Shoplifting vs store theft

sibu

Senior Member
Could anyone please explain the difference between shoplifting and store theft?

"She had been falsely accused of shoplifting in a clothing store." Could I also use "store theft"? Would it sound too formal?
"How to reduce store theft" Could I also use "shoplifting"? Would it sound too informal?

Thanks for your help!
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I'm not convinced that "store theft" is a phrase. Googling only came up with a handful of examples (most are given by phrases such as "jewelry store theft" - which does not sound like shoplifting - and "convenience store theft" - which sounds more like robbery), and only one use where "store theft" was roughly equivalent to "shoplifting."

    To me "store theft" means "theft that happens in a store." It doesn't mean shoplifting at all, which is a specific kind of theft that can happen in a store (when you walk out of a store without paying for an item). But there are other ways to steal from stores, of course.

    In conclusion, no such thing as "store theft." There is, however, such a thing as "retail theft," which is, again, not at all the same as shoplifting. Here's an example of all the different kinds of retail theft there are: http://www.pitt.edu/~weinberg/retail.htm But also note that there are more ways to steal from a store than listed under that one criminal code for retail theft.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    "Store theft", which is not a set expression, could mean any theft from a store. Thus, a statement such as "there was a store theft" tells us only that something has been stolen from a store; the thief might have been a customer, an employee, someone holding everyone at gunpoint during store hours, or someone breaking in during the night.

    Shoplifting is specific; it denotes surreptitious theft of merchandise by a customer or someone posing as a customer—"lifting" merchandise while apparently "shopping".
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "Shoplifting" is not an informal term. It is the correct term for theft by a person posing as a customer.

    Many U.S. states use this word in their laws. In others, it is called "retail theft" or "concealment of merchandise." Neither of those is a widely used term outside the laws of those states.

    Concern about informality is not a reason to search for alternatives here.
     

    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    And you frequently come across signs that say "shoplifters will be prosecuted" or something along those lines.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Actually, "retail theft" covers situations that aren't the same as shoplifting (for instance, swapping price tags on items to purchase them for a lower price). One of the subgenres of retail theft is shoplifting.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Actually, "retail theft" covers situations that aren't the same as shoplifting (for instance, swapping price tags on items to purchase them for a lower price). One of the subgenres of retail theft is shoplifting.
    Indeed. And concealment of merchandise can be taken to include things like going into a dressing room and putting on a new shirt under your old one, which is not technically shoplifting if you are detained before you leave the store - but this isn't the place to get into legal details, such as where the above is a crime and where it isn't.
     
    I don't buy that, Egmont. If you put something in your pocket *and are detained before you leave the store* it's not shoplifting, either. To *steal* something, you have to make off with it. If you wear the store's clothing under yours and leave, just as if you take the stores item and put it in your pocket and leave, you've done the kind of theft referred to as 'shoplifting.'

    Indeed. And concealment of merchandise can be taken to include things like going into a dressing room and putting on a new shirt under your old one, which is not technically shoplifting if you are detained before you leave the store - but this isn't the place to get into legal details, such as where the above is a crime and where it isn't.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I don't buy that, Egmont. If you put something in your pocket *and are detained before you leave the store* it's not shoplifting, either. To *steal* something, you have to make off with it. If you wear the store's clothing under yours and leave, just as if you take the stores item and put it in your pocket and leave, you've done the kind of theft referred to as 'shoplifting.'
    Please re-read my post again, a bit more carefully. We do not disagree.
     
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