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Safeway Forum

Several years ago, one of our editors threw together this piece about how annoyed he was to have Safeway employees constantly greeting him with disingenuous platitudes, butchering his last name at checkout, and peppering him with pseudo pleasantries every time he stopped in to pick up a six pack or roll of toilet paper. Since that time, due we suppose to the mysterious ways of Google, we have received a plethora of e-mails from other annoyed customers, some of whom seem to think they are contacting Safeway directly when they write to us. Not knowing what else to do with them, we've decided to collect the missives and post some of them here. We present them in chronological order with the most recent at the top.

Dear Goliard


 

Hi! I'm Deborah and I've recently had a lot of problems with the Safeway store where I shop. I made a complaint at Safeway.com but they blew me off three times! Would you have any idea how I can make a more formal complaint? I wasn't angry before but since they have blown off my complaints I'd like to complain about the way I was treated when I tried to make them aware of problems and the condition of the store near my home. If you have any ideas or info you wouldn't mind sharing I'd appreciate your help very much!

Sincerely,

Deborah Cabness

 

 

Dear Goliard:

"Forced friendliness."
Nice phrase.
Compelling letter.

R. T. McCarthy

 
I don't know if this happens in all Safeway stores, but here in  
Colorado every other month or so, we get spare-changed by the cashiers  
for the cause du jour.  We're asked to donate by rounding up to the  
next dollar for prostate cancer, Easter seals, breast cancer, Jerry's  
kids, etc., etc., etc.  I can afford it, but I don't do it because I'm  
sick of this happening all the time.  However, my sister is a single  
parent of a special-needs son and she counts every penny.  She buys  
the cheapest cuts of meat, clips coupons, buys the house brands and  
shops at Safeway only because it's closer and therefore cheaper to  
drive there.  She is also easily embarrassed and a soft touch.  She  
feels like she can't refuse when she's spare-changed in front of the  
other customers.

  Now, they've added a new wrinkle.  They ANNOUNCE over the loud- 
speaker when anybody donates.  This may finally push her into hitting  
King Soopers instead, even if it is a longer drive.  Safeway may think  
they're adding a level of pressure that people will respond to, but  
they're probably losing customers.

Denver Betty

 

Pregnant lady has sandwich and is jailed?  Last of my dealings with any safeway because they aren't safe.
 
Phyllis Heitkamp MH

 

 

Dear Goliard

I have been trying to contact safeway about spoiled food on their shelves and NOWHERE on their sitedoes it give a 1-800 number or Customer Service Line... how retarded is that?  I was just there (note we are in late November) and I pulled several packets of shredded cheese off the shelf... with expiration dates of (and no, I am not kidding here)- August 15, Sept 9, Oct 15 and Oct 22... And those were the "sell by" dates! 

 

Jennifer K

 

Subject: 
 bad music and unstocked shelves
Type: Text 
 

What a wonderful place you have provided for me to vent since I have been
unable to find a Safeway contact program. Our issue is the recent donation
ploy to remove even more of our money under the guise of 'treating this or
that.' Not to mention the guy in the pseudo-jail who needs X number of
donation dollars before he can ge out. Our beautiful, newly reconditioned
Safeway has more of a Carnival atmosphere complete with Barker over the loud
speakers now and is really annoying. Whatever happened to the relaxing
background music much more easily ignored? Don't we have enough world
disasters now we donate to that we have to have our local market hacking
also?

Pearlady

 

Dear Goliard

Why force people to listen to such horrible music when shopping? I
plan not to shop at Safeway again but to shop at the Giant. The
redneck music is so loud and uncomfortable that I couldn't wait to
get out of the store in Waldorf, Md. yesterday. Store #0105. No
music should be played at all as one can't concentrate on what they
are about to buy. If any music should be played it should be quiet
instrumental music and not vocals.

Joan Huntt

Dear Mr. Goliard:
 
Thanks for being so vigilant about going after the ugly Safeway-Vons Giant.  Today I went into their Vons store in Fillmore, California.  I wanted to purchase some vegetables.  I could purchase none.  At least I must give credit to Vons for the country of origin label on their vegetables.   I searched in vain for anything produced in the USA.  I could find none.
 
 My concern far exceeds any motivation or support I might have for our USA farmers who I do support and favor.  In this case my primary concern is for my health.  A professional friend in the agricultural pesticide business told me after a recent visit to Mexico that in the use of agricultural chemicals and practices Mexico is 30 to 40 years behind the US.  In Mexico pesticides that have been long banned in the US because the are known to cause cancer in consumers and have other adverse effects on the environment, are being used in Mexico.  Recently my friend witnessed an entire bag of DDT being tossed into a creek by an agricultural worker.  I don't think you can even use DDT in the US anymore.  Also, when crews in California pick and otherwise harvest agricultural products there are always chemical toilets on site and provision for the workers to wash their hands.  Again, not so in Mexico.
 
Meanwhile for the Safeway-Vons giant it is business as usual.  Prices are as high as ever.  There is no choice we must purchase from them product that has been proven to be a cause of cancer. So your choice is to purchase a potential dose of cancer for the ugly Safeway Vons Giant or nothing at all.   Our government and the people of the US took care of that problem with agricultural regulations.  The Safeway-Vons giant has figured out how to get around it. 
 
