"In this life, one thing countsThe preferred method a Street Urchin uses to acquire stuff — since they're too poor to afford it legitimately — is to sneak it out of their mark's pocket and/or into their own. A Rebellious Princess sometimes does this for the sheer thrill of it, or because they honestly believe they don't have to pay for anything; expect some kind of Freudian Excuse to come into play. The Kleptomaniac Hero also does this to anything that isn't nailed down and/or can be sold for money. Someone with Sticky Fingers does it merely because they want or are compelled to. When this is done to a retail establishment, this is known as shoplifting. Ballistic Discount is a subtrope which adds murder to the ensemble and will likely get you killed if you should ever try it in a real gun shop. Percussive Pickpocket is a method of invoking this trope where the theft is disguised as a harmless bump on the street.
In the bank, large amounts
I'm afraid these don't grow on trees
You've got to pick a pocket or two!"
In the bank, large amounts
I'm afraid these don't grow on trees
You've got to pick a pocket or two!"
— Fagin, Oliver!
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- Some commercials for Burger King claims that the chain practices "reverse pickpocketing" by sneaking money back into their customers' pockets.
- In one PSA about piracy, a kid is seen stealing a chocolate bar from a store. When his father finds out, he asks his son where he learned to steal. The son then claims that he thought that it was okay since his dad steals satellite signals.
- Another PSA featured a subversion: A stereotypical punk kid snatches a purse after a woman leaves it behind at a bus stop. As he runs away, he's pursued by a police car. The end of the ad reveals that the kid actually grabbed the purse so he could return it.
Anime and Manga
- The Black Jack story "Tetsu of the Yamanote Line" revolves around the titular Tetsu, a notorious pickpocket, and his friendly rivalry with a police detective who's sworn to catch him red-handed. When Tetsu gets his fingers cut off after trying to rob some yakuza, the detective brings in Black Jack to fix Tetsu's fingers.
- At least one student in Great Teacher Onizuka has a habit of shoplifting because she feels neglected by her workaholic parents.
- In Runaways, when the protagonists go out to buy food, Nico warns them all "Remember, you're invisible to most adults until you start shoplifting, so go easy on the five finger discounts".
Films — Animated
- Disney's Aladdin. Street Urchin Aladdin and his monkey friend Abu steal a melon for breakfast in the city's marketplace. After they meet Princess Jasmine, Abu snags some apples and gold pieces this way.
- The Thief in The Thief and the Cobbler is such an inveterate kleptomaniac that he even picks his own pocket.
- Nick casually lifts a snack from a fruit stall as he and Judy walk past.
- In the end credits, Weaselton is shown picking cash out of a bystander's hip pocket.
Films — Live-Action
- Young Charlie Chaplin in Shanghai Knights.
- Used a lot in the The Three Stooges. In the short Loco Boy Makes Good, Curly is apparently a slick enough pickpocket to steal $50 and a pocket watch form someone. Yet in other shorts, he's caught stealing silverware and anything not nailed down. The other Stooges are guilty of this from time to time
- In Animal House, one of the characters steals food for a party by hiding it in his jacket. The check-out girl notices, but doesn't turn him in. Two of the items hidden in the guy's jacket are a couple of small roasts, and they're hidden so that they look like boobs.
- In the Charlie Chaplin film The Floorwalker, a group of shoppers strip a display in a department store bare while the salesman is trying run The Tramp out of the store.
- In Cas and Dylan, shoplifting is one of Dylan Morgan's steady habits, much to the consternation of her traveling partner Cas. Her last pilfering in the film is a CD of bluegrass music - a peace offering for an earlier scene where she made fun of Cas' insistence on listening to a bluegrass radio station during their crosscountry trip.
- In Oliver Twist, Oliver joins a street gang who are trained in the arts of pickpocketing.
- Take A Thief by Mercedes Lackey also features a pickpocketing training school that main character Skif attends for a while. Again, there's a lot of similarities to Oliver Twist.
- In the third book of Codex Alera, High Lady Antillus is bullying Rufus Scipio, a.k.a. Tavi. He responds by acting meek, and the moment she's out of earshot, pulls her purse out of his pocket. How else is the only Muggle in the setting going to get revenge on a Person of Mass Destruction? This turns out to be a major plot point.
