Apart from workers’ wages, one of the most common things stolen from retail stores is cosmetics.
A 2010 article for NBC written by Melissa Dahl claimed that, in 2008, “‘Health and beauty care items’ accounted for 20 percent of all items stolen from supermarkets.”
The article speculates that these items are often stolen given their relatively small size, their comparably high cost, and the potential fact that buying certain items, such as weight loss drugs and pregnancy tests, could be seen as embarrassing.
Stores have attempted numerous ways to combat this kind of theft. Walmart famously locked up African-American beauty care products in glass cases, leading to a discrimination lawsuit; they have since ended the practice.
Since then, stores like Walmart have implemented other anti-theft mechanisms, such as locking up more items behind glass, adding alarms to certain items, and increasing the presence of cameras in the store.
Now, a user on TikTok has gone viral after claiming that their local Walmart location has entirely barricaded off the cosmetics section.
@travel_life_mama #walmart #criminal #sad ♬ Super Mario Bros. – Sideviewer
In a video with over 679,000 views as of Saturday, TikTok user @travel_life_mama shows the section in question. It is blocked off with blue-lined clear panels.
“When so much makeup gets stolen from your local Walmart they have to barricade off the cosmetics section and have a staff member watch it at all times,” the user writes in the text overlaying the video.
In the comments, she adds that one cannot leave the cosmetics area without paying for the item.
Users on TikTok claimed that seeing this sort of setup in-store would push them away from shopping there entirely.
“I get [they’re] trying to prevent theft but that would deter me from shopping there,” a user said. “I’d have to flag someone down every minute to open a different case.”
“They think it’ll help when ppl just aren’t going to bother shopping there anymore for their makeup cus they can’t get down the damn [aisle],” another offered.
Some claimed to have already had bad experiences with such a system.
“Me and my friend were gonna get eyelashes for Halloween and no one ever came to help us open the case,” recalled a commenter. “We waited almost 20 mins.”
“I asked them to unlock the lashes the other day and they were like ‘we don’t have the key’ like bro,” a second alleged.
A few users shared their view that Walmart would be better served investing in other areas of the store.
“They’ll do everything but hire cashiers,” stated a commenter.
“My local Walmart doesn’t do that because they hardly have any product on the shelves to begin with,” detailed a further TikToker.
We’ve reached out to Walmart via its media relations contact form and @travel_life_mama via email.
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*First Published: Jan 28, 2023, 11:22 am CST
Braden Bjella is a culture writer. His work can be found in Mixmag, Electronic Beats, Schön! magazine, and more.