On top of that the poor people who do the harvesting in Mexico are getting the short end of the stick too with lower wages and none of the protections afforded their counter parts in the US such as reasonable measures to protect them for the dangers of agricultural chemicals.  What we are witnessing in this regard is a very old problem for us Americans that goes back to the colonel days, in a word it is slavery.  The U.S. unfortunately is a nation that was built upon the back of slaves as we all know. What many are not aware of was that slavery was as prevalent in the North as it was in the South yet following the civil war there was a major cover up of that fact. Amazingly, our so called mother countries and fatherlands in Europe outlawed slavery between 1100 and 1300 AD.  In America it has been typically business as usual, i.e. to screw or be screwed.  How wonderful it would be if some day we could get our nation beyond all that and truly be the great civilized nation on earth that we all usually think we are and so much hope to be.
 
Sincerely,
 
Douglas L.R. Hauge 

Goliard - Please pass this on to Safeway

Hi,

What's your policy about employees smoking right at the door entrance of your Safeway stores? This was how I was greeted today when I entered my local Safeway store to shop. At least 6 employees on-break smoking at the enttrance. I walked through a "cloud of smoke" before I could get insde to shop. How disgusting! I guess I need to shop somewhere else from now on.

Thanks,

Trudy Bramell

Trudy - That does sound gross. Take your business elsewhere. - Ed

Dear Goliard,

I wrote the following memo to Safeway. It is not to be missed.

Dear Sir/Madam

 Having just got home I could not hesitate to forward my comments and displeasure at my recent shopping experience at your Freedom Center store located in Watsonville, California.

It is my assumption that when items are marked/priced on the isle shelf they are to be honored. While in the check stand I had asked for a rain check on Squirt sodas 12 pack sleeves as there were none on the shelf. The price was marked “Buy 2 get 2 free”. The checker perused through the advertisement (newspaper) insert found a different price and refused giving me the rain check. When I asked to talk to her supervisor this is what resulted

1.       The floor manager did not even bother consulting with me face to face.

2.       Refused to neither check the price on the isle herself nor direct another individual to do so.

3.       Exhibited a total disregard for a customers direct request, displayed an arrogant if not flippant attitude in front of me and other customers. I felt embarrassed to even be asking for this delayed purchase as the line was building behind me. But more so, embarrassed to be denied a legitimate purchase in front of several customers. If I was wrong then shame on me. But if I was right shame on who

          To say I was a little miffed by all this would be an understatement. I have had other incidents with this Floor manager as well have other friends who shop there. I do not use the “B” word very often, however today she was a complete “BOZO”.

            I had the privilege of being the Plant Manager of a Food Plant for 20+ years. Customer service was essential for building long-term business relationships and we took pride in our efforts to satisfy even the smallest buyer, purchasing manager or plant operations manager. Even, if it meant additional cost to our company. These types of people remember you when contract negotiations come up. Not unlike Industrial Sales, Retail is a Partnership between the seller and buyer and Customer service IS the driving force behind Repeat business. I know I am deterring from the complaint but I take Customer service very seriously. In my humble opinion Safeway Stores failed to live up to the standard that is marketed nationally. I mean no disrespect to Safeway Stores or its employees.

            I regret that I can no longer shop at Safeway Stores or its affiliates in the future. But consider this. I spend $4000/yr. (I’m single) Tell 10 friends (w/-families) about my experience, they tell 10 more, those 10 more. Soon, lost sales revenue is 7 digits and I’m not including the decimal. Hypothetical yes………...but? And just for a whopping $5.99

Sincerely,

Dave

PS -  I did not like customer complaints. Nor did I like Quarterly review sessions in front of the Board and my peers, explaining how it happened, what it cost, and what action was taken to remedy it from occurring again. NOT FUN!

Hardly a scathing attack Dave but every little bit counts - Ed

 Dear Goliard,

The Safeway near our house sucks. Just letting you know.

Tim

Thanks Tim? Keep on keepin on - ED

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is a short letter to pass on a complaint that I have.

On Sunday night at about 9.15 pm I went into Safeway Liquor in Wallan to
purchase a block of Tooheys Red for my husband.  I asked the young girl at
the counter how much it was and she didn't know so I told her I'd just grab
a block myself out of the fridge and see if there were any prices in there
that I could check out myself.

On the way to the fridge I saw a display with the Tooheys Red Blocks with a
blank price banner above it.  I asked her if the blocks were going to be on
special the next morning and she said no she didn't think so.  I again asked her if she was sure because to me it looked like they were going to be on special and  if that was the case I would return in the morning to buy the beer but she insisted that it wasn't going to be on special.  So I
reluctantly paid $38 for that block that night.

The next day when I went into Safeway I saw on the board out the front of
Safeway "Two blocks of Tooheys red for $55" and was totally pissed off
especially when the girl insisted the night before that it wasn't going to
be on special.  I was in a hurry so didn't go into the store that
morning but was back there Tuesday evening with receipt in hand.  The manager had already left for the day so I didn't get a chance until Wednesday morning to return and voice my complaint.  When I finally did so, Wednesday morning 9am, I entered the store and checked out the display again, it was still there but with a price banner of $29.99 for each block. The young lad behind the counter said there was nothing he could do about it and put it down to
"HUMAN ERROR"  whoopee do!!  No apology, no nothing.  I have to tell you - I hate being ripped off!!

