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Safeway’s New High Tech Anti-Theft System Nabs…Sable (now with video demonstration)

July 19, 2010

UPDATE July 22, 2010: After doing a bit more digging, and a rogue op. or 2, I’ve come up with some details on the “new technology” Safeway is using in the Renton store I was stopped at on Sunday.

The system in question is called “Gatekeepers Systems”– and some of us may even be familiar with it.  Years ago Safeway implemented this system in order to prevent shoppers from taking carts off their property.  The system is installed at Renton for this purpose, which is considered a “cart containment” effort; they even advertise it on their carts:

Now Safeway (at least in Renton) is using another layer of the system, this time inside the store.  It is called the PURCHECK system. Some details:

Shopping carts are increasingly becoming the tool of choice among shoplifters, organized retail theft rings and “boosters”. Shoplifters using carts are able to steal large quantities of high-value merchandise, often escaping with hundreds of dollars worth of goods. Shopping carts make thieves appear less conspicuous. Some pushout perpetrators even bring their own shopping bags to blend in with paying customers, making them even harder to spot and apprehend. From organized theft rings to individual repeat offenders, untold amounts of stolen goods are rolling right out the front doors of today’s retailers.

purchek provides cost-effective protection against pushout theft while preserving a customer-friendly shopping experience.

– Immediate and dramatic reduction in cart-based shoplifting.

– Locking wheel and integrated alarm provides active response to theft.

– System is completely transparent to the paying customer; eliminates the need for gates and customer guidance systems.

How it works at checkout:

Mounted inside of each checkout, the PurchaseManager sends a wireless digital-coded signal to the Gatekeeper Wheel as it passes through an active checkout. The “exit permission signal” allows the paying customer to freely exit the store after making their purchase. The compact enclosure also contains a power supply transformer and a filter to reduce electromagnetic interference.

How it works at the store entrance/exit:

Typically installed at each exit, the DoorManager contains a microprocessor that generates and transmits two distinct digitally-encoded signals that travel through wires embedded in the floor surface. The multi-functional DoorManager is capable of transmitting both a locking signal and an in-store timed permission signal. The wall-mountable enclosure also contains a power supply transformer and a filter to reduce electromagnetic interference.

Don’t forget, there is also a customizable alarm system that sounds when you and all your stolen groceries get to the door…receipt in hand.

They even have a nifty video.  Notice how the system claims shoppers can easily visit other areas in the store without hassle.

[vsw id=”fTAMNIqC7i8″ source=”youtube” width=”325″ height=”244″ autoplay=”no”]

As for whether or not I’ve received an adequate apology from Safeway, the answer is unequivocally no.

Via twitter they’ve said they want someone in upper management to contact me and asked for my name and telephone number.

I responded by asking them to email me the name and direct phone number for the person in question. I provided my email address.

I’ve since heard nothing.

I made several attempts to contact the “division” manager myself, and was told, when I called the store, the corporate office in California, and area offices here, that information is not public and employees “aren’t supposed to give it out”- which means, if you have a problem that can’t be resolved at the store level, you’re screwed as a customer because no one above store management cares to hear from you about it.

Further proof Safeway doesn’t care about it’s treatment of customers, or the experiences we’re having in their stores.

If anything changes, I’ll let you know.

ORIGINAL POST July 19, 2010

I was recently stopped at Safeway just off of Rainier avenue in Renton. After paying for my groceries at the Starbucks kiosk, I left. Or at least, I tried to leave.

As soon as I stepped out of the front door, the cart stopped.  I wrestled to get it out of the store, but the wheels weren’t moving.  At about the same time, an unfamiliar alarm sounded from somewhere inside the store.

Then a store employee approached me.

We made eye contact.  I told him there was something wrong with the cart, which I assumed was why he approached me in the first place.

In an accusatory tone, he said he needed to see my receipt because the cart stopped.

Now, I’m pretty quick…but I didn’t understand what was happening, the cart, the receipt, the cart, now  a confrontation?  On a Sunday morning? Uhg.

