Why Walgreens is in Trouble in San Francisco and is Closing Some Stores: It’s Not Shoplifting, that’s an Artful Distraction from the Real Reasons

Caught up in the brick-and-mortar meltdown, it faces its own botched decisions of prior years and a market that has horribly turned against its pharmacies.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Walgreens has been making global headlines with its announcements that it would close some of its huge number of stores in San Francisco. Even after these closures, there are now 53 stores left, some of them only a few blocks from each other.

But no one paid attention to its SEC filings where it reported that it had already closed 595 stores in the US over the past two fiscal years through August 31, including some of the 200 Walgreens-branded stores that it said in 2019 it would close. This company is a store-closing machine.

There are broad reasons for that, including the brick-and-mortar meltdown and Walgreens declining revenues.

But in San Francisco, there is a pile of huge reasons, including: The brick-and-mortar melt-down that is particularly harsh because people are ecommerce fanatics here; working from home that messed up Walgreens’ most concentrated area, the Financial District; and the unique market for pharmacies in San Francisco that Walgreens tried to monopolize and got caught with its pants down.

What got Walgreens’ statement about a few store closures in San Francisco – rather than the 595 store closures nationwide – regurgitated in the global clickbait media was the reason it gave for those closures. It’s the San Francisco clickbait that goes viral because the role San Francisco plays in the US is as entertainment: “Look what these crazies are doing again in San Francisco.”

And Walgreens’ stated reason for the store closures?

Oh no, not cost-cutting in the middle of the brick-and-mortar meltdown, like other chains – those that already went bankrupt and those that haven’t gone bankrupt yet. And oh no, not in recognition that its efforts to monopolize the pharmacy business in the City totally backfired because of unique reasons we’ll get into in a moment. And oh no, not because those store closures were planned as part of those 800+ store closures it announced in 2018 and 2019 nationwide, to be undertaken over the next few years, including over 600 Rite Aid stores and 200 Walgreen stores. Oh no, none of that.

It said that the reason was shoplifting.

In its annual report (10-K filing with the SEC) for fiscal year through August 31, Walgreens disclosed that “store damage and inventory losses due to looting” in the US, net of insurance recoveries, for the past three years combined amounted to $68 million, with an M.

  • Fiscal 2021: $0 (zero dollars)
  • Fiscal 2020: $68 million
  • Fiscal 2019: $0 (zero dollars).

Compared to the its “acquisition-related amortization” and acquisition-related costs” of $2.0 billion, with a B:

  • Fiscal 2021: $577 million
  • Fiscal 2020: $699 million
  • Fiscal 2019: $719 million

But organized shoplifting is real across the US, thanks to ecommerce platforms.

All brick-and-mortar retailers suffer from inventory losses due to theft. The industry word is “inventory shrinkage,” or lovingly, “the shrink” or “shrink expense.”

Many retailers mention the “shrink” in their financial disclosures, even if they don’t spell out the dollars. For example, supermarket mega-chain Albertsons Companies (includes Safeway and other store brands) said in its Q3 filing that its gross profit ticked up because of a variety of factors, including “improvements in its shrink expense.”

Organized shoplifting for commercial purposes is real. It is fed by the easy profitability with which the stolen goods can be sold on Amazon and other platforms to law-abiding Americans. When you buy a brand-name shampoo on Amazon from a third-party vendor, you have no idea where the shampoo came from. Brick-and-mortar retail stores have become the cost-free suppliers to those online sellers.

And this is getting to be a big business. But when someone takes a video of one of those escapades in San Francisco, it naturally goes viral, as just about everything that happens in San Francisco goes viral, under the category: “Look at what these crazies in San Francisco are doing again.” But it’s a national problem for brick-and-mortar retailers.

Walgreens has a revenue & income problem and is cutting costs and closing stores.

Walgreens Boots Alliance, as the company is officially known, acquired Rite Aid’s 1,932 stores in mid-fiscal year 2018, which contributed to a 12% bump in revenues in 2018 (from 2017) and a two-year bump in 2019 (from 2017) of 15%, to $137 billion.

But since then revenues fell. In fiscal 2021, ended August 31, Walgreens had revenues of $132 billion, down 4% from 2019, despite price increases and additional acquisitions, including through its “Pharmacy Acquisitions,” with which it buys independent pharmacies to get rid of pesky competition. “Our acquisition process is designed to get an offer into your hands faster than anyone else,” it says on the program’s website. Well-oiled market concentration machine.

Given this revenue problem, cost cutting is the strategy – and that includes store closings.

In San Francisco, a commercial lease can be negotiated for any term, but the typical retail store lease is for 10 years. Walgreens isn’t going to break the lease. It’s going to close the store when the lease comes up for renewal. And it knows years in advance when that is, and it makes lease-renewal decisions well in advance of closing the store. This is routine corporate planning to cut costs.

Net income over the past three years has plunged – hence the cost-cutting efforts:

  • 2021: $2.0 billion
  • 2020: $180 million
  • 2019: $4.0 billion
  • 2018: $5.0 billion
  • 2017: $4.0 billion.

Walgreens tried to monopolize the San Francisco market and it backfired.

Despite the store closures in San Francisco, Walgreens still has 53 stores left, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco is about 7 miles by 7 miles. You can walk across it in less than two hours. In and around the Financial District, there is a Walgreens every few blocks.

In my neighborhood, Walgreens closed the store in the NorthPoint Centre that was two blocks from its store in the old Tower Records Annex on Columbus Avenue. And the Columbus store is partially geared to serving tourists that wander by (sandwiches, bottled drinks, chips, emergency tourist supplies, etc., along with neighborhood functions, such as emergency toys or chocolates for the nearly forgotten wedding anniversary, to serving as a FedEx drop-off and pick-up point.

The pharmacy, which is mostly empty when I walk in, provides some healthcare services, such as flu shots. We’ll get into the special plight of those pharmacies in San Francisco in a moment.

There are also 22 CVS stores in the City. This map from the San Francisco Chronicle shows the Walgreen stores (blue) and CVS stores (red).

Walgreens stores around the Financial District crushed by working from home.

In the store map above, note the cluster of stores around the Financial District. This is nuts in normal times. Who made the decision to plaster the area with stores like this? Trying to monopolize the area? Store rents are high. And then came working from home.

San Francisco has massively moved to working from home. Office attendance is still down by 75% from pre-Covid times, according to Kastle Systems. The Financial District is still nearly dead. Countless retail stores, cafés, delis, and restaurants that had served those office workers are now empty store fronts. There is a lot of discussion about what to do with all the vacant office space, with a monstrous 26% of the office space on the market and available for lease.

It will take years to sort this out. And many of the customers that used to buy at those Walgreens aren’t coming back.

I suspect that Walgreens will close many of those stores around the Financial District when their leases come up for renewal, and each time, it will say that it’s because of shoplifting, instead of the real reasons: Its own catastrophic decision making in prior years, the brick-and-mortar meltdown, working from home, and the peculiarities of the prescription drug market in San Francisco.

Walgreens crushed by online and brick-and-mortar pharmacy competition in San Francisco.

Over the years, Walgreens tried to monopolize the lucrative pharmacy business in the City, pushing out independent pharmacies and putting stores in every corner.

Then years ago, came the brick-and-mortar meltdown, where prescription drug purchases walked off to the internet. Many healthcare providers have their own online pharmacies, or partner with online pharmacies, that deliver from locations in the City. Amazon is now also muscling into this space.

The Biggie is Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser, which is an insurer and a healthcare provider at the same time, covers roughly 50% of the insured people across the Bay Area. It’s the dominant healthcare provider and insurer in the area. The other biggies are also present, but are far behind.

Kaiser uses its own brick-and-mortar pharmacies at its campuses and hospitals and has an efficient online and phone pharmacy service. If the Bay Area market share holds for San Francisco, about half of insured San Franciscans are covered by Kaiser and most likely use Kaiser’s pharmacies. With some Kaiser plans, prescriptions can only be filled in a Kaiser pharmacy.

For years, Walgreens’ pharmacy business has been getting battered by online pharmacies and by Kaiser pharmacies — in addition to the regular competition from Costco and some supermarkets — and the online pharmacy business took a quantum leap forward during the pandemic.

Local pushback against corporate clickbait BS.

There has been some polite pushback against this assertion that shoplifting caused Walgreens to close some stores in San Francisco. Mayor London Breed has weighed in. The San Francisco Chronicle has run a series on it. Others too have poked holes into the assertion. I weighed in a few times in the WOLF STREET comments (including here).

Walgreens can say whatever nonsense it wants to say. It’s not illegal to spout off propaganda to cover up idiotic operational decisions, such as over-storing San Francisco to monopolize the market, and to divert attention from catastrophic long-term changes in the market, such as the brick-and-mortar meltdown due to the shift to ecommerce or the dominance of Kaiser.

The problem here is that the media is picking up this corporate clickbait, and in its braindead manner, is making this clickbait go viral to get clicks. People will only read the headlines and share those links – without knowing what’s going on and not wanting to know what’s going on – in order to be amused by whatever the crazies in San Francisco are doing again.

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  234 comments for “Why Walgreens is in Trouble in San Francisco and is Closing Some Stores: It’s Not Shoplifting, that’s an Artful Distraction from the Real Reasons

  1. TinyTim says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that Walgreens is having trouble. In my area Supermarkets such as Publix and Winn Dixie have in store pharmacies. Walmart and some Target stores also have pharmacies. At a certain point either you get creative and find ways to grow the business such as Amazon or you will turn into a version of K-Mart.

    • Joe Saba says:

      as these theft based stores close
      I’m thinking real hard about taking over smaller one
      putting in DRIVE THRU ONLY with bars on everything, etc.

      put in order(liquor/smokes/etc.)
      pay 1st and hand over product
      no security needed and theft is non-existent

      • otishertz says:

        Covid is creating new opportunities to do drive-thru vending.

        I’m thinking drive-thru daquiri kiosks, because a guy can sell booze in “single servings” now in my town. I’ll be the next Dutch Bros.

        Like they do it in Loiusiana. Proof of concept right there. Thanks covid. DSrinking and driving = fun/.

        • otishertz says:

          Just gotta figure out how to sell daiquiris to the snap card. Maybe if I leave out the lime.

        • Anthony A. says:

          Just ring it up as milk!

        • Joe Saba says:

          man WOLF – we need to do UP or DOWN on comments
          love daiquiris guy
          sin always sells itself

        • Don says:

          And drive in movie theaters with big screens will be back, for a little paradise under the dashboard lights. Of course, with fleets of electric vehicles charging up at the same time, ten foot spacing will be required to prevent mass battery fires while one toke over the line. The never trust anyone over thirty rule of the ’60s will be never trust anyone white and tight and driving an ancient infernal combustion racist vehicle at the movies. Smoke ’em if you got ’em while doing a line.

        • Randy says:

          Great idea and as there pulling out of the drive thru they will be pulled over and spend the night in jail. Great plan. In California i can see it.

          “Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in great danger of contagion.” ~ Thornton Wilder

    • Nick Kelly says:

      I was going to ask WR about the shoplifting news but wasn’t sure how to.
      I will confess to being taken in by it and using it for conversation of the schadenfreude type: “Look at how bad things are down there, so nice not like that here.”

      BTW: the lady of the house is a ‘marketer’, checks displays in stores like Walmart etc. Recently her outfit sent a whole team to peaceful Victoria BC on peaceful Vancouver Island (it is!) to move an entire aisle closer to the checkouts because of shoplifting.

