When disaster has struck, and most of the populace in the affected area is either dead or evacuated, the remaining survivors are sometimes forced to steal from local stores and homes to obtain the goods they need to survive the aftermath.

This situation can cause a moral quandary for people who have a strict code of honor. While most of the characters depicted will have little issues with doing what they need to get by, the NobleShoplifter will struggle with the decision to steal from someone who may or may not be returning for their property at some point. While these characters are often shown to initially struggle with the decision, they will usually come up with a simple solution: they leave behind money or some other valuables that cover the cost of whatever they take. This makes the act less like "stealing" in the mind of the NobleShoplifter, and more "buying without the previous owner's knowledge".

It is not uncommon for the NobleShoplifter's companions to give him or her a hard time about it, arguing that the former owners are very likely dead and that priority should be given to the living. They may also argue that there is nothing to stop other groups of scavengers from taking the valuables the NobleShoplifter leaves behind... in fact, a more unscrupulous member of the NobleShoplifter's own party may find an excuse to backtrack and do exactly that.

This trope is primarily used to portray the moral fiber of a character. In works where the NobleShoplifter is displayed in a positive light, this reflects that they are the kind of person who will do the right thing, regardless of the fact that there are no negative consequences to giving in to the impulse to just take what they need. Other works may serve as a contrast, framing the NobleShoplifter as LawfulStupid while their peers are simply being pragmatic given the circumstances.

A common variation of this trope takes place in non-disaster related stories wherein TheProtagonist needs to get something from a shop, but the shop is closed or the clerk is unavailable. Usually pressed for time, the character will take what they need anyway but leave enough cash behind to cover it.

Contrast DisasterScavengers, PlanetLooters and GentlemanThief. The NobleShoplifter is rarely seen in a ScavengerWorld, as those settings are usually far beyond the point where original ownership matters.
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!!Examples:

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[[folder: Anime & Manga ]]

* In ''Manga/{{Meteor}}'', one of the student survivors of a meteor strike in Japan insists on leaving enough yen behind to cover the cost when his group finds food and water in a convenience store.

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[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* In ''GreenArrow: City Walls'', although the city is without power and looting is rampant, GA insists that his people leave payment whenever they take food or weapons from a store.
* ''ComicBook/BatmanNoMansLand'': A variation occurs in a story that Alfred relates about Thomas Wayne while [[Franchise/{{Batman}} Bruce]] is facing a dilemma, about how he broke into a pharmacy to get drugs to treat a sick child from an impoverished family, and left behind money with an explaining note. This leads to a series of further payments by the increasingly extortionate pharmacist, that only ends when he has Alfred impersonate a police officer in order to recover the note.
* In ''ComicBook/BatmanYearOne'', Bats escape the police for good after they ambushed him in that abandoned building by taking a suit in a shop and leaving money to cover for it.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Film/TwentyEightDaysLater'', after gamboling through a deserted greengrocer's, the heroes leave behind a credit card.
* In ''Film/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows'', Hermione keeps doing this while the trio are on the run. She does this at least once in the book as well, though it isn't really shoplifting then, because she drops the money into the open till from under the cloak.
* After the three runaways from ''Film/OBrotherWhereArtThou'' swipe a pie left cooling on someone's windowsill, Delmar leaves $5 under a rock on the sill as payment.
* In ''Film/PanicInYearZero'' the family comes to a gas station where the owner is taking advantage of the disaster to charge an outrageous ([[HarsherInHindsight for the time]]) price for gasoline. After trying and failing to reason with him, Harry knocks him out, takes the gas, and leaves enough money to pay for the gas at what he considers a fair price.
* Done unknowingly by Shaun in ''Film/ShaunOfTheDead''. When the entire town is deserted, Shaun just goes about his daily business and goes to convenience store to shop for groceries. When he notices the shopkeeper isn't there, he just puts his money on the counter rather than wait for him.
* ''Film/UndeadOrAlive'': When the trio of [[TheWildWest wild west]] outcasts raid an unoccupied general store for supplies in the midst of an emerging ZombieApocalypse, the cowboy-wannabe Elmer wonders if it's not wrong to be stealing despite the circumstance. Luke counters that rather than stealing, they're about to become the owner's "favorite customers" before tossing a large wad of bills on the counter.

