City Desk

Is Safeway’s New Receipt-Check Initiative a Rotten Egg?

The Southwest Safeway is part of a test program for quality assurance.

Stop by the Safeway on 4th Street SW, and prepare to show some paper. Employees are now inspecting customers' receipts on the way out of the store—part of a "quality assurance" initiative from Safeway's upper management that's been soundly greeted with distaste.

The blog Southwest...the Little Quadrant That Could reports that at a Monday meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D, commissioners questioned Safeway representatives and called the move degrading—arguing that it is less about customer service than keeping watch for shoplifting. A nearly unanimous commission then voted to send a letter to Safeway management "expressing their dismay with the new policy," according to the blog; the letter also requests that Safeway institute the initiative at a "non-urban store."

Reached by City Desk, Craig Muckle, a Safeway manager for public affairs and government relations, explains that the Waterfront Station store was chosen for the program—which Muckle stresses is a pilot program—because of its strong management team. Also, the branch has the highest volume of customers in the District. "If it can be done there, it can be done anywhere," Muckle says. Well, not quite anywhere: Muckle says that if the program is successful, Safeway hopes to expand it to other municipalities that have a bag tax. (Which for now, is just D.C. and, if the state passes such a law, Maryland.)

As for the complaints? "We've heard several complains and it's been minimal. I know because we have ways of checking our records," Muckle asserts.

He may be right: It seems not everyone feels disrespected by the receipt checks. One commenter on Southwest...the Little Quadrant That Could writes:

I was one of the original posters who voiced my strong opposition to the receipt check – before I even stepped foot in the store. After a few visits I really don't mind. The receipt checkers are extremely friendly and approachable. Lastly, it's nice to hear "have a blessed day" upon leaving.

Photo by Flickr user Mr T. in D.C., Attribution-No Derivative 2.0 Generic license.

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  • Rick Mangus

    What do you expect with housing project surrounding that area! Also I would like to know the names of these idiot commissioners in 6D, maybe they need to tell their constituents to stop stealing the store blind!

  • thedofc

    They do racial profiling with the receipts. A black lady in front of me had to set down numerous bags just to find a receipt when leaving the store. When I (a white male) followed carrying just one bag, the attendant told me not to bother and smiled. I understand the need to check receipts, but if you're going to do it, do it to everyone.

  • Rick Mangus

    'thedofc', that's bullshit lie!

  • SWDC

    As someone who lives in an apartment couple blocks away, I can attest to the fact that shoplifting was running absolutely rampant in that store. EVERY single time I went into that store (couple times a week) the first few months it was open I either directly witnessed kids craming stuff in the pockets pants, or heawrd kids/teens grouped up on the benches outside the entrance talking loudly about what they were going in to take, or what they had just walked out with. There is a prepared food display right next to the door and I would see people run in, grab two or 3 thingd and run right out the door 5 seconds later. It's why they had to lock the side door where the Starbucks is.

    I even got in line behind a woman at the checkout counter who had a Safeway brand frozen turkey in her basket but only put a soda and pack of gum on the conveyor. When the checkout woman asked her about the big frozen turkey, she responded she had just bought it at a Giant (remember, it was a safeway brand). When the manager came over to talk to her she started screaming for the police, calling the checkout lady and manager "ni&&ers" (they were all black), it was a mess.

    I don't blame them for one second checking reciepts. The should simply just announce what it is...a theft prevention tactic and call it a day. I am sure the store had already quantified a sizable drop in theft loss.

    At the end of the day, you can build all the nice new shiny stores you want, but it doesn't change the fact that they built it across the street from some seriously ghettofied projects.

  • Cara Lea Shockley

    @ Rick Mangus -- The name of one of those "idiot commissioners" is attached to this post.

    @SWDC -- I resent the characterization of our neighborhood in your post.

    I too have noticed, as an older white woman, that I am less likely to be stopped than younger and darker people seem to be. I also would like to point out that before the new store opened, many people commented on the poor layout of the checkout area -- it's convenient only to the cars with a massive amount of shopping area between the checkout and the doors used by pedestrian shoppers. Since this is a primarily pedestrian neighborhood -- one of the reasons the store has so many sales is that we make small purchases more frequently -- that particular aspect of the design was debated before the store opened. Safeway chose not to listen.

    Had Safeway made an advance announcement that they intended to implement this policy, I would have been happier. Had they given shrinkage as the reason rather than "customer service," I would have been happier.

    What bothered me, and is a reason that I was one of the five who chose to send the letter, was that Safeway has not given consistent answers to the questions asked about why and where they chose to implement this policy.

    Once this pilot program is complete, Safeway's stated intention is to role it out to every other store in Washington DC (and Baltimore) as a reaction to the bag fees which Safeway is blaming for its shrinkage. I think that's a problem.

  • Sally

    If you have a store with tons of shoplifting, don't be shocked when the store takes anti-shoplifting measures. And of course it can't say that they're anti-shoplifting measures, because the usual bleeding hearts would then claim it's all racist.

  • leslie

    We moved here from Foggy Bottom. I am surprised at how few police cars and police on bikes I see over here in SW. In our old neighborhood, police had traffic stops at least once a month. Police on bikes were seen all the time. Speeding was dramatically down. Driving through pedestrian walkways was down. The rush hour speeding through Navy Yards to cross South Capitol and rush through 4th is never even monitored. I've yet to see a traffic stop. The only police car seen is when they are illegally parked in the middle lane to run into Safeway. And then Safeway! I wish they would have roaming security and roaming quality control. Such as pick up the food and other inventory that is on the floors. To me it is just a case of lowered expectations. Well, I expect more and the only way our neighborhood will improve is if we continue to speak up.

  • Simon

    For what it's worth, Costco has been doing this for all people leaving its stores in Northern Virginia for years.

  • Blake

    Racial Profiling? Don't be stupid. I'm a white male and I walked out with 5 bags the other day and my receipt was in my shirt pocket. I joked at the (black) female and she laughed when I said it was in my chest pocket and she could get it. She hesitated and i said "there's nothing sneaky in there" and she just declined, laughed with me and told me to have a nice day.

    The receipt check takes less than 3 seconds for me every time. They look roughly at the number of items, then at your bags, and if it looks suspicious they'll stop you.

    My roommate was stopped once, he's also white, his bags just had a bunch of small items and she wanted to make sure it didn't have excess stuff. Took just a moment to do.

    Just have your receipt ready and don't show it with a rotten attitude and you'll be fine.

  • David Benson

    I wonder if the receipt-checkers notice the overcharges I find on my Safeway receipts every time I go to any Safeway.