      • Joe Saba says:

        so in Tucson at grant/alvernon we had
        1) brand new WALGREENS in 2008
        2) neighborhood wally mart in 2011
        3) Krogers/fry’s in 1990’s
        4) Circle K

        today we have the WALLY MART(neighborhood one)
        rest closed doors in past 3 years
        1) Krogers – lost on avg $1,000,000 per month to theft(even with security)
        2) Walgreens – theft closed it 1st – brand new $6M building with 75 year lease(only releasble in bankruptcy)
        3) Circle K – avg 3 beer thefts per day


        • Randy says:

          But who are the real thieves? The people stealing or the conglomerates. Lets see which one rips off who the most? Wally World how can you possibly get away with stealing at any of these conglomerate stores? Your on camera the minute you walk in with security watching you on screens constantly, then they treat everybody as a criminal and check your receipt at the door. I dont buy it. I can see somebody heisting something at a convenience store but not at your mega market where your treated like a criminal the minute you walk thru the door. With cameras all over the place. Sounds more like accounting scams to me. And i bet they spend more on security than they get stolen. Most stuff has a alarm attached to the object you buy. I dont shop at mega marts for that very reason of treating people like criminals. Plus i hate conglomerates. Id rather pay more for a object and buy from a local business. I dont feed the pig.

        • Arizona Slim says:

          Also in Tucson, the Walgreens at 1st Avenue and Grant Road closed. Last year, it was re-purposed as a COVID pop-up testing center. It’s now being converted into a Dollar Tree.

          My ever-efficient neighborhood grapevine told me that the Walgreens closed because of shoplifting and rent that was too high.

    • raxadian says:

      So you suggest doing all those illegal practices Amazon does is the key to success?

    • Rocketman says:

      But they DO offer 90 day refills!

    • Pistol Pete says:

      I agree that poor management planning and decision making is causing the rapid closure of some Walgreen stores in San Francisco. However that being said stealing and rummaging through retail stores wantonly with no punishment should never be tolerated.

  2. DanR says:

    I think this is a loss for San Francisco but makes sense for Walgreens. When I worked in NYC there was a Duane Reade (now part of Walgreens) on bottom floor of building. It provided cheaper and sometimes healthier alternatives for lunch and even dinner.

    Getting fruit, yogurt and even dark chocolates at that store was a nice break from the salty, fat-laden food served at the nearby restaurants and delis.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      “is a loss for San Francisco”

      The stores that get enough business will stick around. Stores that don’t have enough business, won’t stick around, but they aren’t much of a loss for SF.

      It also might make room for some independent pharmacies again. People would love that.

      • Josh says:

        This is total ignorance on my part but what’s the benefit of an independent pharmacy?
        I’ve always used a Walgreens or CVS and my experience has always been to wait in line and pickup whatever my doctor prescribed. Sometimes they’ll tell you how to take it or side effects but generally I would take it because my doctor told me to and the pharmacist wouldn’t impact that decision. Do independent pharmacies do things differently? Do they impact whether or not you get generics? From my vantage pharmacies are commodities but I’ve only known the big chains.

        • Kaleberg says:

          We have an independent pharmacy in town, and it has made a point of catering to various niche markets. It’s the only place in town providing certain vaccines e.g. rabies and it’s a compounding pharmacy, so they can do formula work. They don’t sell a lot of snacks or any groceries, but they have a dedicated clientele that doesn’t want to drive into Silverdale or Seattle.

          I’m going to apply the bodega theory. You find bodegas in rural places where a store winds up selling a little of everything to survive and in dense urban places where a store winds up selling a little of everything to survive. Unlike the mid-range, such stores have to know their customers extremely well. They don’t always call them bodegas, but that’s basically what they are. An independent pharmacy can do well if it knows it’s customers.

          P.S. McPhee’s bodega, which is not far from me, sells all sorts of Eastern European and Asian/Pacific foods that no one else does within 50 miles. You want banana leaves or authentic borscht, they’ve got it.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          “…what’s the benefit of an independent pharmacy?”

          Personally — and I assume it’s a personal question — I don’t know. I don’t go to brick-and-mortar pharmacies anymore, haven’t in many years. Big waste of time.

          But people do like independent stores in their neighborhoods where the pharmacist (or whoever) becomes part of the community and knows people — and isn’t just a corporate employee.

        • Jackson says:

          Absolutely, independent pharmacists are better. There is always a pharmacist on premise .The Techs are more knowledgeable and even though there may be a slight cost differential. The access to compounding with a 4 hour turnaround is exceptional with free delivery.

        • JoAnn Leichliter says:

          The pharnacist knows a great deal more about drugs than your doctor does, because that’s his purpose. There is a good reason to use the same pharmacy for all of your prescriptions, because pharmacists often catch harmful drug interactions that a physician might miss. In short, a pharmacist is not just a pill-pusher. He is a very highly educated health resource, and is all too often under utilized by his patrons.

        • Ed says:

          I suffered through 6 years of management at Walgreens. Pros and cons to them and independents. Service levels are often much higher at independent pharmacies..they have to work harder to keep their customers and often have a lot more personal Service. Shoplifting as the reason to close stores is hilarious. The pharmacy was always their centerpiece and shrink in other areas is usually mitigated by keeping the hottest items locked up or behind the front register. Just can’t believe them… and they’re a pretty bad employer to boot.. only path to upper management was to be an idiot or be an idiot and able to check a box under the diversity category….

        • yossarian says:

          independent pharmacies do a better job in catering to neighborhood tastes. for example, when my kid was younger there was a craze for making bracelets with rubber bands and the local pharmacy immediately responded by carrying all the crazy colored rubber bands and accessories. they also do things like carry higher end health and hygiene products than the garbage that is in our duane reade (walgreens). the duane reade has longer hours and, as was mentioned in another post, carries some basic food items so i end up going to both pharmacies.

        • yossarian says:

          @ JoAnn Leichliter “The pharnacist knows a great deal more about drugs than your doctor does, because that’s his purpose.”

          thank you for pointing this out. my father, who was a pharmacist, told me that he stopped people from filling dangerous prescriptions more times than you would expect. he even told me he would get in to an occasional argument when the doctor’s office would complain and he would have to explain to the doctor that he was legally liable for the doctor’s bad prescription, if he filled it.

        • Ryan says:

          I suspect it boils down to nostalgia; people envision a Norman Rockwell style painting of a happy pharmacist on the corner whose wife runs the mechanical cash register and candy is a nickel.
          Cynically, pharmacists aren’t concocting tonics or have the latest suggestions for community health. They’re a vending machine at the end of the line of fancy doctor groups under the control of health insurance companies.

  3. Andrew says:

    Ah Wolf, you’re a one man stand against the lazy corporatism of these stores. What about running for office?

    • endeavor says:

      What about running for office? You would lose an astute blogger and get a miserable politician.

  4. MCH says:

    I wonder when the leases on those financial district stores are going to be up. The clustering there literally makes no sense, and neither is the clusters around other parts of SF.

    The map is actually quite helpful in this regard in visualizing the mess Walgreen’s made for itself. You can literally look at this map and even outside of the financial district there should be at least a half dozen more closures because of the density. Any store within a two mile radius probably ought to be shut down and I would guess profitability would increase significantly at that point.

    Nice article here Wolf. Very informative.

    • Joe Saba says:

      the ONLY VIABLE stores are gonna be ones that
      have drive-up
      place order
      pay for order
      receive order thru window
      so sorry NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS for you druggies

      • Corto says:

        To be fair, a large proportion of US druggies ended up in that predicament thanks to the ruthlessness of the pharmaceutical industry over there…

  5. Satya Mardelli says:

    Wonder why WBA was ever added to the DJ 30 Industrials index. It’s been a bit of an anchor to the Dow since it replaced GE.

  6. Apple says:

    Spouting propaganda to cover up operational decisions might be construed as securities fraud.

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      If a person commits a crime but the government refuses to prosecute the person, is it really a crime?

      Welcome to the end game. Next, you’ll expect Madam Speaker to be arrested for insider trading.

      • Apple says:

        No need for partisan politics.

      • Tony22 says:

        The street side version of that people care more about is most threats to public safety and interpersonal offenses don’t warrant police intervention and legal protection, if they even show up, until someone is physically attacked by the lunatic on the sidewalk.

        We visited a cousin in Mexico and saw home made “Linchamos” signs everywhere in her neighborhood. She explained it says “We lynch criminals” and that her rather poor neighborhood was far safer than her old neighborhood in San Francisco, for people, children and property.

      • Nick Kelly says:

        She’s never been sued successfully for fraud.

      • Jack says:


        Few days ago “Fed officials can no longer have holdings in shares of particular companies, nor can they invest in individual bonds, hold agency securities or derivative contracts. The new rules replace existing regulations that, while somewhat restrictive, still allowed members to buy and sell stocks” !

        I guess what’s good for the goose ..,

        But with the Madam speaker, all bets are off, you can’t have enough money to spend on those beauty treatments :)

    • Bead says:

      Propaganda my foot.

      Might be construed…everybody is doing it. Journalists first and foremost. Corporations always and everywhere. PR spin on the interweb is pretty much the entire content.

    • MCH says:

      Sadly for SF, and CA in general, the low level property crime is a real problem. Walgreens might be using this as a convenient excuse to cover themselves because they’ve overbuilt.

      This is still a very real problem against retail stores, I heard from a friend who is doing IT security for GAP, they get internal briefs on security matters across corporate, this includes shrinkage around the company’s physical assets which in the last six plus years have become a huge issue, about roving gangs where a number of individuals would come in, but each one would literally take just under $1K worth of stuff, and run out. And in many cases, the items are sold right on the streets of SF. The store employees have been told not to interfere because of potential liability issues. They have been told to report the crimes, but the response from SFPD has been let’s just say non-existent, because it’s not like the DA would prosecute. Under Chesa and his predecessor Gascone, these crimes are no longer considered crimes for all practical purposes. The long term response from GAP is to go direct via online, obviously, theft is not only reason, since there is a need to shrink physical footprint anyway. But SF will get tossed under the bus in the process, in a way, it has itself to blame for it. (after all, the viral videos of such petty theft aren’t just made up)

      I agree with Wolf that Walgreen is using the theft as a cover for their corporate stupidity, but sadly, the problems in SF courtesy of the prop 47 is very real, and it is not just a problem in SF. The number of break ins have skyrocketed in the peninsula over the last few years. If I look on Nextdoor, car break ins are a very common occurrence in my neighborhood, more than a few has videos of the perp, but the response from the PD is “Don’t leave valuables in the cars.” In part because they can’t prosecute anyway.

      SF gets a bulk of the attention because the local media puts attention on it, and are too lazy to dig like Wolf has on the real story. But then national coverage picks it up and point to the problem as one of a liberal city. There are enough truths to it that give Walgreen corporate cover for their incompetence. But there is a real problem here. And it is worse than other states because of the laws in the books.

      • Wolf Richter says:


        Such bullshit, based on your wishful thinking, YouTube, what someone “said,” and similar BS.

        Why do I have to waste my time with this bullshit?

        So here some data for San Francisco, from the government of SF. This is based on fiscal years, which end in June. So the last data point, 2021, ended in June. This is larceny/theft which includes shoplifting, which in fiscal 2021 fell to the lowest since 2012 (click on it to enlarge):

        • go2marakesh says:

          Wouldn’t changes in the law also change peoples behavior in reporting these crimes? Or if police are going to spend the time to investigate?

          “So here some data for San Francisco, from the government of SF.”

          Yea, I find that graph hard to believe. I strongly suspect there is not less crime with less disincentive to commit crime.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Sure is more fun to make up your own BS than to look at numbers.

          And BTW, “believe” is something you do in church.

        • Arthur says:

          If the police ignore crimes do they show up in city statistics?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          They show up in stats. If the company reports a shoplifting incident, it shows up — no matter what happens to the complaint.

