Forget bog roll bandits hoarding loo paper – thieves are now openly nicking it.
Supermarkets have been forced to slap security tags on toilet rolls as Britain's shoplifting crisis spirals out of control. The tags were seen on four-packs of Andrex – which cost £3.75 – in a Tesco Express in south London where the shoplifting rate is one of the worst in the country.
The tags set off alarms when thieves try to sneak the loo paper out of the store without paying. One customer who paid for their rolls in the store in Bromley said: "We only realised the tags were on there when we left the store and the alarms went off which was quite embarrassing.
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"We had a look at what we'd bought in case we hadn't paid for something or a tag had been left on. Then we realised it had to be the loo rolls. All we could think was if they're putting tags on toilet roll things must be bad.''
Shoplifting is on the up in part fuelled by the cost of living crisis. TikTok has been singled out for encouraging people to loot certain stores.
Emmeline Taylor, a professor of criminology at City, University of London said criminal gangs are getting thieves to steal to order with alcohol, baby formula, confectionery and meat swiped in bulk to be sold on.
In England and Wales there were 342,343 shoplifting offences recorded by police over the past year compared with 275,076 in the previous 12 months – a rise of 24%. Bromley has one of the highest shoplifting rates in the country.
In nearby Bromley South – which borders the same crime recording area where the store is situated – latest stats show there were 216 offences per 1,000 people with 20% classed as shoplifting. Overall shoplifting makes up 8% of all crimes reported in Bromley borough with 2,200 – up to by 10% this year.
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That makes it 14th worst out of 99 England and Wales postcode areas. The loo roll tags come after other items have been subject to extra security measures.
The Co-op has put empty coffee jars on shelves leaving customers having to ask for the real deal if they want to make a purchase. And honey, steak and cheese have been locked up or had tags added to their packaging.
Bog roll bandits first surfaced in 2020 when hoarders stockpiled loo paper as Covid-19 hit. Some tried to sell their surplus on to others at sky high prices as fears of a shortage swept the nation.
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They returned in March (2023) after a report came out warning of a possible toilet paper crisis due to a new EU law banning products linked to forest-felling. The cost of living crisis has turned the bandits into thieves.
Tesco had not responded to a request for comment.
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