Service of Unorthodox Market Research

June 21st, 2021

Categories: Retail, Stealing, Theft

I drop in to a few mega drugstores in my peregrinations around Manhattan. In the CVS branch on 42nd Street and Third Avenue more and more seemingly innocuous and arbitrary items are under lock and key giving the floorwalker something else to do in addition to answering questions and watching for shoplifters. I think that the choices of petty thieves might be interpreted as products most coveted in a market research kind of way–something for marketers to brag about if only silently.

Here are just a few of the protected items that we can assume are most popular to steal.

Tide has been behind bars for months if not years, though I wonder how anyone can tiptoe out of a store undetected with a cumbersome, heavy bottle of detergent.

In one aisle fish oil. cinnamon and calcium from Nature’s Bounty appear free for the taking while CoQ-10 is behind locked doors.

Honored by isolation are a range of Mucinex products–DayQuill and NyQuill too–but not all Coricidin varieties are or Delson Cough. So is ice cream, specifically Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s even though you couldn’t get far with an intact frozen container of ice cream under your shirt on a 90 degree day before you have pudding on your hands.

Do you think that manufacturers should interpret the selection of an item for confinement–safe from shoplifters–as proof of successful product marketing? Are any of the items in the stores you visit on similar lock down or is it just a Manhattan kind of thing?

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21 Responses to “Service of Unorthodox Market Research”

  1. ASK Said:

    The only product I see behind locked cabinets are those way over-priced razor-blade refills. It must be a mostly Manhattan thing.

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    Funny thing is, during a recent home comparison taste test, Häagen-Dazs isn’t really that much better, if at all !

    And if I had to bother a customer service person to unlock a case, I might just skip that particular purchase.

  3. TC Said:


    Nothing of the sort here. A curious NYC thing?

  4. BC Said:

    No food locked where we live in Fl…Some liquor is locked tho, in the big liquor stores!

  5. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie on Facebook: Yeah I noticed the lock on ice cream just last week so it is a relatively new thing. I imagine putting a pint of ice cream down your pants would be rather uncomfortable though. I witnessed a shoplifter putting deodorants in plain sight into his backpack. I reported it to the manager.

  6. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook:

    Suspect marketers NOT happy (may not even know) as inconvenience will likely result in consumer making a different, easier “unlocked” purchase. Sad state of affairs.

    I asked why ice cream was locked up and flat out was told due to theft. No one likes ice cream more than me but that’s crazy!

  7. David Reich Said:

    David on Facebook: No locks here in Westchester.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    TC, BC, and David,

    Sad commentary about Manhattan and my neighborhood.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    According to the comments that come after you, it appears to be a Manhattan thing. I wonder if the new mayor, whomever he or she will be, will help rectify the situation.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I thought it was my taste-buds. Häagen-Dazs is clearly not as rich and creamy as it was before. What brand won your taste test?

    It is irritating waiting for help but if you’ve walked the 6 blocks in heat or cold to buy something and if you have a 40 percent discount coupon that is about to expire you ring for help and you wait.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I admit to avoiding aisles with others in them when possible for the last year but that said, I’ve not seen shoplifters though clearly they are a big problem on 42nd and Third Avenue.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Hank in the first comment agrees with you.

    I wonder why frozen foods such as pizza and mac and cheese aren’t also locked up. The answer might be “Because the boxes are bigger than a pint of ice cream.”

    I also notice certain hair products are locked up too.

  13. Tugce Sagiroglu Said:

    Tugce on Facebook: No locks in NJ. I think this is a NYC thing. But this makes me curious… Would locks make certain products more desirable instead of choosing an unlocked item to save time?

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree with you, Linda Levi and Hank Goldman that having to wait for someone to open a lock could be a deterrent for sales. However, I thought a marketer might want to know what the public–or at least the shoplifting community–considers to be the most coveted items.

    I’m feeling increasingly unhappy that Manhattan seems to be the only place consumer goods need to be incarcerated to keep them safe with the exception of some liquor in Florida according to BC.

  15. lucrezia Said:

    It’s not a totally NYC thing, since popular but costly items are encased in plastic containers which require a key in drugstores. Department stores crawl with shoplifters, especially during harsh times, so regular items have tags which “scream” should one attempt to leave without paying. This strategy has been going on for years — Going back to the 70s!

    However, supermarkets in the Northern Westchester area, do not put ice cream on lockdown. Just cigarettes. Could be there are cameras working. There are many ways to catch thieves.

  16. Jeanne Byington Said:


    They don’t seem to put those noisy alarms on products in the drugstore I use though perhaps they should. I suppose the locks are cheaper than the labor cost of affixing the gizmos to so much merchandise.

    Years ago I had such a bad head cold I couldn’t breath no matter what. We visited a drugstore after the pharmacy had closed. At the time–and they may still do this–certain OTC meds were kept in the pharmacy department because one of the ingredients had become popular for kids to take for fun. The manager on duty was able to wheedle a box for me through the gate by skillfully wielding a stick. These products were locked away too–but they were the only ones at the time.

  17. MarthaTakayama Said:

    This sounds like a very Manhattan thing! It also sounds more than a tad pretentious, wacky and maybe delusional. It seems ridiculous to give this huge variety of quite ordinary consumer goods the trouble, the importance and the extreme security of being treated like items in a bank vault. Is this the best that retail in America’s largest city can manage to keep on going? It certainly would make me leave the product and the store

  18. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Feel sorry for us! The city is in tatters. We are choosing a mayor with primaries tomorrow. One of two men/women who win for each party we can only hope can lead us out of the situation.

    As for walking out of a store because products are in lockdown we don’t have much choice if we live here and retailers must protect their goods. I blame the citizens and the economy not the retailer.

  19. Deb Wright Said:

    The only locked things I have seen are at Walgreens and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. At Walgreens, the sudafed is locked up, as are the brand name allergy meds. Also, the toothbrush section that has the motorized tooth brushes. At Bed, Bath, and Beyond, again the expensive tooth brush machines. Other than that, I have not seen Tide or the specialized prestige ice cream locked up. Now that I think of it, I wonder if toilet paper was locked up at the beginning of the pandemic?!

  20. Jeanne Byington Said:


    At the beginning of the pandemic in my neck of the woods there was no toilet paper to be had and when it reappeared, you couldn’t buy much. Plus, few were shopping so it would have been easy for stores to keep an eye out for shoplifters.

  21. JBS Said:

    I’ve never seen a locked shelf in the Twin Cities.

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