When young, the writer Susan Sontag used to frequent the Pickwick bookstore in Los Angeles and shoplift works of literature. “Each of my occasional thefts cost me weeks of self-revilement and dread of future humiliation, but what could I do, given my puny allowance?” she later wrote.
That made her a snitch, in the definition laid out in a classic study of retail theft in a Chicago department store in the 1960s. Snitches were amateurs, mostly women who would pilfer purses and accessories from the beautiful displays. Then there were boosters, a much smaller number of professional thieves who were systematic and ruthless.