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Like most young fathers, I often find myself fantasizing about leaving everything behind and starting a new life hiding in a Kmart. And although the deep and lasting affection I have for my family and all my stuff has prevented me from pulling the trigger, I have done a bit of research and discovered that fellow store-hiding aficionados generally share one of four motives:

- Theft
- Nowhere else to go
- Young fathers seeking something, anything
- Theft again

Because I have a moral obligation to share every fact I know in this column, I'm going to present various tips and strategies on how to hide in stores overnight, though for the sake of legal's blood pressure, I'm going to ask that you don't use anything here to do something illegal or fun. So, if you're an undercover cop trying to prove yourself to a pretty lame gang, or just like sitting in chairs and reading lists, enjoy!

In The Merchandise

Who hasn't looked at one of those big circular racks full of clothes and wondered about the incredible life awaiting on the other side?

Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images
It smells like polyester and opportunity.

This is probably the first place you might think to hide when trying to stay in a store overnight, and for that reason it's probably the least effective. After a store closes, employees regularly sweep it, checking places like these for people who have died (there's a form they have to fill out). So you're unlikely to go undetected for long, though it's worth pointing out that lowly paid retail employees often don't have that many fucks to give and might just not search very hard that day. Consider all the cases of people getting locked in stores overnight accidentally, like this CVS, or this Canadian department store, or this English bookseller.

Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
"You check if the place is empty?"
"I did! It doesn't even have two fucks to rub together."
"So ... no?"

There have been many examples of people hiding in such places, like the naughty thief who hid in a Costco only to emerge once the doors closed and rob the place blind. The police were wisely circumspect when describing where he actually hid, but let's just go ahead and assume it was underneath that big pile of bulk underpants in the middle of the store.

Kanstantsin Prymachuk/iStock/Getty Images
"Did those underpants just sneeze?"

Or the boy who ran away from home and hid in a Walmart for days. To be fair, it was a 24-hour Walmart, so he never really had to leave, but he probably wasn't allowed to build elaborate nests behind various boxes, which is what he ended up doing. He was eventually caught when customers noticed piles of garbage around the store and notified the employees. That it wasn't the employees doing the noticing is, I think, instructive. If you want to successfully hide in a store overnight, first check the employees for signs of defeat.

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Glazed eyes are your friend.

In A Washroom

Again, employees are supposed to check these places when they close up for the night and, again, "Man, what a hassle," those same employees report.

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"Did that toilet just sneeze?"

Which is probably how this criminal genius got away with hiding in a grocery store's washroom. Once there, he waited until the store closed, burst from his hiding space, and ate just an unholy amount of food, like he was suffering a warlock's curse or something. His feast included six steaks, a couple pounds of shrimp, a salad (for fiber), a birthday cake, beer, tea, and cigarettes. Then, after several dozen whip-its, our hero crapped his pants, got new pants, and passed out in the rafters. I think it's important to remind you that not one word of that is made up.

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He did more living in one night than most of us manage in our whole lives.
Probably a little more dying too.

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In Plain Sight

If you're confident and assured in your behavior, you can get away with some pretty crazy things. Derren Brown is an English magician who has made a career out of exactly this kind of stunt. One of his better iterations of it involves walking into stores and paying for things with blank pieces of paper.

"As you can tell by my dazzling English accent, everything is totally aboveboard here."

The same technique could be used to hide in a store, or at least to deal with the uninterested employees who might inquire about what you're doing with a grappling hook and a gleam in your eye. This guy did something like this when he was caught in the back storage room of a Kmart, convincing the employees that found him that he was supposed to be there.

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"Just checking the compliance of the work order for emissions and iterating
on a few other complicated words. Crazy Mondays, am I right?"

Our smooth criminal got progressively less smooth after this, however, and shortly thereafter proceeded to set off every damned alarm in the store and possibly some neighboring stores, before getting caught by the police with over $75,000 worth of jewelry on him. Think about that: $75,000 worth of jewelry ... from Kmart. By my calculations, that's roughly all of the jewelry Kmart has ever carried, plus some that the criminal made himself.

But with a little more discretion and a little less clumsy burgling, there's no reason why you couldn't use the same smooth talking to overnight in a Subway, or even a Jamba Juice.

Under Your Desk

Given the importance of evading store employees in an enterprise such as this, an obvious solution is to become an employee yourself. This might require more prep work than you really wanted to do to start a new life in a Sears, but such is the price of glory.

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One day you will hold your son aloft over your head and promise him this will all be his.

Consider the case of this Nordstrom employee who ducked out of work one day quite literally, in this case under his desk (he worked on the switchboard on another floor). Then, after the store closed for the night, he emerged and wandered the racks of the store, thieving it right up. He might have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for the next part of his plan, which was to not get away with it at all. Because after doing all his stealing, instead of running away, he returned to his desk and spent the night there, where he was found by the cleaners. When management noticed a bunch of stuff missing the next day and their switchboard operator pinned against the wall by a mop handle, it didn't take them long to crack the case.

When asked why he did it, he explained that he wanted to buy a motorcycle. So, no, this wasn't just a case of someone who really, really wanted some of that sweet Nordstrom fashion. The stuff that had price tags still attached to it totaled around $30,000. There were 30 more items that weren't marked.

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Yet another skirmish in the eternal battle between criminal masterminds and custodians.

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In An Entire Apartment You Built There

Everything discussed so far has been pretty small-scale stuff -- enough to get you at most a weekend in the retail establishment of your choice. But if you combine all these techniques and are lucky enough to find yourself in an environment with just the right combination of people not good at their jobs, you can go so much further, and even live in a store for years.

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In this economy, you may outlast your host itself.

This couple and their friends managed to do exactly that in a newly constructed mall in Providence, Rhode Island. Finding a space within the mall that had fallen from the knowledge of man, they began living in there, slowly building up a fairly comprehensive apartment. Although they didn't live in it continuously, over the next four years they and their friends had enough time to flesh it out with a rug, a pair of couches, lamps, artwork, some plants, and a PlayStation.

Howard Shooter/Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images
"Who needs a toilet?"
"I wouldn't say no to a toilet."
"I too am getting tired of pooing in the Macy's."

Now, understand that they didn't build the apartment right out in the open. That would be absurd. No, they scoped out the mall as it was being built and discovered a section that was used solely for storing materials and construction equipment. When the mall was finished, that area was basically abandoned. Logic and patience are required for long-term store hiding. Always remember that.

And, sure, it all ended in arrests and restraining orders and tears. But still. Four years! Of living in a mall. The happiest place on Earth. That's got to be worth at least a few court-ordered apologies to the people who clean the Macy's bathrooms.

Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and very sorry for what he did in your bathroom. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.

For more from Bucholz, check out The 5 Least Flattering Ways People Brag and 5 Superheroes Older Than You Think.

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