Kleptomaniacs cope with stress of holiday shopping
December 4, 1997
Web posted at: 1:31 a.m. EST (0631 GMT)
From reporter Joan MacFarlane
LIVONIA, Michigan (CNN) -- Imagine being terrified of entering a store because of a compulsive urge to steal the merchandise.
Although many consumers find the rush and crowds of holiday shopping intimidating, kleptomaniacs have to cope with the stress of the holiday season coupled with their urge to shoplift.
With heightened crowds at local malls, holiday shopping presents a challenge for retailers. Larry Meijer of the Michigan Retailers Association points to an increased problem with shoplifting.
"What happens during the holiday season is we have more shoppers and more sales and more shoplifting--the problem is heightened by the amount of sales taking place," he says.
People shoplift for a variety of reasons. Some steal for profit, while others help themselves to an item because they simply cannot afford it. Others, meanwhile, have become addicted to shoplifting.
A security guard monitors a Michigan store
As stores become more crowded, store detectives have a harder time keeping their eyes on the customers.
Retailers say shoplifters don't seem to fit a specific profile. Likewise, just about any kind of merchandise is susceptible to theft. Retail associations estimate that more than $15 billion worth of merchandise walks out of store doors every year.
And that's pricey news for customers, since falling retail profits mean rising prices.
According to the Michigan Retailers Association, between three and five percent of a purchase price goes to cover security and lost merchandise.
Five years ago, Terry Schulman formed "CASA: Cleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous". He says his addiction became so bad that he would steal something every day.
"The addictive-compulsive shoplifter like myself and most of the people who come to the group get involved in this behavior as a way to cope with life," Schulman says.
For most at the CASA meeting, the stress of the holidays and the need to go into stores increase the risk that they might steal.
CASA was formed as a support vehicle. Some people come because of court order, but most come because they truly want to get better.
"Keep coming back -- yes, that's the key word. Keep coming back. Yes. Thank you," says one member.