Street Sign Calling Out California’s Retail Theft Goes Viral

By: Alex Trent | Published: Jul 04, 2024

An unofficial street sign has been making viral rounds online that jokingly warns customers outside a Louis Vuitton in California that “Stolen Goods Must Remain Under $950.”

This sign is going viral in a climate of increased pushback against retail theft in the state and a voter ballot measure in November that would increase penalties for repeat shoplifters.

Viral Sign

This past weekend, an X thread posted a photo of the unofficial street sign with the caption “average sf street sign.”

A sign posted outside a Louis Vuitton seen in an X post.

Source: Transmission11/X

The post would go on to get over 7 million views and over 41,000 likes as the X user documented more instances of the signs being posted throughout San Francisco, California.


Official Quality

The signs initially had many people confused because of how professional-looking they were.

A bird’s eye view of the skyline of San Francisco seen during sunset.

Source: Joshua Sortino/Unsplash

“wut. is this real?” said one X user. “if this isn’t some avant garde street art, SF is actually cooked,” said another user.

Urban Revival

Some commenters online caught on to the satire angle of the sign, with one lauding it as an urban revival program.

A view of old historic homes in San Francisco, with tall buildings seen behind them.

Source: Joshua Sortino/Unsplash

“it’s a brilliant urban revival program, putting these signs up ensures only luxury retailers with items >$950 value open up,” said X user Michael Bacarella.

Inflated Prices

Other commenters jokingly suggested that businesses should make the price of everything $950 to compensate for the rule that doesn’t seem to penalize people stealing under that amount.

Close-up of a person's hands as they count a stack of US dollar bills. The person is wearing a dark blue shirt, and their fingernails are painted in a light color

Source: Alexander Grey/Unsplash

“The minimum price for goods is now $950. Need milk? $950. Need diapers? $950. Need toilet paper? $950,” said one X user.

Working in Retail

One user shared their experience working in the area where the signs were posted in, complaining about multiple incidents of shoplifting that they felt horrible about.

A sign that says "Louis Vuitton" outside a building.

Source: Christian Wiediger/Unsplash

“yea I worked in luxury in sf union square. our little boutique store got shoplifted on multiple occasions. none of the culprits were caught, and if they were, they were released the next day. it’s a revolving door. security legally can’t do sht. it was horrible for my wellbeing,” said one X user.


Real Signs

KRON4 reported that the signs were not officially posted by the city, but they are real in the sense they were actually put up and weren’t photoshopped or AI-generated.

Sunset view over San Francisco showing a blend of high-rise buildings and residential areas, with prominent skyscrapers like the Salesforce Tower and Transamerica Pyramid visible against a hazy sky

Source: Hardik Pandya/Unsplash

“A San Francisco Department of Public Works spokesperson told KRON4 the sign was not put up by the city. The spokesperson added that a city worker was sent on Sunday to check out the sign,” said KRON4.


Proposition 47

The sign appears to take satirical aim at California theft standards passed by voters in 2014 known as Proposition 47.

Close-up of two hands, one holding an envelope-style ballot, about to insert it into a slot on a metal ballot box

Source: Arnaud Jaegers/Unsplash

Under Prop 47, retail theft that is under $950 is only prosecuted as a misdemeanor even after repeated offenses. In recent years, critics of the proposition have been concerned it has led to a surge of retail theft seen in viral videos online.


Contradicting the Claim

While the sign seems to be making the point that California’s lax standards for charging criminals for shoplifting are unique, Gizmodo reports as many as 34 other states have higher dollar thresholds for charging someone with a felony.

A close-up of a Texas flag underneath a clear blue sky.

Source: Pete Alexopoulos/Unsplash

This includes Republican-run states like Texas which only charges shoplifters with felonies for over $2,500 of merchandise and South Carolina with $2,000.


Shoplifting in California

According to the Public Policy Institute of California last year, retail theft and robbery rates have risen recently.

A shop lifting sign featuring a pair of handcuffs.

Source: Katangais/Wikimedia

San Francisco has the second highest rate of shoplifting per capita among California counties, having around 333 shoplifting incidents per 100,000 residents. This number has increased by 24% since 2019.


Why is Shoplifting on the Rise?

Experts have blamed soaring retail theft primarily on fear Americans have around inflation and the economy.

The image shows a stenciled representation of a surveillance camera painted in black on a weathered white background

Source: Tobias Tullius/Unsplash

“A community might be struggling with heavy job losses and people can’t easily find another job. Now they can’t afford basic necessities,” said Read Hayes, a criminologist at the University of Florida and director of the Loss Prevention Research Council,


Ballot Initiative

In response to increased shoplifting in many California areas, a voter initiative that received over 900,000 signatures will be on the ballot in November that will roll back parts of Prop 47 and increase penalties for shoplifters.

A person slides an envelope into a ballot box.

Source: Element 5/Unsplash

If the measure passes it will eliminate the $950 threshold outlined in Prop 47, meaning anyone caught stealing three times regardless of the amount will be charged with a felony.