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What counts as shoplifting in Massachusetts?

Some people try to justify shoplifting as a minor, victimless crime, but these justifications are false. Shoplifting is very serious and causes retailers to lose significant revenue--sometimes millions of dollars--every year.

The Massachusetts criminal justice system identifies several different types of shoplifting, and it takes all of these crimes very seriously. Before swiping another item, it is important for would-be shoplifters to understand what counts as shoplifting in our state.

Shoplifting by concealing merchandise

One type of shoplifting, and perhaps the most common, is shoplifting by concealing merchandise. This involves taking, carrying away or transferring merchandise without buying it. It might involve a shoplifter hiding a product under their clothing and trying to walk out of the store without paying.

Shoplifting by switching a price tag

Switching the price tag on a product with a tag for a cheaper item is another form of shoplifting. Many of the shoplifters who try to get away with shoplifting by switching a price tag believe that this is merely trickery, not theft. In fact, law enforcement still considers it shoplifting and will penalize it accordingly.

Shoplifting by switching containers

The same goes for transferring a product to a different container, perhaps one that has a lower price. This practice is called shoplifting by switching containers. It is similar to shoplifting by switching a price tag in that it deprives a merchant of the product's true retail value.

Shoplifting by ringing up a false price

It is also illegal to intentionally ring up a false, lower price to avoid paying an item's full value. This type of shoplifting is not always perpetrated by shoppers. It is frequently undertaken by employees who use a store's price scanner to bilk their employer out of revenue.

Removing a shopping cart

Yes, removing a shopping cart from a parking lot is a crime--and a serious one at that. It's not uncommon for joy-riders to spirit a shopping cart out of a parking lot, but beware: Removing a shopping cart from a store parking lot can be prosecuted as shoplifting.

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Anthony M. Salerno, P.C.
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