Friday, 31 January 2014


I was in the pub last week talking to a friend of a friend - who I had met for the first time just a couple of hours previous - when the conversation somehow turned to drugs. The friend of a friend told me about the life changing experience of taking ecstasy. I told him that I had never tried it and seemed pretty happy to tell him so, adding that if I was going to try it, I would probably have done it when I was in my teens or early twenties but that it hadn't really interested me and certainly didn't now (that I'm old).

However, when the conversation turned to shoplifting for some reason or another, when the same person suggested that shoplifting is something that everyone does when they are young. Instead of being honest and confessing that I had never done it. Maybe because I was the sober guy at the pub who had never done drugs, I said "I never went past stealing penny sweets". Not exactly the most impressive lie ever told haha so why even bother? But it was too late. The words had already slipped out and I wasn't sucking them back up now.

But the conversation got me thinking. Had I ever taken anything from a shop before? Not that I could remember. No, the closest I came to shoplifting was when I was about 8. It was late August, early September and my mum had taken me and my two sisters into town to buy our new school stuff. Coats, bags, shoes, shirts, trousers and stationary! Why is it that buying stationary was so exciting when you were a kid? And why is it that every Primary School child is so obsessed with rubbers?

It was outside of BHS - in Chester - and I remember feeling or hot and sweaty, racked with guilt and really worried that my mum was going to be really angry with me because gripped tightly in one of my tiny eight year old hands was a big white rubber the size of a bar of soap that I had forgotten to pay for when we were in WHSmith. Instead - to my surprise - my mum told me that it was fine because I hadn't meant to take it and so it was ok if - just this once - that I kept it.

With that in mind I thought. Well this is the Year31Project and shoplifting is something I've never done before so why not give it a go? Maybe because I'm still too honest and more importantly too shit scared - as I was as a kid - of what might happen if when I get caught. What would my mum think?

So I decided on something of a compromise. I don't have what it takes to full on - shove a baguette down me trousers -  shoplift. But what I could do is try and get away with not paying for something at the self-checkout. After all - according to the Metro (other gossippapers available) - everybody's doing it these days!


So this is what actually happened when I attempted to cheat the self checkout machine at a well known supermarket I won't name incase they attempt to prosecute me.

I took my items to the self checkout with the idea that I wouldn't be paying for one of them. Which one? Does it matter? Maybe something light? After all I need to try and trick the scanner. I don't want it screaming "unidentified object in bagging area" and alerting the mean spirited security guards who would rumble my evil plan and drag me away to some secret holding pen at the back of the supermarket where I will be held in brutal conditions for hours. Ok maybe I'm exaggerating but then I've never been done for shop lifting before so I don't know what happens.

So here goes, I'm going to do it. Stood in front of the scanner, I start to rationalise my actions. It's ok because I'm really poor - this month especially - and supermarkets are super rich. I'm like Robin Hood, only I'm giving to myself. But then before I have even scanned a single item "unidentified object in bagging area" shit! It knows. It already knows. Wow these machines are really clever!

But it's ok the machine is just having a bit of a moment - although I'm convinced it knows - and the self checkout supervisor person - none the wiser - comes over scans a card, presses the screen and we're good to go.

So I start to scan my items and already a little shaken at the fact that the man had to come and reset the machine before I had even started, I instantly lose my bottle. I can't do it! I give myself a little internal pep talk before finally starting to scan my items. Soup. *Beep* Six pack of little Mr Kippling cakes.  *Beep*. Here goes. Nice, £3 ham. I go for a pretend sweep to make it looks like I've scanned it and then put it in the bag without doing so. Only I get too worried and actually scan it *Beep*. I place it into the bag.

"unidentified object in bagging area". What! No way. I heard it beep. The machine must be playing up again I think and call the man over. He resets the machine. And to my surprise the ham doesn't come up on the screen. It mustn't have scanned. I'm going to do it. I'm going to get away without paying for the ham. Happy days!

Wait! What am I doing? With the man still standing next to me - I don't feel like I'm panicking but I must be - I say "oh the ham didn't scan" and take it back out of the bag, scan it and put it back in. What am I doing? It's like I've just made a match winning goal line clearance and then turned around and kicked the ball into my own net for no reason.

The man leaves. Defeated I place the ham back into the bag. Only for the machine to start going crazy. For you see, the machine now thinks that the bag is too light, as the ham should already be in there and then another item - the ham - I have just scanned on top. It needs another item. I'm going to have to put one of my other items into the bag - without scanning it. The machine is now forcing me to steal! What other option do I have - other than call the man over for a third time that is - no this is perfect. What weighs roughly the same as the ham? I need to make sure that the crafty machine never knows what I've just done. Bread rolls! The £1.10, reduced to 55p pack of six bread rolls. That should do the trick.

I place the buns into the bag. The machine is satisfied and I'm happy that I successfully managed to con it. I scan and pack the rest of my items - the machine and the security guards completely unaware of my sculduggery - and walk out of the shop with my free 55p buns! Happy, happy days!!! Except... instead of feeling like a rebel without a cause who's just made a 55p saving! I feel like a bit of an idiot who's just lost £2.45! I don't think I'd ever make a very good criminal do you? But at least I didn't get caught...right?

1 comment:

  1. Haha! Great piece, except despite not naming the supermarket, you did photograph their own distinctive reduced sticker! I myself once tried to steal sweets from my local shop as a kid, filled my pockets, went to the counter, paid for a single pack of chewing gum and then left to hand over the sweets to the bigger boy who'd forced me to do it. I went back later with pocket money and paid because I felt bad...they'd seen me do it but they'd also seen the teen who was making me do it through the window...sometimes people can be nice to children!