I asked again what the problem was.  He would offer nothing other than “the cart stopped.”

Another man stood nearby, dressed in plain clothes and giving me this look like…like he was ready to tackle me.

Then, it dawned on me, in a real, slap-you-in-the-face moment; I was being stopped for shop lifting and the 2 men were the grocery police.

We’ve all had an alarm go off in error, right?  It’s really no big deal.  Usually an employee respectfully, almost causually asks to see your receipt and then sends you on your way.  Occasionally you may have to go back in the store for them to remove a security tag from something you just purchased.  They’re nice about it.  It’s no big deal.  That wasn’t this situation.

So I had two reactions.  The external reaction was simple.  I remained calm –though unimpressed- pulled out my receipt and showed it to the employees.

The internal reaction was a bit more complicated.  I was furious.  It was mid Sunday morning.  People were staring and an alarm was alerting even more people of the incident and I was in the spot light. For shoplifting.  I was being talked to like someone who’d obviously come to their store with ill-intent.

The Safeway employee took my receipt.  He looked at it, looked at his watch, looked at it again, and said “alright” and handed it back. No apology. No explanation.  He didn’t even compare the receipt to what was in my bags. He turned to his co-worker and they both focused their attention on the cart, leaving me to walk away while everyone stared.

I thought about the incident the entire drive home; the tone of the employee, the accusatory glare. When I got home, I called the store.

I asked Mike the manager “what would cause a grocery cart to stop at the front door of your store?”

To my surprise, Mike said he wasn’t really allowed to share the specifics.  When I explained to him who I was and that I’d be talking about this on the radio, he was a bit more generous with the details.

He told me that Safeway has started a new anti theft technology system, in the works for about a month now at that particular Renton store.  It is designed to stop a shopper’s cart at the front door, if the cart hasn’t gone through checkout.  He said quote- “if the cart hasn’t gone through checkout, the items haven’t been paid for, which is a crime.” He said it in that “duh” voice.  Guess I was still slow to catch on.

So by that rationale, if a cart leaves the store without going through a checkout isle, the items in the cart are stolen. Stop the cart and sound the alarm- literally.

Here’s the problem; the rationale doesn’t hold. At all.

My cart didn’t go through checkout because I paid for my items at Starbucks, which isn’t unusual for customers to do, especially if you only have a few items- I had 6.

I asked Mike what employees are supposed to say to customers they’ve just accused of shoplifting, and he claims asking for a receipt –which is proof of purchase- is not accusing you of shop lifting.

I disagree manager Mike.  After all, it’s an anti-theft system. When it goes off, the suspicion and accusation of theft is implicit.

Safeway could train their employees to say something like, “I’m sorry ma’am, your cart seems to have triggered our alarm, may I see your receipt?”  He didn’t come close to saying anything that respectful.  Instead his tone said “I caught you, and I’m going to prove you’ve stolen from us.”

The Renton store may be dealing with an uptick in shoplifting and their system may still have some bugs.  But that’s not a reason to talk to me like I’m a thief.  There was no benefit of the doubt, no respect- just an authoritarian “give me your receipt or else.”  That there was muscle standing by waiting for me to make the slightest move in either direction, certainly didn’t make me feel safe.

It tells me Safeway doesn’t care who it offends or mistreats in the name of loss-prevention.

Thanks to poor employee training and a system with a few kinks to work out, in a span of 3 minutes I went from a typical customer to being treated like a criminal, whether passively or directly.

So here are some tips for Safeway and any other store thinking of implementing this system. First, fix the cart monitoring system at the coffee kiosk. Second, train your employees to approach all customers in a friendly, respectful manner.  Third, explain the situation to the customer, absent any accusation of wrongdoing on the customer’s part.  You want to do whatever you can to make sure your efforts to reduce theft don’t marginalize those who shop in your stores.

Safeway obviously sees this from only one side- their side.  They think they are protecting themselves from criminals, and that anyone who touches a shopping cart or a hand basket is a potential thief.  And I guess their right, though seriously pessimistic in their thinking.

