Want to grab a cold drink from the downtown Silver Spring CVS? You might have to wait in line

The CVS in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, has locked up its refrigerators. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

Buying a cold drink to beat the heat this summer might not be as easy as it used to be at a CVS in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland.

In recent years, CVS shoppers across the D.C. area have likely noticed products such as laundry detergent and paper towel rolls under lock and key. The downtown Silver Spring store is now doing the same with its refrigerated drinks, including soda, juice and bottled water.

Customers gave their perspectives on what looks to be the pharmacy chain’s latest effort to reduce retail theft.

One regular shopper, Vilis, stopped in for an energy drink on Tuesday. He told WTOP that employees must unlock the refrigerators for customers, watch while they select their purchase and sometimes guide them to the cash register.

“Today it’s not that busy,” he said. “But in the past — I come here every few days and there’s been people in line. There’s been a line by the coolers.”

Vilis said it’s “obvious that retail theft has gone up here in downtown Silver Spring,” but he doesn’t think locking up cold beverages is the way to solve the problem.

“I don’t know how many people are stealing $3 energy drinks, but it doesn’t seem like a very effective method,” he said.

This isn’t the first time a D.C.-area CVS has taken theft prevention steps at the expense of the customer shopping experience. The chain’s H Street location in Northeast D.C. made headlines in October when it stocked its shelves with framed photos of paper products, as opposed to the actual items.

Carla Gudger, another shopper at the downtown Silver Spring store, said she can understand why problems with theft would lead CVS to lock up the refrigerators.

“Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do,” she said. “It’s an inconvenience for those of us who aren’t thieves.”

Gudger said she believes that some individuals steal out of necessity — “the prices are high and people can’t afford it” — but others “are just stealing because they’re not going to pay for it anyway.”

One customer and Silver Spring resident, Ann Marie, agreed the change is inconvenient — “especially when I’m really thirsty” — but believes CVS is ultimately doing the right thing by its patrons.

“It’s also an inconvenience to go to the shelf and there isn’t anything there,” she said.

That was the scene earlier this year at one CVS in the District’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. The company said shoplifting rings targeted the store, leaving shelves nearly empty. The location closed in February.

“It’s become more and more popular to do what we feel like doing and not think about other people,” Ann Marie said of shoplifting, adding that she thinks CVS locking up products is “the only way they’re gonna stay in business.”

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this story.

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Kate Corliss

Kate Corliss is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She is a senior studying journalism at American University and serves as the Campus Life Editor for the student newspaper, The Eagle.

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