  Needless to say, I am really disappointed and if the box had not been
opened I would've returned it, asked for a refund and gone elsewhere to
 make
my purchase.  It is a good thing that we have a Coles in Wallan because
that's where I'll be going from now on.

Regards

Maria Holman

Maria, not sure this is the same chain but sorry to hear about the subversive practices. - Ed

To whom it may concern at Safeway:

This letter is to let you know that I had made a
very worthless purchase of
Lucerne (strawberry cheesecake) ice cream in your
Vacaville, CA, store the other
day. To be blunt, each and every  bite of the stuff
was extremely disappointing. I
am happy to announce to you that it now sits in my
garbage can, and will be in
it's new home - the dumpster - very shortly.
 What was the problem? Absolutely no flavor. None. It
could not have been any more
bland than it was. Even the strawberry could not be
tasted, although several seeds
got stuck in my teeth. I thought that Lucerne was a
good brand to buy, but
apparently not. It's expensive enough to live nowadays
as it is, and when I spend
more money for something special, I expect something
special. I'll stop now.

 I would appreciate it if you would forward this on
to them because I want them to
know that business will be anything but good if they
continue to make junk such as
this. Thank you.


 Yours truly,

 Cathy Dhuyvetter

 

Cathy - Condolences on your unsatisfying dessert. Will post your pithy, succinct and well written retort with the rest - Ed

Safeway,

Why do you hire such sketchy characters to run the checkout lines at the Safford Safeway? I stopped in for some essentials the other night and a guy who obviously should be in an insane asylum greeted me, rang me up, bagged my groceries and then tried to help me out to my car!!! His hair was grotesquely greasy and he looked all jittery like he'd just laid down a meth pipe and come in off the streets. I didn't feel safe or clean after dealing with him and would have avoided him just on sight if I could but he was the only one with a checkout aisle open. Then, as I was leaving, he looked on the receipt and slowly pronounced my name saying, "you have a good night now Miss Cock Ran" with a lascivious grin and added that he hoped to see me later. You might think about doing a better job screening potential hires and trying to keep the complete degenerates back in the stock room at least.

But don't do it on my account as I'm never going in to your store again anyway. I'll walk through the trailer parks or squatter villages around here if I want to meet another man like that.

Thanks,

R Cochran
Safford, AZ

Geez R. Our sympathies that you felt assaulted by a greasy criminal and left feeling unclean when you were just trying to get some food for your family - Ed

Hey, Goliard,

I work at Safeway and I hate the whole greet and plastic smile thing. I work customer service and its horrid to the point that I cry all the time. I just turned 17 and needed it for my college application. I get paid badly and I get abuse from mean and rude customers demanding refunds. I am told to do things like clean vomit and bring in shopping carts, collect trash, and I'm not supposed to do that according to my job description. 

Safeway employees have no rights and the world should know it.  And we live in constant fear of those secret shoppers.

So my smiles are always halfhearted but its required and silly at the same time. 
Anyway, I liked reading your site.  It made me feel better.

Thanks a lot.

CH

CH - Glad to hear from someone on the inside. Sounds brutal. - ED

Dear Goliard....

Could you please pass this letter on to Safeway.


Dear Arundel Mills Safeway.

I would like to start with the way I have been treated at the meat
counter at your Arundel Mills store. I was at that location at 11:00am
on Sun. 7/29/07. I asked the guy why he had the cover on the meat
counter and he, with sarcasm, made the comment that "he wasn't open that's
why."

I had my daughter with me and later had to try to explain his rude
behavior. Needless to say I had to go to a competitor to buy my groceries
for the week. The sign on the counter said the hours were 10:00am to
8:00pm so I didn't think that was a stupid question to ask. I drove 25
min. to get to the store when I have a Superfresh 2 miles from my
house. I will not be making that journey in the near future. I had
another incident at the same store at the same meat counter with another
employee back in November when the older black gentleman kept his back to
me for 20 min. I cleared my throat and he looked around and kept going
about his business. I saw a familiar employee and explained what had
happened and he did say he would like to make it right but I was to
angry and left the store without my groceries. With the competition in the
grocery business as it is and new grocery stores coming to the Baltimore
area with the attitude of your employees you won't be in business for the
long haul.

You may contact me at wolfguy2@comcast.net should you want to apologize.

PS. You may check my account at your grocery chain and see what I use to
spend and where I am at now.  James D. wolfe

James - Glad to help out. - ED

Could you please remove my letter from your site? Our Fort Hunt 
Safeway has gotten much better, better managed and run lately.
Yes, they still pay poorly. Yes, they have trouble keeping people. But 
I don't feel I am in the same place I was when I wrote that letter and would very much like to see it removed from you website.

