San Francisco store provides shoppers with escorts to deter stealing

A revered and long-serving San Francisco independent small business may be establishing a new model of how to fight rampant theft by upping customer service. The plan involves providing shoppers with an escort and in this neighborhood, it's a plan the patrons seem to be happily tolerating.

The skilled and knowledgeable staff of Fredericksen Hardware & Paint, a hallowed, generations-old store in the Cow Hollow-Marina area of San Francisco, now escorts each and every customer as they shop for and pick up their items. "They've been here for a hundred years. It's something that they are familiar with. They're familiar with, you know, the thousands of products that they have here," said customer Danny Murcia.

That's solely because theft has gotten out of hand, threatening the store's very existence. "We really weren't giving a choice. I mean we have to keep our employees safe and our customers safe. When they're coming in to do snatch and grabs, that was the final, final straw," said longtime employee and store manager Sam Black.

Customers agree. "It's just wild. I never thought it was gonna happen in this area but, you know, it's just crazy," said Sam Morales. "These people come in. They have nerve. They think they can just walk away with them and go sell it one the street or the internet, whatever they do. It's sad," said another customer named Denise. "They're doing what they have to do to stay in business. I can't really blame them," said customer Murcia.

Normal security measures cannot fight this plague of pilferage. "Just a man at the door it not doing it in most places. And I mean, the rate of empty storefronts throughout the city," said customer Barbara Holt.

And, it appears to be spreading everywhere. "It's a shock. This has been happening maybe all over the city and other parts of the country. Now, it's finally reaching Cow Hollow," said store manager Black. "It's very terrible to see the city in this state and the business owners having to get together to defend their store," said customer Jason Lloyd.

A proposed ballot measure would drastically lower the value of what is taken, to make it a felony. "I think they should enforce smaller, smaller thefts. I mean anything; maybe $50," said customer Stefanie Constable. "I would personally say that $100 is more than enough," said customer Morales.

So why is this all happening? Two sad facts. One: we live in a culture of rampant thefts and two, the people who are doing the thieving don't actually feel that there aren't any true consequences or punishment for their actions. And, you are paying for it. That's exactly it. There's no consequence to it and they're not even thinking about that. "That's exactly right," said Black.


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