The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft & Spending

           March 2009 e-Newsletter

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The Movie Review


Terrence Daryl Shulman

With much anticipation, I saw the recently released movie "Confessions of a Shopaholic"--twice, actually--during its first weekend out. The various media reviews of the film have been mixed--from dismal to several "3 stars out of 4 stars"--including in The Detroit Free Press, my local paper. Of course, reviewing movies can be a pretty subjective endeavor.

From an entertainment standpoint, I was pleasantly surprised that the film was engaging, well-acted, funny, and had a pace that rarely let up. Even the music was well-placed. Mind you, I was not expecting a serious docudrama about compulsive shopping or spending and neither should you. I viewed the movie as I read the book: as satire and farce. However, I was encouraged to see that the film made the attempt to highlight the main character--Becky Bloomwood's--problem in a way which was serious at times: her stress over her debt, her lying and losing the trust of her boss/love interest as well as her best friend, the hoarded and cluttered rooms and closets, and her denial and constant dodging of dealing with both her shopping behavior as well as her underlying issues. Remember, however, you'll see Becky fret and you'll see her hair mussed up a bit, but she never stops looking great even when down in the dumps!

There's a pivotal comic scene where hoards of women go bonkers over an impromptu garment "sample sale," tussling among themselves, and resulting in a throw-down showdown between Becky and another woman over a pair of red boots--I couldn't help but think eerily about the Wal-Mart greeter who was trampled to death in New York at the annual day-after-Thanksgiving "shop-frenzy." It's a taste of what a drug addict or any addict goes through.

As Becky Bloomwood states in the movie: "All I know is that when I shop, the world seems better. And then, the feeling goes away. And I shop to feel better again." A client recently told me she related to that. Becky Bloomwood tried to white-knuckle her abstinence, watched a video of a anti-shopping guru, and eventually attended local Shopaholics Anonymous groups in Manhattan which, thankfully, even included men! Gradually, she begins to realize the extent of her problem and I can only hope some of us will see ourselves in her despite the Hollywood happy ending. Oops, sorry if I ruined it for you.

Speaking of happy endings, it warmed the cockles to see Becky actually come clean, use her talents, pay off her debts ($16,000 through a one day fashion fire sale!), connect with her untapped passions--in love and in work--and regain an ounce or two of integrity in her life. She becomes the wholer, the wiser, and learns that shopping and things don't ultimately buy happiness.

Perhaps the most moving moment for me was when she's talking to her Dad who offers to sell his recently purchase motor home after a lifetime of savings to help bail Becky out of her $16,000 debt. Becky turns to him and says: "don't even think of it, Dad, that motor home completely defines you." Without missing a beat, her Dad--a doofus played brilliantly by John Goodman--utters the only intelligent line he's given: "Nothing defines me except you and your mother."

Now, back to that Hollywood happy ending, though. Don't think Becky will live "happily ever after" without temptations or setbacks. Even at the film's end as she's embracing her beau, Luke Brandon, she offers a wink toward a store window mannequin who winks right back at her. In one of the more clever devices in the movie, the mannequins wink at her, talk to her, gesture toward her, beckon her. And, ironically, they even begin applauding her as she finally resists temptation. But, again, for how long?

And, likewise, with all the buzz in the media over the last month in highlighting and exploring the topic of compulsive shopping and spending, one wonders? For how long? For how long will the media be interested? And as for the many millions of Americans who are forced to confront their tightening financial belts, one wonders: for how long? Will better times come again and lead us into complacency and bad habits again?

And what about the sequel to the film? After all, Sophie Kinsella has made a cottage industry of her "shopaholic" books. Only time will tell. Let me know when the book/movie "Confessions of a Shoplifter" comes out!

GRADE: 3 out of 4 Stars

Note: I was pleasantly surprised to see at the very end credits of the movie the line "Shopaholics Anonymous Courtesy of The Shulman Center." Someone from the film had contacted me last summer asking permission to use the name "Shopaholics Anonymous" for the support group name in the film. I had no real rights to grant permission but signed a faxed form anyway, asking sheepishly for a credit at the film's end when it was released. Lo and behold!


MICHAEL PHELPS AND THE ENDLESS PURSUIT OF PERFECTION. On the heels of the "Confessions of a Shopaholic" movie with all its emphasis on image and looking good comes Olympic Gold Medalist and Everyman Michael Phelps' recent fall from grace for being photographed smoking marijuana at a recent party in South Carolina. Now, whatever you think of his actions--much ado about nothing to despicable--and whatever you feel about the ensuing media frenzy and his lost endorsements--despicable to "he got what he deserved"--I'd hope most of us could agree that this constant pressure and demand we keep creating for "perfect performances" and "blemishless behavior" does more harm than good to us as individuals and to our society as a whole.

