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Five-Finger Discount

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"In this life, one thing counts
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!

The 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.



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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 & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • 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".

    Comic Strips 
  • For Better or for Worse had a storyline where Michael stole a scarf for his mother and got away with it. He ends up feeling guilty and returning it, whereupon he is caught, but not punished due to his honesty.
  • FoxTrot did a similar storyline to the above, with Paige and her friend Nicole wrestling with stealing a music CD. Paige takes it, but decides to put it back before she leaves the store. She is incredibly lucky, as they are stopped by a security guard who says he saw them take it out of her purse and put it back and is very glad they did that - because he also saw when they put the CD into the purse.
    Guard: Understand, we'd be having a very different conversation right about now.
    Nicole (clutching her chest): I think my glad beats your glad.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf Remix Comic "Smurfed Behind: The Departure", Greedy catches his brother Nabby trying to steal one of the chocolate-covered creampuffs and says "no four-finger discounts for you."
  • The Fairy Tail fanfic The Spirit Doll starts out with a little girl alone in a hotel room when her mother doesn't return from getting supper the pervious day. As she looks for her mother she steals food, money (no explanation on how), and clothes. Until she has a run in with Erza, Natsu and Gray who decide to take her in and help find her mother. They brush offer her thievery as necessary acts of survival. However, Erza, for a short while, does worry over some special looking keys that the girl claims, at first, are just replicas that her mother gave her. She did steal a doll as well but for a very specific reason. Which ends up playing a role in the plot. By the way her mother is Lucy and the girl's name is Nashi no points on guessing who the father is.
  • Belladonna and her girlfriends in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines often get what they need by breaking into stores, though she's willing to relent for Aurora's sake and get things legally whenever they have the chance, even if she finds it annoying.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • Zootopia:
    • 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.
  • In April and the Extraordinary World, the teenaged April is first seen shoplifting candy and books from street stalls for Darwin.

    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 from 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 Tower Heist, Slide asks Josh, Charlie, Enrique and Fitzhugh to prove that they are willing to steal by shoplifting $50 dollars worth of goods from the mall.
  • In Shoplifters, Shota is a kid who does that in order to support his family.
  • In Laughter in Paradise, Captain Russell very obviously shoplifts several items in an attempt to get arrested. He succeeds, but then discovers he Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin'.
  • The thief played by Ben Howard in From Beyond the Grave has a habit of filching anything that isn't nailed down. While casing the shop, he unscrews the bell on a bicycle parked outside and pockets it.
  • Street urchins filch Antonio's loaves from his basket at the market in The Pit and the Pendulum (1991).
  • In Sheitan, Bart and his friends shoplift a bunch of snackfoods from the service station. (They also drive off without paying for the fuel.)
  • El Chavo del ocho would sometimes resort to this whenever he's left guarding or asked to deliver some food to someone else. There's also one time he pretended to sleepwalk in Quico's house to take a bag of bread, and when Quico chides him for it, he says "But I didn't steal the bread. I just ate it."

  • I'm Ok (2018): Ok steals a customer's sample bottle of skin cream from a store to give to his mother. He doesn't feel good about doing it.
  • 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 pickpocket fingersmith. 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.
  • In the first Trueman Bradley novel, Trueman is robbed by a man pretending to help him find the bank.
  • In Harmonic Feedback, Naomi ropes Drea into helping her steal expensive lingerie, which she feels justified in doing because of the snotty clerks.
  • Trish from Wicked Good regularly shoplifts candy.
  • Arlo from The Savant is targeted by a pickpocket while he's traveling across the Mediterranean in a cargo boat. He manages to kick the man overboard. Arlo isn't worried about him, since there are fishing boats nearby that could rescue him.

    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 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.
    • The Doctor does tend to just make off with things. Maybe it's kleptomania, maybe it's just that they don't have any money. Probably a bit of both.
  • 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty", the young Gus Rosenthal often stole comic books and toy soldiers, leading his father Lou to hit him with his belt to teach him a lesson. Even so, he was going to steal another toy soldier the next day but stopped when he noticed his older self looking at him.
    • In "Song of the Younger World", Tanner Smith was forced to pick people's pockets as he had no money for food. As a result, he was sent to the House of Refuge Reformatory for Wayward Boys.

    Music Videos 
  • The video for Gob's "B Flat" kicks off with a purse-snatcher, and goes downhill from there.

  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • A Minigame in Assassin's Creed: Altaïr's Chronicles has Altair trying to remove a key from an enemy's bag. He must do so without touching the sides of the bag, or anything else in the bag.
  • 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.
  • Fallout:
    • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • 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 tothis 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Played with in 6teen 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.
  • Dora the Explorer: Swiper, no swiping!
  • Dijon from DuckTales (1987) is notorious for pilfering anything that isn't nailed down, and he'll pull the nails out 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.
  • Blossom of The Powerpuff Girls, of all people, pulls this in "A Very Special Blossom." She steals a set of very fancy golf clubs to give the Professor for Father's Day. When the jig seems to be up, she tries to frame Mojo Jojo for the theft. Nobody — especially Bubbles and Buttercup — buys it.
  • On The Simpsons they have occasionally called it the four-fingered discount.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Envoys", Ensign Mariner tricks the Taxor who was hurting Ensign Boimler by pretending to throw his coin purse somewhere in the market, but she actually stole the alien's money.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars, "Dooku Captured": While Hondo is obviously lying about defeating Dooku in a fight, the fact that he managed to swipe two lightsabers off a highly trained force user without being caught is quite impressive.
  • 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.
  • Yogi's Space Race: The richest man in galaxy tells his son he's the richest one for never buying anything he wants.

    Real Life 
  • 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. This is why a lot of convenience stores practice an "only two youths at a time" rule, simply so the clerk can keep an eye on them and/or not be distracted: unfair rule or not, the poor clerk would be robbed blind if he allowed crowds of teens into his store at once.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Shoplifting, Pickpocketing


Family Guy

Lois grows addicted to the sheer thrill of stealing.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / FiveFingerDiscount

Media sources:

Main / FiveFingerDiscount