Hand opening digital lock


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I recently went to Lowe’s to pick up some new Adirondack chairs for the backyard. At $25, the plastic versions are relatively inexpensive, come in a range of fun colors, and … are an absolute PITA to get. At my store, you’ll find a huge selection stacked high, and all of them are locked down with a wire. No biggie — just ask an employee to unlock them, right? Wrong. As a number of other customers have been sharing on social media, locked up items have become a huge and, frankly, unnecessary hassle.

 I went to ask an employee to unlock the chairs for me, but she said she had to call a manager to do it, and that I should wait next to the chairs for someone to come. I’m sure you will be shocked to hear that no one showed up after waiting for a solid chunk of time. Eventually, we were forced to take matters into our own hands. My shopping buddy ended up climbing the top of the stack, grabbing a couple chairs behind it that weren’t locked, and passing them down to me. We'll never know if anyone ever showed up to help, because we had long paid and left.

chairPhoto credit: Jennifer Magid

Stores such as Target and Walmart have been locking up more and more products in an attempt to combat "retail shrink," a loss of inventory from causes that include shoplifting, damage, and employee theft. 

The National Retail Federation reported that there was a 53% jump in retail shrink from 2019 to 2021. Target claims it may take a $500 million hit to its profits in 2023 because of “theft and organized crime,” according to the company’s first-quarter earnings report. But is locking up everything from deodorant to detergent actually helping combat theft? And is it ruining shopping for honest consumers?

A TikToker recently shared how he went to Walmart to purchase a $4 battery, but had to call an employee to get it out of the case. He waited and waited, and nobody ever showed up to unlock the battery. The TikToker ended up leaving the store without getting what he had come for. He says he also noticed other customers in the same predicament.


Its just like spending $100/hr on cops to stop someone jumping a $1.75 transit fee

♬ original sound - Frönk

“I don’t understand how it financially makes sense to stop someone from stealing like a $5 product, but then miss out on hundreds of dollars of sales,” he shares in the video. “People are just getting up and leaving because they can’t get what they want.”

In fact, the average shrink rate as a percentage of sales dropped to 1.4% in 2021 from 1.6% in 2020, according to the NRF survey. And it’s actually hovered around 1.4% for more than a decade.

Even the Walgreens CFO admits the store may have gone overboard in its attempts to combat shoplifting. “Maybe, we cried too much last year,” James Kehoe, global chief financial officer at Walgreens, told analysts during an earnings call. “Probably we put in too much and we might step back a little bit from that.”

As for Target, the store recorded a 0.5% growth in sales, according to an earnings report  — despite a perceived shoplifting problem. 

Still, TikTokers are getting so frustrated by locked up products that they don’t even want to go to the store — and I agree. Next time I see something I want to buy that's locked up, I’m getting out of there and just ordering it online. At this rate, I may get it faster.

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