Of course, we don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater: we (naturally?) push ourselves as humans to our new edges, improving and evolving to discover what was previously thought to be impossible. But this is different from striving for perfection. Didn't Martha Stewart teach us anything? Nobody really likes a perfect person anyway and, as they say: pride goeth before the fall. And, certainly, we bend (naturally?) toward justice, benefiting from laws and standards which also call for consequences when such are broken. But in this increasingly un-private global world we live in, one's every mistake (whether you're famous or not) can be broadcast around the world in a nanosecond. And any failing is a total failing. Is this fair? It just is what it is.

Now, this isn't Michael Phelps's first black mark. He was arrested and charged with drunk driving a few years ago--apparently that didn't stop him from being placed on a pedestal. One can only imagine if he had been arrested for shoplifting--long ago or more recently--if that would have looked "worse" than a DUI or a toke of pot. In any case, perhaps it's ultimately a blessing that he fell from grace. It's our humanity that makes us, well, human. My only fear for him--and for us all--is if we keep chasing perfection and, after having fallen, chase it even more--we're likely to get more of the same.

The relentless pursuit of perfection is something I'm intimately familiar with. My own shoplifting addiction grew largely out of my striving to be perfectly selfless, giving, independent, self-sufficient. I ended up acting out the exact opposite behavior--taking, stealing--as a counter-balance. I also see this issue come up all the time in the recovering addicts I work with. I see it run in my family and, at times, in my friends.

I was visiting my brother and my 7-year old nephew over the weekend. My nephew had a "staging" of action figures (wrestlers, zombies, aliens, superheroes) assembled on a low table in the living room. I got up to get something from the kitchen and accidentally bumped the table's corner with my leg. My nephew's 'diorama" was disturbed, an action figure fell. He jumped up as if he'd been stabbed. He snarled at me: "you knocked over my wrestlers!" I said: "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize it." He then began frantically trying to put the figure back in its exact place it was before only to knock over another figure and then another figure--like dominos! He began crying and flailing about helpless and grief-stricken. I just observed in amazement. Of course, I saw myself in him. Wow, I thought, at such a young age--already trained somehow to demand perfect order. I let him cry, offering just a few kind words: "It's okay. I'm sorry." Thankfully, he eventually let go of his attachment to perfection and enjoyed watching the rest of a zombie movie with me.

I'm thinking today of The Detroit Pistons--my local professional basketball team--who just lost their 8th game in a row and have dropped to below .500 for the first time this late in the season since 2001. Why? Perhaps because they were not content with being just an excellent team the last several years which made the conference Finals but couldn't get over the hump. So, they fired their coach and hired a new one and, several months ago, they traded their star guard Chauncey "Mr. Big Shot" Billups to Denver for Allen "A.I." Iverson. The trade, obviously, has been a disaster. The team chemistry is ruined. I bet they wish they would have just kept the team in place. But, no, in this day and age nobody is content with 2nd or 3rd place; it's win it all or you're a loser. Sports just provide a more clear metaphor for our larger values.

So, Mr. Phelps, I wish you and all of us well as we proceed in our lives trying to be the best we can be but maybe, just maybe, taking a little of the pressure off and keeping things truly in perspective. It's so easy to forget this, isn't it?


CORPORATE GREED/EXCESS & THE BAILOUTS: ARE WE ENABLING? IS THERE NO SHAME? I don't pretend to be an expert on economic or governmental affairs but I periodically feel a knot in my stomach when I continue to hear the dollar figures of billions--or even trillions--lost over the last sad chapter of capitalism gone awry. Almost all the bigger companies--from the banks, to investment firms, to the automakers, and beyond--appear to have been living in a bubble. As so, assumedly, have we--or at least most of us. So much greed, so much fraud, so much pressure to make "more, more, more" at any cost. So much denial. So much financial immaturity and mismanagement. And now, we the taxpayers, are going to be footing most of the bill. Perhaps, we need to look at ourselves, too, in how we also played a part in this. Over the past two to three decades, we've been overspending and chasing "The American Dream" with reckless abandon--individually and collectively. The bubble was bound to pop. We're now hitting the proverbial bottom.

Still, I feel sickened by bailing out companies who have engaged in greed, fraud, mismanagement, etc. and feeling held hostage that if we don't bail them out we will all suffer more. Talk about a "shit sandwich"--pardon my French. What also bothers me is that many of these corporate big wigs continue to spend "our" money like there's no tomorrow--fancy retreats, corporate jets, wining/dining and other extravagant purchases. Have they no shame? Apparently, very little. Something has gone wildly wrong in our culture.

Whatever your political persuasion, I am certainly rooting for our economy to turn around and believe government plays a crucial role in guiding this. But I also believe that each one of us has to do some serious soul-searching into our own attitudes, values and behaviors--particularly when it comes to money, things, credit and debt. Hopefully, change is on the way. But as they also say: "Let it begin with me."


U.S. ESTIMATES INDICATE THAT THEFT CRIMES HAVE INCREASED 40% over the last two months of 2009 due to the downturn in the economy. Even Canada has suffered economically over the last year or so and has suffered an increase in shoplifting and employee theft and other theft crimes. Also, in Canada, credit card delinquencies have risen 10% in the last year, bankruptcies have risen 50% since December 2008, and the jobless rate is 7.2%--the worst in more than 30 years.


