Is this why Walgreens is so expensive?

About 4:45 this afternoon, I was in the Walgreens on Kings Highway at East 18th Street in Brooklyn. In aisle 9, I saw a slim man with a camouflage-patterned ball cap crouching down and taking a lot of things off the bottom of this over-the-counter medications shelf, putting them in a large bag (he muttered when one fell to the floor, but picked it up and put it in his bag). He also told the woman who approached him from the other end of the aisle to check behind him, make sure there was no one there—there was me, but I was looking at the shelves myself.

I walked back to the pharmacy and said to the clerk “You’ve got a shop lifter in aisle 9.” He looked confused, and then said “You have to tell them up front.” Uh, no. I don’t have to tell anyone anything. It’s your store, your job.

But I walked to the cash registers in the front, intending to leave, and heard the cashier urgently whispering to someone who I assume was a manager “Aisle 9!” The manager seemed confused, so I amplified “You’ve got a shop lifter in aisle 9.” She turned to someone else to say something, and I walked out.

I crossed Kings Highway, and then turned around to watch the front door of the store. About a minute later, the shop lifter and his accomplice (she was carrying a smaller bag, also bulging full) calmly walked out and crossed Kings Highway. They walked to East 17th Street, crossed back to the south side of Kings Highway, and continued to walk calmly but with purpose toward the subway station. I lost sight of them under the train overpass between East 16th and East 15th, and decided not to try to track them any farther.

But if the staff seems so cavalier about shop lifting, it’s no wonder that the shelves seem rather thinly stocked. Also, I don’t imagine the prices are what they ought to be, if they have to cover this amount of theft. So I’ll make sure to shop at the CVS across the street in the future.


Edited September 22:

Seven hours after I posted that on Facebook, I had 45 responses, many of which said things like “employees aren’t paid enough to stop shop lifters” and “stores don’t want to deal with violence, so they just expect it as the cost of doing business.” I therefore wrote the following response:

I was kind of sad when I wrote the original post. But now I’ve read 45 comments, and I’m weeping even more for our civilization. I’ve been annoyed that we couldn’t be bothered to stay home for two months last year, to give the virus time to die out, but simply had to go out to restaurants, had to see our friends, had to… whatever it was, that kept us out and about, and allowed the virus to keep spreading to new hosts. But after reading this thread, that all seems relatively minor.

Apparently, the consensus (at least among my Facebook friends) is that shoplifting happens, nothing can or should be done about it, we just let it occur. Now I fear that Amazon has already won, because there’s no way companies can survive with rampant shoplifting, especially when the stolen goods are then resold on Amazon (and Amazon takes a cut of every single sale). Y’all are saying Walgreens is now subsidizing Amazon by buying goods to stock the shelves for shoplifters. That’s horrifying.

And if the shoplifters know no one is going to stop them (and based on all your comments, I’m sure they do), they don’t even have a reason to carry a weapon or be violent. It’s just a job for them, a fairly simple job, apparently. New York City police apparently gave up writing traffic tickets quite a while back; I can’t imagine they’re putting any more effort into tracking down shoplifters long after they’ve left their target stores. So have we completely ceded civilization to the animals?

I could buy a stick of deodorant or a bottle of cough syrup or whatever at Walgreens for cash, and nobody but me knew what I was bringing home. But when Walgreens is gone, and I have to buy the same from Amazon, not only will Amazon know exactly what I’m buying and when, but so will my credit card company, and… (see, for example, Bud Sparhawk’s story “Delivery”).

Yeah, yeah, science fictional nightmares, get over it, no one cares….. Except I still care.

I wish I had a solution. But hey, it’s not my store, they don’t pay me to watch the stuff, so why should I care?

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