The reality is, Safeway isn’t the only one in the equation using this system- we use it too.  I can tell you, it’s far from perfect- both the technology and the people using it.  It seems some folks have forgotten technology can fail.

Absent that, use common sense.  If I really wanted to steal a bag of raw chicken and frozen vegetables, I’d likely have run when approached.  I wouldn’t have tried to get assistance with what I thought was a faulty cart.

It must be said, because the dynamic was obviously lost on Safeway’s employees: I am a Black woman.  I was stopped by two white men who spoke to me and looked at me literally as if I was someone they’d just caught. I’m certainly far from the only Black person who shops at the Renton Safeway on Rainier.  If they want to avoid giving even the slightest hint of mistreatment or bias, they’ve got some work to do.  They need to ask, and answer the question “why would our employees treat someone like a criminal?”

They should be sensitive and respectful of the neighborhood they are in and the clientele they serve.  They failed to do so.

In closing, I have to note that this morning I received a public tweet from Safeway on Twitter.   It said “Glad everything was handled. Sorry for the inconvenience!”

First, nothing was handled.  Mike the manager certainly didn’t offer an apology when I spoke with him, and a 140 character or less tweet, well now, that’s just insulting.

Second, being  publicly humiliated and spoken to without an ounce of respect, can’t be compared to a simple inconvenience. Shame on you Safeway, for thinking otherwise.

Mistakes happen. When they do, an apology is in order. I’m still waiting.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. Rebecca Lane permalink
    July 19, 2010 10:41 pm

    Wow. This is horrible. Profiling in a not-so-subtle form. Apparently I will be informing all of my family members of color to consider another store to shop in.

    Safeway, the actions taken in the Renton store suck! It’s the least you can do to treat people as customers and NOT suspects! You got some ‘splainin to do.

  2. July 19, 2010 11:19 pm

    Putting aside the question of common courtesy and customer service, the explanation by the manager does not ring true. But what this manager is asking you (and all of us) to believe is that they implemented extremely buggy “anti-theft technology” that would stop all customers who make purchases at non-checkout locations, such as the Starbucks kiosk, the deli counter, the bakery, the pharmacy, and the customer service desk.

    Really?! I call foul.

    Safeways are not franchises – they do not operate independently. Corporate policies dictate details as small as on which shelf and in which order the ketchup bottles are placed. Systems and policies are dictated from the regional and national level. But according to Manager Mike’s explanation, a month into a new security system being implemented in the Renton store (which would indicate that other stores have already implemented this “technology”), a system that would (currently or eventually) erroneously stop thousands of customers at Safeways regionally and nationally, but nothing has been done yet to correct this very expensive problem (think of the man-hours required to check all of those customers), and no best practices would have been established to address this very easily preventable issue? Nyet.

    Anti-theft technology did not stop your cart at the door, Sable. Safeway employees stopped YOU. I would wager that their ability to stop your cart may be the new “technology” to which Manager Mike referred. I would be very interested to hear a comment from corporate (beyond that dismissive and disrespectful tweet) about their anti-theft technology.

    What a coincidence that Safeway security was ALREADY standing near you when you were stopped. This simply does not pass the smell test.

    On the issue of customer service, this is just bad business. The “anti-theft technology” as described by Manager Mike and the resulting treatment from employees would surely lose more money from alienated shoppers who were erroneously stopped than it saved from stopping people with baskets of stolen groceries who did not get get any receipt (evidently their new-fangled “technology” doesn’t address people who steal without baskets or people who pay for some items in baskets but steal others, since they didn’t check any of your groceries against your receipt).

  3. Mica permalink
    July 20, 2010 1:10 am

    Way to go, Safeway! Not only did your new anti-theft system anti-work but you did a great job utilizing fantastic customer service skills.

