shopliftingA particular pet peeve of mine, amongst a number of annoying nuances which seems to be increasing faster than our hate mail box, is when people make a point to rattle off their grievances with a particular structure of  the government system without offering any realistic solutions. Despite popular sheep-lief, socialism will not bring about the end of days. Just ask the millions of people who wake up everyday to enjoy such a system. You think capitalism is perfect? Ask yourself many hours a week are you working. Now check your bank account. Now sob softly into the bosom of Uncle Sam, where your tears will later be rung out into 1 fl oz bottles and sold at Walmart for $19.99 as a medicinal tincture for treating poverty.

As we digress a whole lot back to a real topic, I would like to remind our readers that UVSF endeavors to the best of our ability to sustain an objective approach to all content and absolutely no approach to politics whatsoever, terribly jokes withstanding

Upon recently returning to my hometown for a visit with family and friends, I was introduced to a crew of young Robin-Hood-esque delinquents by an old friend of mine whom brought me up to speed on their situation. 

“These big businesses blow into town like they own the place, hiring kids to work in shitty conditions and offering low prices that no other shop can even compete with. They say it’s progress, but look around us. It’s fucked up and un-American.” My friend explains as he casually smokes dope on a bench outside of a local Walmart. “I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and fucking tired of being pushed around by corporate America. In my mind, they owe me a great deal. I’m trying to even the playing field, not just for myself, but for every hard working American who is being taken advantage of by these scum sucking lizard bitches! Someone has to, right?” 

UVSF chasin' the trails.

UVSF chasin’ the trails.

And so, for the last 30 days I’ve been hijacked by criminal masterminds, cynical junkies, and anti-capitalism activists on a whirlwind adventure into the heart of lawlessness while learning what it means to be a certified hustler. Your standard career criminal does not work a 9 to 5 job, however, they will more often than naught wear a uniform. Disguises are an imperative part of the job, even if that disguise is that of being one of the “normies”, or your average blue-blooded American shopaholic. It’s a lifestyle that epitomizes the term, “Living in the moment”, and yet requires much forethought. Anyone can thrive in such a life, and yet most are thrust into it against their will. “We do it to survive” Says a gentleman who has been living off of stolen goods for nearly a decade. “I’m just out here trying to function!” Still, it takes a very specific skill set in order to survive. While some are born with the “hustler” gene, and a natural penchant for deception and moral flexibility, a I quickly learned that all of these skills could be easily taught. A good come-up can be anywhere between $100 and as much as $1,500 in a single day’s work. A successful come-up depends on a number of variables, while trying to optimize the controllable ones, and avoid the detrimental ones. Simple things such as time of day (3 p.m. to 6 p.m. is optimal; the busier the better.), fashion (the trick is to blend in, unless a costume is critical to the program, such as a beer delivery man.) Money hustled is never meant to be saved, but blown as glamorously, superfluously, or quickly as possible, typically on meth or heroin. “At least my drug of choice isn’t shopping or TV.” Explains a gentleman with a needle in his arm. “Getting high, after all, is just another way to make more money.” The Hustle Your average hustle involves making money out of nothing. One such technique employed by nearly everyone in the anti-capitalism community is the receipt return, in which a receipt is acquired, either through a friend or on the ground of a store parking lot. Anything paid for in cash or debit can be used to make money. Receipt in hand, travel to the store in which it originated. Know their return policies, know their layout, know their loss prevention techniques. A quick mind and keen eye are imperative; as is a good intuition. Follow these three rules and you will be ready to come-up on the corporate dime. Plot It Know your target inside and out, because the moment you pull up into their parking lot, you are on their time. Every minute you stay within their realm you are attracting heat – imagine sitting in a car for two hours while your partner is inside stealing the whole store. He runs out with a handful of stuff and you drive getaway, but your car has been lingering so long that security has a vivid description in their mind to report to the local cops. The second you become stagnate, you’re dead. If you have a receipt, you can likely look the item you are after up from the corporate website. Make sure the SKU (UPC) numbers are matching exactly, although customer service often only looks at the last four digits. Know what area you can find the item at. Plan, scheme, and plot. Spot It Have your guard up at all times. It is important to not stand out while keeping an eye out for secret shoppers. It’s their job to fuck you up. It’s your job to fuck them up. Kind of a Spy vs Spy relationship. There are certain tell-tale signs to point out secret shoppers. They will have nothing in their shopping carts or will have no cart whatsoever. They will pretend to be reading an item while looking over at you. If you feel like you are being watched and have snagged a secret shopper, abort the mission immediately. Start a new hustle. Alternatively, cameras are the least of your worries. See those black domes on the ceiling? They’re cameras, right? Trick question, about 75% of the time they are either dummy cameras or not watched at all. What you need to worry about is the other people in the store.

