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The booster, the snitch, and the bogus false arrest victim: retailers and shoplifters in inter-war America and Britain

Scott, P. M. ORCID: (2023) The booster, the snitch, and the bogus false arrest victim: retailers and shoplifters in inter-war America and Britain. Enterprise and Society, 24 (2). pp. 123-148. ISSN 1467-2235

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/eso.2021.26


This article examines shoplifting from department stores and variety chain stores in interwar America and Britain. Patterns of shoplifting show strong similarities - with stores facing a predominantly female, and disproportionately affluent, army of amateur shoplifters, together with a much smaller corps of professional thieves. The incidence and characteristics of shoplifting are explored, together with the stores’ legal and other strategies to deter shoplifters. The article also examines why apparently prosperous women had the highest propensity to shoplift. Britain and the USA had strong commonalities in terms of open display retail formats, the methods used to deter shoplifters, and typical legal penalties. However, America had one critical difference – the much higher incidence of a type of store criminal who specialized in deliberately getting apprehended, in order to sue the store for false arrest and, often, false imprisonment, slander, and a range of related charges. This reflected the higher damages typically awarded by U.S. courts compared to their British counterparts, inflated by local antagonism to retail corporations, together with a system – at least in some U.S. cities - whereby corrupt lawyers and judges connived in shoplifting acquittals that paved the way for lawsuits.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:98835
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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