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** Captain Carrot in ''Discworld/TheFifthElephant'' who insists on leaving money behind when he takes food from isolated farmhouses whilst trailing a werewolf pack into the mountains. The houses themselves are not actually unoccupied, it's just that Carrot looks scary so the owners tend to hide when he approaches and acting as a NobleShoplifter is easier than dragging them out and buying it normally.
** Another variant: werewolf Angua sometimes kills chickens during her "time of the month," but always remembers where she's been and leaves money under the door. She's a strict vegetarian the rest of the time.
* From the second book of the ''Literature/HisDarkMaterials'' series, ''The Subtle Knife'':
-->Before they left, Will dropped some coins in the till behind the counter.
-->"What you doing?" she said.
-->"Paying. You have to pay for things. Don't they pay for things in your world?"
-->"They don't in this one! I bet those other kids en't paying for a thing."
-->"They might not, but I do."
* Jack Fleming from ''Literature/TheVampireFiles'' does this when he needs new clothes, as he can't visit stores during daytime business hours and would cast no reflection in the mirrors of a tailor's shop. So he enters at night, takes what he needs off the rack, and leaves money on the counter.
* In ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows'', Hermione does this at least once in the book, though it isn't really shoplifting then, because she drops the money into the open till from under the cloak.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* In ''Series/TheIncredibleHulk'' live action TV series, David Banner often did things like steal pants when necessary after changing back from the Hulk, but left money behind. But... [[FridgeLogic where does he keep his wallet]]? On second thought, [[AssShove never mind]].
* On ''Series/{{Castle}}'', the eponymous Castle's daughter is so noble that she pays when her ''friends'' shoplift.
* Inverted at one point on ''Series/TheWalkingDead'' - an abandoned pharmacy that two characters scavenge has a sign (implied to have been left by the original owner) telling survivors they are welcome to take whatever they need.
* One episode of ''Series/{{Bones}}'', Booth makes a comment that "you gotta be bad sometimes to be good," meaning sometimes even the best people need to cut loose and do something "bad". Toward the end of the episode, while having dinner at the Founding Fathers, Brennan admits that she wants to try doing something "bad". Booth suggests that they skip out of the cafe without paying for their dinner and Brennan agrees. While she rushes for the door, Booth quietly leaves a few folded bills on the counter without telling her.
* In ''Series/VanPires'', the Motor-Vators in their transformed states need gasoline just as much as the Van-Pires. They make a point of leaving behind money to cover the gasoline they take from gas stations.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Music Videos ]]

* The music videos for "Is Anybody Home?" by OurLadyPeace shows a woman waking up in a suddenly [[GhostCity empty city]]. At one point she goes into a store to buy something. There's nobody at the cash register, and at first she simply leaves the money on the counter... the trope is then subverted in that she changes her mind and takes the money anyway.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games ]]

* A similar situation is found in ''Videogame/{{Earthbound}}''. In [[CrapsaccharineWorld Happy Valley]], there's a food cart with a sign saying they trust you to take what you need and leave the money. However, in this case, the player ''does'' have the option to [[VideoGameCrueltyPotential leave without paying]], so this trope depends on the player.
* Mario in ''Videogame/SuperMarioRPG''. When the Mushroom Kingdom is under attack, the item shopkeeper can be found cowering in the back of the shop, with a sign on the counter saying to take what you want and leave the money. Reading it allows you to buy items as if the shopkeeper was there, with no option to leave without paying.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}'', Fei does this at a shop in Nisan at a point in the game where the town has been evacuated due to an invasion (after the party kills all the invaders, of course).
* A variation in ''VideoGame/UltimaIV'': all of the shopkeepers who sell magical reagents are present at the shops, but also all happen to be blind. The player has the option of buying as many reagents as they want and paying only 1 gp, but due to the virtue system present in the game, cheating the reagents woman results in a hit to Honesty and Honor, so you're really encouraged to pay full price to stay virtuous.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Webcomic ]]

* In ''{{Goblins}}'', [[ThePaladin Big Ears]] insists that Thaco leaves money for the food he steals. In this case, the reason he can't shop normally is because he's a goblin in a city where goblins are feared.
* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'', Elan does this to get a new lute while fleeing Azure City.
-->'''Elan's Note:''' Sorry we stole from you [[note]]twice[[/note]]. It was for [[note]]really[[/note]] good cause.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* A variant occurs in one episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheAmazingWorldOfGumball''. Convinced that the impending solar eclipse will cause the end of the world, Gumball, Darwin, and Richard raid the local grocery store for supplies...with every intention of paying, of course, but the lines are obscene and the self-checkout refuses to behave. In the end, they charge out the door with a cart full of groceries and throw a fistful of money in the pursuing security guard's face.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Arthur}}'' does this in an ImagineSpot.
* This happens in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/CodenameKidsNextDoor'' when Number 2 has to go to the grocery store, but it's already closed. He picks up the items he needs and leaves money behind, but still gets accused of trying to steal.
* In ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'', Jack Ryder, having just transformed into The Creeper for the first time, ransacks a thrift store for new clothes while the [[SuperStoicShopkeeper clerk]] provides [[DeadpanSnarker deadpan commentary]]. Batman is able to deduce The Creeper's identity because The Creeper paid for his purchase with Jack Ryder's credit card.


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[[folder: Real Life ]]

* One of the triggers for the French Revolution was the government removing economic controls that kept the price of a loaf of bread low. Seeing the price of their staple foodstuff rocket overnight - to more than the average daily wage - the Parisian people took matters into their own hands and took over bakeries and flour-millers by force. However, by popular consent, they didn't just steal the bread: they very scrupulously distributed it to the people, who left behind the pre-inflationary price of seven sous per loaf, which they thought was a fair price. It was only when the Army was called in to quell the bread riots and summarily hang "ringleaders" that people started grabbing what they could and running. And so a revolution started...not over principles of liberty, equality and brotherhood, but over something as basic and important as a subsistence diet.

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