Thanks,

Gail Multop


Gail,

Consider it done. Glad you have found a different place whether it be to shop or personal. - ED
Dear Ma'am/Sir,
I just read this letter  about Safeway on your web site, and though it's probable that you won't care, 
I wanted to tell you that I think you are way off base to accuse anyone of "buying" an MBA.  
The folks down in Pleasanton, CA are probably pretty bright people with MBA's 
from fairly respectable schools.
I'm working my ass off to get an MBA from a state school, so I can imagine how hard it was 
for them to EARN their degrees.

Enjoy the rest of the day, stewing in your
ill-conceived smugness!

A Concerned Reader

Dear Stephen Williams (aka A Concerned Reader)

Thanks for weighing in on the Safeway situation. Of the hundred or so letters we’ve received since we half
jokingly published this piece a few years ago, yours is the first that mentions the MBA angle. In case you’re interested,
roughly seventy percent of the correspondence agrees with the gist of the letter that Safeway is a
misguided conglomerate with ridiculous employee practices. Another twenty percent take some exception
with our position, or at least the tone in which it was written, and cite various things about their respective Safeway stores that
they appreciate. The last ten, which we suppose now includes your effort, address some part of the posting
that grabbed their attention for one reason or another and that they felt the need to sound off about. One thing that seems
clear looking back at the situation is that Safeway stores and their clientele appear to differ greatly around the country.

As far as the sentiments of your missive are concerned, like one might suspect of an MBA candidate, you seem
to be more focused on some supposed bottom dollar and therefore may have missed the point entirely. The comment about
buying MBAs was meant to insinuate that only a group who had purchased the degrees as opposed to earning
them would be so out of touch. We would like to believe that if someone actually had to battle through graduate level marketing, 
accounting, and economics classes at an accredited institution, they hopefully would have learned somewhere along the line 
that humiliating employees and aggravating customers isn’t really a recipe for building a satisfied clientele base. 
On the other hand, Safeway remains successful, which we’re sure is why you and your ilk have a positive opinion
of them. Walmart is successful as well and we don’t shop there either. Perhaps when you graduate with your hard
earned degree, you can assume a position in the corporate offices of one of them and grab your piece of the pie.

And as far as the staffer who wrote the piece and his alleged ill conceived smugness is concerned, once we let him know 
that he appears to have irritated a self righteous MBA candidate currently working his ass off somewhere north of Pleasanton CA, 
his day may actually improve to the point where he can enjoy it. - ED

Goliard, 

Hi my name is Angela Gimbel. I'm from the Chewelah-Valley area in Washington. I'm writing to you in hopes that my letter will make it to a Safeway personnel. Anyway, what I basically have to say is quite simple. It seems every time I go to Safeway here in Chewelah, and buy more than two or three items I get ripped off, along with some of my friends and family. Let me tell you a little story that happened two days ago. I decided to go to Safeway and buy some groceries and after my things were rung up my bill totaled about $61.00. Now I pay the cashier and go outside and start looking over my receipt and realize just as I had suspected, I had been over charged. So now I have to go back inside and solve this issue wasting about another 30 minutes of my time. After already waiting in line for 20 min. because they hardly ever have but two cashiers checking. Safeway had over charged me $8.00. Now $8.00 may not be a lot to some people, but to others it is and it adds up over time. After I get this taken care of and leave my cousin who has been patiently waiting for me with my cart and son asks me to take a look at her receipt and right off hand I noticed they over charged her for cooking oil and minute maid juices. It seems to me they put stuff on sale and do not follow through with it when you reach the check out because this is not the first time this has happened to me. If this happens to me one more time I will tell everyone I know about this.

Sincerely,

Angela Gimbel

Angela - We'll post it with the rest. Safeway is sure running the gamut of ways to piss people off - ED

Dear, Goliard

Could you pass this letter on to Safeway?

Dear Mr. Burd;

I am writing to call your attention to a major problem in our area. I shop at a small Safeway on Fort Hunt Road in Alexandria, Virginia. Many of the customers of the store have shopped there for ten, twenty, and even thirty years. We have gone to retirement parties for former store managers. We have enjoyed conversation with the "veteran" employees as we shop, sharing our lives as our children have grown. We like our store. Recently we have had problems at our store. We were without a store manager for four months. The district manager apparently changed. Safeway security swooped in and fired twelve employees, and this dremovedistrict manager neglected to replace them. Then a new store manager was installed who is never seen by customers and who has still not hired any replacement workers. The "veterans" are leaving for other stores, encouraged by the District Manager to go to the newer, larger store a couple of miles away. They are eager to go where they are more supported and valued. I don't blame them. What does it take for the parent corporation to notice difficulties that are caused by corporate indifference? I understand your pay scale for new hires is half of what Trader Joe's and Whole Foods pays. You have lowered the hiring age to sixteen just to find workers. Sixteen-year-olds don't last long when they find out they can make more at Starbucks. Are you trying to kill our store? Are you trying to kill Safeway? I certainly hope this isn't the case. I sincerely hope you will take heed and look into this awful situation, so that we who depend on the Fort Hunt Safeway can look forward to better management, more intelligent treatment of employees, and thus "superior service". This is what your advertising espouses. Make it happen for real! 

Thanks, 

Gail Multop

Gail, no problem. Glad to be a conduit of change. If it makes you feel better they recently razed our neighborhood Safeway to the ground. Good riddance we say - Ed

Goliard,

Someone's sic here...... You may not recall that just a few short years ago Safeway stock was the number one pick in the nation and is still way way up there as an up and coming "raring to do business" store.

