Why some merchandise is locked up on drug store shelves

As a consumer issues blogger, I might pay more attention while shopping in drug stores than some. I am not just looking for deals, but also for new brands, merchandise, and good customer service. I also like to see if the store is being maintained well. Lately, I have begun to notice an increasing trend, seemingly, in common items that are locked up. And, it’s frustrating. Cigarettes, where you can still buy them, have always been locked up from as long as I can remember. It makes sense. It’s an age-restricted, highly profitable, and taxable item that thieves like to heist. Ok, I get it. But, to have to summon a customer service rep to buy detergent is ridiculous.

Now, it seems like anything I really need to get ahold of is locked up. Shaving items, soap, and laundry detergent. I didn’t think much about that until now. When I was at my local Walgreens last week, I noticed these items were all under lock and key. But, with some exceptions. The larger size products, seemingly too tough to lift easily, were still in the open. Smaller, brand name items were in Fort Knox, while their generic brethren, of all sizes, were not. A puzzle presented itself.

A merchandise mystery


Credit: Priceonomics

I did a little research. According to this article, thieves are after a variety of merchandise that can be “fenced” or re-sold after stolen. This goes beyond cigarettes and also includes common items such as Dove soap. But, here’s what’s perplexing. In order to make it truly worth the effort, one would have to steal a large quantity of merchandise and re-sell it. Since my store hasn’t been a victim of a heist lately, to my knowledge, it might mean the neighborhood is attracting a new criminal element.

While I do not see the locked products trend declining, what you can do to alleviate some shopping frustration is buy more products online. Laundry detergent prices can be a bit high when you factor in the shipping costs, and missed opportunities for coupons, but buying bar soap and shaving items online is very feasible. You might consider this. Alternatively, stores might consider installing RFID tracking devices that trigger alarms when products are removed from the store without being scanned. The technology that currently exists may not be doing the job.

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