By Yaron Steinbuch
Buying a microwave dinner in San Francisco now requires a security clearance.
Frozen food customers in the crime-plagued city have been forced to put their purchases on ice and find a clerk to unlock chained coolers, as retailers take drastic measures to keep shoplifters at bay.
The doors in the frozen foods section at one local Walgreens are seen locked from the customers, who apparently need the staff’s assistance to access the products.
“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,” KPIX’s Betty Yu tweeted Monday.
She also posted video of rows and rows of products — including household goods, cosmetics and snacks — locked behind plastic barriers on the shelves, a tactic that has also been deployed at Target.
Another user posted a photograph of a padlocked ice cream freezer at a CVS.
“Night time trip to the CVS pharmacy to get medicines, and I witness police car in front called to scene because of thief. Of course many items locked up too like the frozen section!” @Tim_I_Huang tweeted Monday.
One shopper lamented that the local Rite Aid has been closed due to “excessive loss from theft,” adding that it was “unfortunate that stores have to go to this extent to keep their stores open.
“And all bathrooms at stores are either locked or code access only or have a sign that said not working,” Susan Ng wrote Tuesday.
Shoppers and store workers alike have been complaining that the anti-theft measures are annoying and time-consuming because buzzers have to be used to access the products.
A worker at a Safeway outlet told the San Francisco Standard last week that he was quitting due to the added stress of unlocking items and carrying them to the checkout for customers.
“It’s just too much,” David MacDowell, who used a walkie-talkie to respond to requests from the liquor aisle, told the outlet.
“Having to bring things to the front was a game change. Every day, it’s like this.”
A customer, Danielle Strauss, waited over three minutes to buy a single tube of toothpaste at the Safeway store, the Standard reported.
“Most of the time, I just order this stuff online to avoid going here completely,” the fed-up shopper told the outlet.
Calthia Gomes, who pressed a help button for an employee to unlock Tide Pods, said she waits up to 10 minutes for workers to show up.
“I just find the person and flag them down,” Gomes said.
An employee who works in the electronics section at a local Target described the rampant shoplifting that has plagued his store.
“Like every 20 minutes, someone would come and take something and run out,” the staffer told the outlet on condition of anonymity.
At another Walgreens in the city’s South Beach, a customer said she understands why deodorant and toothbrushes are locked up, but complained that it has made shopping a drag.
“They’re pretty good here, but it’s irritating. When they’re understaffed, you need to wait,” Stacey Reynolds-Peterson said.
The National Retail Federation’s 2022 retail security survey ranked the Bay Area as the second-most hard-hit metropolitan area by theft in the previous two years.
Los Angeles was first, New York City was third and Houston placed fourth.
In the five boroughs, chain drugstores, supermarkets and bodega owners alike had also been taking drastic measures to combat the shoplifting scourge, placing everyday items like candy, ice cream and detergent under lock and key.