I've heard about the "thief step" again from someone fairly official. This bullshit has to stop!! I've built, rebuilt and fixed countless stairways in my career as a carpenter and I've seen most all the ways you can screw up a set of stairs. When i moved to boston 35 yrs ago I first heard about the thief step and thought then, what an novel excuse to not have to fix a screwed up set of stairs. Carpenters are notorious for not wanting to fix their own screw ups, and this explanation, if it's accepted, lets them off the hook. Fixing a set of stringers that have been laid out wrong requires a lot of labor and they never come out right. Cut a new set and you run the risk of making the mistake again if you don't understand what went wrong in the first place. I bailed a guy out once (he shall remain anonymous) after he had cut 3 sets of stringers that ended up in the dumpster.
Nobody in the family remembers where the wrong riser is in a set of stairs. They may remember that the stairs are "trippers" and raise their feet up higher for EVERY step but if you're carrying a load of laundry and you forget.... building code states that all risers can only be +/- 1/8 of an inch. So, Peter Hotton of the Boston Globe, in particular, hold carpenters to a higher standard. You won't need to be as scared of THAT one bad thing happening when your grandmother comes to visit.