DR. WALLACE: I'm 14, and so is my best friend. We spent a lot of our free time after school and on the weekends at the mall. We have a lot of fun there. We meet other friends and guys we have never seen before. We also try on clothes, and we always get something to eat there, too.
This girl is a good friend, and I like her very much. Her family has a lot of money, and they live in a very expensive house on the beach. When we go out shopping together, she always has plenty of spending money. I'm not envious because my parents also do a good job of supporting my three brothers and me, but I don't spend that much at the mall.
Last Saturday, my girlfriend and I went to one of the really ritzy malls in Newport Beach. We were planning to shop a little and then look for cute guys. We were also hoping to see a movie star (they shop at this mall sometimes) and then have lunch.
By noon, our mall visit turned into a nightmare. After leaving one of the department stores, a man with a security badge and a walkie-talkie asked us to follow him back to the store. He took us to a security office at the mall and asked my friend if she had anything in her purse that she didn't pay for. All of a sudden, my friend started crying and told the man that she had some makeup and costume jewelry she forgot to pay for. The man then asked me if I "forgot" to pay for anything, and I told him no. He took my word for it. Then he told my friend that he had observed her shoplifting and he would call both her mother and my mother to come get us.
Of course, I didn't get into trouble, but my girlfriend sure did! She is now grounded for three months and not allowed out of the house except for school.
Why would she want to steal anything when she and her family have quite a lot of money? I'm in a state of shock and don't know what to think about this. I still just can't understand it. She never once mentioned stealing anything to me. Why in the world would she do such a foolish thing? — Friend of Shoplifter, Irvine, California
FRIEND OF SHOPLIFTER: Shoplifting is a widespread crime that affects everyone who shops. We all pay higher prices for our merchandise to cover the losses stores suffer from theft.
What is unusual about shoplifters is that they usually have enough money with them to pay for the items they steal. Sometimes they have no use for what they take. Some teens give shoplifting a try just for the thrill of it. It's a source of excitement — until they get caught. Then, as you have observed, it turns into a humiliating nightmare.
Beyond the sheer thrill-seeking element, shoplifting often does have psychological roots. It can be a cry for attention or a misdialed way of signaling that something is wrong in their lives.
Fortunately for you, you were uninvolved and got to see how devastating this type of behavior can be. Hopefully your friend will get the help she needs to make positive future changes in her life.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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