    Okay, let’s be serious here. It saddened me to read about the public humiliation of being accused of doing something you simply didn’t do, the unfriendly way in which Sable’s receipt was checked, completely unhelpful Manger Mike, and Safeway’s totally inconsiderate tweet.

    If the goal was the provide a wonderful customer experience that would promote return visits, Safeway obviously failed. It is bad enough that they didn’t previously catch this error in test runs of the new system (were there even test runs to begin with?) but to not have a respectful response in place when it comes to verifying receipts is unacceptable.

    Also unacceptable is the fact that Manager Mike went into details only after Sable mentioned she’d be talking about the incident on the radio. Responding to consumer complaints and/or questions should never be a matter of whether or not the person has a wide audience. It just doesn’t send the right message that an anonymous consumer can’t get their questions answered but once the possibility of the store being publicly humiliated gets introduced, then answers commence.

    I believe Mike the Manager and the two receipt checkers all could use some training on how to deal with customers in a professional and respectful manner. I think Sable deserves a real apology and some type of understanding that this situation isn’t her fault and that Safeway is working to correct the alarm from a technical standpoint.

    Perhaps the above should be considered the bare minimum for trying to win back a customer that has been treated unfairly. I’m guessing you have a long way to go before she shops there again without fear that another malfunction is just around the corner.

  4. Renton Reader permalink
    July 20, 2010 9:03 am

    Sable, I know from being a long time reader/listener of yours that you are a woman of color in your 30’s with 2 children.

    I am a white woman in my 30’s with 2 children. You’re at times so candid about your life experiences I feel like I know you personally, that we have so many things in common.

    This experience is not one of them. My first emotional reaction was to think, well, I’m sure they didn’t ‘intend’ to treat Sable that way (I read your post about ‘intention’ and ‘if’ apologies). I even, for a split second, thought perhaps you are overreacting to what happened and need to not take it so seriously.

    Very easy for me to say as a White woman who has never, in her 34 years, been spoken to or treated like a criminal for no justifiable reason. So I stripped those reactions and read your account again.

    I am outraged. As a White person, I am embarassed that the store employees were so hell bent on ‘catching’ you and making you prove you didn’t steal anything, they ignored the dynamic they’d created in that situation; two white men stopping a Black woman for stealing when they had no real proof a crime had been committed.

    It is inexcusable. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I too also wonder is the undercover security has the ability to trip the system and stop your cart, as poliTICKLING expressed in her comment. Of all the customers, they stopped you?! It makes me wonder if you were being followed for much of the time you were in the store, by the man in plain clothes. It makes me wonder if, in his perception, your choice to stop for and PAY for an item at Starbucks was really a cover for smuggling groceries.

    As a white person, I know this would never happen to me. Sure an alarm may go off in error, but certainly no one- Black or white- would ever even think to talk to me the way you were spoken to.

    I know that in the past Safeway has been called to the carpet by local civil rights leaders for their treatment of minority employees and customers. It seems they learned nothing from those situations. I’d be willing to bet my paychecks the employees who stopped you have never been through proper cultural compitency training, othrewise, they’d have challenged their own presumption that you were, as you said, in their store with ill-intent.

    How arrogant that they aren’t supposed to discuss the specifics. That means they’re in the mindset they’re setting a trap and don’t want people to know. Well the people who watched you be humiliated now have an idea something is afoot- it isn’t like they can keep the system a secret. I agree with your assessment- the store isn’t the only one using the system, as shoppers, WE are too. How dare they not do all they can to inform us on their methods. THAT, is ill-intent.

    I don’t think they are going to give you a proper apology. I think that they will use the “uptick” in theft to justify what they’ve done and the approach they plan to continue with. I am angered that in today’s day and age and company thinks sending you a tweet (an erronious one at that) addresses what they put you through. You deserve a personal contact. And as someone who spends your hard earned money with Safeway, I think they should comp you some groceries. That may seem silly, but it’s no skin off their nose and it shows they appreciate your business. Anything less, like the twitter tweet, is a token of nothing.