I suspect the Safeway bashing was just to get more response and had nothing to do with the author's actual feelings. Either way, as a therapist I suspect the author has these characteristics and could do well finding someone who can adjust to help develop a kind, considerate spirit toward other humans.

1. Illium in the hip is around behind the sacrum rather than in front, which causes lower back problems and acts as a dimmer switch to the bodies electrical current returning to the brain after moving muscles in the leg area. 2. Has acid reflux, which is just the check valve on top of the stomach being pushed up into the diaphragm and with a small kink in the check valve the acid is allowed to burp into the throat. Easy to fix and also acts as a little dimmer switch between lower body and brain current. 3. Has a stiff neck which is usually caused by the skull moving slightly on the Atlas. Easy to fix also and acts as another dimmer switch for returning current 4. Also appears to have after effects of a concussion at one time or other. Easy to fix and is a big dimmer switch.

The above 4 listed difficulties can cause depression, ""anger"" and many other symptoms. Now, it will be difficult to find someone properly qualified to work on all of the above symptoms. Many therapists can do one or two of them but only a few therapists on the North American continent have an understanding of how to completely balance the body electrically. The result is often nothing short of phenomenal.

The general populace will continue to shop at Safeway, where they get the absolutely best service of any grocery store I have ever seen and I have shopped at many. I don't just shop for price anymore and find myself going to Safeway more than any other store because most employees truly mean ---------- HAVE A NICE DAY AND THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING AT SAFEWAY...... See some humans do realize that most everyone feels beat up a little, just by living in this day and age, and a little kindness goes a long way for that person.

Hmmmm, consider living in this country 400 yrs ago when you had to pretty much kill your own or catch your own or plant your own food and women were pretty much on edge a lot worrying about neighboring tribesmen killing their spouses so they could steal them and their daughters to make more babies for the other tribe. We've come a long way baby... Actually, the other day I was in Safeway and noted live Oysters, so one could take them home and have the experience of killing their own in a pan of boiling water and mostly not have to worry about someone from the neighboring town stealing your wife or daughter ------at gun or knifepoint anyway........

Keep smilin and HAVE A GOOD DAY....... JIMRZ77

Hey Jim Arse,

Thanks for the free psycho babble. Glad to hear that you find going to Safeway such a pleasurable experience. Your dime store diagnosis had about the same nugatory effect as the few hundred "Have a Good Day's" in a row we've gotten from the hapless and miserable employees of Safeway. It got us to thinking though that, judging by the response we've received since penning the aforementioned screed, we've ascertained that what part of the country a person hails from seems to play a large part in how they view the great red and white. We haven't done any sort of thorough study of course, but in the Pacific Northwest, for example, where 1) good shopping alternatives abound, 2) people are generally happy and healthier, and 3) folks don't cotton as much to phoniness, readers seem to almost unanimously have bad words to say about Safeway and sympathy for the employees and their plight. On the other hand, those from the Bible Belt seem to enjoy shopping there and feel uplifted by the service. Hmmm as you so arcanely articulate. Since you don't say where you call home your ownself we can't do you the favor of a return diagnosis and speculate why you might be so titillated by such a mediocre place. Too early on a cold toilet seat probably. Unfortunately not an easy fix. 

Perhaps in some parts of the country, Safeway is the finest store around and people are proud to work there and genuinely like their jobs and therefore don't come off as fake and ridiculous like they do around here. Perhaps god fearing citizens are used to the psuedo joy and smarmy treatment that Safeway peddles and to them it seems like a friendly place to be instead of a freak show of plastic smiles. Whatever the case, it's been an enjoyable exercise and hearing from readers like yourself makes the twenty minutes it took to write the letter worth it. - Ed

PS - We tend to eat our oysters raw here at the Goliard so your suggestion of taking joy in killing our own food in a boiling cauldron is lost on us as well. Although we don't suppose they live long once they are slurped down the gullet so perhaps the effect is the same. Maybe if we'd ever had a concussion or suffered from acid reflux things would be different. Not that the Safeway around here carries oysters anyway. The saps in the butcher department are so busy mustering up the energy to parrot the Have a Nice Days required of them, that they can't even put out a Porterhouse or decent piece of fish. The place really is a classless pile of crap and we've gotten annoyed again just thinking about it. Luckily a Trader Joes recently went in down the street so we're not even tempted to go into Safeway anymore.

An exchange with a reader involving Safeway, misfortune, malfeasance and matters eternal

Goliard,

Whoever wrote that letter to Safeway about their employees' forced courtesies needs to get a life. I shop at Safeway sometimes, because it's nearby. I often shop at Costco, though because Costco has better prices. I don't find Safeway employees' smiles and courtesies annoying, because I know they're only doing what their job calls them to do. There is something unpleasant about everyone's job, and sometimes we just have to suck it up. However, if Safeway's policy annoyed me as much as it did the person who wrote that letter, I'd be more concerned about my own personal life--which appears to be in need of some serious help. Maybe he or she should get a job at Safeway and try scowling at customers just to get back at management.