          Also, if you want your insurance to cover it, you generally have to file a police report. And then it shows up in the stats.

        • go2marakesh says:

          “Sure is more fun to make up your own BS than to look at numbers.”

          Just like China’s GDP or our CPI?

        • Gilbert says:

          There is a huge incentive for local LE to downplay or outright lie when it comes to reporting crime. Same goes for local politicians.

        • Jack says:


          Okay Mr Richer,

          You’ll have to admit defeat on MCH’s and cohort point of argument.

          The way we think that the government’s statistics are accurate and reliable have to be questioned vigorously, this is Not to say we have to build our case on you tube viewings either.

          Maybe relying on the newly minted Trump Truth telling media Corp ( to verify statistics)will warrant as much credibility as You Tube does!!

          On a more somber note, I would love to see us concentrating a bit on the subject of “ Energy Crisis “ that is if the price of oil and gas persists on their “ transitory “🤪 upward trend will creat even more headaches for the policy makers, the markets and for the average punters as well.

          Shoplifting might take the back seat for awhile when we’re unable to fill our vehicles to go shopping- shoplifting :)

        • Wolf Richter says:


          The only crime data we have is government data from police reports. Some crimes go unreported, such as car break-ins esp when there was nothing of value stolen, and there is nothing for insurance to cover. Why bother when the only damage is a $90 window? Everyone knows that car break-ins are not always reported. That has always been the case, and nothing changed. So in the data, there is no change from that. This is a constant.

          But when someone is shot to death, it’s reported and shows up in the stats. And to say otherwise is idiotic. It’s beyond stupid. So the homicide rates that I posted for San Francisco (4.5 per 100,000 pop) and for Dallas (15 per 100,000 pop) reflect reality — even if the San Francisco haters here cannot handle it.

          I’m getting really sick and tired of people trying to abuse my site to spread bullshit.

        • AdamSmith says:

          The reason for your data drop is that stores know there will not be any police response so they don’t call so your data point is not valid and I am surprised to see you use this without noting why the drop.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          You’re just making up more fake reasons to suit your narrative. That’s the easiest thing to do if the data doesn’t suit your narrative.

        • Moosy says:


          Unfortunately there is one problem with these stats and that is that when crimes are no longer reported as crimes, the stats will go down.

          So just add the not reported $950-or-less thefts and you will get a whole different picture.

          If you disagree, I challenge you to park your car outside in one of the area’s with surprising amount of window glass on the side of the road.

          You are brilliant but don’t get blinded by your own brilliance, especially under right the lighthouse were it is always dark.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          People not reporting car break-ins is a constant. Ours got broken into in 2017, and we didn’t report it because it was a window ($90) and a lunch bag. That is a constant and doesn’t change the numbers because it’s the same every year. People just don’t report minor stuff. If it’s bigger they report it. To claim that people suddenly stopped reporting car break-ins last two years is totally nuts.

          Oh yeah, and people stopped reporting homicides?? Because, you know, that number hit a 6-decade low (total homicides) in 2019 and SF’s homicide rate (homicides per 100,000 pop) is one of the lowest in the country. Look for my chart on this topic in this comment thread. And now you’re going to tell me people stopped reporting homicides? Sheesh.

          We live in the area of concentrated car break-ins (going after tourists). And it used to be much worse than it is now, from what we call the “glass count” on the sidewalk, which is obvious to everyone when you walk down the street.

          And they’re busting people – organized groups that do that. They’re using stakeouts and other methods. They did yesterday in front of our place. Cops chased the getaway car which hit another car, driver jumped out and ran, and they nailed him, guns drawn, three doors down. Then they spread out the contraband on the sidewalk to photograph it.

          So here is my experience: In Austin, my apartment got broken in, and stuff got stolen. I reported it. In Tulsa, my car got broken in and the stereo got ripped out, which did a lot of damage to the interior of the car. Also in Tulsa, I was assaulted in broad daylight. In Brussels, a pickpocket stole my cellphone. In Cologne, a pickpocket stole my wife’s wallet and credit cards. My brother was robbed in Jacksonville, FL. In Peru, I got tangled up in a peasant revolt (by being on a bus), and I’m really glad I got out of that one. We have lived in SF longer than anywhere else as adults, and none of this stuff happened to us here.

      • Raymond Rogers says:

        Wolf, what does it cost in manpower hours to report a theft? Is it even worth it in most instances? How much theft is discovered in audits long after the fact?

        Most places I go to now have skeleton crews. They don’t have the time and resources to deal with issues whereby they are not backed by the authorities.

        Walgreens probably did overbuild, but CA taxes, regulations, and lawlessness don’t help.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          To report a theft, you call the police. An officer shows up and fills out his form and takes your statement. Takes maybe 30 minutes for an employee to do. Later you give the surveillance videos to the investigators. And there may be more questions, etc. Initially the effort isn’t big. But if they find the people and charge them, and take them to court, you have to appear as a witness. This can drag out for hours. I did that back in the day a couple of times. It’s worth doing.

  7. South end Johnny says:

    This problem is not specific to Walgreens. Target is closing their downtown store too. SF rents are dropping because people are moving and those that haven’t want to.

    • Depth Charge says:

      I’m not sure what to believe anymore. Almost everything is spin and lies. But I read that over 50% of people in SF want to leave CA. That is a shocking number, IF TRUE.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Depth Charge,

        Yes, those surveys are always hilarious. I used to cover them, as sort of a joke. They do them every year. And year after year, they come up with the same result that CA or the Bay Area will empty out next year.

        The question isn’t if they “want to leave” but if they’ve considered leaving, or something like that. Lots of Americans consider leaving wherever they live, esp. if they’re young-ish. And lots of people leave wherever they live… to get a new job, to change scenery, to be with a loved one, etc. That’s normal. Americans are very mobile.

        I thought about “leaving” all my life — and I left a bunch of times, lived all over the world. But as of about 10 years ago, I just want to rest on my laurels largely because I’m not that young-ish anymore and because I love it here :-]

        • Rcohn says:

          My daughter lived in Berkeley and commuted to work in SF. Last year her company allowed workers to work via the internet. When her apartment lease ran out in OCT , she moved to Colorado . Her salary was not reduced ; instead she received a bonus to remain with the company.
          SF area natural wonders may be the greatest in the world as long as you are rich and don’t have to commute. For those who have to spend >1.5 hours commuting or who struggle with paying the very expensive rents , it is not so nice

  8. I dropped the local pharmacy when my HC plan offered Rx meds for free, online, and a voucher for discretionary items. I assume they are sticking medicare with the bill. I didn’t realize how much I spend on vitamins, etc. This appears to be the way it is going.

  9. JK says:

    Regardless whether Walgreens is lying or not lying about shoplifting, I can tell you from first hand experience (I work retail) that theft in California is out of control. I believe Chicago and New York are having issues due to not prosecuting these people too. Macy’s closed in downtown Chicago along with Disney and several others.

    Target is leaving San Francisco and the Mayor begged them to stay. Search for the article. You will find it. Read it couple days ago. There are shelves in the store where everything is locked up. Not one shelf, but many. They have SF Police Dept at the entrance and they tell you how bad it is.

    I was talking to someone near me and he told me how all the booze at a Safeway is under lock and key. This neighbood Safeway is not in the ghetto.

    I had a customer come in and buy some health products. He left and later I found out that the front staff busted him trying to walk out with a bunch of groceries. The girls I was working with talked about this guy with disgust. He’s done this before. He’s in his 50’s. Can you imagine???

    The West Coast cities have become cess pools. Look at the Santa Monica and their homeless issues. LA homeless is featured on YouTube so all the world can see our third world conditions.

    Theft does not help the bottom line. We pay for it.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Retail theft was out of control in Tulsa, OK, too when I was living there. It’s always out of control unless the store spends lots of money to control it, but that’s hard to do because the margins aren’t big enough.

      • SpencerG says:

        LOL… that reminds me of when I was stationed at the Navy base in Newport, Rhode Island back in the 90s. Obviously there isn’t a whole lot of “shrinkage” that happens at the Navy Exchange stores due to the customers all being subject to military discipline… about 20% of the retail national average according to recent reports.

        But being a government operation (operating on government money) this store spared no expense on “Loss Prevention.” State of the art camera systems… monitored constantly by TEAMS of loss prevention agents. They easily spent over a half-million dollars a year controlling theft at a small store on a small base (less than 10,000 people). We used to JOKE about how they spent more catching thieves than the thieves actually took.

        But occasionally they would catch someone and you would just shake your head in disbelief. I knew a nuclear submarine OFFICER who they caught stealing a $20 bike lock. I doubt that they court-martialed him (or I would have heard about it) but that was the end of his Navy career AND he undoubtedly lost his security clearance which meant that he couldn’t work in the CIVILAIN nuclear industry either. This wasn’t some homeless guy stealing stuff to support a drug habit… this was one of the highest paid officers in the Navy.

        • Jake W says:

          while i’m not saying that the amount they spent was appropriate, if you do it correctly, the amount you spend on theft and fraud prevention will exceed the amount lost on those, because by definition, it worked. the losses in the absence of those measures could have been much higher.

        • SpencerG says:

          Jake W…

          Good point. I have no idea what the shrinkage would be in the ABSENCE of such extreme loss prevention efforts.

        • David in Texas says:


          It is indeed puzzling why people like that nuclear sub officer would ruin his life for a $20 bike lock. But it happens a lot.

          A few years ago, the former managing partner of McKinsey, Rajat Gupta, was on the board of Goldman Sachs. He used this position to funnel inside information to a hedge fund. Eventually they got busted and Gupta went to prison.

          I’m sure the hedge fund was paying him, but the guy reportedly had a net worth north of $100 million, so whatever it was, it was like your officer’s $20 lock in comparison to his wealth.

          As the song said, “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.”

        • SpencerG says:

          David in Texas,

          It was odd as hell I gotta tell you.

          I didn’t know him hardly at all. I had met him in a class when I first reported to the base and spoke with him a couple of times in the hallway during breaks. He kept mentioning how he owned all these expensive toys… Land Rover, Chris Craft, Harley, etc. Being a Lieutenant (same as he was) I knew that he hadn’t afforded those on the money the Navy was paying him… even with the annual nuclear bonuses. And certainly not with a growing family like he had. But I just figured that he came from family money… you see that every so often in the service.

          When he got busted a couple of years later I remember thinking to myself, “I could afford to buy a toy or two as well if I wasn’t paying for all the LITTLE stuff in Life.”


    • JoAnn Leichliter says:

      Interestingly, our local Walmart (west Omaha area) recently locked up its toothbrushes. Not booze, not watches, not…well, you get the idea. I asked, incredulous, whether they’d been having a lot of toothbrush theft, and the answer was yes. Go figure. And we do prosecute shoplifters here.

      • Ron says:

        Nice too see a native Omaha person on site welcome

      • Thomas Roberts says:

        At my local target, during 2019, they had to start locking up the popsockets (they are rotating suction cups for the back of your phone, that you can hold onto). 90 out of 100 were stolen, prompting the lockup. The area I live in, doesn’t have that much crime, so it was probably mainly a couple of people (maybe even a single person), who just really liked stealing them alot. I think there are some people, who just pick particular items to steal, as a sport.