    Now if I may address Safeway directly; I live in Renton and shop at this particular store. I want you to take your new security system OUT. If you have a problem with theft, then do what other companies do and assign an employee to work at the exists of the store. Train them to be couteous and respectful as they check customer’s receipts. To instead treat all customers (the majority of which are people of color) as potential theives is a failure on your part.

    Until you make ammends for this, I’ll do my shopping down the street aways at Fed Meyers.

    Thank you Sable, for sharing another experience we can all learn something about. Safeway owes you an apology AND a thank you.

  5. South Ender permalink
    July 20, 2010 9:23 am

    Wow. So many things come to mind.

    Like, I want to go over to the safeway by my house, snatch a bunch of carts and try and push em out the store and see what happens. Where else is Safeway using this system? Where else do they assume we’re all criminals.

    Then there’s shallow stuff like Sable, do you ever want to say to someone “do you know who the hell I am? Didn’t you hear me on NPR?” or anything along those lines? I mean, it’s an outrage, yes, but that they stopped YOU of all people makes it an outrage AND… I don’t know what the word is…ironic? No… ludicris? Yeah maybe.

    I had to laugh a little, reading your story, because I could picture MYSELF at the front door of the store when the cart stopped. I’d have started talking TO the cart “hey what’s wrong with you? Come on, come on…” having no CLUE The Boss and Muscle Vinnie were bearing down on me. Like you said, it would be LAUGHABLE if it weren’t.

    We all know, when we know, when we know we’re being talked to like a runaway slave. Yeah, safeway is going to say it wasn’t their intention. They’re sorry if YOU were offended by how you were spoken to, because it’s your perception right, that’s what Safeway and every business like them would have us believe. Like talking to you about what is a crime as if you’re an idiot. That’s rich. How or why would they NOT have the new fancy system at all the places poliTICKLING pointed out, including the coffee stand? Really? That makes no sense. Unless what they want to do is set up a chance to do random checks of people, which they can’t otherwise do legally. The more I think about it, the more angry I become. I think you should call a lawyer. I think Safeway is intentionally up to no good. They’re going to give you a half asses apology if that. Here’s what I say; their comp grocery card better have enough zeros in the balance to make this worth your pain and suffering. I am sharing this with, oh, everyone I know in and around Renton.

  6. Here We Go Again permalink
    July 20, 2010 9:30 am

    Sable they started using this system a month ago? If that’s the case there is NO way you’re the first. This has happened to other people and they were treated the same if not worse, who knows. There are too many holes in their system for it to not have happened before, it wouldn’t shock me if it happened at least once a day to someone who did nothing wrong. I bet those people won’t ever, EVER get an apology.

    I doubt you will either. They’ll say you “failed to comply” or your were “resistent”, anything to blame-shift, which again, would be a mistake on their part, especially in this case. I’m sure the “men” who did this feel totally righteous. In fact I’m sure of it. That’s disgusting.

  7. Hold Up! permalink
    July 20, 2010 9:47 am

    Yeah. Hold up man. Safeway didn’t install this new techy system in all the places a cart can go to check out?! Oh well they can’t say a damn thing except for how profusely sorry they are. They need to give you some groceries AND make a donation to the charity of your choice. I agree with whoever said it above, they need to apologize AND thank you, because if what they want is to stop people from taking things from their store- they’re system is anything but fool proof and it’s there own fault.

    Can anyone think of any good reason WHY they would do that? That makes no sense. No good sense, anyway.

  8. Anita permalink
    July 20, 2010 10:09 am

    I am very glad to see you’ve written about this particular store Sable. Would you believe it, you’re not the only Black person falsely accused of theft at that store. it was an accusation of theft, I don’t care what they say. Other prominent members of our community have been stopped at the Renton store and followed around like common criminals. You are not the first and you will not be the last. Safeway is in our communities. It’s time they start losing our money. I won’t go in the Renton store, I’ve heard enough from other people they’ve got some problem employees that a downright predatory in their actions against customers- all decent people who have done nothing wrong. What they need to do is fire those people instead of allowing them to treat people this way. They don’t just allow it, they empower these white men to do these things, which makes them responsible for what happened to you. They have no pride in how they carry themseves as a business and they have no respect for the people that keep them in business. We pay their salaries. They work for us. Thank you for reminding all of us of that fact.

