Update: On Tuesday, CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis informed the Weekly that the Town & Country Village location enacted its five-at-time policy without the company's approval and has been instructed to end the practice.
The CVS at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto is limiting the number of students who can enter the store during the Palo Alto High School lunch period to five at a time in light of recent thefts.
"If it wasn't for the stealing, there wouldn't be a problem letting the students come inside all together," Store Manager Brayan Garcia said.
The shopping center is located across the street from Paly and is a hot spot for students to visit during their lunch break. While the store has tried limiting students since the end of the last school year, it redoubled its efforts after stealing increased at the start of the school year, Garcia said.
While the store hasn't tallied the number of thefts, the strategy has helped reduce thefts, Garcia reported. In an effort to do the right thing, Garcia sought advice from local police on what to do and was advised to limit the number of students by monitoring the door and reaching out to the school for help.
"In talking with the school, they said once the students are off campus, there's not much they can do," Garcia said.
Paly students Eddie Wang and John Park feel this practice is justified in light of the stealing.
"They're just being cautious, which is fair," Wang said. At the same time, he noted, "A lot of my friends have actually stopped coming to CVS because of this policy."
Park agrees the policy is justified.
"People would steal for no reason, just for the fun of it," he said.
While the strategy focuses on reducing the number of Paly students to about groups of five, all other customers are allowed in during the lunch period. A CVS employee manually opens and closes the door. Once inside, the students are asked to leave their backpacks near the door.
"Before, we just couldn't keep up with so many students inside at the same time," Garcia said. "Now, the store is a lot cleaner, less chaotic and (it's) easier to keep an eye on students."
Since the number of students has been limited, other customers no longer have to wait in long lines of students wanting to buy a single item.
"I think it's a great idea to prevent stealing," Palo Alto resident Sandra Lehman said. "I usually avoid coming at this time, but it's good that they limit the crowds."
The store plans to continue this strategy for the foreseeable future, Garcia said.