MARCH: I'd like to honor my mother on her 70th Birthday on March 17th. My wife and I will be traveling to Florida to visit her. She has been an inspiration to me and has always supported me personally and professionally.


                                                WE APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT!



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Here's the Scoop!


Mr. Shulman was either quoted or featured in the following media:

--In an article on compulsive shopping & spending in the March 2009 Elle--Canada magazine.

February 3rd--for a segment on ABC News' "Nightline" program on organized retail theft.

February 3rd--in a Chicago Tribune article about compulsive shopping & spending.

February 8th--in an L.A. Times article about compulsive shopping & spending.

February 10th--in the Central Pennsylvania Patriot News about compulsive shopping & spending.

February 12th--in the New York Daily News about compulsive shopping & spending.

February 13th--The major motion picture "Confessions of a Shopaholic"--based on the novel by Sophie Kinsella--was released. The Shulman Center was acknowledged during the film's closing credits.

February 13th--for a segment on CNBC TV on compulsive shopping & spending.

February 13th--in an article in The St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press on compulsive shopping & spending.

February 14th--an article by the Associated Press on compulsive shopping & spending.

February 17th--in an article in The Washington Post Express on compulsive shopping & spending.

February 17th--in an article called "Why Kids Shoplift" in Teen Issues Education magazine.

February 24th--in The Detroit News on compulsive shopping & spending.

February 25th--on the Canadian Broadcast Company radio interview on employee theft.

Februray 25th--interview on compulsive shopping & spending with


March 5th--Mr. Shulman featured in The Detroit Jewish News on compulsive shopping & spending.

March 6th--Mr. Shulman featured in a People Magazine article on compulsive shopping & spending.

March 9th--Mr. Shulman will be featured in an article on employee theft in the NY Business News (

March 25th--A producer for The Canadian Broadcast Corporation is coming to the Detroit area to interview me and to attend our local CASA support group for a story about shoplifting and stealing in Canada.

Spring '09: Mr. Shulman will be featured in a German magazine article about the increase in compulsive shopping & spending globally.

Spring '09: Mr. Shulman wrote an article on compulsive theft and spending for the spring edition of Annals Magazine for The American Psychotherapy Association.

Mr. Shulman will be creating a series of online continuing education courses on compulsive theft and spending based on his books and Power Point presentations through the American Psychotherapy Association. These courses are available for purchase by APA members and non-members alike.

CW Network is producing a documentary about teens and compulsive shopping.

Mr. Shulman will be featured in a segment on shoplifting addiction in the MSNBC series "Theft in America" to air in early 2009.

April 5th--will participate in the local Southfield, Michigan Local Authors Book Fair at The Southfield Public Library promoting his most recent book "Bought Out and $pent!"

April 15-16--will present on compulsive shopping & spending at the National Association of Social Workers--Michigan chapter annual conference in Lansing, MI.

April 22-24--will present on compulsive shopping & spending at the  Foundations in Recovery Process Addictions conference in Las Vegas, NV.

Mr. Shulman continues to assist on two U.K. projects on shoplifting addiction--one with the BBC and another with Channel 4.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed for an article on compulsive shopping and spending in Glamour magazine--article to be published this Spring.

Mr. Shulman will be submitting a chapter on employee theft in a 2009 compilation book entitled "Risky Business."

Mr. Shulman continues to
assist the Kingman, Arizona court system with his court-ordered homestudy program for retail fraud offenders. The program is based on material in his book "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction and Recovery" (2003).

Mr. Shulman is in the process of creating homestudy courses for continuing education credit for The American Psychotherapy Association based on his three books on shoplifting, employee theft, and compulsive shopping & spending.

Mr. Shulman is working with A & E TV's "Intervention" show on a shoplifting addiction segment.


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Contact The Shulman Center

Terrence Shulman
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025


Call (248) 358-8508 for free consulation!

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Products for Purchase--SALE!

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Livonia, Michigan Financial Manager's Conference 10/19/06. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Louisville, Kentucky Business in Industry Conference 9/19/07. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's two books "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction & Recovery" and "Biting The Hand That Feeds: The Employee Theft Epidemic... New Perspectives, New Solutions" are availabe for $25.00 each (includes shipping/handling) or both for $45.00 (includes shipping/handling).

Mr. Shulman's 90 minute DVD Power Point presentation for young people: "Theft and Dishonesty Awareness Program." $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 33 minute psycho-educational DVD: "The Disease of Something for Nothing: Shoplifting and Employee Theft." $50.00

First International Conference on Theft Addictions & Disorders 4 DVD set (13 Hours). Recorded 10/05. $125.00.

Second International Conference on Compulsive Theft & Spending 2 DVD set (6 Hours). Recorded 9/08. $100.00.


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