Changes at Safeway

The Safeway at City Vista (490 L Street NW) has made several changes over the last few months. Early in the year we noticed all the tables and chairs removed from the cafe space as the area was generally only being utilized by the homeless and employees. In July the Fifth Street entrance was closed due to reports of high levels of shoplifting (estimated at ~$11K/mo). A month later the store expanded operations to be open for business 24 hours per day. In September the store began asking to check receipts of customers upon exit to attempt to further squash shoplifting. Many customers felt this to be merely security theater than a meaningful way to curb shoplifting.

In late October Safeway had a mini-marketing campaign suggesting they would have a grand re-opening. I was mailed a reusable grocery bag and information on discounts related to the re-opening day. I was out of town that re-opening weekend and had some skepticism that there would really be much change going on.

On Saturday morning I did visit the Safeway and noticed a series of improvements. I was only in the store for a few minutes but here are my observations of the positive changes:

  • Former Cafe space now repurposed for greeting cards. This allows the aisle space the cards previously used to be allocated to product. Seems several aisles have been reorganized.
  • Two new Self checkout stations. Not next to the other self-check outs. They are at the other end of the checkout area.
  • Refrigerated beer area expanded substantially. Some of the wine aisle space was converted.

What other changes have you noticed? What else would you change? Let’s try to be forward looking and constructive rather than repeating the same gripe about a couple of bad experiences from two years ago.

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  1. 1

    kcr211 says

    I have noticed an improvement in attitude from the employees lately; the improvement is palpable–this aspect of the store was fairly disgraceful even as recently as a couple of months ago. I believe that there may also be more checkout lines regularly open because it seems like waits are shorter. I do appreciate the expanded beer selection. Some remaining gripes: some evenings a lot of produce is out of stock and the seafood section is still of unacceptable quality.

  2. 3

    MW says

    The staff is still remarkably unhelpful. Attempting to purchase balloons 2 weeks ago was a painful experience taking 30 minutes (and ultimately ending with no balloons) because the person who was supposed to be working the area decided not to answer any pages/go on break unannounced. The replacement was woefully unable to fill and sell balloons without popping them.

    The people checking receipts at the door are usually playing with their cell phones, which means that there is often a line of people trying to get out the door. Bypassing the line gets you yelled at and threatened with the police being called.

    Overall I’m unimpressed with the “new” look and actually drive to Harris Teeter instead of walking to Safeway most of the time.

  3. 4

    srm says

    They’re making baby steps towards improvement. I do like the reorganization of the shelves, and it does seem like the checkout line is a lot faster (with shorter lines that do not block the main walkway). There is some improvement in the staff attitude – at least they seem to be a bit more professional now instead of yelling, chatting away with the cashiers and baggers, or making snide comments. It does seem a little cleaner and brighter. And while I agree the receipt check is mainly for show, it does seem like a positive. Believe me, I’ve witnessed a fair amount of shoplifting occurring here and at the poor CVS on the corner of Mass and H. I’d never noticed it before. But now I’m seeing it quite a lot.

    Another way to force change is to create more competition. If people have another choice (or several choices) to shop, this store will hopefully step up or lose customers. Harris Teeter offer an alternative, and the new project in Shaw (Market at O Street’s new Giant), might help. With the new developments coming on line in the months to come, I would imagine that there will be a need to have more grocery and retail options. Let’s hope the pace picks up substantially.

  4. 5

    Si Kailian says

    Moving the greeting cards over to the front alcove was definitely a good idea. Do the employees actually have some sort of break room? i once saw one of the guys change his pants in the front area. speaking of break room, some of the employees have lately taken to holding a smoking circle in the front vestibule on the floor. as an ex smoker i can definitely relate to the need, but its getting crazy. there is always an employee smoking right outside of the front door but now they are smoking in the vestibule. you really can’t avoid it ever. i would request that safeway instruct their employees to smoke away from the door, many neighbors would be very appreciative, im sure!
    Starbucks is getting a little better but there is still always some sort of malfunction or missing item. Its never going to be fixed unless we get a full real non-safeway starbucks.

  5. 6

    Bruce says

    I’ve had far fewer problems with this Safeway than most and have never had any trouble with the employees. I do like the reorganization of the food aisles and get the sense that the produce selection has been expanded.

