The Compulsion To Shoplift

by June 29, 2013
filed under Life

Winona Ryder is one of the most famous shoplifters in the world – a fact that often overshadows the accolades she has received as an actress in movies such as Little Women, The Age of Innocence and Girl Interrupted. In the YouTube video, “Winona Ryder Interviewed Part 1 (1999) Very Candid,” Winona talks about how lonely it was being an actress and how she wasn’t able to openly share her unhappiness because to outsiders it seemed that she lived a charmed life. After being born to hippie intellects and raised half of her childhood in a hippie commune, Winona enrolled in acting school at age 12. She felt judged and scrutinized as a teenager and was once told that she was “not pretty enough” and that she should “go back to wherever she came from . . . and go to school.” When she finally broke through the acting scene, her fame was instantaneous and overwhelming (WSBTHWR 1).

Perhaps this is why in 2008 Winona stole thousands of dollars worth of items from a luxury store – all items that she could have easily paid for. She admits in the article, Why My Shoplifting Arrest Was The Best Thing That Could Have Happened To Me that she was having trouble before she started shoplifting. Many people thought Winona was going to have a “complete meltdown” and as a result, distanced themselves from her, leaving Winona up against what she felt was a wall. She admits that she really needed the time off, especially with the shoplifting incident. The crime led her to engage in some important self-scrutiny by asking questions such as “is it okay if I’m not going to act?” and “is there anything else?” These were daunting questions to a woman who, at the time, knew little about a life outside of the spotlight. She began to see a different path in life that she could embark upon but when it came down to it, Winona realized that acting was her true passion and an actress was who she wanted to remain.

Winona had her own reasons for shoplifting, but why are so many young gurls today following suit and shoplifting even more than boys do? In the article Shoplifting – Girls who Steal from Seventeen Magazine, it states that in 1992, shoplifting added up to 10 000 000 000 dollars worth of items stolen every year…and that was 21 years ago! In the article, 2 gurls, Lisa and Deidre, admit to stealing “at least a dozen times” without having been arrested. The gurls believed that their shoplifting techniques were improving so that they could continue to steal without being caught. That makes me wonder where Lisa and Deidre are today.

Clinical psychologist, Jeff Gottlieb, who runs a help program for shoplifters, says that people have attempted to come up with reasons for why gurls in particular shoplift. However, all we know is that “…shoplifting fulfills some need in a person. This need can be financial, or the need for or a thrill or for approval, or for [many] other reasons” (SGWS 1).

Only a small percentage of gurls steal out of a psychological compulsion called “kleptomania” (SGWS 1) and another small percentage are motivated to steal because they need the money for drugs. When shoplifting becomes a real option for gurls (or guys), it is generally because of a “skewed rationalization” (SGWS 1) – like Winona’s negative headspace and isolation at the time that she shoplifted. The more a gurl steals, the less it becomes “real” to her and the more it becomes a kind of game. She stops worrying about whether it is morally right or wrong, instead she just steals. Nonetheless, as Lisa in the article pointed out, the guilt is always there and it never goes away. Gurls need to realize (just as Winona did) that shoplifting is wrong before their moral compass becomes faulty.

Winona Rider has come a long way from her shoplifting days. Although she doesn’t like to talk about it, she is sincerely sorry and has reemerged from the scandal. I think this is a sign of hope to all gurls who make the wrong decision to shoplift that you can stop but you need to seek help first. One way you can do this is by signing up for Stoplifting, a program at the Elizabeth Fry Society, a not-for profit community agency that helps women with legal issues in Edmonton (Shop Lifters Helped to Kick the Habit 1). It is a 10-session course that runs 3 times a year in January, May and September. Each session is 5 weeks long and group classes are twice a week in the evenings. You can call the Elizabeth Fry Society at 780.421.1175, ext. 29 for more information (SLHKH 1). You can also Google help for your shoplifting addiction regardless of where you live or talk to a relative, partner or friend to gain support in your quest to kick the habit before it’s too late.


Works Cited


“Shoplifters Helped to Kick the Habit.” Shoplifter’s helped to kick the Habit. Edmonton Journal, 29 Jan 2007. Web. 13 Jun 2013.

White, Chelsea. “Why my shoplifting arrest was the best thing that could have happened to me, by Winona Ryder.” Mail Online. N.p., 17 May 2013. Web. 13 Jun 2013.

Support FLURT with Spreadshirt