Tesco, a British grocery chain that operates in multiple countries, told BuzzFeed News it has removed signs placed above tampons and other menstrual health products that asked people to report shoplifting of these items in its store in Kensington, London. The signs caused mass uproar online when a shopper took a photo and sent it to a friend, who shared it to Twitter last week.
A spokesperson for the company added that it is "very sorry for any offense caused" and claimed that this depicted sign was placed "in error."
"Help us build safer communities — report shoplifting to a member of staff," the sign read.
Carl Cattermole, a London resident, first took the photo last week and sent it to his friend Oonagh Ryder. She took great issue with it.
"Signs like these encourage ordinary people to be suspicious and resentful toward their neighbors, rather than be angry about the root causes of someone needing to shoplift menstrual products," Ryder told BuzzFeed News. "The UK has very high levels of inequality due to the decisions of successive governments, with increasing numbers of people unable to afford basic necessities."
Her tweet and other criticisms of the sign have gone viral, inspiring more conversation online about the cost burdens placed on people who need menstrual health products.
"Shoplifting isn't the problem," said one Twitter user. "It's the fact that sanitary products aren't free and accessible to those who menstruate."
Many are advocating for these kinds of products to be subsidized or offered for free. People noted condoms are often given out for free.
In response, Tesco said it's very much aware of the inequalities people who menstruate face when it comes to their sanitary products.
"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' [also known as the 'pink tax'] to make these items more affordable," a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
“We want everyone to feel welcome in our stores and are very sorry for any offense caused," they added.
Online, people said if they were ever considering reporting people who steal menstrual health products out of need, now they're looking the other way.