  9. Cecil permalink
    July 20, 2010 10:10 am

    To Whom IT May Concern Safeway Corporate Offices,

    Did embarrassing a member of the press and local radio help your sagging bottom line? I pray CNN and others pick up on this story. The treatment Sable received was gross, unjustified, and plain old wrong! Not to mention I can’t stop the nagging sensation I have that her skin tone might have played an dominate role in how she was treated. But hey if there is a silver lining in all this it’s the fact that I’m sure business will be picking up for Thriftway, QFC, Central Market, and Whole Foods in light of you new security measures. I for one will be voting with my dollars on how I feel about your new security measures and spreading the word!

  10. July 20, 2010 10:15 am

    WOW! Truthfully though, I am not that shocked. I am shocked at how they handled it from a customer service stand point, but I can imagine the theft they get being directly across the street from a high school…although it doesn’t mean it’s ok to treat customers in that way period.
    I believe they owe you an apology and a gift card.
    I once complained at the lack of customer service and insult I received at Sars when the cashier short changed me and refused to give me the correct change, on top of arguing “yelling” back and forth w/ the person I was with…the manager was very apologetic and he gave me a $20.00 gift card – I thought that was a nice gesture although it didn’t make up for what had happened I appreciated that they tried, all in order to not loose me as a customer. For sure I would have never stepped foot in there again. I mainly complained so no one else would have to go through what we had gone through.
    Do you plan to ever shop at Safeway again? I sure wouldn’t.

  11. July 20, 2010 10:24 am

    It’s one thing for a system to have kinks in their system. As you said, we see it in grocery stores all the time. However, the equalizer is supposed to be the person, or people, who approach you after the mistake. When employees are courteous about the error, it ends up being water under the bridge and something we can laugh about. The fact that they treated you like that is much more severe than the technology glitches that occured, and their dismissive demeanor towards it all is even more troubling.

  12. Beverly permalink
    July 20, 2010 10:50 am

    I know this probably wasn’t the most appropriate reaction, but I laughed. I chuckled. I giggled. They stopped…YOU. They profiled (not the cart “system”, the PEOPLE) YOU…. You. You? I had a good belly laugh. I’ve shaken my head so much while reading your story I’m dizzy. Add that to all the head nodding I did reading the comments and I’m practically holding the wall, out of my wits! They stopped YOU.

    I understand what “Me” is saying about the high school. But school is out. It was, by Sable’s accounty, a Sunday morning- which means all the teenagers are either in church against their will, or at home in bed snoring. Where was the common sense? Like you said Sable, you didn’t react like someone who had just stole a bunch of food. You just stood there.

    While I did laugh, and laugh hard at this, I’m equally parts pissed. Were your kids with you? Did they stand there while their mother was spoken to like she’s less than a full human being, while being physically intimidated and challenged to show proof she hasn’t done anything wrong? Just the thought pisses me off.

    If they give you a $20 dollar gift card I’d consider that twisting the knife. How much business (in terms of dollars) do you give that store in a month, a year, a lifetime?

    Better question, Sable, how much is being humiliated worth to you?

    Until they come correct and make ammends, a curse on their house, or off with their heads or whatever. I won’t step a TOE in that store.

  13. Michael permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:00 am


    As a white guy trying to understand my own given privilege, I feel so damn guilty coming to your website and reading about these kinds of experiences people of color have. I know I can’t relate, I know I’ll never share them. Having said that, I learn a great deal about my actions as a white man through the experiences of you and others; how you encounter my fellow white boys truly is a teachable moment.

    And I’m sure it’s my own white guilt that makes me want to profusely apologize for what you went through, so I’ll try not to go overboard and make this about me and my process because it’s not. Nevertheless I AM sorry and I do thank you for sharing this with all of us.