- In a short story by Roald Dahl, the narrator gives a hitchhiker a lift and has a rather interesting discussion with the guy, who is a professional
pickpocketfingersmith. The hitchhiker is very proud of his work and is even able to remove the belt from the narrator without attracting attention. Apparently he makes a living by going to horse races and stealing from people who win several games (though he prides himself in never stealing from poor people or anyone who loses). At the end of the story, when a police officer writes down the narrator's information for speeding, the fingersmith steals said notes so they won't get caught.
- Watch Corporal Nobby Nobbs of Discworld is an expert at this, having been an Artful Dodger when he was a child. Everyone knows this, and nobody finds it more than mildly annoying at this point (the official Watch procedure for getting money out of Petty Cash is "Go find Nobby and make him give it back"). The climax to Thud! even relies on the assumption that he will have a certain MacGuffin on him, simply because it looked valuable and was in his vicinity for a while.
- Kate Ross's Regency sleuth Julian Kestrel has a valet who used to be a pickpocket (which is why he's called "Dipper"). Every so often this ability comes in handy in solving a murder.
- In Georgette Heyer's Friday's Child, Viscount Sheringham's Tiger is a former street urchin and pickpocket. Sherry eventually teaches him not to steal from his master's friends, but the skill comes into play in unraveling the plot.
Live Action TV
- In Degrassi: The Next Generation, Control Freak Liberty tries to make nice with the school bad boys. When she tries to impress them by saying she'll provide a "five-finger discount," they're hysterical that this dork thinks this phrase is cool. A few episodes later, as the bad boys are shoplifting, the ringleader flexes his fingers and says, as if he thinks it's cool, "I can get us a five-finger discount."
- Walter's sister-in-law Marie in Breaking Bad is a chronic shoplifter.
- This is part of Parker's repertoire in Leverage. They have an actual pickpocketing expert, Apollo Robbins, on staff to make sure it's done right. He appeared in one episode as Parker's Evil Counterpart in another crew and they end up in a pickpocketing duel.
- Dawn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns out to have a bit of kleptomania, but after that little side plot is solved it's quickly forgotten.
- In Cougar Town, Jules is upset that she didn't get in trouble when she was younger like the others, so she tries shoplifting to prove herself. She gets help from Laurie, who is apparently a pro, able to sneak out a hair drier in Jules purse. They get caught and put in "grocery store jail". Jules eventually does prove she can be a criminal by stealing the manager's pen when she hugs him.
- Hanna and Mona from Pretty Little Liars were both shoplifters (in fact, the scene in which Mona steals a scarf is pretty much her Establishing Character Moment). However, Hanna was later caught by the police, which resulted on her mom having an affair with Detective Wilden to prevent charges (plus getting blackmailed by A because of it), so she quickly drops this.
- In Doctor Who TVM "The TV Movie" the Eighth Doctor demonstrates a talent for pickpocketing people while directly speaking with them. He uses this talent to steal an ID card and a gun... which he uses to hold himself hostage.
- In My Name Is Earl, the title character was doing this regularly along with all of his other thievery before he discovered karma, and decided to make up for all the bad things he had done.
- In one episode of The Now Show Mitch Benn sang about the closure of Woolworths.
Where will all the chavs go now,
To do their shoplifting?
They got everything they wanted at Woolies,
And they never paid for a damn thing.
Where will all the schemies go,
To nick stuff now?
They're gonna have to figure out how to get past the scanners
At TK-Maxx somehow.
- Lampshaded in the Discworld PC game: Rincewind remarks that lovable street urchins are well-known for that sort of thing.
- In Fable, the player can steal just about everything not environment geometry as long as their dexterity is high enough and nobody's looking.
- It's possible to "reverse pickpocket" them, i.e. sneaking items into their possession, such as grenades which are activated as soon as you exit the menu. The game keeps track of how many times you've done this under "Pants Exploded", and Fallout 3 awards the Psychotic Prankster achievement for pulling it off the first time.
- Planting items on NPCs is also useful for getting unique equipment from them (by giving them stronger but more common armor or stealing their ammo and planting a different weapon with some of its ammo, which the NPC will usually equip if you leave the building or town and come back). In some cases, you can also give skill-boosting equipment to characters who provide services based on those skills (most useful with Repair) or remove Haggle-boosting equipment from merchants.
