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Residents of San Francisco can add at least one more item they will have to wait for an employee to unlock before they can purchase: frozen foods.
According to a report from the New York Post, some stores in the city have begun locking up frozen foods in an attempt to fend off shoplifters. CBS News Bay Area reporter Betty Yu posted videos to Twitter showing the drastic measures being taken, saying that a Walgreens store started chaining its frozen food section because it has been targeted by shoplifters up to 20 times a day.
“Workers said normally shoplifters clean out all the pizza and ice cream every night. They’re usually hit 20x a day. The whole store is virtually locked up,” Yu posted.
A video accompanying the tweet shows ice cream, microwave dinners, frozen fish sticks, and frozen pizzas in freezers locked with a chain. Additionally, rows of makeup, hair products, cleaning supplies, candles, laundry detergent, and other items are in locked cases.
The shoplifting deterrent is a hassle for honest shoppers and employees alike. Long wait times for employees to get to the aisle to unlock products have been reported, with one woman telling The San Francisco Standard she has to wait upwards of ten minutes to purchase Tide Pods from her local Safeway grocery store.
“Most of the time, I just order this stuff online to avoid going here completely,” another Safeway customer told the outlet.
A Safeway staffer said he’s quitting his position after just six months because of the “added stress” that unlocking items and taking them to the register has on him, as the Standard reports.
“Having to bring things to the front was a game changer,” the employee said, noting that employees have to use walkie-talkies to be told in which aisle a customer needs assistance. “Every day, it’s like this.”
A Target employee told the outlet that “every 20 minutes” a shoplifter would come into the store and steal products. Another employee said, “They’ll steal anything that isn’t tied down.”
Police records show that in 2022, 2,900 shoplifting incidents were reported, a sharp increase from the 34% decrease in 2020, which has been attributed to lockdown-enforced business closures, according to NBC Bay Area. Under a voter-approved California law, the theft of merchandise valued at $950 or less is considered a misdemeanor and is frequently not investigated, the outlet points out.
“They basically opened the gates to theft,” retired police officer Mike Leninger said. “And you are seeing that in stores that are closing, chains that are lowering the number of stores under the guise of financial constraints or reasons.”
In 2021, Walgreens closed five stores in San Francisco over “ongoing organized retail crime.” Earlier this year, a Whole Foods flagship store in the city closed due to high crime after just a year in business.