Great year for 7-Eleven beer-runners

Vigilant employees, cameras, locked coolers, barricades don't stop them

Fredley demonstrates how the more intelligent thieves steal a 24-ouncer.
  • Fredley demonstrates how the more intelligent thieves steal a 24-ouncer.

“Yesterday at 9:40 [p.m.] two Modelo 24 oz. cans fell out of his pants,” said Fredley. “I said, 'What the hell...what is this?' then he grabbed them and ran away…but his girlfriend is right behind him and she got, like, four Monster energy drinks and she ran, too [without paying].”

Some say the store's proximity to Normal Heights Recreation Center park makes it an easy mark.

Some say the store's proximity to Normal Heights Recreation Center park makes it an easy mark.

Google Maps image

Fredley, who’s been working at 7-Eleven convenience stores for 14 years, said that the beer and energy drink theft happened on November 30; the week before, on Thanksgiving, he caught someone else stealing two 18-packs of beer.

“If it’s a good [day] maybe one or two [beer runs occur],” he said, “and when it’s pretty bad, [it happens] more than ten times.”

Some Normal Heights residents have posted on social media that the 3436 Adams Avenue 7-Eleven (between Hawley Boulevard and 34th Street) is an easy mark for the “criminal-homeless” who hang out at the nearby Normal Heights Recreation Center park and that Fredley and his coworkers don’t do anything “in fear of retaliation.”

Fredley chuckled in disbelief. “They are teenagers [and] not homeless people,” he said.

His coworker agreed as he was tallying up the cash in his register. “That’s why we put this up.”

Before they run, the thieves have to take a long walk around to the beer cooler.

Before they run, the thieves have to take a long walk around to the beer cooler.

He pointed to a five-foot-tall soda-crate barricade between the front doors and the beer coolers; patrons seeking access to the coolers have to walk nearly all the way around the checkout island and hot dog station to get to the beer — and they have to come back the same way.

“They ran and I followed them,” Fredley said, regarding the November 30th incident. “Both are black and maybe 18 to 19 years old [and] they are regular customers.” He didn’t catch them.

Paul is the manager of this location and the other 7-Eleven at 4687 Ohio Street where it meets Adams Avenue. “They are young kids [who do the beer runs],” he said. Recently he caught someone taking two 18-packs of beers. “It’s an ongoing problem…. [At the other location] they have a bigger problem there.”

“Jane” (real name withheld at her request), who works the day and early night shift at the Ohio Street 7-Eleven, has been an employee there for about four years.

The 18-packs of 12-ounce Modelos are most desired.

The 18-packs of 12-ounce Modelos are most desired.

“[In September] we had a tall Mexican guy come in every single night,” Jane said. “When we [were] busy, he always took at least an 18-pack of Modelo every night [and] because of him we started locking [the beer doors at night]; then he started coming in the morning.”

Paul said he leaves the decision of whether to lock up the beer doors to his employees.

Jane showed me their surveillance camera and monitor setup that captures various angles of the newly renovated store, then described another scenario.

“He was opening the beer [door], so I said to my partner, ‘Hey-hey-hey, he’s grabbing the beer — you have to be here,'” she recalled. She said the coworker stood by the store entrance, but then the beer thief dodged him and in doing so, “one case fell and the other one he took.”

Jane said that other thieves are more determined and skilled. One walked away with an “18-pack in each hand and a 12-pack [between each of his armpits]…and it’s always Modelo — they don’t take anything else.”

Fredley agreed with the thieves’ taste for Modelo but couldn’t explain why they go for the $19.99 18-packs.

“One guy got your [Reader] magazines,” Fredley said as he pointed to the magazine rack by the barricade, “and got some tall cans and wrapped the magazine around them — and walked out.”

Pretty well lit at 3436 Adams Avenue, but it's a quick sprint to the park from there.

Pretty well lit at 3436 Adams Avenue, but it's a quick sprint to the park from there.

All the employees that I interviewed said the beer-runners pull most thefts during the day, especially when it’s busy inside. Some beer-runners look right at the employees when making the run for it, others in hoodies and baseball caps shove the brew(s) in the front of their pants or their purses…and then there are tactical beer-runners.

“One goes this way, one goes that way, and one goes that way,” Jane explained as she pointed at the three aisles that lead to her register. “[The three customers] come at the same time, then when I am busy right here [ringing up the first customer], the other guy with the beer runs.”

Jane and Fredley have caught some of the thieves red-handed inside the stores, but Jane said, “We cannot get [them] outside of the door because it's policy; everything has to happen inside." They said it’s difficult to get them arrested because it’s only petty theft and the police response for this type of crime is not a high priority and sometimes takes “30 minutes” to respond.

Fredley said he and his coworker apprehended someone stealing Olde English beer a month ago, then, “He tried to hit me with the beer.”

“The cops said that we have to be careful with our lives,” Jane said. “Sometimes you don’t know what they have [on them or in their getaway car].”

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After reading this narrative, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. This 7-11 store has at least one or two "beer runs" a day, and there can be as many as ten. Good grief! If the stuff were something that sold for a dollar or two, it would be one thing, but the clerk describes a typical grab as a $20 eighteen-pack of Modelo. My take is that if they lose that much of the stuff every day, they much find it very profitable to sell beer, and must sell a great deal of it. But, still, how can the store tolerate it? (And it does sound as if it is tolerated as part of doing business in that 'hood.)

Over the years I witnessed beer grabs here in No County. One time it was teenagers for sure, but another time it was a pair of older guys. There was another one that I've mostly forgotten. The Stater Brothers on Sycamore Ave in Vista was one of those I saw get hit, and shortly afterward they put up a solid barricade of fixtures and displays that made it hard to just run straight for the door.

For a 7-11 store to lose that much and not take drastic action is a puzzle. Locking the cases at all times is the logical first step. But then when someone wants beer the store needs to have enough staff to go back, get the beer, bring it to the cash register and wait for payment. Yeah, an honest customer would be inconvenienced, I suppose, and might prefer to buy elsewhere. But that would stop the rip offs.

At least the thieves have good taste in beer; it isn't Keystone or some other such suds they go for. I can hope that they prefer the Negra Modelo, one of my favorite dark Mexican brews.

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