Sleight of Hand

February 22nd, 2011

Last night, again, on TV, they had a segment where a plainclothes shoplifting prevention guard with a hidden camera tails someone in a supermarket whom they suspect is a shoplifter, sees them put stuff in their bag / jacket / pants, and then busts them when they leave the store. It’s a pretty common feature on Japanese TV.

The narrator (or sometimes the secret shopper) will often say something like “if they leave the store without paying, they will have broken the law, and the plainclothes security guard will catch them”. They say this often enough (over the many years I’ve seen segments like this on Japanese TV) that I’m fairly sure that in Japan, putting products in your bag, pocket, etc., is not itself illegal. It’s only illegal if you take it out of the store.

That leads me to a few things which I think would be fun to try, but either have the good sense to avoid, or merely lack the sleight of hand necessary to pull off.

1) When you realize a secret shopper is trailing you, start stuffing all kinds of things into your bag, pants, shirt, etc. They will, of course, assume you’re shoplifting, because otherwise why would you be stuffing things down your pants? Then go to the register, pull it all out, and pay for it normally. I just like to imagine the WTF reaction that the guard would have.

2) This requires superior sleight-of-hand: When you realize a secret shopper is trailing you, stuff a few things semi-obviously into your pockets / bag / etc. Then use your sleight of hand to return it all to the shelves without the secret shopper noticing you. When you leave the store, you will of course be stopped. I think it would be amusing to see the WTF as the guard cannot find anything on you, despite being absolutely sure that they saw you pocket a good dozen items.

3) Requiring possibly supernatural levels of sleight-of-hand: You know that magic trick where it looks like an egg comes out of your mouth, followed by another, and another, and another, forever? This would be the inverse of that: Like in 2, you would pocket something, while secretly returning it to the the shelf. In this variation, though, you would just keep going, and going, and going. At a certain point, the person following you will become amazed at how much you have managed to pocket, without your clothes bulking up and giving it away. But you just keep going. Maybe for an hour or two. At a certain point, the person trailing you will begin doubting their own sanity, as they see that you’ve now pocketed 50 frozen turkeys, 20 2-liter bottles of juice, 40 heads of lettuce, 10 bags of rice, etc., and show now sign of stopping.

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