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A meth addled criminal getting his come-up on.

As far as shoplifting is concerned, there are two major philosophies here: one involved walking around with a cart, filling it up with meaningless garbage along with the items you want, then covertly pop it on your person when the time is right. The other is the straight shelf to pocket technique, in which you minimize the time in which the item is in your hand. Being seen walking around with an item will not raise questions, but being seen leaving the store without it may; this is why the shopping cart method is preferred, because you can always ditch a shopping cart full to the brim with Doritos as a means of distraction. Got It Once the item has been recovered, it is vital that you act like your average Fonzy consumer. Have an exit strategy prepared. Always be looking ten physical steps ahead. If LP is on to you, you should know by now. Always go with your gut – no come-up is worth going to jail for. This is but the tip of the iceberg for methods in which professional shoplifters make money. Other, more complicated methods involve printing barcodes and hardcore fraud. Never underestimate the power of apathy, but never bank on it either.

For the record, we here at UVSF cannot condone shoplifting or illegal activity of any kind. Some people do it for the stuff; I’ve seen entire entertainment systems worth tens of thousands of dollars, all obtained for free. Some people do this purely for profit, and trust us, it is hard work just like any other job; for those who do this for a living, nothing is untouchable. If they carry it in a store, there is a program to run for it, and if there is a program to run for it, well, consider it already in your hands. Some people do it to feed a habit; these are the ones who eventually get caught up in the heat of a junkie moment. All the same, you would be surprised at the number of people who make a living as anti-capitalism hustlers.

A professional junkie and part-time hustler getting loaded after a lucrative Wal-mart come-up. What else you gonna do with free money?

A professional junkie and part-time hustler getting loaded after a lucrative Wal-mart come-up. What else you gonna do with free money?

Although it was one hell of a ride, when it started to get a little bumpy I knew it was in my best interest to abandon ship. I was witness to the frightening world of the criminal underground. I saw people get tased, arrested, stabbed, OD, allies turning on one another, among a plethora of other atrocities. The flip side can be attractive to not just desperate thugs, but any enthusiast of sex, drugs, and money. While the benefits of this lifestyle can seem appearing at a glance, the long term detriments vastly outweigh the perks of getting free stuff. After a successful heist in which someone walks out of a department store with a 60 inch TV, I ask him, “Do you ever feel bad about doing this?” “Hell no.” he replies. “The way I see it, we are liberating these items held hostage by the evil corporations. It’s like Super Mario, except the princess is always in whichever castle you’re at. Besides,” he continues. “It’s not like we’re stealing from actual people. I would never steal from anything with a face because they would, look all sad and I would feel bad. That, or beat my ass. In any case, I like to look at it more as activism than anything else. We’re out here evening out the economic playing field.” Half-true; when businesses are stolen from, the amount of “shrinkage” determines future prices. With each theft, the business has to increase their prices a fraction of an amount in order to compensate for the stolen goods. This, in turn, drives up all prices across the board for stores with such low prices, which gives other businesses a fighting chance. And then, I think, what is the difference between what these kids are doing and what big businesses are doing to one another on a corporate level? Shoplifting, copyright infringement, burglary, embezzlement, blue collar, white collar –  truly, the class system in America is becoming more and more evident, which has plenty of people pissed off. Activism, indeed; this is pragmatic capitalism at its finest.

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