In San Francisco, Walgreens padlocks freezers to deter shoplifters

Photo (c) MirageC - Getty Images

Here’s how theft is affecting consumers

Walgreens is making news again, and not the kind it likes. The drugstore chain is fighting back against shoplifters, causing inconvenience to customers.

In San Francisco, where crime has increased dramatically in the last couple of years, a local Walgreens has resorted to wrapping chains around its frozen food freezers and padlocking them. Store employees say shoplifters were stealing pizza and ice cream about 20 times a day.

In the video below, San Francisco’s ABC7 was at the store filming a story while a number of thefts occurred.

Ice cream and pizza are not the only products now under lock and key. Several other shelves are now behind locked plexiglass, frustrating customers who are in the store to make a purchase.

Drastic steps in Chicago

You may recall that Walgreens has taken these kinds of steps elsewhere. In Chicago, two Walgreens stores recently emptied all but two aisles and put the merchandise in storage. Customers who want to make a purchase must order it at a kiosk and wait at the counter for a store employee to retrieve it. Understandably, customers are not happy.

Some retail experts have linked the wave of shoplifting to a lack of enforcement in many cities. Store employees have generally been told not to interfere with a shoplifter to avoid a potentially dangerous confrontation. While retailers are growing increasingly frustrated, Jerry Thurman, customer service manager at Hamilton Devices, doesn’t expect drastic measures at most outlets.

“Retailers continually evaluate their security measures and adjust them as needed to prevent theft and protect their assets,” told ConsumerAffairs. “However, the approach of locking up products or limiting customer access to specific areas is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Retailers consider a range of factors before implementing such measures, including the impact on the shopping experience, customer satisfaction, and overall sales.”

Other steps

Thurman says it’s more likely that stores will invest in advanced electronic surveillance systems and security personnel. Raising prices to cover the losses, he suggests, will be a last resort.

Congress, meanwhile, is considering legislation to crack down on organized shoplifting rings that smash and grab merchandise, then sell it online. The Organized Retail Crime Act has the support of the National Retail Federation (NRF), which says retail theft is a nearly $100 billion problem, and growing.

“Shoppers are now seeing everyday items like toothpaste and dish soap behind lock and key,” NRF said in a statement. 

“Retailers know it is an inconvenience for customers. The anti-theft security measures can lead to lost sales from customers who must wait for an employee to unlock a cabinet so they can access a product. As the theft of merchandise continues, the cost of securing those items skyrockets. Retailers already operate on very slim margins and can only absorb so much cost to remain profitable.”

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