- The Elder Scrolls
- Pretty much standard practice for the series, especially for beginner characters who have not yet gotten into all of the series' Money for Nothing. Steal some stuff, take it to a different merchant (or a dedicated "fence" starting with Oblivion), sell it, rinse, repeat.
- In Morrowind, the very first Thieves' Guild quest for Sugar-Lips Habasi involves stealing a diamond from an Alchemist shop in such a fashion. This is far from the only quest in the Thieves Guild quest line to feature this, in Morrowind or in the rest of the series.
- In Thief, Garrett usually aims for more lucrative jobs, but he's not above stealing from passerby when money's tight and the rent is due. In addition, he was recruited into the Keepers as a child because he was caught trying to make a grab from one.
- Luke of Tales of the Abyss is a Royal Brat who has been sequestered in his mansion for years ever since the attempted kidnapping. He doesn't really get the concept of paying for things, until he gets a rude awakening from an apple merchant.
- In Assassin's Creed II and its two sequels Ezio Auditore can do this to passers-by to gain a few coins. Certain missions involve using the skill to surreptitiously acquire important items. Particularly satisfying, after bribing a herald to stop bad-mouthing the Assassins, you can turn around and lift your bribe right back out of his pocket.
- Kingdom of Loathing once had as an Item of the Month, a pair of pants that explicitly grants a "5-Finger Discount" when worn. (It also grants various other thiefly bonuses; why the 5-finger discount translates into only 5% off at stores, isn't clear.)
- Referred to by name by the Allied Thief unit in Command & Conquer: Red Alert, their purpose being to infiltrate Soviet ore refineries and steal their money.
- Referred to as a "two-bicep discount" in The Bloody Nipple Saga.
- Due to the art style, Haley Starshine of The Order of the Stick once refers to this as the three-finger discount.
- Batman and Sons does this with "Don't Mess with Bats." After a bad day which gets Batman snarky, he gets on the nerves of Jesse Quick, Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite by showing his hands "are quicker than" their eyes: he snatches Jesse's top while she runs at him, he gets Hourman's hourglass while he's making his threat (and he suddenly sees it's gone and on Batman, who goes "Tick Tock"), and he gets Dr. Mid-Nite's goggles, rendering him unable to see—and running into a tree.
- In this strip of Life of Maid, Marisa, being... well, Marisa, decides to indulge in a spot of shoplifting, making off with a basket full of goods from Rinnosuke's store. Unfortunately for Marisa, Sakuya has just applied for a part-time job there in order to make up for the Scarlet Devil Mansion's expenses, and finds it quite easy to get Rinnosuke's goods back.
- Early on in Newheimburg, Jack wanders around Newheimburg's World Fair and snatches 20 bucks off of a complete stranger.
- In Housepets! one of the wolves is an implied kleptomaniac known as "Four Finger Discount Jack". Though it might refer to his missing arm instead.
- Dora the Explorer: Swiper, no swiping!
- Dijon from DuckTales is notorious for pilfering anything that isn't nailed down, and he'll pull the nails out it if it has value.
- In Family Guy, Lois sneaks a ham into her purse because she can't afford it, but soon grows addicted to the sheer thrill of stealing.
- On The Simpsons they have occasionally called it the four-fingered discount.
- Even though the H.I.V.E. kids in Teen Titans are doing a little more than shoplifting, they still claim to have purchased their stuff with a "five-finger discount".
- Memorably subverted in "Lightspeed", where Mammoth complains that he paid for a candy bar when he gets waylaid by Kid Flash.
- Played with in Six Teen when the main characters recount how they occasionally make themselves drinks or food at their mall jobs without paying, calling it the "five-finger discount". Their laid-back attitude about it leads to Jen stealing a jacket she admires from her workplace. She is later overcome with guilt and sneaks into the mall that night to put it back.
- Galaxy Goof-Ups: The richest man in galaxy tells his son he's the richest one for never buying anything he wants.
- Real Life: Name a teenaged celebrity, odds are they've been in the news for shoplifting.
- Teenagers shoplifting is both Truth in Television and a stereotype. If you're a teenager and you enter a shop in the mall, you bet those super-nice staffers are watching your every move.
- Obviously they're not watching close enough! Ha Ha ha!