    • MarkinSF says:

      Not to dismiss Wolf’s premise (because its accurate) but I agree with a couple of your observations. I live in SF Noe Valley (baby central for high end techies) and the neighborhood Walgreen’s on Castro has an SFPD officer at the entrance during the entirety of the store’s hours. AN SFPD officer! What is the cost of that in terms of labor and service? And yes any high end item is locked up so you have to grab a store employee just to unlock a damn plastic bin to grab some toothpaste.
      Its crazy. My son in law visited from San Diego and asked why a real cop was manning the entrance so I had him ask the cop who went on a rant about rampant retail theft. I’m nowhere near a law and order type so I’m not prejudiced in this matter but this is pretty bad. Don’t know what the stats show but the Gallery of Jewels on 24th has been broken into 4 times since the pandemic. The last one involved driving a truck through the front window destroying the foundation. They just announced they’re done for good. After an amazing run of over 3 decades (my wife is totally bummed but I have a small sense of relief to sooth my anger).
      These are just observations in my hood. It does seem worse.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        SFPD officers, like all police officers, are routinely hired for private events (for example, to control traffic and as security when they shoot movies around my hood), as security for stores, etc. They’re off-duty and get paid separately for this work. It’s more expensive than a regular security guard, but much more effective. They’re all over the place, all across the country. In some places in the US, they have them in schools. What’s unusual is that a Walgreens is not a big store, so you really see the security, but if the store has good prescription business, it’s doing quite a bit of dollar volume.

  10. Michael Gorback says:

    How come the FTC has no qualms about Kaiser owning 50% of the market? It’s like that in quite a few cities and states with other carriers.

    In what other areas of business does the FTC tolerate this level of competition-destroying market dominance? If Kaiser issues half the insurance policies and those policies (AND their captive doctors) drive the insured to Kaiser’s pharmacy who stands a snowball’s chance in Satan’s jockstrap?

    • Michael Gorback says:

      Oh wait. Cable companies. My bad.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Kaiser doesn’t screw people like Anthem et al do. And it costs less, and it’s good healthcare, so people flock to it. People HATE Anthem. They get burned elsewhere, and go to Kaiser and like it and stay. So it grows.

      50% of the market is nothing compared to Google’s search market share of 90%+.

      • ft says:

        Kaiser does screw people, by collecting a fee at every station you stop at inside. Between seeing your GP, a specialist, x-ray, lab, etc, a Kaiser visit can easily cost over $150 out of pocket.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Then go to Sutter or another healthcare provider and go to your “GP, a specialist, x-ray, lab, etc,” and see how much it will cost you. A minor fortune because they’re not tacking on a little fee, but each one is billed separately as a full visit with a full deductible/copay and all. Been there done that.

      • Michael Gorback says:

        I know you love Kaiser but plenty of people have registered their hatred of it online.

        Kaiser vs Anthem is like asking if Pinochet was worse than Hitler. Both were horrible, just a matter of degree. Anthem is IMHO the most disgusting insurer ever, and believe me, they have some stiff competition like UHC.

        The monopoly isn’t just about patients or drugs. In quite a few states one carrier is so dominant that losing a contract with them is a death blow to your practice. Their negotiations are literally a Hobson’s Choice.

        Health insurance companies are not your friend, your ally, your partner, or your protector. You are their livestock.

        I’ve been fighting with these psychopathic f*cks for decades. And as I’ve said repeatedly I’m very uncomfortable when the same company paying for the care controls the decisions about the care. Kaiser is the pioneer, but there are copycats like UHC that want to insure you and run you through their own clinics.

        This issue reminds me of Cromwell after his defeat and execution of Charles II. Once the Royalists were gone the Parliamentarians turned on each other, with Cromwell pushing for voting rights limited to landowners, while the poor bastards who lost life, limb or livelihood demanded a vote even if landless. Cromwell tried to eliminate the “Levellers” by accusing them of treason against the very cause they fought and died for. Eventually Cromwell joined Charles, but in the early days of the American colonies, the settlements were filled with both fugitive Royalists and fugitive Roundheads, both of which hated each other.

        Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. When a rogue kisses you, count your teeth. You do not get to be CEO of a huge corporation (or leader of Parliament) by being nice or trustworthy.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          You speak with your experience in Texas, and I agree with that in Texas. For example, in Texas I would not get a Medicare Advantage plan because I’d have to deal with a Texas health insurance entity. No way. Direct with Medicare is the ticket there.

          Texas is pro-insurance company and anti-regulation. The “business climate” in Texas is praised everywhere, including in California. Indeed, it’s a good business climate, and business taxes are low, and regulations are low, minimal, or non-existent. Tesla’s HQ just moved there because of it…

          But the people get screwed in Texas by these insurance companies and don’t even know it. Lack of regulation has that effect. When we switched our Blue Cross of Texas high-deductible plan to the same high-deductible plan with Blue Cross of California in 2006, our premium dropped nearly in half. California has an insurance commissioner with some teeth left that even cracks down occasionally.

          I don’t “love” Kaiser. I love my wife. Far behind, I love running this website and swimming in cold water. Further behind, I love beer, fruit, veggies, good bread, et al. Kaiser is not on that list.

          But Kaiser has been a good experience for over a decade. The Blue Cross HMO in Tulsa that I had for many years was also a good experience (while Blue Cross was still a nonprofit). Then there were some years when I came in contact with health-care greed (hellcare, as you called it so aptly), and that was a terrible and expensive experience.

        • Petunia says:


          Thank you for being so open about health insurance and especially medicare. I am researching it now and I can’t believe how incredibly complex they have made the choices. No old person, especially a sick one, should have to deal with this kind of complexity.

          The medicare insurance brokers that sell these plans are also big fat liars. They tell you with an expensive plan N or G, you can go anywhere and be almost fully covered, for paying a big premium. When you double check it only covers you in a network. No different than an advantage plan that could be cheaper.

          I have decided to go with traditional medicare, when I sign up. The biggest reason is I don’t want to deal with an insurance company ever again. And I also don’t want to have to deal with picking a plan every single year. Simplicity Matters.

          I blame this entire mess on our corrupt congress and will be voting accordingly. Congress gives an insurance company $1K a month to sign up medicare advantage members and still charges them the monthly $148 fee. This is a rotten deal for the member and sweet for the insurance company. The member pays a minimum of the monthly fee and the insurance company keeps the $1K, regardless of use.

        • El Katz says:


          We are on traditional Medicare and have a Plan G.

          Our Medicare Supplement (G) pays the co-pay on any claim that Medicare approves. No “networks” involved. If Medicare pays, they pay.

          My wife (aka The Bionic Woman) goes anywhere her heart desires. Even Mayo (here in AZ) and our Plan G pays if Medicare pays.

          We didn’t want a Medicare Advantage plan because most of them are near worthless outside the state you live in and our family is spread out across the country.

          Pick your supplement carefully. When you initially enroll in Medicare and a supplement, it’s guaranteed acceptance. If you change to a Advantage program and want to return to a supplement, you have to pass insurance screening and they (supplement) can decline coverage.

    • SpencerG says:

      The FTC has a really informative webpage called “Monopolization Defined” that explains what qualifies as a monopoly for anti-trust purposes. While using your monopoly power to create a NEW monopoly is illegal (such as Microsoft’s OS monopoly producing an advantage for its web browser)… there are plenty of exceptions that Kaiser would obviously benefit from.

      -Do they have exculsionary power or tactics?
      -Is their advantage sustainable over time?
      -Do they simply have a better product/service? Or better management?
      -Does their service benefit consumers through greater efficiency?

      Bottom line is that the courts are looking at whether the monopolist’s success is due to “the willful acquisition or maintenance of that power as distinguished from growth or development as a consequence of a superior product, business acumen, or historic accident.”

      • eg says:

        Antitrust was crapified many years ago by Bork and his fellow travellers. It will take a lot of currently absent political will and many years to reverse the damage.

      • robert says:

        The idea of a monopoly was a principle created out of envy to buy votes in the early 20th century and lives on. But monopolies by private enterprises are a fallacy, just as ‘cornering a market’ is a fallacy except for short periods of time. Thus the old saying that the cure for high prices is high prices.
        Any ‘monopoly’ that attempts to overprice simply sets itself up as a target for more attractive pricing by other entrants. The only true monopoly is that set up by a government to provide goods or services and has the power to make products or services offered by any other entrants illegal, which entrants, if they dare, they will be prosecuted because the state has such power. In that case, prices are sustained by diktat, and often result in inverse black markets where the price is lower than the state-regulated price. The other effect of course, if the product is under-priced, is that there will be shortages, and again the black market (the real market) will fulfill demand at higher than the official price.
        The earliest and best-known target of monopoly legislation was against Standard Oil after relentless attack by muckrakers. Rockefeller’s activities had reduced the price of oil by as much as 98%, to 2 dollars a barrel (where it then stood for 60 years) but was forced to break up because it had grown too big and was too successful. Standard simply reverse-monopolized and became many smaller companies, essentially proving that breaking up a monopoly was a useless exercise but pleased the ignorant public.
        In the case of Microsoft’s IE browser, all that happened is that innumerable superior browsers were created without the need of anti-trust prosecution, eventually reducing MSFT’s market to negligible numbers, even though many of the early browsers were not ‘free’ but were either shareware or outright sold. In addition, though IE’s browser was integrated with Windows it didn’t take long for people to devise ways of removing/disabling it.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          I cant believe the group is letting this fly while worrying about the Speaker’s makeup. It’s a financial and business site, kiddies, not a place for you to exercise your hobby horses.

          Moving on to business:

          ‘Any ‘monopoly’ that attempts to overprice simply sets itself up as a target for more attractive pricing by other entrants’

          One target of the first anti-trust laws was the railroads.
          Why does Buffet love RRs? The ‘moat’ or barrier to entry.
          You can buy locos, cars and the metal rails, but where to lay those rails? What other ‘private business’ cuts thru town, stopping traffic with auto barriers? You will NEVER get another rail right- of- way through urban USA.

          And back in the early 20 th century, there were no monster semi trucks. The RRs could charge whatever they liked.

          Someone else can do Standard Oil.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Nick-very well-said. i’m not sure when an examination of the ‘Big 3’ (Vanderbilt-/RR’s, Rockerfeller/SO, and Carnegie/USS) vs. the amazing innovation of antitrust (now observed primarily in the breach), and why it was important and societally beneficial, ceased to be covered in high-school U.S. History-but obviously it has.

          may we all find a better day.

        • robert says:

          Nick, governments granted those rights-of-way; somebody didn’t just come along and lay rails in the middle of town. Even in the middle of nowhere rights had to be granted to lay rails.
          In the early days, the railroad coming to town meant prosperity, when great quantities of goods and grain could be moved. Prior to that it was either wagons, or steamboats if waterways existed.
          The first great price wars were between steamboats and trains.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          Robert: I can’t see where you are disagreeing with me. Of course govt had to give the RR permission for its route. On the prairies this was a general not a narrow precisely surveyed route. The govt grant was wide. There was no earth moving equipment, the terrain dictated the route more than govt hundreds of miles away. And where the land was being homesteaded the RR had to buy it.

          But here is one thing to realize about the RR coming thru town: most of the time it didn’t. There were no cities in most of
          middle US. The city grew up around the RR because the RR was there. And as soon as the route was announced, folks rushed to buy or preempt (homestead) in front of it.

          An example from Canada’s building of the CPR, where there was even more nothing on the prairies than in the US Mid- West. An orgy of land speculation occurred along the wide general route granted by govt.
          A CPR chief, the American Boss, Van Horne, was negotiating with a farmer. The latter was convinced he had the RR over a barrel. His land was right in its path! But after hours of haggling, Van Horne said ‘F8ck it’ and the RR swerved its route a few miles around the holdout’s land. So today there is a substantial city, Brampton, with the RR running thru it and no one has heard of a small hamlet on the original route.

          Just read S. Clemens ‘Life on the Mississippi.’ True, the steam boat was first but was only able to compete with RR for passengers for about 30 years.

  11. Michael Gorback says:

    Don’t confuse the symptoms with the disease. You can’t cure Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever with white paint. It’s the pathogen that’s the problem, not the spots. Needles and feces are symptoms of a socioeconomic breakdown, not the cause.

