San Francisco Store Makes Customers Shop With Escort Amid 'Rampant Shoplifting'

(Getty Images)
February 23, 2024

A San Francisco store is making customers shop with escorts for part of the day to curb "rampant shoplifting," representing the latest business to find difficulty operating in the city.

Fredericksen Hardware and Paint is asking customers to wait at a table in the front of the building until an employee can serve them, the local KRON4 reported Thursday. This system is in place for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

"Due to the rampant shoplifting, Fredericksen has introduced a one-on-one shopping experience," reads a sign on a table blocking access to the store. "Wait here, and a clerk will be right with you to help you with your shopping needs. We're sorry for the inconvenience!"

Manager Sam Black said the intention is to make the environment uncomfortable for thieves who have created an unsafe work and shopping space.

"It’s pretty bad," Black told KRON4. "I mean, the dollar amounts are pretty significant, and with the tools and now we’re getting snatch-and-grabs when they take whole displays, so it’s getting kind of dangerous for the employees and the customers."

Black added that his store has put the system in place for three weeks and will reevaluate it after a month. Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who represents the neighborhood in which the store operates, expressed outrage at the need for the experiment.

"This situation is tragic and embarrassing for our city, and it’s all the more reason to get serious about solving our police staffing crisis," Stefani told KRON4. "We need more police on our streets, and we need them now. That’s why I’ll hold a series of hearings in March to push our city agencies to fill the hundreds of vacancies at the Police Department as soon as possible—to stop the bleeding, reverse the damage, and finally protect our residents and small businesses."

Several prominent businesses have closed in recent months amid crime in San Francisco. The store that inspired the film Toy Story ceased operations about two weeks ago, with the owner citing instances of crime that affected his employees. Target in September cited safety threats from "theft and organized retail crime" in shuttering nine stores across the country, three of which were in or near San Francisco.