top of page

What is the difference between stealing and shoplifting?

Updated: Jan 15

When you break it down, shoplifting and stealing are both the same thing. However, there is a slight difference in the way each term is used. In general, the word “stealing” means taking something that does not belong to you without permission or right to do so. In this case, anything taken from another person or company can be theft. However, when referring specifically to shoplifting as an action, “shoplifting” refers to concealing items from a store without paying for them. This article will explain the difference between stealing vs. shoplifting and how to get help if you find yourself in trouble for participating in either activity.

What is Shoplifting?

When you shoplift, you take items from a store before paying for them. It is a crime that is most common in retail stores, especially in the United States where shoplifting is a $36 billion problem.

What is Stealing?

Stealing is the act of taking something without permission or right to do so. Even though stealing and shoplifting are the same thing, the two words are often used to describe different situations. For example, when someone steals money from an ATM, they are taking money that does not belong to them. But people don’t usually call this ATM theft. However, the word shoplifting is often used to describe the act of concealing items in a retail location with the intent of stealing them.

When Is Shoplifting Not Called Shoplifting?

The word “shoplifting” is almost always used in the context of the act of shoplifting. However, there are some situations where the word “shoplifting” is not used. For example, retailers sometimes call their efforts to reduce the amount of money lost to theft “loss prevention”. Likewise, a business that catches shoplifters is called a “loss prevention team”. These terms do not describe shoplifting itself. Instead, they describe the actions retailers take to prevent people from shoplifting. Retailers often use these words because it sounds more like they are doing something beneficial, and that they are not just simply punishing thieves.

Bottom line

The word shoplifting refers specifically to the act of taking items from a store without paying for them. If you shoplift something, you stole it, even if you intended to pay for it later. The difference between shoplifting and stealing is intent. You are stealing if you take something that does not belong to you and you have no intention of paying for it. Likewise, you are shoplifting if you take something from a store without paying for it whether you intended to or not.

Have you been caught stealing or shoplifting?

If you have been caught stealing or shoplifting you may have been ordered by the court to take an anti-theft or shoplifting class. Taking court ordered anti-theft classes online is the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way to fulfill your obligation to complete your course successfully. Advent eLearning anti-theft courses are designed to help you meet your court ordered anti-theft class at an affordable price. Get started with Advent eLearning today.

Advent eLearning courses address a variety of topics including:

Alcohol & Substance Abuse

Anger Management

Animal Care

Boating & Outdoors


Conflict Resolution

Corrective Thinking

Defensive Driving

Financial Crimes

Firearm Responsibility


Hunting Responsibility

Impaired Driving

Juvenile Sexting

Life Skills




Revenge Porn



Traffic Safety

Underage Substance

Victim Impact Panel

6 views0 comments


bottom of page