Mary Lee Ruby (marylee.ruby@verizon.net)

Mary Lee,

We'll pass that suggestion on to the editor behind the Safeway letter although we doubt they'll be able to fulfill your suggestion since, given the fact that Safeway employees are fired if they don't smile and greet every single customer, the experiment wouldn't last long enough to be worth conducting. We're sorry your job is so unpleasant (it probably involves church work of some kind) but glad to hear that your personal life is such that you feel confident advising others to improve theirs. However, a person writing in to Safeway hoping to make a stand for employee dignity certainly doesn't seem to us to be any more pathetic than a person writing into the Goliard about folks having to "suck it up" in their daily jobs. We've received many letters agreeing with our position and yours is the first one to come in on the other side so we appreciate the contrary point of view. We're still not shopping at Safeway however since fake smiling employee's who are busy sucking it up continue to be unappealing to us and besides, the last time we entered one of their stores some jackass spilled a jar of alabaster oil over one of our heads. Jesus Christ!

Happy shopping,

Ed

Goliard,

I'm sorry that I wrote to you -- it was very petty of me. I didn't realize that your job is to write letters like the one about Safeway. No, I don't have a job that is unfulfilling now, although I did work for the Federal Government for 35 years--long enough to earn a retirement salary which enables me to do something really fulfilling. I now spend a lot of my time helping my daughter-in-law care for my severely disabled 5-year-old grandson. He is a beautiful child who smiles despite the terrible burden he carries--and he brings much joy to my life and the lives of those of us who love him.

Usually I don't have time to write to people like you; but yesterday, I was looking up Safeway on Google--and your letter showed up. I stopped to read it, something I don't usually do. It made me realize that there are a lot of people out there who don't know how truly fortunate they are. Safeway employees' requirement to be customer friendly (or whatever they call it these days) is so petty when compared to the burdens that some people carry; but being healthy and probably well educated gives you time to complain about things like that.

I often go to Safeway to pick up baby food for my grandson's feeding tube. There is one young woman who works there who always asks me about my grandson. I know that Safeway doesn't require that she do that; she does it because she is kind. And, yes, she tells me that she prays for him--and I know that she does. From your letter, it appears that you don't put much credence in matters relating to prayer--so I will try to remember to pray for you next time I'm in church (which, I admit, is quite often).

I apologize for writing to you, and I hope you have a happy new year.

mary lee ruby

Mary Lee,

We will assure you again that the person who wrote our Safeway letter spent no more time on it than you have spent writing to us. Therefore, we fail to see the distinction between someone "like us" who has time to complain about Safeway's ridiculous business practices and someone "like you" who has time to research Safeway on the Internet and write in to The Goliard about the quality of life the people on the other end must have. It seems to be a matter of choosing which battles to fight and we obviously have different ones, just as most people (and most governments and religions for that matter) have differing agendas as well. There is certainly no need however, for you to apologize to us about the "pettiness" of writing a letter to make your feelings known since we happen to think it's one of the valuable freedoms still available to an ever more apathetic public and is in danger of becoming a practice that is underused and forgotten. 

On the other hand your epistolary effort makes all sorts of assumptions about our happiness, health, education privileges and need of prayers just based on the fact that we took the time to write a quick screed against a large corporation that we, and most people we know, believe to be mistreating their employees. It does not surprise us that you have found a genuine nice person working at a Safeway somewhere who is willing to pray for a customer who she barely knows anymore than it surprised us that you, despite the condescending tone to your missive, said you were willing to pray for us even though you clearly see "people like us" as beneath you since we apparently haven't suffered enough. And while it is obvious as well that you consider yourself some sort of martyr in a sea of unappreciative, fun loving philanderers, you of course have no idea how much we've suffered, the state of our loved ones and their various challenges and handicaps, or what we do with the other 99.99 percent of our time when we are not writing to Safeway and responding to the mail that doing so generated. So go ahead and continue praying for everybody you come in contact with if it makes you feel better and we'll try to have a happy new year despite the fact that more and more people in this country seem content to sit around praying for each other instead of taking any meaningful action against the institutions chipping away at the quality of their lives.

Ed

Dear Ed—

I didn’t mean to imply that people like you are beneath me in any way. As a matter of fact, I always have applauded people who are willing to take the time to stand up for what they believe in—especially those who are willing to devote their lives to such endeavors. I guess we’re both angry—or maybe disappointed—for different reasons. Until my grandson was born five years ago, I took one day at a time and never really stood up for anything. I just muddled though life hoping that things would work out. I applaud you for standing up for your beliefs, because I never did.

I don’t consider myself a martyr in any way, shape or form. I’m just someone who was caught up in an unfortunate situation. The circumstances of my grandson’s birth were a shock to everyone in my family. My son and daughter-in-law took the news much better than I did. I was angry, and still am, about a lot of things—

I’m angry at two doctors who ignored my daughter-in-law's concerns during the last trimester of her pregnancy, telling her that the pains she was experiencing were to be expected during pregnancy—not to worry about them. The doctors also ignored the fact that her baby was very small—under five pounds at birth—and that he was very, very sick. They let her endure 12 hours of labor before giving her an emergency c-section. The little guy was so sick that he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage—the worst the neurologist had ever seen—several days after birth, leaving him severely and permanently disabled. He was in the neonatal intensive care unit for seven weeks after his birth, and he went home under hospice care because everyone expected him to die.

