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Blade Runner

Claim:   Razor blades have been found amidst merchandise sold at a Wal-Mart store in Lewistown, Pennsylvania.

PARTLY TRUE

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, November 2008]

I wanted to make all of you aware of possible danger while shopping and gift giving... a few weeks ago I purchased a pair of pants at the Lewistown Wal Mart, while trying them on at home I felt something hard in the pocket... when I reached in to get it, it was a razor blade and I cut my finger. :( Yesterday my husband picked up a package of socks and heard something hit the floor... it was a razor blade! He told a sales associate and she told him to careful when shopping, apparently they are taking the razor blades off the shelf, opening them to steal music cd's and hiding the razor blades around the store. She said several people have been cut. So please be careful when shopping and going through piles of clothes and please check your purchases carefully for razor blades... especially gifts for small children. I think this is just terrible and wanted to warn as many people as I could. This happened to us at Wal Mart but I am sure they are doing the same thing at other stores also.
 

Origins:   This warning has been in circulation since mid-November 2008, and while it is true that razors have sometimes been discovered lying loose among merchandise at the Wal-Mart in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, we could not verify the specific account given above. When we called the Wal-Mart store in question and asked about the e-mail, we were told that neither a customer nor any of the sales associates working at that location had reported such an incident to the store's manager. They acknowledged that yes, razor blades have occasionally been found lying loose about the store, but
that no accidents or injuries involving them have ever been reported, and that the last such find was about a year and a half ago. Such discoveries, we were told, are "very rare."

In general, the finding of loose razor blades or other cutting implements around retail stores is a known occasional occurrence. The inclusion of anti-theft measures on easily stealable items has prompted some shoplifters to cut merchandise out of its packaging while they are still in the store. This practice sometimes involves first appropriating razor blades or Exacto knives from that same store, using those implements to free desired items from their casings or store security tags, then discarding the tools used to open the packaging. These discards can be quite haphazard: razor blades or knives are shoved onto shelves or stashed among packaged merchandise, with little thought given to the safety of other shoppers. As to what sort of goods these thieves are after, it's everything from CDs and small electronics to cough and cold medications and weight loss formulations — anything of value that is either in a clamshell casing or has a security tag affixed to it is a target. Shoplifters, as anyone in retail well knows, will steal just about anything.

It's also the case that employees who restock store shelves typically use various types of bladed instruments to open boxes and cartons, and they too may sometimes drop, lose, or accidentally leave blades from such implements in areas where shoppers might later encounter them.

The bottom line is that while the incident recounted above may not have been confirmed, razor blades and similar sharp instruments that have been discarded by shoplifters (or lost by employees) are occasionally found in various retail establishments. There is therefore no protection to be gained by thinking the problem is limited to just one store at one particular location: If consumers need to be concerned about random encounters with slicing implements during their shopping forays, they need to be concerned about them in every store, not just the one named in an e-mail. However, the good news is that such finds are infrequent rather than commonplace. Ergo, while this sort of thing can happen and has happened, it's neither a new nor a common phenomenon, so you need not attempt to break any speed records in warning everyone you know about it.

Barbara "panic buttoned" Mikkelson

Last updated:   3 December 2008

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