That was the store that was involved the first time I heard about him stealing, since he was standing at the cash register waiting for a cashier to show up, when he just stuffed what he wanted to buy into his coat, yelled about how terrible customer service is there, and then stormed out.
Ça me fait chier qu'il n'y a jamais quelqu'un ici, bordel! and then he walked out.
This reminds me of a post from a while back on a conservative blog complaining about a woman at Starbucks who purchased coffee and then gave milk from the fixins table to her baby. The comments savaged the mother, going so far as to not-ironically suggest that Starbucks may be forced to close its doors. (Starbucks somehow manages to turn a profit even with some people taking a little more milk than they're supposed to).
The anger there was palpable, even though what was "stolen" was half a cent's worth of milk, nothing compared to the $86 million of tips Starbucks management was found to have stolen from employees. But you don't see the same people getting mad at both crimes.
Stealing is a politicized topic. I'm not the sort of person who would turn anyone in for stealing a handful of mushrooms while I would get mad if someone's employer forced them to hand over half their tip money. I don't know where that would place me in the liberal/conservative spectrum, but in the new political divide between the 99% and the 1%, that puts me squarely with the lower classes.