Why Is A Pennsylvania Costco Guarding Its Crab?

To circumvent product loss (otherwise known as "shrink"), many retailers keep high-value items under lock and key. But after one shopper discovered that a Costco in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was keeping its crab meat off of the shelves and safeguarded by employees, they had a few questions. In a Reddit post from December 30, the shopper shared a photo of a cardboard card depicting a container of Phillips Premium Jumbo Crab Meat. Below the photo was a barcode, with a statement above reading, "Please present to cashier."

"I wonder what happened to the crab sales to warrant this?" the poster wrote, suggesting that Costco was giving its crab meat the same treatment as much pricier items like electronics. "Is there a whole fridge of crab by the cashier next to the small electronics just waiting to be selected for this elite purchase? I have so many questions."

Some mused that perhaps this was an attempt to combat indecision, with one commenter writing, "Seems like people often just pick it up out the fridge then leave it in the racks somewhere [and] then it goes bad." However, a Redditor claiming to be a Costco employee chimed in to settle the matter. "This is far and away one of the most commonly shoplifted items in our stores," they wrote.

The anti-theft measure could trace back to inflation

Major retailers like Target and Whole Foods have noted that shoplifting has become a national crisis in recent years. With shrinkage rising 19% between 2021 and 2022 (per Investor's Business Daily), some experts suggest that the spike in inflation could be responsible for an increase in theft — and some grocery stores are adapting to prevent shoplifting. "In an environment where you're looking for any improvement, shrink becomes an area to attack because of all the other costs rising," Ray Wimer, a professor of retail practice at Syracuse University, told CNN in May 2023.

Between 2020 and 2021, inflation increased by a whopping 5.6% (via U.S. Inflation Calculator). While it's slowly dropping back down, 61% of Americans say they're having a hard time paying their bills as a result, according to a 2023 Gallup poll. And while necessity can certainly drive crime rates, some suggest the frequency of retail theft is being overblown — in November 2023, The New York Times reported that in most cities, theft has actually gone down.

One theory forming on the Costco subreddit is that retailers are tailoring their anti-theft methods to the needs of specific locations. "Maybe theft has gone up by you. I can still purchase it in the fridge section," one commenter wrote. "They do this with TWO things at my Costco: Canned crab, and Hennessy," another added. "Totally random, I'm sure."