I’m angry at the lawyer who charged them $4,000 to determine if my grandson could qualify for assistance from the no-fault Virginia Birth Fund—only to tell us that my grandson’s brain injury was not due to lack of oxygen at birth and he therefore was ineligible for any assistance.

I’m angry at insurance companies for refusing to pay legitimate medical expenses, playing games with people over technical issues so that the companies can save money.

I’m angry with the Federal Government and the State of Virginia, which refused for four years to assist with my grandson’s medical expenses, claiming that my son held a job and therefore was ineligible for Medicaid—that his son could qualify for Medicaid if he were unemployed or if my son left his wife destitute. In other words, he was penalized for working and supporting his family.

I’m angry because more than one-third of my son’s modest annual salary for the past four years has gone towards medical expenses for his son and for his wife—who suffered three grand-mal seizures three years ago and now is under a doctor’s care.

I’m angry at people in shopping malls or public places who stare at my grandson like he’s some sort of freak, or who tell their children not to go near him—ignoring the fact that he is a living, breathing human being who deserves respect despite his numerous disabilities.

I’m angry with some of the self-righteous people who were annoyed because my son and daughter-in-law fed the little guy during a church service. I’m angry at the woman who told me that I need to caution them not to do that again because it makes people uncomfortable “to see something like that”—a disabled child being fed via a feeding tube.

I’m angry with bureaucrats who treat my daughter-in-law in a smug, condescending manner because she doesn’t understand bureaucratic language or technical medical terms—leaving her frustrated and feeling stupid.

I was angry when I went to visit my daughter-in-law several months ago and found her on her knees rolling coins so that she could go to the grocery store.

I’m angry because the Federal Government continues to chip away at Medicaid benefits for disabled people while continuing to support pork barrel issues that are of special to individual congressmen.

Most of all, I’m angry because there are thousands of people out there just like my grandson, and nobody seems to care about them.

Let me assure you, however, that my life is not filled only with anger. I gain solace in running (which, at 60, I may not be able to do very much longer), from my family (which now includes two normal grandchildren), from holding my disabled grandson and knowing that he feels comfortable and secure in my arms—and I feel like I’m holding just a little piece of heaven. I also gain solace from God—yes from God—a God who doesn’t appear to be answering my prayers, but who I hope is up there somewhere and who someday will make sense of all of this.

I regret taking up so much of your time, and I hope you continue supporting those issues that you feel strongly about. Thanks for listening. I won’t bother you any more.

Mary Lee Ruby

Mary Lee,

Now that's a decent letter! The kind that we strive to write and the kind we'll be proud to publish. It sounds like you have every right to be angry with just about everybody you've had to deal with since the conception and birth of your grandson. If you'd like to provide the names of the specific doctors, lawyers and agencies that have behaved badly then we'll be glad to publish those too. We'll even print the names of those idiot individuals and the specific church if you'd like. The beauty of the Internet is that little people like us finally have a medium to get our voices heard without being squelched by the major institutions and all their resources.  As you found out while researching Safeway, search engines like Google put our letter in a place where people seeking information about the store can then find it and be exposed to another viewpoint. If someone prints the names of the doctors that misdiagnosed your daughter-in-law's prenatal symptoms or the lawyers that billed your family a bunch of money for doing nothing and someone is researching potential care or representation and reads your story, you may prevent another tragedy and save a family from having to go through what yours has. As long as the information is accurate and truthful, why not get it out into the public record?

As far as the rest of your letter and the aspect of religion that has entered into our exchange thus far, we'd be disingenuous if we didn't mention that it seems obvious to us that the recent rise of the religious right is directly to blame for much of what you complain about and the policies of the current administration are achieving almost nothing other than making it increasingly difficult for someone like your son's family to get any assistance and have any hope. By greasing the wheels of large companies and making it easier for them to act irresponsibly, by cutting back on medical research, ignoring science, chipping away at health benefits, and focusing on such non issues as same sex marriage and the other religious garbage that gets everyone all worked up, they are making regular people with real needs (many of whom voted for them) much worse off. Additionally, we should say that we've seen more hypocrisy of the kind you
describe with the woman who didn't want your grandson fed in public within the walls of organized religion than anywhere else in society. In our opinion this is because many of the people involved are basically selfish and only in it because they want to be convinced that they are special enough for eternal salvation in the face of all evidence. They want to believe they are more chosen and different from the family of another race or another faith and don't want to see the disabled boy who makes them even more uncomfortable than they already are by reminding them of their perceived god's shortcomings. Praying for a child while denying him resources that could improve his life sums it all up pretty well which is why we reacted the way we did when you said you would pray for us. We say don't bother and write more letters instead. We'll publish all of them if you like. We'll even give you your own column.

