Why I Steal
Alice* lives in a small town, where the work dries up in the winter. She and her husband have jobs at a seasonal restaurant, where she says they each make about $500 a week. When it gets cold, they go on unemployment to support themselves and their young daughter. Alice supplements that income by shoplifting. "I do have rules that I follow," she explained. "I don't ever lift from small mom-and-pop kinds of stores. When you lift from somewhere like Walmart they already have it built into their insurance...I would say it feels more like maybe a paper cut, as opposed to stabbing someone."
We first learned about Alice through Tumblr, where there's an active community of people who say they shoplift. They post pictures of their "hauls," as well as tips for other lifters. For Alice, finding that community was huge. "It felt like I had people that I could talk to about it," she told me. "Because it is such a huge part of my life, and to have people that I could talk about it with like it was normal, that felt great. It just sort of opened up a whole new world of possibilities."
Alice told us she keeps her shoplifting a secret from her husband. And while she used to steal while her daughter was with her, stuffing groceries and makeup into her diaper bag, she says she stopped once her daughter was old enough to understand what was happening. "I don't want her doing something that's obviously dangerous," Alice told us. "I don't ever see her like being a tag team. I don't really want that for her."
Since first talking with Alice in 2017, a lot has happened in Alice's life. We called her back to find out how she and her family fared during the pandemic—and to find out if she's still stealing today.
Thanks to Tasbeeh Herwees for her help with this story. You can find Tasbeeh's article for GOOD Magazine about the shoplifting community on Tumblr here. And to listen to our 2017 episode featuring your responses to Alice's story, click here.