In high school (could be worse -- this could be another story that starts, "One time, when I was in college..." :) ) my parents caught me shoplifting. Well, they didn't actually catch me in the act -- they caught me in the aftermath. Perhaps I should start at the beginning, rather than at the end.
I think it was my sophomore year. I was in the mall with one of my friends, let's call him Abe, and I decided I wanted a particular paperback from B. Dalton's, so I pocketed it. The strange part is that I had the money -- I had a rather lucrative Sunday paper route thing going that paid mucho dinero in return for early mornings -- I just had the urge, and acted on it. I wouldn't call it an impulse (hi, mcsassy!), because I actually contemplated the act, and decided to do it. Premeditation, and all that jazz.
Abe thought this was great. He had this public persona that implied he did the same all the time -- he had a real bad-boy, nihilistic kinda thing going -- and he said we should work together. Thus was born our partnership.
We'd go into the stores and browse: take things out, look at them, put them back. When we put them back, though, we'd put them all together in one spot. Then we'd leave, and repeat as necessary at the other stores we were going to hit.
I'd go buy something at CVS, and get one of those sturdy bags they used to have, with the heavy plastic handles. They looked like paper grocery bags, but they were entirely made of rather heavy-duty plastic, perfect for our nefarious purposes.
Then we'd go back to the stores, and one of us would ask questions of the person at the counter --
- Can you look something up for me? Who wrote Nemesis? No, not that one -- it's sci-fi -- I think it might be Asimov. Does it have the publication date? No, that's too new... are there any other books by the same name by different authors?
-- while the other would quickly and quietly scoop our pile into the bag. He'd then browse around a bit, and leave. The first guy would manage to dead-end the clerk, typically by narrowing in on something that simply didn't exist, and he'd take off too.
This worked absurdly well. So well, in fact, that we'd soon picked up a few hundred dollars worth of stuff. We got another friend involved too, let's call him Ben, and the third set of eyes allowed us to post someone in the next aisle over, to give a warning if the clerk was coming that way.
Ben used to steal stuff from computer stores and return it (without a receipt, of course) for cash. He was a bit bigger risk taker than either Abe or I; one time, he used a big-assed Kay-Bee toy store bag in Waldenbooks, and the bottom ripped out, spilling loot he'd just lifted from their shelves onto their floor. He didn't bat an eye... he just scooped it all back into the bag, readjusted his grip, and walked on out. They didn't even comment.
It turned out that that was the day we got caught, though, by my folks. They saw this huge stack of books in a Kay-Bee bag -- why did we leave it in plain view? -- and, being the project kids they were, deduced in zero time what we were up to. They made me give back the stuff in the bag, and all the other stuff I admitted I'd lifted, and banned me from seeing Abe anymore. They never liked Abe, so this was a good excuse for them. I downplayed Ben's involvement, and was still allowed to hang around with him. Truth be told, and I'm sure they knew, I still saw Abe a lot, too.
In the end, we'd probably stolen thousands of dollars of stuff: that last day alone was up around $800. I think we may have had something to do with B. Dalton's decision to stop selling computer software. The timing was certainly right.
It's not something I'm particularly proud of, but at least I went into crime in an organized fashion, eh? That's something, at least.