Alongside increased surveillance in aisles, sensor technology at checkouts and security gates at exits, more shoppers are now finding aerosol deodorants stored in glass cabinets beside a 'press button for assistance' sign.
A local in Ballina — situated in NSW's Northern Rivers region — was the latest to question why she was unable to freely select the item from the shelf. Instead, it appears she had to press the button and wait for a worker to open the cabinet using a high-tech keypad attached to the cabinet.
Why have Woolworths introduced 'confronting' security measure
Many shoppers have been disgruntled by the sudden increase in supermarket security measures and that feeling seemed to spill into the comments section after the Ballina shopper posted images of the locked aerosol cans online.
While some questioned why the change had been made, others explained it was to combat a "confronting" social media trend which has led to many Aussie teens dying.
Chroming has killed several Aussie teens
Shoppers have started to find aerosol deodorants in locked cabinets at various stores across the country and Woolworths have said it is to prevent shoppers from stealing the products and participating in 'chroming' — the dangerous inhalation of the chemicals.
"We’ve fitted a number of our stores with in-aisle restricted items cabinets since 2021, and are currently in the process of expanding this across our store network. This is set to be completed by the end of the month," a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
It is understood up to 70 stores across the country will have these cabinets fitted and the stores have been selected based on the local community's misuse of the aerosol products, with dry shampoo items also under lock and key in some stores.
"As part of our desire to play a part in reducing the misuse of aerosol products across the country, we’ve been working with suppliers and community groups to explore practical solutions," the spokesperson said.
The trend of chroming, which is also known as 'huffing' or 'rexing' has become a concerning problem, especially among youths, due to its potential to cause brain damage and death. In 2021 children as young as seven were discovered to be openly sniffing the substances in a mining town in Queensland.
Mixed reaction from shoppers
While the supermarket giant has been praised for being "proactive" in combatting the trend of chroming, others believe it will do little to stop participation in the social media trend but instead give Woolworths another reason to continue amping up surveillance — highlighting the level of distrust many feel toward the supermarket at the moment.
'So now they have to wait for staff to get it for them, then they can go and get high anyway," a disgruntled shopper wrote online, while another wrote it would be better to invest in treating the cause itself rather than monitoring shopper activity.
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