  12. NARmageddon says:

    One little correction. A patient has the right to fill their prescriptions at any pharmacy of their choosing. And that includes prescriptions from a Kaiser doctor. Often, you can pay cash and get an Rx for less at places other than Kaiser.

    How to account for these cash purchases wrt. pharmacy deductibles I do not know, though. It may or may not be possible for all I know.

    • Michael Gorback says:

      Usually if you pay out of network (eg, using GoodRx) the insurer will not credit your deductible. So if your medication is $100 and you have a $10 deductible and opt to use GoodRx to save $50, the insurer will keep your deductible amount at $10 even though you just saved them money.

      Medication $100
      Medication cost to patient after using $10 insurance deductible $90.
      Cost to insurer $10
      Remaining deductible $0

      Medication $100
      Medication cost to patient after using GoodRx $50 discount $50.
      Cost to insurer $0
      Remaining deductible $10

      Who wins either way?

      Do not trust health insurers, ever.

      • El Katz says:

        I thought that, for Medicare Part D, you can’t use it in conjunction with GoodRX. It’s “either / or”. I happen to have an advert from GoodRX that we received in the mail and it states: “it can be used instead of insurance or government funded programs”.

        AFAIK, it doesn’t impact your donut hole or deductible as no claim is made.

        • El Katz says:

          PS: If you haven’t used GoodRX, I suggest you look into it. My wife uses a cream that retails for $800 per tube. (Not a typo). On our Part D insurance it was $480. Good RX was $83 at Walrusmart (who was the least expensive pharmacy listed). And they sold it for that price without a squeak.

  13. DawnsEarlyLight says:

    CVS will once again be an authorized military/Tricare (pharmacy), while dropping Walmart/Sam’s Club pharmacies, starting December 15th. Certain Walgreens will be affected, based on proximty to CVS Pharmacies.

    • Clete says:

      Based on proximity to CVS, virtually *every* Walgreen’s will be affected. Most of the time if I’m standing in a Walgreen’s parking lot, I can see a CVS.

      • doug says:

        Two decades ago, we were selling our small farm near a growing tech area. A friend got someone who found commercial spots for a large chain to come talk to us and educate us a bit before we started.

        At some point we discussed CVS, Walgreens, and one other? buying on the corners across from each other. Ego was driving this, he said. Every one of them thought they would drive the other out of business. He thought they would regret over buying and over paying. Seems he was correct.

        • El Katz says:

          I did site selection work in the auto industry as part of “market studies” that looked for population growth estimates, migration patterns, road network changes (freeway bypassing towns, etc.,), income growth, registrations, etc.. Most of the data used for this purpose was provided to each automotive brand by the same vendors. There were very few companies that provided the software to do the demographic mapping (I know of two). As a result, most (if not all) companies used the same forecasting software, the same data and, with the onsite contract employees working for the providers of said software as consultants, the same training. As such, it’s no surprise that similar businesses ended up being clustered in the same area.

          When we would choose to go outside their recommendation as to what was “defensible” in court (dealer laws are very restrictive), our legal would have a meltdown.

          One must also realize that people are lazy and not always excited about spending hours upon hours sitting in a car driving a market, taking pictures, interviewing government employees (county/state/city), local dealers – both competitive and in brand – in order to gain some familiarization with the market…. they just looked at where the competitors built (or where their open points were), recommended the same area, and called it a day.

          In our case, it was not about “driving anyone out of business”… it was more about our not getting driven out of business as a result of lost opportunity.

        • In the old days the monopoly practice was to build a grocery store chain in a small under served community, sell at below cost for three months, drive the local stores out of business and raise prices. Being a corporation running one store at a loss for several months was no problem. Laws were enacted but then Walmart brought that to new levels. Then the customers they serve have no regret in stealing from them. Inventory loss attributed to shoplifting is equal parts employee theft. People used to hate corporations. They put on a marketing campaign (ESG) but when Covid hit and there was zero public policy response to worker safety, (true much of that was small business) the animus was revived. One political party is the absolute defender of corporate rights (since eminent domain) and they are able to sell that based on their constituents cynicism.

  14. Richard Greene says:

    The article provides no data on shoplifting in those stores that are closing. Given the huge numbers of bums living on the streets in San Francisco, I imagine shoplifting at many stores in some neighborhoods is unusually high.

    The stores that are closing may have been marginally profitable or breakeven before shoplifting. We will never know. But SF shoplifting is a problem that affects small business profits, and probably is one of many reasons for a store to close. It is not a lie to say shoplifting is part of the problem.

    Walgreen’s used the closing of stores for financial reasons to publicize a shoplifting problem. Typical corporate public relations. I blame the media for publishing what they are told with no checking. That is the real problem — quoting press releases is modern “journalism”.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Richard Greene,

      Walgreens refused to disclose shoplifting data when it made the announcements because apparently there was not a lot to disclose.

      But the SF Chronicle has investigated the shoplifting data filed with the police of those Walgreen stores. Here are the results from the Chronicle:

      “Data released by the San Francisco Police Department does not support the explanation announced by Walgreens that it is closing five stores because of organized, rampant retail theft.

      “One of the stores set to close, on Ocean Avenue, had only seven reported shoplifting incidents this year and a total of 23 since 2018, the data showed. While not all shoplifting incidents are reported to police, the five stores slated to close had fewer than two recorded shoplifting incidents a month on average since 2018.”

      • ***Mart Worker says:

        Shoplifting is a huge problem. It has been decriminalized so the police are not involved in enforcement. Hence no police records. Shoplifting is done by everyone, not just poor minorities. Watch for more sociological effects as crime becomes the norm. Denial is futile.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          ***Mart Worker,

          Shoplifting has NOT been “decriminalized.” That’s BS that people keep spreading.

          In California, shoplifting under $950 is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by probation, fines, restitution, and up to 6 months in jail.

          Shoplifting over $950 is prosecuted as a felony.

          In California in general, a misdemeanor as a crime with a maximum sentence up to one year in county jail. It is a crime, and you can go to jail for it, and people do go to jail for it.

          There has always been a dollar-line on property crimes between what is a misdemeanor and what is a felony. Go over the line, and it’s a felony. Both are crimes.

          The dollar amount of that separating line between misdemeanor and felony was raised, after years of not having been raised. That’s all. You can call it an inflation adjustment.

          If it is organized theft committed by a ring of people that then sell the goods, it’s a felony of an entirely different category, not shoplifting.

        • tommy strange says:

          Really? With citizen paid police actually watching over Walgreens (while mom and pops have to wait hours to make a report). I live here. There are cops all over the area of mission street near chain stores, ..and Valencia street……I mean relative to outside the retail corridors…. that guy in the video was arrested right away. God people get brainwashed by crime headlines so fast………

      • Richard Greene says:

        If you worked in public relations for Walgreens and they were closing stores for lack of business, the last thing you would announce to the public is you are closing stores because business stinks !

        Who tells the truth these days !

        I’m surprised they didn’t blame Trump, or white supremacists, or even worse: Climate Change !

        I imagine that lots of shoplifting is not reported and lots is from store employees.

        Shoplifting varies a lot by neighborhood.

        It would seem that brick and mortar retail shopping is down in the COVID era so there should be less shoplifting overall assuming fewer people in the store means less theft.

        But a retail store with food and snacks and lots of small items that is near a lot of homeless bums has to be getting hit a lot more than stores elsewhere in the same city.

        In my opinion Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid are overpriced stores that I avoid almost always.

        I use Humana mail order for three generic drugs that would cost about $30 a month in any retail drugstore… but zero cost by mail from Humana.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          The targeted items in organized shoplifting are what you can sell on the internet. It’s shampoo and that kind of stuff. When they go into a store, they try to clean out the shelf. Days later, the stuff shows up on Amazon and other platforms. That’s a big business, and it happens across the US.

    • Saylor says:

      You think the homeless ‘bums’ are responsible for high numbers of shoplifting incidents?


      Talk to some homeless people someday. Learn something.

  15. otishertz says:

    San Fran has nothing on crazy. Portland is the all time winner on crazy. When I was a retailer and did inventory I regularly found 10% of my inventory had vanished, aka, shrunk. Hitting the magic number of ten times annual inventory turnover was ticklish fighting against 10% shrinkage.

    A retailer has a lot of rights to detain thieves. I have held loud complaining people physically in my custody. Held them down on the floor. Once I held a cop’s little girl in custody. He was so mad. Then I prosecuted his ass and his little girl. They were on vacation too at the time and had to fly back for court.

    Go to The Duh, aka Florid-Duh. There are drive through drug stores on every corner of every major intersection. I dare you to drive down 41 and fart up a lozenge every time you pass one on the way to the Olive Garden.

    These companies are subsidized by those guys who took in $81 billion so far this year. 9 new individual pharmaceutical billionaires I read somewhere. At my local Safeway I have watched people just walking out without paying. Nothing is done. No effort to stop them. Some dudes in black with tasers and masks just standing ther, for appearance.

    Walgreens probably realizes there are too many of them stores and are getting out of dodge, taking the easy excuse. They made us do it.

    Screw these companies. They only sell corporate crap disguised as tasty anyway.

    I’d rather sell on amazon and have them take on the risk of shrinkage, and minimize my inventory risk at the same time.

    • otishertz says:

      Keystone is a thing of the past. Keystone means a 50% profit margin. Drugsores and groceries operate on a lower margin, granted, and that makes it even harder for them to keep storefronts open.

      Thing is, a lot of retail locations like Broadway in NYC or the popular streets in any redeveloped downtown or street near the beach have rents based on keystone margins. Only trophy stores can survive, because they don’t have to make money. They make it online. So, on street level, no retail diversity is left with any, just corporate walk-in advertising stations.

      I still can’t figure out how all the nail salons survive. I think maybe they are not making money but funnelling money. I want to be reincarnated as a korean nail salon mogul/.

      • JoAnn Leichliter says:

        Well, you can’t get your nails done online. But it does make you wonder.

      • Petunia says:

        The nail salon I frequented in FL had a tanning salon next door. It wasn’t unusual to see black men coming and going from the “tanning” salon, as well as, seeing the girls from the nail salon working next door. In another nail salon I frequented, in another town in FL, the men would walk in the front door, go straight to the back, and disappear. Sometimes I was there 2 hours and didn’t see any of them walk back out of the front door. Something was definitely going on.

        • otishertz says:

          I saw the same thing at salt n straw in portland. I’m convinved that salt n straw is PEOPLE.

    • Jake W says:

      most chains don’t allow security to do anything for liability. the problem is that stores and security can be held liable if they make a mistake. it should be based on whether they acted reasonably, even if someone is ultimately wrongfully detained.

      • Tony22 says:

        But other customers can do something. A couple of guys surround the thief:
        “Ling can’t do anything to you, we are going to kick your ass good if we see you stealing. Put the stuff back, or pay for it.”
        That is one advantage of local corner stores and would never happen at Walgreen’s.

        • Jake W says:

          in small towns, that’s definitely the case, where people take pride in their neighborhoods. not so in large cities.

          but anyway, that would never fly today, because it would have a “disparate impact”

  16. Beardawg says:

    Always wondered what was up with Walgreens putting up stores L and R starting about 20 years ago (or so it seemed). Being fairly healthy, I visited one every couple of years, and usually because it was more like a convenience store.

    Gonna presume, however, they mostly own the dirt where they build, so when the dust settles, they will get a fair amount of their capital back and the land / structures will be re-purposed.

    • SpencerG says:

      I doubt they own very much real estate. In a big city they obviously just lease the ground floor of a property. But for standalone stores most retail firms do that Sale-Leaseback thing so they can clean up their Balance Sheets by getting rid of the LT debt associated with a store.

  17. Xavier Caveat says:

    When I was a kid growing up in Cali in the 60’s there was seemingly 2 or 3 gas stations on intersections with traffic signals and a good many of them have been replaced by corporate pharmacies, often with odd angled buildings that you never see elsewhere.

    The only chain I remember was Rexall, which had the funkiest smell.

    I’m merely guessing, but there might be 10 pharmacies now for every 1, back then.

    Gives you an idea of just how addicted we are to pharmaceutical drugs.

    • Ron says:

      Because doctors get kick backs on prescriptions should be totally illegal but politicians do it whole system corrupt

  18. BuySome says:

    Wow! Aside from everything else you’ve pointed out in the article Wolf, it seems that you have inadvertently noted the point that Amazon is a defacto co-conspirator in a criminal network. Wilfull ignorance is not the basis of a plea of “not guilty”, so why the hell hasn’t the facilitator been brought before a magistrate and bound over for trial already? $€£¥?

    • Petunia says:

      These products are not just online, the flea markets sell these products too.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Amazon’s role in selling fakes, contraband, dangerous products, and the like is well-established. Some legislation has been proposed to make platforms, such as Amazon, require third-party vendors to prove the origin of the product and that they purchased it legally, but that legislation has gone nowhere.

      • Petunia says:

        I bought a watch on Amazon, an older style of a brand no longer in business. The watch marked time, but the extra features didn’t work. I returned it and the seller wouldn’t accept it back, it was returned back to me by UPS. Amazon gave me a full refund.

        What I didn’t know until much later was the watch wasn’t damaged, it was a fake.

        • Anthony A. says:

          Watches are fashion statements these days. They don’t need to work, just look the part!

  19. josap says:

    At the edge of the urban core, there is one pharmacy every mile, at least. There are two I can walk to on opposite corners.

    One of those is a Walgreens. They just took about 1/3 of the sq ft and turned it into a clinic. It had to cost them a bundle. There is much less stock to choose from, store wise. The pharmacy just closed due to a lack of personnel. My understanding is the pay is very low for the area. It was always crowded, no real service, everyone working as fast as possible.

    Across the street is an Osco, inside an Albertsons /Safeway. Good service, not super busy, they know we oldsters by sight when we come in. My Dr office calls in my scrips. The pharmacy will get refills approved when I texted back a yes. They text me when my scrip is ready. If you drop off a scrip it’s easy to do grocery shopping while they fill it, no standing around doing nothing.

    I could also get my meds through my insurance co for less/free, or Amazon or ??? But I want a pharmacist to look at what I take and know what is going on with me.

    • JoAnn Leichliter says:

      You are pretty canny, josap. Your pharmacist is a valuable resource.

    • Paulo says:

      You and JoAnn nailed it about the second look.

      Where I live if you have a new prescription you don’t receive it before the pharmacist sits down and goes over it with you. I believe it is law. The pharmacist knows more about the meds than any doctor, and their task is to ensure there are no complications with other medications your doctor doesn’t know about, or didn’t catch. This includes those folks who do the natural herb thing or practice self help from Dr Google or Facebook.

      But the article was interesting. There is a meme of blame it on California about everything. Look hard and it will fit the narrative, but really it is always about money. This includes the search for no tax states to live in. Walgrens has just taken a page from a well thumbed playbook. And no, I don’t live in Cali.

      If the truth be known there are just too many drug stores. There are too many hair salons, too many restaurants, too many gas and gos, but when the only economy left is scratching each others itches instead of actually producing things or providing necessary services, selling tuna and umbrellas and snacks at a drug store might seem to be a normal business model. It isn’t.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        Paulo-well said, especially your last paragraph. No way to find out for sure, but also am suspecting more and more ‘small businesses’ are being used to wash money from other activities…

        may we all find a better day.

  20. Brant Lee says:

    My (former) Walgreens has been shut down more or less for over a month because the pharmacy staff quit and walked out. I changed to another corporate brand that sells the same Chinese pills. That will show em.

    I suppose everyone here knows that prescription medicine doesn’t have to be labeled ‘Made in China’ like your everyday Dollar Tree items. Gosh, that law must have slipped through customs while no one was looking.

    • Tony22 says:

      Hey man, you’d have to be crazy to take any meds made in China, other than locally sourced herbs from a reputable herbalist.

      When they figure out how to assure that their dog food, drywall, insulation, chemicals and human food is safe, then maybe you can trust their pharmaceutical products.

      • Depth Charge says:

        Advil et al are now made in China. Most over the counter meds are these days. Welcome to The United States Of Political And Corporate GREED.

        • josap says:

          Lots of meds are made in India. You can even order direct when you fax or email the paper scrip. Retail price from India is sometimes the same or lower than your co-pay.

  21. Putter says:

    The amount of crime makes perfect sense. We have been in a depression a long time. Inflation has been running much higher than has been reported. This has masked the fact that we have been running a negative real GDP. That is why there is so much homeless and need for more and more social safety nets. Inflation only increases wealth disparity. Printing more money, only makes matters worse. The end game will not be pretty!

  22. VintageVNvet says:

    According to my ”geriatric internist ” a few years ago when I told him I was using wine and ”herbals”
    (especially turmeric) for the arthritis pain instead of synthetic pharmaceuticals, he and the pharmacists could not know where ANY drug was manufactured, by law.
    He said he had known of several serious quality control issues, had dug deep, and found the problems all came from ”other countries”,,, not just China.
    He thought I was better off using the above because at least we knew where stuff was coming from; these days, preferring Pinot Grigio, I prefer the northern Italy sources, but CA is good with the Chardonnay, per the entertaining and educational movie ”Bottle Shock.”
    Re: Walgreen mess, as mentioned above, in the early ’90s, WG and Eckerds went absolutely nuts in many areas, building way way too many stores and frequently right across the street/corner from each other.
    Any rational reasoning must have told the folks that would turn out bad, and I see many of them either closed down and empty, or, mostly converted to other uses, sometimes several times in the last 30 years or so.

    • 728huey says:

      The reason Walgreens went hog wild building so many stores back in the 1990’s was because they were anticipating massive profits on prescription drugs due to an aging population, which wasn’t necessarily a bad idea at the time. What they didn’t anticipate was the internet and how it would disrupt commerce permanently.

  23. Jay says:

    I don’t feel sorry of them. I spent 2 1/2 hours on line filling out and taking tests for the management training program only to be told 20 minutes after submitting it all thanks but no thanks. Never even spoke to a person. Great seeing the people in stores now begging for applicants.

  24. David Dawei says:

    I enjoyed San Fran in the 90’s, but it’s a shadow of what it used to be in many ways…

    • VintageVNvet says:

      I absolutely LOVED SF and the ”Bay Area” in the ’60s, and would absolutely LOVE to be able to afford, both financially, physically, and ”socially” to at least be able to walk across from the bus terminal to the ocean as I had done then, and since.
      Not likely for this old boy now apparently classified as ”elderly”,,, but I have to admit that reading Wolf’s reporting re The City,,, I have serious ”jonesing” every time.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      David Dawei,

      The number of homicides in San Francisco in 2019 dropped to a 6-decade low. But sure, the hippy scene sort of died down. It’s now tech and finance and biotech… Much of South of Market went from awful and decrepit to sleek mid-rise and high-rise offices, condos, and rental apartments, including the Salesforce tower. Doesn’t have quite the same allure as hippies.

      • Me says:

        Gee, I’m glad that murders in SF are at a “six decade low’ at only 40 in 2019 which works out to the same as the US national average.

        How about 2020?

        The Guardian reported that across the 12 counties in the Bay area murders rose by 25% in 2020. The SF Chonicle puts the increase at 35%.

        And just for 2021 in SF the data to date shows murders are up by 7% according to the SF Police department.

        Now tell us about other crime in SF which is not at a ‘six decade low’ and the overall crime rate in SF compared to the rest of the USA…

        Well, I’ll do it for you:

        “The 2019 crime rate in San Francisco, CA is 454 (City-Data.com crime index), which is 1.7 times greater than the U.S. average. It was higher than in 94.1% U.S. cities. The 2019 San Francisco crime rate fell by 3% compared to 2018. The number of homicides stood at 40 – a decrease of 6 compared to 2018. In the last 5 years San Francisco has seen decreasing violent crime and decreasing property crime.”

        And there is a little problem with reporting and enforcement of a number of crimes in SF as there is in many places in the USA and the rest of the world.

        Many crimes are not reported at all and these crimes are often at the low end scale of crimes, ie misdemeanors. And even if they are reported, the time and effort to take the crime through the legal system is not worth it.

        Read more: https://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-San-Francisco-California.html

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Why do I have to waste my time with this bullshit?

          41 homicides in a city of 880,000 people is a homicide rate of 4.6 per 100,000 population, one of the lowest in the US among big cities. In Dallas, for example, the homicide rate was 15 per 100,000 population (2019 which is what I could find googling). Do you get it?

          So here some homicide data for San Francisco, from the government of SF. This is based on fiscal years, which end in June. So the last data point, 2021, ended in June. Also note that the City grew by 10% over those years:

        • me says:

          You just don’t get it, do you?

          Those are REPORTED numbers.

          If the “crime” isn’t reported, it isn’t in the stats.

          Many shops and stores won’t bother to report as:

          1. Nothing will be done.

          2. It costs time and money to report

          3. As per your own post which proves it:

          ” Why bother when the only damage is a $90 window? ”

          Why bother to report it when only $90 is stolen.

          4. From the SF Chonicle:

          “While not all shoplifting incidents are reported to police…”

        • Wolf Richter says:

          That’s a constant. That has always been the case. It doesn’t impact the stats, as I said.

  25. roddy6667 says:

    A large part of the presecriptions sold in CVS, Walgreens, etc have the active ingredieents made in China or India. They are packaged and marketed in the US.

  26. phleep says:

    Scorched earth: here (southern Calif.) CVS and Walgreens (pre-pandemic) hugely expanded their retail footprints, acquiring competitors. The rent liabilities must have skyrocketed for them: they were all-in on walk-in business. Older, somewhat funkier, but better-priced, competitors vanished in favor of these cold, sterile stores. (It was like Kmart replaced with a clueless, customer-repugnant, born-to-fail Sears “rebirth”: same thing. The critical suckers I suppose (without really running down he numbers) were investors.) I walked into those stores and prices were (to my mind) absurdly jacked up. Walked out and never returned. Like WeWork, it was a huge (in hindsight) wrong-footing, misallocation of capital.

  27. Mikey Joe says:

    Walgreens and CVS will make lots of revenue this week selling candy for Halloween. About 1 to 1.5 of the 6 aisles in stores in NY display candy.

  28. Petunia says:


    I am not surprised a pharmacy chain would over expand in any financial district. Financial types take a lot of drugs, both prescription and over the counter.

    Once, looking for a pen on the trading floor, every desk draw I opened was packed with drugs. I could literally find any drug on that trading floor. It was harder to find a pen than a pain killer.

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      Or maybe, just maybe, it makes it convenient for office workers to pick up legit prescriptions ? But no, the answer gotta be drugs right?

      • Petunia says:

        The word “drugs” does not only refer to illegal substances. All the drugs I was referring to were prescription drugs, filled by pharmacies. That was the point of saying I understand why Walgreens would cluster their stores in the SF financial district.

      • DanR says:

        From my experience as a worker bee in midtown NY, I was grateful for the close proximity of Duane Reade to the office. It allowed me to get healthier and more reasonably priced food during the day when my stomach or wallet was sick of overpriced, unhealthy, crowded or distant food options.

