Elderly Shoplifter: What Would You Do?


Shoplifting Elderly

As the afternoon wears on the shoplifter gets off the hook less and less. Multiple customers spot the elderly shoplifter and immediately report her to the manager. Many of these customers, like Gayle Gaul, are infuriated by the theft. "It makes me angry to see someone do something like that because my husband works hard and I don't have a lot of money. But if I can't afford something, I don't buy it."

Two other customers, Deborah Moore and Diane Still, show little hesitation in their decision to turn in the elderly shoplifter. They are more shocked than angry. For Deborah and Diane, it is a matter of the principal, of right and wrong. "She can't steal. It's wrong."

A crime is a crime but what makes most customers report the elderly shoplifters isn't just stealing, it's that they appear to be greedy -- taking more than observers think is necessary. Few say they can tolerate the sight of someone helping himself or herself to whatever they want. But, at the end of the day, there is one shopper who can't keep herself from looking beyond law and order. Ironically, she is an ex-cop. Cheryl Painter witnesses both the old woman shoplifting and crying as she is getting turned in by other shoppers. Despite those criminal actions, Cheryl feels bad for her and offers to buy the old woman groceries.

"Well, sometimes, people, if they're desperate, they have to eat," Pinter says. "I still wanted to buy her groceries whether she got arrested or not. She still has to eat."

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