Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Stolen moments" article

Apr. 5 "Stolen moments": I cut out this article by Heidi Staseson in the National Post on Jul. 23, 2011.  It's a psychology article about shoplifting.  It's very insightful.    Here's the whole article:  

Two years ago on a busy Saturday, colleagues in retail Jessica Hinkson and Megan Calverley watched agog as a customer ripped through half a pant leg of $300 designer jeans from the high-end Toronto clothing store in which they worked.

Desperate to unhinge the plastic security tag, with scissors in hand, the young woman cut with a mission. Noticing all eyes upon her, she “dropped and ran.”

“She actually destroyed the product she came in for,” Hinkson says.

Hinkson, 33, and Calverley, 24, are now the co-authors of Vicious Little Bitches, a blog that details the “tell-all true tales of retail and what [employees] really deal with.”

This was just one example among scads of stories the duo recount — including that of a well-known Canadian television actress from a teen series — where well-heeled unsuspecting individuals got caught with their fists full.

“There are no stereotypes for the types of people that steal,” Calverley explains.

Shoplifters may look different from one another in Speedos or string bikinis, hold different jobs and socio-political values, but each has a penchant for pinching.

Further, some thieves’ wallets are already padded, while others carry highlighted Bibles or Torahs; and many of them are often really, really nice people.

They’re doctors, political figures, socialites and Plain Janes and Johns. And while they might have it all, they crave more.

 So why do so-called normal people steal?

“Obviously, it’s not about money,” says Miami veteran criminal defence attorney and former prosecutor Mark Eiglarsh.

“The common thread, generally is that almost all of them have a dark hole inside they are trying to fill,” he adds.
Eiglarsh says these folks get a rush from the rip-off and, contrary to what many might think, their brazen acts aren’t always a conscious choice.

“It’s not that they’re not held responsible, but it falls under the umbrella of addiction,” says Eiglarsh, who often appears as a commentator on CNN sister station HLN and its Dr. Drew show, and whose former thieving clients are all women — many of whom are the wives of Fortune 500 business owners.

And it’s not just relegated to retail.

Sundry items can disappear from friends’ dinner parties where a guest, say, swiftly swoops up to the master bedroom, nabs a silk scarf and makes a slinky descent with said item stuffed down skinny jeans or in a padded bra cup.

Toronto criminal defence lawyer Tushar Pain adds he’s had clients pull combo acts where “they’ve bought $200 worth of groceries and then they steal a battery.”

But what does swiping batteries, belts or bejewelled olive forks do for someone’s joie de vivre?

Why did Britney Spears, back in her 2007 pink-wig days, lift and parade among paparazzi the $1.37 Bic lighter she nabbed from a California gas station?

Pain says most of the time “have-it-all” clients don’t have the answers.

But after 18 years in practice with more than 200 thieves, he’s discerned their acts are typically a cry for help, clouded by feelings of isolation and an overarching need for “someone to listen to them … in a society where people just don’t have time to talk.”

“Once you peel back the layers you can see that there is something else going on,” Pain explains.
As the client unleashes, he’ll suggest she consider counselling.

Enter Dr. Will Cupchik, a registered psychologist and author of Why Honest People Shoplift or Commit other Acts of Theft: The Assessment and Treatment of Atypical Theft Offenders. He says “atypical” stealing is about more than mere addiction. Rather, it’s directly related to “unresolved and inappropriately dealt-with losses” — particularly those that are “perceived as unfair and personally meaningful.”

Take for example the case of his well-heeled Toronto patient — “an incredibly upright woman from Rosedale” — who came to him after being charged with theft of a Royal Doulton figurine from the former Simpson’s department store.

“Why would I do that? I have enough money to buy as much Doulton china as a I want! I’m a good, honest person,” Cupchik’s patient exclaimed.

It turns out the image on the piece was that of a little girl with her head resting against the knee of a granny-type lady sitting in a rocking chair — a doppelgänger of the surrogate grandmother she had adopted as a child, who was now dying and to whom she had recently paid last respects in hospital.

“That was our relationship,” the woman told Cupchik. “She was like a mother to me.”

Cupchik says he counsels more doctors and nurses than any other category of theft patients — “professions that deal with death on a regular basis.”

Seven years ago, a pediatrician patient visited him from Texas. He was voted the most respected doctor in his hospital, was head of his department, made a ton of money. But he couldn’t cope with constant death.

Instead, he started stealing children’s toys. He got caught and risked losing his medical licence.

“Talk about unfair losses!” Cupchik remarks. “Nurses, doctors, firefighters, police officers — they all meet death on a regular basis. The rest of us just don’t deal with that stuff.” But everybody experiences loss from time to time. So why don’t we all let sticky fingers run amok?

“The fact is we all do something,” Cupchik says. “Some people eat too much, some people work out too much, run away too much or party too much. We all have our ways of coping with losses and, hopefully in most cases, we actually work through it or grieve in an appropriate way. It’s when we don’t grieve appropriately that we’re going to act out — and one of the ways could be stealing.”

So how does that explain startlet Lindsay Lohan’s latest five-finger foible, which resulted in her recent house arrest?

Or hearken back to more than a decade ago, right here in this land of “oh-so-sorry” politesse, when Marilyn Lastman, the wife of Toronto’s then-Mayor Mel was detained and arrested for allegedly stealing a pair of $155 designer jeans.

Or the cringe-inducing moment when NDP MP and human rights crusader Svend Robinson tearfully told a 2004 press junket he’d swiped a $21,000 ring from a Vancouver jewellery auction?

Do these cases each fall under the rubric of Cupchick’s “atypical” acts?

“It’s atypical if somebody has a lot of money or is a celebrity or a politician and the last thing they need to do is steal,” he explains. “In a way, it’s unfair to single celebrities out, but of course we do because they’re the most dramatic examples,” he notes.

“But whether the person is a celebrity or they have a lot of money, the actual psychological reasons [behind the act] are often the very same as, say, when somebody is a generally honest, upright member of society.”

But Cupchik wants to make it clear there’s a difference between a privileged person who’s been arrested for multiple crimes and/or misdemeanours — who is acting out rebelliously — from the thief (celebrity or not) “who is prominent, upright, and who pretty well lives an exemplary life in every respect — and then shoplifts.”
Stealing can be just another way of acting out in a rebellious way. That’s not what happens in most cases.


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