They go by names like Lift Witch, Klepto Princess and Lifting for Survival. They offer up weirdly worded disclaimers about how what they're doing is "fake" or that their stories are "fiction" or "roleplay." They repost and celebrate each other's victories. They are the young women who spend their time on Tumblr talking about things that they've stolen.
On Wednesday, Tumblr user We Unhallowed posted a list of the sites she called "Tumblr's Bling Ring," throwing a delicate community of shoplifters into disarray. Earlier that day she'd written, "Have stumbled upon a circle of teenage shoplifters on Tumblr. It's hilarious. They post pictures of everything they steal and call them 'hauls.'"
Since posting her list, a few Tumblrs on it have been disabled, but not before their comments were endlessly reblogged by fellow members of the community. Like New Lifterr, who wrote, "i just realized that the post called us tumblrs bling ring and i'm even more flattered. i'm famous. for free."
Other members of the ring jumped on We Unhallowed for not including "OG lifters" in her list.
Before they were "outed," members of the so-called ring would share tips about how to get away with stealing things, suggestions about which tools they could use for removing security devices (like magnets and hooks) and lists of places that are easy to shoplift from. They steal from lots of different stores, everything from Macy's to Pac Sun to Ulta. They have special categories on their Tumblrs for their "hauls," a word that takes on a different meaning here than on YouTube. Of course they also share photos of everything they steal, including lists of the items and costs. One recent addition to the group has this intel right there in her Tumblr bio: "Total damage since April 2014: $366.35."
They seem to live all over the world: Australia, the U.K., the midwest. They found each other by tagging their posts things like #lift, #haul, #shoplift, #retail redistribution, #steal, #five finger discount and #sticky fingers. Some can steal thousands of dollars of goods in just a few days.
On many levels they are not dissimilar to the people who spend time on pro-ana Tumblrs: they have an obsession (or hobby/lifestyle in their minds) that is not considered acceptable by those outside of their community. Some feel entitled to the things they're stealing. "I think I'm gonna scope out some designer patches of the department stores near here bc let's face it I'm far too good for the H&M stuff I'm used to lifting and this community deserves more from me," Life Witch wrote. A popular post from Lux Steals that sparked a lot of debate reads as follows:
People view shoplifting as if its the almighty crime and the worst possible thing you could do. Doing drugs is illegal and hell, UNHEALTHY, yet I always see drugs all over my dashboard and people have shit to say about it. Like, oh you do cocaine? Cool. You shoplift? What the hell, man?
Basically what I'm saying is taking a 40 dollar pair of shorts from the local macy's is nothing compared to crimes like doing illegal drugs, murder, and rape.
Nothing about these Tumblrs brings up anything far from what's already known about the impetus to shoplift in the first place: Getting caught is a big part of the rush:
It's really hard to wrap my head around the fact that I've gotten away with so much in the past few days. I feel extremely powerful, but at the same time, I feel like I'm going to be caught any second. I guess I don't make the most confident of shoplifters.
But since getting the attention of those outside their small subset of similarly minded individuals, a few have mentioned fears that they'll get caught not while shoplifting, but from their posts online. Take Lil Lifter:
sometimes im really afraid that the shoplifting community will be outed and become like a viral joke on the internet or something
imagine the embarrasment if you are identified and everyone at school/work and your neighbours and family finds out
hopefully it will never happen and im just being paranoid
Lil Lifter used to be a little less afraid of the possibility of being outed online:
Unless somebody in real life sees your blog i dont see how posting selfies on your blog will get you in trouble?
And come on, what are the chances of that happening and what would they be doing in the shoplifing tag anyways lol
"lina used to be my fake name on the internet when i was in elementary school so now it's making a comeback. i don't really care about the people finding my blog or whatever but my ego is big enough already so i changed my url lol" someone else wrote.
There's another sub-culture wrapped up in the outing of this "Bling Ring" whose members don't considers themselves shoplifters (or "lifters") per se. Some of them identify as financial dommes who participate in sites like Collar Me and FinDoms and have warned fellow dommes against "bad users," suggesting they "Come together just like the lifting community has!!!" Others are worried We Unhallowed's original post would out lifters who "are also findommes." A few don't like being conflated with lifters and are worried about being doxxed, like Literally Lifting, who wrote:
guys this crazy guy on facebook somehow tracked down my address it's so scary i have no idea how he did it and now i'm paranoid that other people can do that
like guys on collarme for example??? or random tumblr people??? i'm paranoid of the whole internet now
Others are just into shoplifting. "I don't lift because I need to, I lift because it's fun and it's a challenge. I like to brag about it here because I don't have anyone else to talk to about it," wrote Cash or Card. "I get that people don't agree with my choices, but it's my choice, and I have my own justifications for it. No, I don't feel guilty about it. The only time I feel anything is when I get the money in my bank from selling shit on ebay."
Others have been particularly hurt by We Unhallowed's admission. "I'm actually really pissed off about that one post because I'm first on the list and I don't lift 'because I deserve nice things' if I reblogged that one post it was a fucking JOKE and I have explained the deep trauma of my past and mental problems behind why I actually lift before don't make me go there again or I will have a really bad breakdown," L-lifterlove wrote, adding:
but yes okay I know I have like 20 messages to respond to right now but I'm going to delete this blog soon and I don't want to be fucking associated as a 'lifter' anymore because people keep attacking me
I've made some really good friends here I literally love you guys and I love the community so if we're friends message me with either your main blog URL, Facebook, or Instagram and maybe I'll respond
That same day, in response to the thread posted above of Tumblr users complaining about their rank or exclusion on We UnHallowed's list, she wrote, "guys shut the fuck up I'm sorry but personally I've been getting hate from wherever the hell this is from why would you ask for that." Others also blamed their peers for drawing attention to the community, writing:
guys. please, please don't reblog hate-posts or things loosely related to shoplifting from outside the community, it just brings attention to us. don't want to go viral? THEN DON'T REBLOG HATE POSTS. just ignore them! I know it's tempting, but please.
This is an especially good point, given that they were warned by We Unhallowed that this was going to happen eventually:
I get that you like your community (nothing makes us feel better about our deviant behavior than finding lots of other people who do it!) but you're putting yourself in a very precarious legal position by going in front of *the entire world* and listing, with photo evidence, the things you steal. And where you steal it from. This will go viral, and if you have even an inkling of self-preservation, you'll be long gone before the ax comes through the door.
But as with any group, there are vigilantes who just don't care: