Store Enacts “Two Students At A Time” Limit To Curb Shoplifting

Here in Philadelphia — and in a number of cities around the country — you hear several stories a week about some small deli or convenience store being suddenly overwhelmed by crowds of students with the intention of swiping armfuls of Pepsi Max, Sun Chips, Snickers bars and whatever else can be grabbed during the brief raid. One store has apparently had enough and enacted a two-student limit to cut down on the theft.

Consumerist reader Mark snapped this pic with his phone while walking past the store in his Center City Philly neighborhood. He says the store happens to be near several schools and there are often kids hanging out on this particular stretch of road.

It’s also down the street from a teaching hospital, says Mark, though he’s pretty sure the store owners wouldn’t make the med school students come in one pair at a time.

We just like the hand-drawn flowers on the sign, as if to say, “Please don’t hate us for wanting to keep you from robbing us blind.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. mrvw says:

    I have no problem with this.
    There is a gas station accross from a middle school here that limits students to 5 and they have to leave their backpacks at the counter when they come in.

    • SalesGeek says:

      Same thing here for a gas station/convenience store across from a local high school except they limit traffic to one student at a time and backpacks are to be left at the door.

      I used to work retail at a 7/11 in a past life and you would not believe what people will try to pull in your store. And shoplifters are like sharks; once one of them smells blood and can get away with stealing then all their associates will swarm your store. It isn’t pretty.

    • mentok1982 says:

      I just got gas at a Shell across from Woodlawn High School and they have a student and bag stipulation. I don’t remember the number of students allowed though.

    • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

      This is not news. Stores have been doing this for decades.
      This is very, very common.

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        The neighborhood grocery store I worked in a decade ago did this and still does this (for nearly 20 years now). It was amazing how their profit margin increased the same month they started doing it.

    • j2.718ff says:

      The backpack one bugs me. You don’t trust me to not steal things from me, but I’m supposed to willingly give you my backpack, and trust that you won’t steal anything from me?

    • aja175 says:

      I have to leave my bag at the counter at just about any store I go to in San Francisco, and I’m 35. That’s just how it is these days.

    • poco says:

      I also have no problem with this. I remember what my friends and I were like in high school. XD

    • Leksi Wit says:

      Students can always boycott if it makes them unhappy. I do hate having to leave a backpack at the front of the store… especially since some are left unattended. Had that happen on a hiking trip in Maui, so I politely told them that they would not get my business, then I pulled a “Pretty Woman” type scene from a competing store — it was cathartic.

  2. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    This is not fair, this is a violation of our rights. You can’t discriminate against us. Wait, hold on here.

    Darn, forgot I am 53 not 15.

    Yes, I can see from the past history and experience of the shopkeeper that this is a completely fair and proper way to deal with a documented problem.

    • frank64 says:

      How about slippery slope? If they can do it for students, why not the elderly? Blacks? Worse- Breast Feeding Moms?


      • RayanneGraff says:

        The elderly & breastfeeding moms aren’t universally known for stealing & making trouble. Teenagers throughout history, on the other hand…

        • RayanneGraff says:

          Whoops, I didn’t see that you wrote blacks when I replied, I didn’t mean to imply that they ARE known for making trouble :S

          • djdanska says:

            Having worked in retail in downtown chicago, you can tell right when someone walks in if they might be trouble. There are obvious signs but the problem comes in when they bring a group. Get a bunch of em with 2 employees and there isn’t much you can do about it.

      • maxamus2 says:

        We have the right to refuse service to anyone.

        • Moniker Preferred says:

          Sure you do.

          …and if you refuse to serve people for the wrong reasons, the Department of Justice has the right to tear you a new one.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        You can do this for anyone if you do it for everyone. If you want to require only two Black (or Jewish, or Chinese, or Mexican, or White) customers in at once, it isn’t illegal if you require the same of everyone else.

    • bdgbill says:

      It’s also not new. I am 43 and the stores around my neighborhood did this when I was a kid. Stores near schools have always done this as far as I can tell (I’m in the C-store business).

    • dg says:

      While it may be appropriate, it’s not fair. Back when I was in high school, many moons ago. An AM/PM mini-mart tried this. They got sued for discrimination. You want to say “2 PEOPLE” in the store at a time? Fine. 2-students, not gonna happen, nor should it. Hope they get their asses sued off.

  3. Just Ducky says:

    Limiting the number of students in a store at a given time isn’t all that new.

    I used to work at a Walgreens near a middle school. During the school year, we enforced a limit of two students at a time, not only to deter shoplifting, but also to keep order in the store.

    Worked quite well after the manager started doing it, we had much less shrink (about 20% less!), and less mess at the Cafe W soda counter.

    • madsquabbles says:

      i don’t live in a relatively big city, but a few convenience stores near the middle school i went to had that rule. one even had a no student’s without parents for certain hours.

      in high school the bi lo near the school only let 3 students in at a time during lunch and we’d form a line outside the store. this was back in ’88.

      the school is now is a closed campus for lunch as are most high schools around here.

      • jefeloco says:

        Your story sounds similar to mine but predates mine by a few years so I won’t spew the whole thing :) In my senior year of HS, they made it closed campus for all but the seniors and even separated out the lunch hours to prevent cheating the system. The main reason seniors were still allowed off site was because some of us had to drive to another town 25 miles away in order to take our last two classes for the day.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    You sure this photograph wasn’t taken at a Walmart Black Friday Sales Event?

  5. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    He’s ruining my dreams. I just want to be Tinker Bell.

    oops-sorry wrong thread.

  6. Scoobatz says:

    Please don’t hate us for wanting to keep you from robbing us blind.

    As employees, that’s our job.

  7. That guy. says:

    So, there is no limit to the number of highschool drop outs?

  8. JHDarkLeg says:

    Good thing the group doing the shoplifting is a group you can legally discriminate against.

    • LabGnome says:

      I could only imagine how well, ‘Only 2 blacks at a time’ would go over.

      Not sure where I stand on this really. It feels wrong to make people do this, especially the assumption or implication that if you are young you are not to be trusted. On the other hand, it is apparently a common tactic and I feel bad for the store owners.

      People just need to stop being dicks.

  9. amuro98 says:

    This isn’t new… There was a convenience store near the local high school that implemented a policy like this back in the 70s.

    Maybe Detroit was just ahead of the times or something?

  10. visual77 says:

    I’ve seen signs like this on dozens of stores near schools in Las Vegas. I’ve been seeing them since I was in middle school in the mid 90s. Either Las Vegas is way ahead of the curve on hating rascals or this hasn’t been newsworthy in decades.

    • Aliciaz777 says:

      CSN, the local community college here in Vegas, has a similar policy in regards to the campus book store. Although I don’t think they limit the amount of students allowed in, they do make you check your book bag/purse/any other type of bag at a counter setup next to the entrance of the store. While it sucks to feel like the employees and school think you’re a no good thief, I understand why they do it. The actions of a few ruined it for everyone.

  11. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I live in a relatively affluent suburb. The Walmart & Walgreens across from the high school have extra security at lunch. They sometime ask students to leave their backpacks by the front door. A supermarket collects school IDs at the door and returns them when the student leaves. They also rope off the beauty aid & drug store sections at lunch.

    • j2.718ff says:

      “A supermarket collects school IDs at the door and returns them when the student leaves.”

      How do they distinguish between students who say they don’t have an ID, and young-looking people who genuinely aren’t students?

  12. zibby says:

    Not uncommon in New York City, either. And we don’t even have gangs of kids running around snapping peoples’ legs these days.

  13. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    This is old news. If you lived in the hood like where I used to live and went to high school at, the store even hired a door person to check and keep an eye on students and let them in 2 at a time.

    • frank64 says:

      Some company could get in trouble if they do it in poor/minority areas but not in white areas. They really would call Jesse Jackson.

      • jasonq says:

        Unless they did it because of higher crime. As long as they did it in all high-crime areas, it’s legit.

  14. Snakeophelia says:

    Not new at all. The convenience store across from my middle school had a “no more than three students at a time in the store” rule in 1981. It was well-known that this was intended to be a shoplifting deterrent. And I remember waiting outside for another student to come out before I could go inside and buy my Mint Thins.

  15. bugpaste says:

    Same thing for a gas station near a high school by my house. In some of the worst parts of town you are not allowed to enter the convenience store if you’re wearing a hat or a hood (presumably there’s a religious exemption).

    Since I’m not a high school student or a habitual hat wearer, I don’t really care.

  16. theblackdog says:

    I’ve seen a number of stores make similar signs.

    One school near my work has students who have so often cut classes that the businesses have signs that if students show up during school hours during the school year, the truant officer will be called.

  17. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    OMG… $6.50 for Newports? I’m glad I don’t smoke…..

  18. KishuT says:

    I’ve seen these signs in convenience stores for years, this is nothing new.

  19. chefboyardee says:

    I’ve seen these kinds of signs in various stores since I was like 15. I’m now over 30. I’m not saying this is old news, but…

    Then again I live in the Philadelphia area. Maybe I’m just lucky to be at the epicenter of this trend.

  20. bonzombiekitty says:

    This isn’t new at all. I’ve seen this in various areas for years.

  21. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    If you’re going to flash-rob a store, is this sign really going to deter you?

    • I Love Christmas says:

      I assume it’s not just a sign, that there is someone inside the door who enforces the policy

  22. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    “students” LOL.

  23. bhr says:

    Eh, the village center stores near my middle and high school both did this in the 80s and 90s.

  24. framitz says:

    When I started high school in 1966 the stores near school all had signs limiting the number of students allowed at a time.
    We had an open campus at the time, it was a horrific school and I was happy to move away in the 2nd semester.


    • humphrmi says:

      Yeah, I was going to say the same thing … the 7-11 near my high school had the same rule back in 1978. Big flippin’ deal.

  25. OutPastPluto says:

    Are you posting from the other side of a temporal vortex where it is 1985?

    This kind of thing is really old news.

  26. LightningUsagi says:

    Stores in my area started doing this years ago…especially ones that are within walking distance of schools or bus stops.

  27. ahecht says:

    Wait, has anyone posted yet that this is old news and stores have been doing this for decades? I really think that someone should post that, since it hasn’t been mentioned here before. Hopefully, once people start posting about that, we don’t get 29 identical comments saying the same thing.

  28. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    The gas station down the street from me has a 1 student/no backpack policy. I totally agree with it.

  29. Tim says:

    I don’t think this is fair:

    – Are all students criminals?
    – Are all criminals students?
    – How can you tell that someone is a student? What about a high school dropout?
    – What about being a student makes someone more likely to cause trouble in groups of three or more? Is it that they’re being educated? Attending an educational institution? Taking classes? What?

    This is exactly what the TSA does. It’s an extremely reactionary concept: one criminal had quality A. Therefore, we must focus billions of dollars of resources on people with quality A.

    • drblair says:


    • GrayMatter says:

      Aw….Just read the other comments. And, I am glad you have never worked retail near a school.

    • bhr says:

      actually, the TSA does the exact opposite. Person with characteristic A does X, so instead of concentrating on people with A they apply restrictive rules to everyone.

    • framitz says:

      Life isn’t fair.

      This is fair enough.

    • dru_zod says:

      I would like to know how they determine someone’s student status. I get mistaken for a high school student quite often, even though I haven’t been one for several years. So if I were to go into this store and there were two actual students going in also, are they going to tell one of us to leave?

      • corridor7f says:

        If you’re wearing a backpack, look young and are loud / boisterous.

        A corner store in my hometown had this rule, but it was loosely enforced. If you were quieter and kept to yourself, the owner would usually waive the rule if there were only 3 of your. If not, you’d have to wait at the front while one of you grabbed your goods.

        Considering it was a block from my high school and 90% of the customers were students and they came in waves around lunch / after school, it made sense.

  30. Bagels says:

    Only 2 flash mobs at a time!

  31. RandomLetters says:

    This is a very very old concept. Back when I used to hang with my man Attila we called it pillaging. We’d get together with about 500,000 Huns, ride into a store and take everything that wasn’t nailed down. Those were the good old days…

  32. j2.718ff says:

    How is this enforced? If there are already two students inside, and a third one approaches to enter, how is he supposed to know that there are already two inside?

    Also, WTF? I wouldn’t be surprised if one could find correlation between shoplifting and lack of education. Maybe I’m off base here, but it seems like a high school drop out might be more likely to steal something than someone with multiple PhDs.

    • jenrevenant says:

      Considering that an ex-Dean from my alma mater was arrested and convicted of theft from a Wal-Mart, I doubt education level is actually relevant…

  33. brinks says:

    There is a beauty supply store right next to a cosmetology school near me, and the store limits students to one at a time. This is in a good neighborhood, and one I don’t usually picture future hairdressers as dirty thieves, but a broke college student is a broke college student. Doesn’t matter where you come from or what your future plans are. My asshole college friends used to steal from the supermarket when they were broke. It’s unfortunately really common, so a business owner needs to do whatever they need to do to curb the problem.

  34. Not Given says:

    The grocery store and the convenience store that used to be across from our high school used to limit the number of students at one time. There were over 200 students getting out for lunch at the same time every day. The stores would have had to hire extra people for that one hour every day just to man the check outs and the convenience store only had one cash register, I think the grocery had 4.

    • brinks says:

      I didn’t even think that it might be a customer service issue. If the place gets flooded by a ton of kids who are just buying a Coke or a candy bar, customers who have larger purchases might get sick of waiting to be checked out and just leave.

  35. Geekybiker says:

    I endorse this. The stupidity teenagers get up to in large packs knows no bounds. In small groups they tend to behave a little better.

  36. shepd says:

    This is nothing new, I see this all the time at stores near schools around here.

    I assume they find too many thefts or issues with students and don’t have the staff to monitor all of them at once.

  37. Kuri says:

    So, how does this deter delinquents again?

  38. TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

    Nothing new, this was happening back in the 70’s and 80’s

  39. kornkid42 says:

    This is worthy of an article why? The store in my small home town has had this policy for over 15 years.

  40. Cicadymn says:

    “The third student we shoot.”

  41. ldillon says:

    This is clearly a case of profiling based on age.

    Would it be OK if they said “Only two blacks or Hispanics at a time”?

    I’m not arguing that they have a shoplifting problem but discrimination isn’t the answer.

  42. ldillon says:

    I’m seeing a lot of “This is nothing new” comments. New-ness has nothing to do with justice. There’s nothing new about “Blacks sit at the back of the bus”.

  43. Budala says:

    There is convenience store near me that has a driving school across the street and they have the same sign. I live in Broadview Heights Ohio.

  44. gargunkle says:

    This was the case at every store near my school and house when I was growing up (1980s).

  45. SilverBlade2k says:

    I’m reminded of a Macs store (convenience store) that was located right across from my high school.

    Probably, over 70% of their business, came from the students. They inacted this policy the year that I was graduating. The result? I went into that area again 5 yrs find it was now place called ‘Curves’ – I think it’s an exercising joint for women only.

    It probably wasn’t the best idea to limit the number of students into the store, when your main source of money IS the students.

  46. beaverfan says:

    When I was in high school the nearby store did this however it backfired on them. Students walked to the store during their lunch break to get something from the store’s deli and barely had enough time to eat and walk back to school before the end of their break.

    The store limited the number of students allowed at one time but it made it far too difficult to buy lunch at the store without being late to class, and since there were no adults to prevent cutting in line outside, the students just gave up on going there for lunch.

    There were probably at least 20 students that would go there for lunch each day. Even if they only spent $3 each on lunch, that’s $60 a day–$300 a week–$1200 a month in lost revenue. I have no idea how much shrinkage they had but assuming it was $10 day which seems like a generous estimate–$50 a week–$200 a month, that means they threw away $1000 of revenue each month.

  47. Ayumi~n says:

    I’ve seen this several times locally and of course the no bookbags in the store thing. And I’ve seen what can happen when a whole mess of rowdy kids come into the store and just treat it like their own play area with no intention of buying anything. Yeah, I’m quite for this. It makes for a more pleasant shopping experience whenever I’m in a small business.

  48. jenrevenant says:

    Having caught a shoplifter in my store and gotten him busted, I have no problem with things like this. He was a college student who should have known better. I bust my ass for that store and theft hurts, literally and metaphorically.

    Also, I remember those signs from when I was a kid in the 80s and didn’t have a problem with it then either. Neither did my mom.

  49. fordprefect says:


  50. Mamudoon says:

    I live right outside of Philly, and places here have had rules like that since *I* was in high school. But I think they’re enacted for reasons other than crime, such as to avoid overcrowding (both in the store and in the parking lot) and the inevitable mess that a gaggle of people (of any age) coming through will make.

  51. TheObserver says:

    Wonder if Jesse Jackson will have a problem with this…

    • Libertas says:

      Jesse Jackson has problems with lots of things. Marital fidelity, not being a race pimp, and speaking the English language clearly are three.

  52. JonBoy470 says:

    Well now, I’m going to take the opposite view. A sign like this is just crass and speaks to a lack of professionalism by the manager/owner. Basing your treatment of customers on the assumption that they are thieves is a recipe for FAIL. Particularly when that method involves NOT letting potential customers into your establishment so they can give you their money.

    In a retail environment, shoplifting happens. DEAL! You install low-key countermeasures, like video cameras and having high value/small items behind the counter. And you build the cost of shrink into your price structure.

  53. dadelus says:

    It may “deter” shoplifting, but it won’t stop it.

    When I was in high school my friends and I always hung out at one friends house. There was a gas station at the corner of his street that we would stop at for sodas and such. We were not the type of kids who stole and we were frequent customers. One afternoon we stopped in for our usual snack stop and there was a new person behind the counter. As we walked in he announced that we would only be allowed in the store two at a time.

    We asked why, and he said… “I don’t want you kids stealing.”

    So even though we hadn’t considered it until then, now it was a challenge. Almost everyone in my group walked out of that store without paying for something that day.

  54. lihtox says:

    Is this much different than having a “only two black people at a time” policy?

  55. technoreaper says:

    I can’t tell if the author is a liberal or someone with common sense. Let me just say I completely agree with store owner. If the morons that come here can’t be civilized, then they have to be treated like the second class humans they are.

  56. thor777 says:

    2 is still 1 too many…..1 distracts the cashier while the other grabs the goodies