Thanks for writing and give your grandson a hug for us. If we were there we'd be proud to do it. In public and in church. Especially if it would make the people there uncomfortable. - Ed

Goliard,

This whole Safeway business sounds pretty bizarre to this Connecticut resident. We do not have one nearby which sounds like it could be a blessing. My thoughts are as follows:

I have generally found even HERE in "unfriendly cold stuffy New England" that if the manager/management of the store and the employees have a good relationship then no one needs to tell the staff to be friendly. I go to several different grocery stores. At those where I see managers "wandering the aisles", with pleasant expressions, not pointing out problems but being supportive, watching for when lines get to long, and doing the other little things that make the shopping experience more pleasant for the customers and staff, the staff tends to be friendly naturally. In stores where management "hides" when lines get long, where they avoid contact with both customers and employees, and where the store seems to be understaffed the experience becomes less pleasant. I have also found that cashiers, stockers and sales clerks "mirror" my mood. If I want the checkout clerk to be pleasant I only need to be pleasant back. If the person in front of me in line has been a real jerk to the clerk his or her mood reflects that, usually a smile and a small jab at the unpleasant customer gets a smile out of the clerk and my transaction goes smoothly.

If Safeway needs to tell employees to be friendly then they should wonder why they need to be reminded. People are naturally friendly, some more outgoing then others, but still most would rather laugh than snarl. People generally prefer to be smiled at, maybe if the manager handing out the cashiers drawers was friendly and pleasant first it would go a lot farther than a "smile or else" edict. NS - Grennington, CT

Thanks for weighing in - Ed

Goliard,

While I totally agree with your complaints about Safeway employees having to act friendly all the time (and looking ridiculous in the process) that is far from the most annoying thing about the store. Have you noticed that they put their cheese in three different places in three of the four corners of the store?!? This is so you'll have to walk the entire floor to find what you want and hopefully do some spontaneous purchasing along the way. They also always pretend to have things on sale and then mix other things not on sale in with them hoping you won't read the fine print or notice the loopholes. And what about those Safeway soups? There's about 1000 calories per cup if you look closely. It's basically just reduced butter and cream. The whole place is smarmy and underhanded in my view. Add on the Stepford wife pleasantness of the check out girls and the place is just creepy. I'll be doing my shopping elsewhere. WW - Evergreen, CO

Us too! - Ed

Goliard,

Hi, I just Googled Safeway, because every time I go there the same irritating thing happens. I end up having a conversation about it with others and even an employee or two. They don't like the greeting policy and one reason it is carried out by them is because we may be 'the mystery shopper'. Talk about spying on your employees!!!! Well today, I was going to start my campaign. I see you have already done it for me!!! I don't like the reference to my last name either at checkout. Reminds me of a restaurant server tag!! hey martha< how bout some more joe!!!! HOW DEMEANING!!! Now I am going to read Safeway's reply. I DID read the first line....greeting and ASSISTING customers. That's not what we are talking about. I appreciate help when I need it. I can ask.... Sandi

Sandi Britz 
Eon Britz Gallery 
Britz Beads 
633 SW Deschutes Ave 
Redmond, Oregon 97756

Sandi, Thanks for joining the cause. We had hoped that it would peter out by now but it seems to continue. We'd like to be in the room when Safeway management pulls an employee in to scold them for not properly greeting customers. "Our mystery shopper was walking along minding her own business looking for some pantyhose when you failed to get in her face and say good morning!" How could they keep a straight face? - Ed

Goliard,

Here here on the Safeway thing. Going into that place was one of the most annoying experiences that I used to endure on a weekly basis. Recently however, I went into the store up on Hawthorne here in Portland and was walking down an aisle and slipped in some water and nearly cracked my knee cap. I dropped my basket and a jar of mayonnaise smashed against a wine bottle and seeped out all over the vegetables I had selected. Just as I was getting myself together, a smiling stock boy came by and parroted "good morning how are you today." He continued to smile as I told him what happened and went smiling off to get a sign about the wet floor. The smile never left his face! Either he must not have seen the tears in my eyes or his face is just frozen that way when he's at work. The kicker was that I saw him that very night on the bus and he almost knocked me over to get to a seat. He wasn't smiling then. To Hell with that place. I'll just have to ride a little further to do my shopping. -- Rochelle M - Portland, OR

RM,

This sounds like a typical tale. Instead of hiring people who would actually care if someone was injured, it is more important to them to have employees who merely appear friendly. If the workers weren't so busy going around interrupting everybody with Hellos and How are yous they might have time to mop up some spills.

Ed

Safeway,  (care of the Goliard apparently)

I have a safeway paper laying on the table beside me. It was delivered to us last night in the Prospecter. Last night was the 6th. Today is the 7th. Your add in the paper is good for  April the 4th,5th,and 6th. This add was no good to any one. I guess the Prospecter thought no one would notice. I am a safe way shopper, but do not go out at night to shop, because of all of the nuts out there. Thought you would like to know that your add about ran out the day we got it. Only good to those people who shop at night. Sincerely, Hazel Thrush

Well thanks for writing Hazel. We appreciate anyone who feels strongly enough about an issue to take to the keyboard and pound out a complaint regardless of how poorly punctuated and nonsensical it is. Not sure where this particular offending Safeway store is or of the circulation of the "Prospecter" (sic) but Safeway be warned, if you piss off enough of the good folks of this great country like Hazel and Wilbur Thrush, it will eventually begin to show in the bottom line. - Ed.

 

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