A British grocery store chain has issued an apology after the location of its “no shoplifting” sign left some customers angry.
Tesco, which has nearly 4,000 stores across the U.K. and Ireland told BuzzFeed News that the now-controversial sign was placed “in error” next to the feminine hygiene products at one of its locations.
The apology stemmed from a viral tweet posted by a customer on Jan. 29. The Twitter user, Oonagh Ryder, shared a photo of a sign reading “Help us build safer communities — report shoplifting to a member of staff.”
“We really need a genuine conversation as a society about what ‘safety’ means,” Ryder wrote.
The image, reportedly taken at a Tesco in London’s Kensington neighborhood, sparked a wave of commentary online. Many users shared their belief that the sign was shaming people who might be unable to afford a medically essential product.
“Shoplifting isn’t the problem. It’s the fact that sanitary products aren’t free and accessible to those who menstruate,” one Twitter user wrote.
“Tampons should be FREE. pads should be FREE. we do not choose to have a period. we should not have to pay for a necessity,” another added.
“We know that the cost of buying essential sanitary products can be a real struggle for some, which is why we were the first retailer to cover the cost of the tampon tax to make these items more affordable,” a Tesco spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We want everyone to feel welcome in our stores and are very sorry for any offense caused.”
The affordability of tampons has long been a controversial issue in the U.S. as well. Menstrual products are still taxed in 35 states, while other male-specific products — including Viagra and Rogaine — are not.
“The tampon tax amounts to sex-based discrimination,” said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a co-founder of the nonprofit Period Equity, told the New York Times last year.
Meanwhile, those responding to the Tesco controversy called the cost of tampons in the U.K. “nasty,” with some adding that they would not report a shoplifter if they saw them stealing feminine products.
“if I see someone stealing feminine hygiene products of all things from a huge chain supermarket, I’m minding my business…. and you should too,” one user wrote.
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