    I’m skeptical, but I HOPE Safeway does right by this, by you and by the rest of their customers. The new system is horrible. I agree they should get rid of it and replace it with people who have common sense and respect for ALL people.


  14. Yusuf permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:03 am

    You would have been well within your right to ‘go off’, for being treated that way. But then they would have called the police. You’d have been tasored or shot dead. better to just suck up being personally humiliated and go on about your day. Right? We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Dude needs to lose his job. They need to get rid of that system.

  15. 3 Things permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:12 am

    They owe you 3 things:

    A big fat apology. A big fat thank you. A big fat free grocery card.

  16. Former Safeway Shopper permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:13 am

    This is how Safeway treats hard working class people, eh? Follow you around the store, trip up your cart when you leave, accuse you like there could be no doubt what so ever. Good to know.

  17. Denita permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:16 am

    Sable I follow you on twitter and saw your tweets on Sunday about what happened. I also saw the tweet from Safeway that you posted here, which made me so mad! How does some idiot on twitter know if things were handled, just because you called the store? How can some idiot on twitter genuinely apologize for what you went through? An inconvenience? That’s what happened here? We all know better.

  18. Adam permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:23 am

    This is like going to th bank, taking money from your account, then being stopped at the door and asked to show proof you didn’t just rob the bank. What the hell?

  19. Chris Fox permalink
    July 20, 2010 12:45 pm

    That’s a completely incompetent design. Should have had a programmer do the analysis. Not only did they fail to account for people who pay at other checkout stations in the store, like the pharmacy or Starbucks, but what about baskets?

    The reason I bring this up .. a few years ago I too paid for some coffee at the Starbucks but not for my basket of groceries and for some space-case reason I clocked into “already paid” and walked out the door with my basket. I was all the way out to my car when I twigged that something was wrong, I don’t put a basket in my car .. I went back inside and paid. I even told the cashier what I’d done.

    Whoever designed this system is simply inept.

    Now to your story: the lack of courtesy after you’d established your bona-fides is unacceptable, period. Their approach should have begun and ended with an inquiry, the thief-treatment shouldn’t have happened at all.

  20. July 20, 2010 4:37 pm

    This is clearly a case of projective identification on the part of Safeway. It’s probably less that they view everyone as potential thieves than that because Safeway itself is dishonest unless caught, it assumes everyone is as dishonest. You are so right about the thug manner in which you were addressed. They owe you.

  21. Chad Goller-Sojourner permalink
    July 20, 2010 5:27 pm

    Wow, sorry to hear that. That being said I can without a doubt say this was one of the most brilliantly well written articles I read in a long while. Well done.

  22. Bobbi permalink
    July 20, 2010 6:02 pm

    I admit I laughed some too, at the sick irony of the entire situation. Funny thing is, if you HAD stolen from them, that isht would be front page news: local journalst caught shoplifting! They’d have had your face above the fold. They’d have gotten the video and posted still shots like they LOVE to do.

    The next steps for Safeway are critical. I think they underestimate the amount of damage this system can do to customer relations, not to mention the fact that it is completely faulty. Like others who commented before me, I don’t think it’s too far out there to believe they tripped the system to check your bags, or that they purposely don’t have it installed in certain places to justify checking bags.

    I think it’s interesting they have a system that looks like it’s designed to catch people who fill up their carts, use and old receipt and walk out of the store? Is that it? Don’t they have cameras? Obviously they have undercover security. Why aren’t they using those to see who is filling up bags in the carts and walking out? That’s a failure on their part and doesn’t really reflect the typical shopper. So if the average shopper doesn’t do that, or wouldn’t even think of doing that, then why the need for new gadgets? And what is it about the check out isle that is now different? is there somthing on the floor that the carts role over? So many questions! We need more answers. And safeway needs to get their you know what together.

