How To Shoplift Cheese In Manhattan

Figure 1. Shopliftable Manhattan Cheese.

  • First of all, listen to Sun Tsu: don’t shoplift unless you absolutely have to. If you have money and you can spend it on food, spend it on food—I have never ever been caught shoplifting, and that is because I have been appropriately scared shitless those times I witnessed someone getting caught shoplifting. In these situations, the police are as menacing as they can be… but it is the proprietors of the shop you have to worry about. They will take it very personally, and there is a nonzero chance they will have a shotgun, a handgun, or at the very least a scarred-up gnarly-looking baseball bat within easy reach. So only shoplift if you are broke and beyond hungry (we homeless have all been there).

  • If you must shoplift, prepare to do so. Make sure you have an appropriately accommodating tote bag or shopping bag into which to cram the cheese you are going to steal. If you plan to just stuff the cheese down your pants—a valid tactic, provided your underwear is up to it—practice the related hand-motions. Choose a Bodega you have been inside and whose floor layout (and, ideally, whose security camera locations) with which you’re familiar, so you don’t look dumb and suspicious.

  • The typology of the Bodega — also known as the New York Deli—is defined such that any one Bodega is a reflection of the relative wealth of its host environment. As in, you can find yourself in a Bodega anywhere in New York City and, at a glance, instantly know: a) that you’re unmistakably in a Bodega, and b) how fancy a neighborhood in which the Bodega is—and, by extension, you are — ensconced. As a homeless person, you should seek out the fanciest Bodegas you can find, from which to shoplift; the logic behind this is that Bodegas in poor neighborhoods are vigilantly primed for the kind of shenanegans you are planning on perpetrating, whereas the Bodegas of the rich are more trusting if you look the part.

Figures 2 (above left) and 3 (above right): a fancy Bodega and a downmarket Bodega, respectively.

  • Look the part. This should be obvious. If you are going to steal things, do not look like a fucking common criminal. Or rather: do not look like what people stereotypically think of when they think of a “common criminal.” The people whose job it is to prevent the theft of cheese from the Bodega you are robbing are visually scanning hundreds of people (on a slow day) for criminal intent. So, do your best not to look homeless. If you’re the kind of homeless person who is pushing around shopping carts or Sharpie-ing elaborate sob stories onto cardboard signs, you’re not my target audience here anyway—sorry, pal. Otherwise, dress as clean as you can—wear a shirt with a collar if you’re a guy, or something semiotically equivalent if you’re a lady. If you are black, this is especially important, because people will be more likely to profile you anyway just because you’re black—go maximally non-homeless in your attire and make them feel guilty for having even briefly thought that about you, yeah.

  • You are shoplifting cheese — specifically something like Cabot Extra Sharp White Cheddar. This, naturally, is a matter of opinion, but I would submit that it is the perfect shoplifting food for a hungry homeless New Yorker: it is a fairly caloric and extremely protein-rich food, packaged in an optimally pocketable package. The one drawback it has is that you will kind of look kind of strange if you are just eating it, like walking down the street or sitting on the subway (but if you do so with aplomb and purpose, it’ll be an asset instead of a liability).
Figure 4. Cabot Extra Sharp White Cheddar (2lb package — the unit you’ll be purloining is of similar dimensions).
  • AND LASTLY: Don’t overthink it. I realize that that is a thoroughly ridiculous thing to say at the end of an article that is basically overthinking it—but seriously, don’t overthink it, make your cheese-theft game-plan and then go do it. Don’t hesitate or think about your moral failings or what it smells like at Rikers or what your Mom would say about what you’re doing—just go do it, don’t get caught, and eat your cheese. And live to fight another day! That’s the name of the homeless game, after all, right? Right!
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