Safeway is the worst – part 1

by Jonah

We live a 10 minute drive from the nearest town, which has a post office, a liquor store, three restaurants (although one of them has announced it is closing for good on Sunday), and a grocery store that’s more of a bodega and is definitely not a supermarket. Being Colorado, the town also boasts a brewery.

None of them deliver to our house.

If you drive another five minutes further, you get to the biggest town in the county, which is still not very big, but has two supermarkets and a Wal-mart. Nothing in the bigger town will deliver to our house either, unless it’s via UPS, FedEx, or the Post Office, which only delivers as far as the cluster of mailboxes at the end of the road.

When we went into lock-down, I set about trying to figure out how to procure groceries without going shopping alongside all the panic buying hoarders. I don’t patronize Wal-mart, so that eliminated that option. The other two stores are Safeway and Kroger (here in Colorado, Kroger absorbed two existing chains, King Soopers, which has bigger stores in the big cities on the plains, and City Market, which has smaller stores in the mountain towns). Our closest City Market had curbside pick-up, which had just dropped their service charge to the low, low price of free. The other store, a much larger Safeway, let me fill up my online cart and then informed me there were no pick-up times available for any dates for the next week. I kept going back to the site, each day, seeing if there any pick-up times available. After about a week of this, I finally realized that our local Safeway just simply didn’t have curb-side pick-up.

This should have been my first clue.

When I started going back to work, I found that a Safeway down in the big city where I work (the next county over) did have curbside pick-up, and it was along my commute. So I tried it a couple of times.

Here are the pros and cons of Kroger vs Safeway curbside pick-up:

Kroger:

Pros:

Coupons accepted.

You can choose if you want a substitution for each item and type in specific instructions.

You get a text asking about specific substitutions which you can approve or not.

NEW, you can modify your order up until midnight the night before your pick-up day

Cons:

You can only reserve to pick up during a one hour slot.

If you reserve a slot from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., you might get a phone call at 5:30 a.m. saying they’re running late and won’t have your order ready for another hour.

You might have to wait an hour for someone to bring out your groceries.

The website is atrocious. It is literally easier to Google the item names and the word “Kroger” than to use the website’s search.

Safeway:

Pros:

I reserved a time and then got a text saying I could do my pick up during a 6 hour window.

I got a call asking detailed questions about substitutions (the first time).

The website is much easier at finding items.

I was able to call the store and change the date of my pick-up.

Cons:

Lack of photos of products so you think you’re ordering one piece of produce when in fact you’re ordering a carton-full.

For substitutions, you only have three options: None, Same brand different size, Same size different brand.

Every year I get a flu shot at Safeway for free, and in exchange they give me a coupon for 10% off a grocery purchase, up to $20. Every year I use my coupon for my Thanksgiving shopping, and I add up my purchases to make sure I have at least $200 worth of groceries so I get the most out of my 10% coupon.

So this year I put in my online grocery order, making sure I had at least $200 in purchases. I selected “Same brand, different size” as my substitution option. I checked out and reserved a time slot for after work so I could stop by on my way home. After the Safeway employee had loaded up my trunk, I said, “And I have a coupon.” That’s when she told me that I had to use my coupon “inside”. At least my $20 coupon expires at the end of 2021, so maybe there will be a vaccine by then.

When I got home and unloaded the car, I found I now possessed all sorts of items I didn’t order. Most of them were apparently attempts at substitutions. But I ended up with half a dozen Safeway brand canned goods, which I was either going to have to attempt to return or donate to a food pantry, because we certainly weren’t going to consume them.

So my attempt at using Safeway’s curbside pick-up to safely stay outside the store completely backfired. Early the next morning I was back at the Safeway to return the unwanted canned goods, as well as a package of nuts that had been given to me sliced open. Of course, I had to go inside to make the return. The store was fortunately mostly empty, but the customer service desk was empty too. I approached a checker and bagger who were awaiting customers and asked where customer service was because I had a curbside pick-up the night before and received a bunch of items I hadn’t ordered. “I am SHOCKED,” the checker responded. It was at that moment the single bag, I had unwisely loaded with all the canned goods I didn’t want, broke, and the checker jumped to help me try to juggle all the cans trying to keep them from falling to the ground. The checker said that customer service didn’t open until 8 but that he knew who would know something about curbside pick-up. He picked up the phone by his register and paged someone to come to the front.

I am angry, and I want to speak to the manager. But I’m not going to say that. Instead I am going to act confused. If I am accusatory, you’re going to get defensive. But if I am helpless, you are going to try to help me. This works especially well with men, who can’t help but try to be a knight in shining armor to this poor damsel. Inside I am a Karen, but I am going to try to appear to be an Amelia.

After a couple of minutes, the clerk again paged someone to come to the front, and man in a buttoned-up shirt and khakis that screamed “assistant manager” emerged from a door. He approached me, and I took a step back. I explained that I’d been given a bunch of items that I didn’t order, and he explained that he didn’t know how to process a return. Then he offered to let me replace the items with items I wanted. I tried explaining that the whole point in me using curbside pick-up was to avoid wandering around the store exposing myself to everyone inside. “I don’t even want to be here right now!” I exclaimed. Amelia was showing signs of starting to have a panic attack.

“Okay, okay,” he said, taking another step toward me. I took another step backwards, and he realized his social-distancing mistake and stepped back again. “I’ll try to find someone to process the return.” He stepped behind the customer service desk and disappeared behind another door, then re-emerged with a woman. I couldn’t see her legs from behind the counter, but I’m pretty sure she was not wearing khakis. “I know it’s early,” he said to her, “but can you process this return?”

“I’ve only done returns a couple of times,” replied the woman, but the two of them took turns pointing at the other side of a register screen and pushing buttons. Finally, triumphantly, the man wearing khakis instructed me to insert my credit card into the reader on my side of the customer service desk and sign a receipt. It isn’t completely clear to me if I received a return for the unwanted Safeway brand canned goods or paid for them a second time, but I thanked the man wearing khakis and the woman who I’m pretty sure wasn’t, and all but ran out of the front door.

To be continued…

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