  23. Rawxi permalink
    July 20, 2010 6:09 pm

    This is not at all what I expected. Mostly cuz I couldn’t imagine what a new high tech system would even look like. Now that you’ve filled us all in, I agree, it’s not the employees fault your cart stopped- it was Safeway’s fault. They forgot all the other areas people can check out? poliTICKLING is right that does not pass the smell test. Not even close. Not only is anyone who shops there subjected to the same faulty system that does nothing to reduce theft, but then when the system goes off they treat their customers like this? Checking our papers to see if we’re legit? How can they say it’s not an accusation of theft if they want you to show proof you paid for something? Semantics. I hate when they use semantics to get around what they’re really doing, like we’re all stupid. Are we in South Africa circa 1970? Or maybe we’re in Arizona, 2010? They checked the time on your receipt, but not the items in your bags? That’s ass backwards. it wasn’t about the bags, or what you bought, or even if you stole something, it was about you and how they wanted to treat you, how they felt fully justified treating you.

  24. I Wish permalink
    July 20, 2010 6:14 pm

    Here’s what I want to know. WTF were they going to do to you if you turned and walked to your car. Was dude going to tackle you? That’s obviously why he was there right? He wasn’t just standing there to be standing there. Safeway wants to have physical confrontations with their customers now, is that how they get down? Just how they came at you was confrontational and intimidating. they’ll say it wasn’t be we all know it was, no matter what they say about how they train their employees or the intent of the system. Know this Safeway: If I ever go through that, and attempt to go on my merry way and get grabbed or even touched, I’m punchin’ dude’s lights out. No question.

  25. the riddler permalink
    July 20, 2010 6:59 pm

    steve burds number the ceo of safeway. here it is. i want u to call him and let him know what is going on with his company.
    925- 467- 3856

  26. Wes Browning permalink
    July 21, 2010 2:04 am

    I few years ago I was shopping in the Saveway Grocery store (not Safeway) on Occidental Street near Yesler. I didn’t have enough money to buy anything. I had to pick some items up to check the prices because the stickers were turned away from me. After I left the store without buying anything a man I didn’t recognize who wasn’t wearing a uniform demanded to “talk to me”. It was after dark & I thought I was being mugged. He didn’t say anything about being security. I would have ran back into the store for help but the man was in the way, so I ran to Washington St in the hopes that a passing motorist might help. I didn’t make it, and he caught me & forced me to the ground and went through my pockets saying he knew I took something, he saw me do it. I still thought I was being mugged. I thought he figured I was a thief so I’d be afraid to go to the police. He finally took me to the store where the owner/manager treated me like dirt and said she would have me sent to jail, until I emptied my pockets in front of her and there was nothing stolen. But even then she wouldn’t admit that her thug worked for her. I found out later from a friend that it was well known that this guy watched out for shoplifters for her in return for beer. When nothing stolen was found on me the guy made up a total bs story that I had tossed something to a nonexistent compatriot while trying to get a way from him, to cover his own ass for making a mistake. I’m still boycotting their store. I could deal with being assaulted a lot better than having the owner/manager lie to my face afterward and say the guy didn’t work for her. That was too much.

  27. SVFan permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:47 am

    Wow Sable you are something else! And this just gets better and better or, worse, and worse.

    The Gatekeepers system huh? Purcheck? Now what I want to know is, what is the “PurchaseManager”- is that the new, PC term for people working checkout? Or is it some sort of free standing independent electronic thingy? If it’s a person, are they supposed to actually push a button or flip a switch or wave a magic wand over the cart so that you don’t get stopped at the door? What happens if they don’t send the signal? WHat happens if they forget? What if they’re having a crappy day? *gasp* what if their magic wand is broken?!

  28. Freddie permalink
    July 22, 2010 10:51 am

    smh, you got the damn video of the system. All the video does is show the problem that comes up when people rely too much on technology.

  29. hector permalink
    August 7, 2010 11:17 am

    This behaviour is chilling. My best regards to those who bear it with composure. We are all men & we all shoulder the burden. )


  1. Top 10 Of 2010

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