    • lenert says:

      Pablo Escobar’s hippos have reproduced from the original 4 to 120.

  29. Gene says:

    I had a tooth extracted just yesterday in preparation for an implant. The dentist gave me four different prescriptions: Medrol (a powerful steroid), amoxicillin, ibuprofen, and an increased strength mouthwash. I had the procedure done before by another dentist who didn’t prescribe Medrol. The Medrol is taken in diminishing doses over six days: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. You can’t stop it cold turkey. Anyway, I talked to the head pharmacist at Wal-Mart and I was pleasantly surprised at how knowledgeable he was. He said some dentists prescribe it, some don’t. I didn’t take it and I feel fine today. It’s the last time I go to that dentist because he took about a dozen excruciatingly painful photos to document his work, stretching my mouth out of shape with medieval instruments, not warning me beforehand. I never had a dentist take photos before. He’s also expensive. Staff parking was composed of BMWs, a Mercedes, and a Porsche. There I was in my ’13 Chevy Cruze.

    • Swamp Creature says:


      Had 2 extractions for implants done recently. The triple dose of Ibupropen made me sick to my stomach. I was also given Oxycodone Opiod pills which worked great. But don’t drive while you’re on them.

  30. BillTheCat says:

    How much ‘shrinkage’ is due to faulty self check-out processes? It’s not unusual to find I get home with more than I paid for from my local grocer.

    In one episode, with my semi-cognitive mom on one arm, her groceries in the other, a crowded check out, three machines running errors (ours included), with once sales clerk for 8 machines, I just wanted to get out of there and rushed through with the clerk having to reset our machine several times.

    When I logged the receipt into her ledger I found we got home with about fifty dollars worth of groceries for about twenty bucks. No deceit, no concealment (there are cameras all around), no shoplifting, nor have I ever trained to be a cashier at the local grocer.

    One day I discovered a random onion skin on the scanner can produce (no pun intended) some wacky results.

    So I wonder how much retailers could shrink their ‘shrinkage’ without self check-outs? Maybe enough to hire some actual cashiers?

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      BillTC-the challenge would be acquiring/affording an adequate number of new hires for reg service, who can count items/change (hard to do when purchases are often paid for with a piece of plastic, even with barcoding) and civilly-patient customers who expect that to happen…(i know, that raft has gone so far downriver that my statement’s more nonsensical than usual…).

      may we all find a better day.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        Pet/Saylor-have been and with you on this subject. Still doesn’t compare with the looks on the faces of obviously-new bank tellers at my WF some years ago when they were giving me the spiel as to why i should switch to online banking, and i responded with ‘…no, thanks-i prefer to see YOU working for the bank rather than ME…’.

        may we all find a better day.

    • Petunia says:

      I never use self checkout, when asked, I tell them I’m trying to save their jobs.

      • Saylor says:

        Same with me and Albertsons/Vons. One day I was in the store and it was busy. They only had two checkout lines open that were staffed with people. They had just opened up their self checkout stations a couple of weeks before. It seemed to me that they were trying to force customers into using the self check stations.
        I went through the staffed checkout and told the clerk that I refuse to use self checkout and take someone’s job away and if the store did not have more staffed checkout lines I would no longer shop there. I already have issues about some of their marketing techniques.

    • Gene says:

      It’s hard to believe that this error was not immediately noticeable.

      • El Katz says:


        I agree. The self-checkout at both Fry’s Foods and Safeway goes spastic screaming “unexpected item in bagging area” and locks up the screen until you either remove the item, call an attendant, or press “skip bagging” to bypass it – but that requires intent.

        I only use the self-checkout if I stop to pick up a single item or two. Otherwise, I’ll go to a human checker.

  31. topcat says:

    Just a quick de-bunk on employment and benefits. Often read here that the end of benefits would drive the peons back to work.

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Earlier this year, an insistent cry arose from business leaders and Republican governors: Cut off a $300-a-week federal supplement for unemployed Americans. Many people, they argued, would then come off the sidelines and take the millions of jobs that employers were desperate to fill.

    Yet three months after half the states began ending that federal payment, there’s been no significant influx of job seekers.

    In states that cut off the $300 check, the workforce — the number of people who either have a job or are looking for one — has risen no more than it has in the states that maintained the payment. That federal aid, along with two jobless aid programs that served gig workers and the long-term unemployed, ended nationally Sept. 6. Yet America’s overall workforce actually shrank that month.

    • Petunia says:

      Nobody on unemployment would choose it over a job with benefits. The states with the lowest unemployment benefits also have the highest unemployment because the jobs don’t pay enough to cover the cost of working. That’s the truth.

      You need a car, insurance, a phone, maybe a computer, to make $15 an hour, and that’s considered a good job. Try finding a place to live for $400 a month, while paying $300 a month for healthcare. That’s half the pay right there.

      • Depth Charge says:

        Rents are no longer affordable for even those earning well above the median wage. Our country has failed. In fact, I tell people the US failed in 2008, they’re just trying to print that fact away.

  32. Barbara Rockefeller says:

    One reason Walgreens is losing business is the terrible, awful customer service. Staff let you stand in line far longer than necessary and obviously don’t care. They are rude and treat customers as a nuisance. I found this to be true at CVS and Rite-Aid, too. Hence switching to a local family owned pharmacy and sure enough, the pharmacists are friendly, greet you by name, and actually know something about your meds and can offer useful advice. My family owned pharmacy doesn’t have the aisle after aisle of shampoos, etc. but that’s why God invented Amazon. Want customers? Hire competent service personnel. Want competence? Pay for it.

    • Petunia says:

      I stopped going regularly to these stores years ago. I would go monthly to buy blades for my husband. The blades were locked up and they would follow you through the store if you even looked at the locked up items. Switched to online blades and saved myself almost $50 a month by not stepping into their stores.

  33. El Katz says:

    In our case, we rarely go to a Walgreens or CVS as they don’t carry any depth of stock of things – specialty items – that one would go to a drug store to purchase. It gets tiring driving around looking for something as simple as a bar of CeraVe soap. They have shelf space for it, but never any stock.

    It’s much easier, less frustrating, and less expensive to log onto the jungle website and order in quantity there. I may pay more for the items, but I don’t waste $5 in fuel driving around aimlessly.

    I simply don’t think to go to a drug store to buy a bag of cheesy poofs and a sugary drink. That might work in an urban area, but out here in the stix, not so much.

  34. Anthony A. says:

    The only thing I go into a CVS or Walgreens for these days is to buy a greeting (birthday, anniversary, etc) card. And even those are overpriced.

  35. Auldyin says:

    “Look what these crazies are doing again in San Francisco.”
    Who said that?
    It wasn’t me!
    I always think I’ll check out this site for a couple of minutes to see what’s annoying W today. Then I read the comments and I’m here for hours. I must give it up, it’s addictive.
    Reading this today makes me realise how great my very quiet, very remote, very picturesque little corner of Scotland is. Shoplifting? You couldn’t show your face again for weeks or miles.
    Pharmacies, I always say if I was meant to take drugs I would have evolved a pharmacy under my armpit. We do have one and it’s a character straight out of Dr Findlay’s casebook who runs it. No messing. It took me weeks to explain to a new surgery that I took no drugs at my advanced (very) age.
    Love learning right into the core of ‘Merica!
    Kudos W.
    One serious related point, if unionisation takes hold at Amazon you could be looking at a whole new price landscape again quicker than you think. Making workers poorer has always been a good way to kill off incumbents with good terms and conditions until the worm turns.
    Just sayin’

    • Petunia says:

      The US govt has mandated all their workers and contractors be vaccinated by December or they lose their jobs. I know some of these people and they are complying because they are being force to, to keep their livelihoods. The next election is sure to be interesting.

      • Nick Kelly says:

        It’s fortunate that Smallpox was eradicated with vaccines before vaccines were election issues.

  36. “Global Clickbait Media” – good summary.
    Walgreens should buy some healthcare providers to get the prescription business and propel store visits.

  37. And just to think last quarter Walgreens recorded great foot traffic, sales and profits due to it’s vaccinations in stores.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, the news coming from Walgreens is always great. But revenues in the quarter FELL yoy, and their net income also FELL yoy, no matter how they tried to spin it.

      And they spent another $5 billion to buy a company to prop up their revenues. They’re buying revenues.

      Since Jul 2015, shares have fallen by over 50%.

  38. tfourier says:


    So it seems you wont accept comments that might undermine your spiel re Walgreens closings in SF. But what do I know.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      You wrote a detailed boots-on-the-ground report about how horrible and terrible SF is, and what you saw there yesterday, and yada-yada-yada. But you don’t even live in SF, and not even in the US. You live in Europe and are posting from Europe. You’re a troll with an agenda. That wasn’t your first comment of that type.

  39. wkevinw says:

    Walgreens has closed about 8% of its stores nationally in the past couple of years (according to what I could find). If SF has closed more, then there is more than just the national business issues.

    I know of several local small retailers that are closing down in SF who say that the shoplifting and other crazy behavior of the locals has contributed.

    Having lived there many decades ago (and just visited CA for the first time in a few years last month), I can tell you it was an easier place to do business and live in the past.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “If SF has closed more, then there is more than just the national business issues.”

      SF had something like 70 Walgreens five years ago (now down to 53). That’s huge. That’s about 12,000 inhabitants per store.

      If applied to the US population, Walgreens would have 27,000 stores in the US. But it has about 8,000. This is what I meant when I said Walgreens is “over-stored” in San Francisco, and that’s one of the reasons it is shutting stores. Walgreens will keep closing stores until population-per-store is about at the national average (around 40,000 people per store). And it will keep closing stores around the nation too.

      In addition, SF has very specific challenges for Walgreens that I spelled out in detail, including the massive shift to ecommerce and huge competition from Kaiser’s health plans that use Kaiser pharmacies. Kaiser is huge in CA, but it only exists in a few other states, and isn’t dominant there. So the issues posed by Kaiser to Walgreens are unique to CA.

      The brick-and-mortar meltdown that has been raging in the US for years, with numerous bankruptcies of large retailers, is even bigger in SF because ecommerce is an even bigger force with the large young and tech-oriented population here. For example, Macy’s went from three stores to just one store here before the pandemic. The whole Union Square shopping area has become just a tourist attraction. Saks closed. Lots of stores closed.

      There is a role for neighborhood stores, but they need to cater to the people who live there, and they need to have the little stuff you run out of and don’t want to go to the supermarket for and that you don’t want to order online. And there is also a place for neighborhood services, such as basic healthcare services, hair and nail salons, cleaners, etc. Stuff you cannot get done on the internet.

      • SocalJim says:

        Right before a neighborhood goes bad, all the retail stores move out. That is a fact.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          They shut down because there is no business. People buy things online, if you haven’t figured this out yet, even rich people. Tourists go to stores, but tourism esp from Asia is way down.

      • SocalJim says:

        There is zero evidence of a brick and mortar in upper middle class and wealthy suburbs.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Socal-couldn’t have too many of the lumpen seen around those parts, even before the internet-it might send the wrong message on housing values…

          may we all find a better day.

  40. roddy6667 says:

    Who was it that said “When the tide goes out, you find out who is swimming naked”?
    COVID-19 is the low tide, and a lot of business are caught pantsless.
    With shrinkage, the George Costanza kind.

  41. tom15 says:

    So liberals don’t want to be bothered by petty theft under 950.
    But they want to beef up the IRS and monitor down to 600.

    Only in America….as long as we can tax it.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      Why does this BS keep getting posted here even though I have already shot it down a bunch of times? So I will repeat just for you:

      Shoplifting has NOT been “decriminalized” in California. That’s BS that people keep spreading because it fits their agenda.

      In California, shoplifting under $950 is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by probation, fines, restitution, and up to 6 months in jail.