    However, I despise having to show my receipt on checkout. Sometimes there’s a line, or at least a clump of people, and it makes it harder both to enter and to leave the store. I’m also in the habit of putting my receipt in my wallet while my wallet is still out from having paid for my purchases, and hate having to remember to keep my receipt out while I walk to the exit. They also still seem to have a problem keeping their self-checkouts operating properly; I was there the other night, and only two of the six machines on the right side of the store were working, forcing a lot of annoyed customers to use the regular checkout line. Finally, for the last few weeks I’ve noticed that they always seem to be out of the smaller, black shopping carts when I arrive, which was never a problem previously; have a lot of them been stolen?

  6. 7

    JM says

    >> “I’m also in the habit of putting my receipt in my wallet while my wallet is still out from having paid for my purchases, and hate having to remember to keep my receipt out while I walk to the exit.”

    That is just your own personal idiosyncrasy. I don’t feel it has any merit in determining whether the checkpoint is worthwhile.

  7. 8

    Anon says

    Still slow or no restocking….My favorite item, Kashi Oatmeal Cookies have been mostly out for 4 weeks now.

  8. 9

    Si Kailian says

    Restocking is definitely a problem, the shelves always look cleaned out. definitely a problem when there are no eggs! I did notice that lately there are no small shopping carts available, thats a bummer.

  9. 10

    Dub says

    I’ve definitely noticed some positive changes, and I don’t mind the receipt check. I still think they should consider keeping the self-checkout stations open late night. Since they now have people standing at the exit doors, theft shouldn’t be a huge concern, particularly as there isn’t much foot traffic at this time.

  10. 11

    M Street says

    I have definitely noticed positive changes — more (and more helful) staff; more checkout lines open; and the store looks cleaner and better stocked. I’m glad they got rid of that weird indoor seating area that attracted loiterers, and the new self-checkout lanes are a great addition. It’s unfortunate that the receipt checks are necessary, but the people who do them are polite and efficient, and it doesn’t slow me down or bother me.

  11. 12


    I’ve been to the CV Safeway twice since they’ve made the changes.

    on the minus side, I noticed a few stocking issues and the veggie section is more or less passable. I’ve noticed no change in service which was also passable.

    on the plus side, the aisles and stock location rearrangements are a big improvement. the extra refrigerated beer aisle and rerigging of the wine section are much more maneuverable. the floors are noticeably cleaner too. now that I know, I don’t mind the receipt check at the front of the store.

    overall, the improvements are noticeable. one more round of upgrades to service and veggies, and I think we’re there.

  12. 13

    AN says

    My biggest pet peeve is that they are ALWAYS out of shopping carts. Why aren’t they on top of sending employees down to the garage to bring them up on a regular basis? Can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the help desk to inform them they are no baskets. I with they had more of the smaller black shopping carts because those are rarely available and I think the clientele is mostly young people not buying smaller amounts.

    I assume they went to 24 hours because Giant closed, but can they at least have all the registers open? I’ve never seen that. I hate that the back door is closed, its now a longer walk in the cold/rain. If the cashier can’t pronounce my last name, I wish she wouldn’t attempt and butcher it. I think its so ridiculous they are supposed to call you by name.

    They need to keep the yogurt section stocked, I guess I went on off days and twice it was almost empty, just a line of yogurt next to the back wall of the fridge case. Why don’t the employees at least push that last row to the front so people can reach it? While I was jumping up to attempt to reach it, an employee who was working the dairy section didn’t bother to offer to help. I’d like to see organic ricotta, there’s only one brand of ricotta, no choice.

    I’d like to see smaller sizes of organic milk. Their avocados are always so small yet expensive. Two years in a row now I have not seen pumpkin pie pop tarts. In the summertime I don’t see them expanding their jello flavor section to have the fun flavors like margarita, pina colada, daiquiri. I’d like to see more flavors of Amy’s frozen meals. Lean Cuisine just released a new vegetarian line that I’d like to see as well.

    I was shocked that an employee recently asked me if I needed help finding something. I gave up ever trying to ask for help because in my past experience there they have been useless. At Whole Foods any employee can help you find any obscure item and if not they call in the expert on the aisle.

    I do love the exotic fruit/veggie section. I had a heck of time finding almond milk with the re-organization. It wasn’t in the obvious place – the cereal aisle. I’ve noticed this a lot, that a lot of organic products or fancy pasta are not with their counterparts but a whole separate unrelated aisle.

    I’d like to see more Yogi tea.

  13. 14

    Sarah says

    I mostly like the Safeway, I guess having living in the city so long it seems like as long as a place is clean…I’m set.

    On an odd note, I find it very strange that buy the olives the always have TONS of buckets but no lids. ALWAYS. For some reason I don’t understand why this is. When I ask them to bring out lids, they bring out two or three. There must be a lid shortage of some kind.