A TikTok user @djkookum has gone viral after they posted a video of them being escorted to buy baby formula at Walmart. The formula is locked up and requires an employee to purchase it. The customer was understandably a bit annoyed, but their video sparked a big debate about baby food, stealing, and availability.
Viral Video of Locked-Up Baby Food At Walmart
We are used to certain products being locked up at various stores. Medications are the most common of these. Baby food, however, seems a bit strange. This TikTok user was surprised to find it locked away when they went to purchase it at Walmart. They explained in their video that they had to find an employee who opened the display for them. Next, that employee had to escort them to the cashier, where they had to buy it before they were even done doing the rest of their shopping. (1)
They were understandably shocked and a bit annoyed by the whole process. They captioned the video “why they lock up the babies food?”. This is when commenters began weighing in, explaining why, and sparking a debate as to who is to blame.
Why Does Walmart Lock Up Their Baby Food?
Commenters were quick to point out that the reason why any store locks up anything is that it is an item that is frequently stolen. The reason why Walmart has locked up the baby food is that it was getting stolen far too often.
“It’s the stealers to blame, not Walmart” said one commenter.
“If somebody keeps stealing your stuff, would you keep leaving it out or lock it up? Common sense.” said another.
Another commenter, who used to work at Walmart, verified this. They explained that many people would steal it then try and return it without a receipt. Either that or they would sell it. Others were then quick to jump on the fact that maybe instead of blaming the people who are stealing, we should be asking ourselves why they need to steal it in the first place.
“Everyone would rather blame the people who steal rather than looking at the bigger picture and seeing that BABY FOOD shouldn’t be so expensive,” said one person.
Many others agreed, saying that we should be questioning the prices of baby formula. More people also commented that again, Walmart likely isn’t fully to blame. They base their prices based on the ones they receive from the formula companies. Others questioned why there wasn’t more support for low-income women and families with babies.
Black Market Baby Food
The reality is that baby food and other products, such as diapers, are actually frequently stolen items. In fact, there are even baby formula theft rings that are connected across the country. In December 2020, law enforcement busted a baby formula ring the spanned eight counties in Florida. These people had stolen $85,000 worth of baby items from Walmarts, Winn Dixies, and Publix. (2)
There were eight suspects in the ring. Five of them were what they called “boosters”. These people would quite literally fill up bags of diapers and formula and walk out of the store. If and when they were stopped, they would create a big scene.
“When they would be stopped at the front door, then they would scream and holler and create a great disturbance upsetting the customers in the store, and they said, ‘One of our favorite things to say is, “The only reason you stopped me is because of my race'” — that was their statement, not ours,” explained Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
They would then re-sell these products to the other three suspects. This, of course, hurts both businesses and customers.
In some more sophisticated theft rings, the stealers refer to baby formula as “liquid gold”. The problem is so big, in fact, that the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement had to get involved. This is a problem that has affected everyone: From the small stores to big-box ones like Walmart. One group, who the police busted in 2010, stole upwards of $2.5 million worth of baby formula before they got caught. (3)
The reason why it is a target of retail theft rings is because of its price point. It ranges from $15 to $30 per can, which can mean a pretty hefty profit for the thieves.
“The criminal groups are looking for products they can steal and they know based on market conditions, they can flip those products quickly and in a secondary market make 30 to 80 cents on the dollar depending on where they liquidate the money,” Joe LaRocca of the National Retail Federation explained back in 2011.
On top of that, drug dealers will buy it to dilute their products, such as heroin and meth, when their stocks are low. Mostly, however, it is stolen due to high market demand among consumers. Purchasing stolen baby formula is, of course, dangerous. Storage conditions likely aren’t correct and the sellers will fudge the expiry dates in order to continue selling. Stealing baby formula is now subject to federal racketeering laws.
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