      Shoplifting over $950 is prosecuted as a felony.

      In California in general, a misdemeanor as a crime with a maximum sentence up to one year in county jail. It is a crime, and you can go to jail for it, and people do go to jail for it.

      There has always been a dollar-line on property crimes between what is a misdemeanor and what is a felony. Go over the line, and it’s a felony. Both are crimes.

      The dollar amount of that separating line between misdemeanor and felony was raised, after years of not having been raised. That’s all. You can call it an inflation adjustment.

      If it is organized theft committed by a ring of people that then sell the goods, it’s a felony of an entirely different category, not shoplifting.

      • Cold in the Midwest says:


        I thought the rationale for the passage of Proposition 47 was to concentrate state prison spending on more serious offenses (violent crimes) than petty theft, drug possession etc. I was not aware that an “inflation adjustment” was considered as a rationale for the passage of that law.

        I also seem to remember hearing the Proposition was intended (in theory) to free the police from spending so much time on minor offenses, freeing them to investigate and prosecute more serious crimes.

        But it seems that one intended consequence has been a rise in (under $950) shoplifting. It may still technically be classified as a “crime” but one that has been downgraded in terms of personal consequence. I’ve also heard many shopkeepers in downtown San Fran lament the lack of response by the police to shoplifting. I suppose they are too busy pursuing the more serious crimes.

        So I’d agree that the example of Walgreens is certainly not unique to San Francisco. That company has nationwide problems. But I’d still bet San Francisco has a higher rate of petty theft/shoplifting than many other major US cities. It still seems that Proposition 47 is having unintended consequences.

        • josap says:

          There are very similar laws in Az and NM regarding $$ amount stolen or amount of drugs. So most cops just pass on those calls.

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      I don’t know man. Conservatives talk a lot about fweedom, but when it comes to a woman deciding what to do with her own body, they suddenly find religion …..

      But as you said, only in America.

  42. Rowen says:

    I remember when pharmacists was the hot job. Drug stores were expanding like crazy, and every grocery was adding in-store pharmacies. Now there’s a crazy glut, as consolidation wiped out so many stores. Then CVS’s PBM biz wiped out independent pharmacies.

    Need to retrain pharmacists to become truck drivers.

    • SocalJim says:

      Drug and pharma companies are hiring all the good pharmacists they can get their hands on. And, their wages are rising.

  43. SocalJim says:

    If there are a number of people shoplifting in your area stores, sell immediately and move away. Those crazy people doing the shoplifting will ruin the desirability of your area. Plus, some of those people are downright dangerous. Move.

    • Dan Romig says:

      When the killing of George Floyd triggered riots, arson and looting in Minneapolis & St Paul, one could see the dark side of humanity on full display.

      I’ve lived in the Longfellow neighborhood in south Minneapolis for 26 years, and I ain’t moving. But a few of my neighbors have sold their homes, and moved to suburbia as they got fed up with what was going on in the city.

  44. MonkeyBusiness says:

    Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO just said that Hyperinflation will soon happen in the US and then the world.

    Thank you for pointing it out, Captain Obvious!!!

    • Bobber says:

      We’ve had hyperinflation in the biggest budget item, housing, for many years. Inflation has been between 10-15% per year.

      The second biggest budget item, retirement saving, has seen worse hyperinflation. A $30,000 per year fixed income stream used to require $600,000 savings less than a decade ago. Now, the same $30,000 fixed income stream requires $1.5 million savings. Thus, retirement cost has increased over 150% inflation in less than a decade.

  45. Marcosa says:

    In Oregon, a new tax is being pushed on big businesses that taxes receipts rather than net profits. As a result, BiMart is closing their pharmacy.

    • josap says:

      Taxing gross profits? I’ve never heard of that before. Is the tax much less? Or is this sales tax rather than income tax?

      • Anthony A. says:

        Receipts are not gross profits. That’s only revenue before costs. It’s crazy though.

  46. Beowulf says:

    Biggest chain of chemists (pharmacists) in UK is Boots taken over, controversially, a few years ago by Walgreens. I say controversially but most people shrugged and said ‘so’?

    Here the prescription is raised by the GP and you take it to the chemist of your choice. Price is the same everywhere so the chemist competes more on service. Because i’m from the boomer generation there would be no charge.

    Can’t believe some of you compare health insurance provider every year or few years; its bad enough doing that for broadband services and gas and electricity.

    By the way whats a ‘deductible’ in relation to health insurance?

    • Petunia says:

      After paying your premiums which could be as much as $18K for a good family plan, you also have to pay a deductible, which is the first chunk of charges you accrue in medical bills. The deductible could be any amount from zero to thousands of dollars per person.

      My son had a $3K premium on one plan with a $3K deductible. He paid the first $6K out of pocket before the insurance kicked in. The only good thing about the insurance was that supposedly the insured get lower special pricing. So the insured gets charged a lower price than the uninsured.

      Great system, don’t you think?

      • Anthony A. says:

        Yes, we as citizens paying a deductible are subsidizing the insurance carriers.

      • Paulo says:

        My niece and her two children had a wacko bat in their house a few years ago, her husband wasn’t exposed to it. Their doctor strongly recommended the preventative rabies shot for 3. It was of course not covered by their medical plan…probably because it was preventative, but I am guessing. $7k per, and $21,000 dollars later…….. they were fine.

        Where I live I have never paid a medical bill, including clinic visits and a few emergency surgeries, broken leg, herniated discs, etc etc. (active life :-) We also have a small private plan as my wife has been a type 1 diabetic for over 50 years, (excellent health, notwithstanding an auto immune disease contracted in childhood). The private plan covers all insulin costs, and the bigeee…test strips and an insulin pump due to be replaced this winter. The pumps are $6K. This private insurance plan also includes dentistry, other meds, eye glasses, even counseling and limited massage therapy. The cost? A whopping $300 per month. They make their profit on families who don’t cost them much.

        This is an example of both private and universal medical coverage….just 200 miles away from my niece who lives in WA State. Something is wrong, somewhere.

      • They lower the price when they start paying with their money. I’ve heard the argument back and forth whether the uninsured get better coverage at the ER, when it’s assumed medicaid is paying. While auto insurance companies sue each other (or not) health insurers are one big fat happy family. I know stories of well insured people dying of neglect. The biggest joke is when you land in LTC, (after you are the victim of malpractice, or neglect) and even those policies cap the benefits. Some poor people get over treated and others get written off, depends on the hospital and their policies, and the state Medicaid benefits and if you refuse them. At the end of the day the entire US pandemic response was aimed at protecting hospital (businesses), and yes even nonprofits have CEOs who make way too much money.

    • stan65 says:

      In U.K. it’s called “excess”

  47. Mark says:

    Call it what it is — racism. Walgreens blaming shoplifting is essentially blaming minorities.

    Large corps, like politicians, will say anything to deflect blame from their own fooish decisions.

  48. Glen says:

    Walgreens was popping up on every other corner like Starbucks where I live about five-ten years ago. Seemed to be market over saturation even back then, and at least a third of them have closed.

    But it would seem to indicate that there’s money to be made in overpriced American pharma.

  49. Anthony says:

    Well, this subject seems to have hit a nerve…

  50. wkevinw says:

    There are ~4 Walgreens within ~4 miles of my house. I might be forgetting one or two.

    One was a CVS they bought. Clearly they have made some mistakes.

  51. Bobber says:

    I’m back into the Tesla short. Couldn’t resist after today’s 7% price jump and P/E of 900. Price-to-sales ratio of about 30.

    Play money only.

  52. Red says:

    Hertz orders 100,000 Teslas. Why does this matter. Tesla getting a rental contract means one of the other companies that would have traditionally gotten it with gas cars won’t. Sales numbers, infrastructure, repair services…trickle down if you will with all things related to automobiles is now being disrupted. Sorry for the hijack just seemed like breaking news.

    • Bobber says:

      Yeah, the market reacts as though new sales aren’t already priced in, when the stock trades at 30x revenue. Ridiculous.

      I actually think the announcement is negative. Sales to rental agencies are usually low margin. These deals will accelerate units sold but will also commoditization the product offering and reduce pricing premium. Who wants to buy a TSLA when every Joe is driving one? At this pace, the Model 3 will be the modern day equivalent of the Ford Taurus in five years.

      The announcement merely reminds us that we are dealing with a commodity product, not unique hard to develop intellectual property with barriers to entry.

      A good play here might be to short TSLA and go long other automakers, but wait a week for the frenzy to subside.

      • Bobber says:

        Also, if they have limited production capacity why are they choosing to allocate precious units to lower margin bulk sales? They’d only do that if the growth in other revenue streams is petering out.

        • MonkeyBusiness says:

          Good points all, but the market does not care. At the end of the day, Tesla is just one vehicle that can be used to boost the S&P.

  53. Mtn Goat says:

    Speaking of Walgreens management, I was working for a small medical services company in the mid 2000’s and we were acquired by Walgreens largely because we owned some pharmacies. At the time Walgreens was still using Lotus Notes for email (and probably still is). So we couldn’t coordinate our calendars with the folks from Walgreens. That didn’t bother them because they had no intention of actually managing our company. They weren’t even really sure what our business model was. They flew me to Walgreens HQ and I knew if they offered to have me join them there I would be safe otherwise I would probably be a scapegoat when something they overlooked went wrong (which it did). My “boss” was 20 minutes late for our meeting at 10am as he hadn’t arrived at work yet. No reason given. So I waited. When he did arrive he told me about his totally awesome trip to Puerto Rico and what a great place it was to visit. Then we were out of time and he shooed me out. Not a peep about him, his background, how I might fit in, etc. Instead of reporting to him he told me to “just work with ___”. I had already worked in management for a much larger company than Walgreens for many years before the little company and I must say I was appalled at the way Walgreens ran their operation. Ponderously blundering are the words that come to mind.

  54. Tomaso says:

    Wolf, be real. The cost of criminal theft goes much beyond what’s reported. I do not shop al Walgreens in SF any more not because there is Amazon. I do not shop at Walgreens because every time I go there is someone else stealing something and it angers me. My wife and my 4 year old were at a Walgreens when a gang of looters stormed the store. The clerks said it’s always the same people. Every. Day. Why do we need to expose our child to that?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “The clerks said it’s always the same people. Every. Day”

      Effing BS. Quit fabricating.

    • tommy strange says:


      You are lying. I’ve lived in the Mission since the mid 80’s, when it was really rough. I have not seen one altercation, or one shop lifting incident in my entire life on mission street in stores!!!!!….not for 30 years…….. Yes it happens a lot. But you are lying saying you see it all the time……. Crime on the street….battle over ‘trade’ late night mugging etc…..that’s a different story yes…

  55. Tommy Strange says:

    Thank you so much for being clear headed Wolf, and actually being able to look at crime data, which unfortunately most “journalists’ cannot do. Even ‘broke ass Stuart” was able to debunk…’skyrocketing crime in SF’…as a reminder…if anyone says ‘liberals don’t arrest drug dealers’….or DA lets people go…it’s really easy to look up. A person can even go to precinct websites of every neighborhood, and see all the drug arrests. And we can see convictions rates over the past 20 years too…. I am anti drug war….but I am just as anti hysteria fueled by liars, which brought us to the stupid drug war in the first place.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Day before yesterday, right in front of our place, the cops busted a guy in a getaway car that had been part of a gang that does car break-ins. They chased him, he ran the red light, collided with another car, jumped out and ran, and seconds later, cops from all directions, guns drawn, arrest him three doors down. To say that cops don’t go after these people is nuts.

      BTW, that was the first time I’ve seen this happen. I knew they’re doing stake-outs to catch them in the act, but this was a special show.

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