A five-finger discount is a slang term for the crime of shoplifting, which is an act of theft typically perpetrated by individuals toward a retail company or business. While it can potentially refer to employee theft or any form of theft in general, the term is most commonly used in reference to shoplifting items by thieves who appear to be customers. A five-finger discount refers to the use of five fingers, or a hand, in taking and hiding an item for removal of the item without paying for it, which constitutes a sizable though illegal discount.
As a slang term, it is difficult to establish the history of the five-finger discount, though its usage is prevalent throughout a number of different English-speaking regions. There is some opinion that the term may be Australian or British in origin, but this is difficult to determine. Regardless of its origin, a five-finger discount today refers to shoplifting and theft from a place of business, typically a retail establishment.
In the United States, shoplifting is a major crime that contributes to billions of US Dollars of lost profit each year. This type of five-finger discount can take a number of different forms, from casual shoplifting to organized criminal enterprises that engage multiple shoplifters working together and may even work with employees to steal from larger companies. Casual shoplifting often takes a seemingly innocuous form, targeting small ticket items and only stealing occasionally, but these types of theft add up in the long run.
Professional shoplifters are more likely to target businesses with higher ticket items, looking for products that can be resold easily for decent amounts of money. This type of five-finger discount is often applied to electronic devices, expensive clothing, athletic shoes, and jewelry. Shoplifting laws can vary from country to country and even be different between various states or provinces within a country.
In some areas, a person suspected of shoplifting can be stopped while still in a store but appearing to approach the exit of the store without paying for items. Other areas, however, require that a person physically leave a store before he or she can be accused of shoplifting and prosecuted by law. The best ways to prevent a five-finger discount from being applied in a business is through prevention, often by establishing strong anti-theft policies and using tools such as video surveillance and electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems. These procedures can help ensure that products are more difficult to take without being seen and to detect concealed items on a person as he or she attempts to leave a store.