When the managers of a grocery store in downtown Calgary installed barriers to prevent people from loitering around their business, they thought they’d solved a problem.

They had no idea they’d inadvertently sparked an online firestorm.

Many say that the rubber bumpers, installed on the garden planters near the Safeway Kensington Calgary are an overdue safety measure, but others are saying that they’re an eyesore.

Management said they’d been getting complaints from customers who said they’d been harassed by people and they didn’t feel safe coming to the store.

The problem had gotten so bad that they’d begun to avoid shopping there.

Keri Scobie, with Sobeys Western Canada office, says other measures had been put in place.

“We have had an ongoing thing over the years and one of things that we’ve had a lot of customer feedback about is that they feel unsafe coming in the store, they feel hassled, so we’ve had a few things over the years that have not really stopped the problem. We’ve had some on-site security, there’s some signage there.”

But the recently installed seat blockers have been called ‘hostile’ by critics.

Similar strategies have been used in Calgary before, for example near City Hall, at Rocky Mountain Plaza to deter leaners and loiterers.

Some other cities have installed spikes, not unlike methods used to deter pigeons.

There are some people who approve of the measures at Safeway, saying that the store needed to do something about the issue that was getting out of control.

According to the land use permit for the store, the square outside is supposed to encourage people to gather.

Safeway says the bumpers are only a pilot project for now.

“We are looking at it over the next two weeks to see if it is a viable solution for us. We’ve definitely heard the neighbours and feel that being a good community partner is a priority for us.”

If Safeway determines that the deterrents are working, they will stay.