Dear PoP – Reply from Giant Consumer Affairs

Photo by PoPville flickr user rosiedawn

“Dear PoP,

I dropped a dime to Giant and linked your post about their continued crappy service at the Tivoli in Columbia Heights. I thought it was more than the standard response. I hope others did the same.
Stay high and dry”

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about our Tivoli Giant and the recent feedback being posted on one of the DC blogs. I am sorry to hear that you have stopped shopping with us as you also have become dissatisfied with this store. Your comments greatly concern us and we regret that we have disappointed you in so many areas.

I want to assure that we are as committed as ever to providing our customers with the best shopping experience. That includes clean stores, well-stocked shelves, a wide variety of products, quality produce, friendly, helpful staff and a speedy checkout. .

Please be assured that we take everyone’s observations and concerns most seriously and are diligently working to make improvements. I have shared your specific feedback as well as the feedback on the blog with the store’s district manager and appropriate supervision. They will follow up with the store manager to address the situation and take immediate steps to make improvements. We certainly want to make sure that this store measures up to our standards and our customers’ expectations.

We hope you will give us another chance. We would like to have the opportunity to serve you better in the future.


Deborah Riley
Supervisor, Consumer Affairs

56 Comment

  • Now that is a lame response. Translation: we’re not going to do squat.

    • Out of curiosity, what would have qualified as a ‘good’ response?

      • Hmm, let’s see… Thank you for the inquiry, identify the problem expressed, apologize for bad service, provide an empathetic understanding to the problem, share concerns with executives/management, convey follow up and action by management in a timely manner, take any necessary steps to help correct the problem, apologize again, ask for another opportunity to serve the customer a better experience, and provide an actual name of the person at corporate who responded to the complaint.

        That’s 10 reasons right there, compared to being completely ignored — which is what I would NOT define as a “good” response.

      • See Deborah Riley’s other response that someone else posted below. It is more detailed and explains their solution instead of being very vague.

    • Well, they will analyze the monthly gross profit margin of the store and see if it’s feasible to do any improvements first. Then they’ll shuffle a few positions around and see if that helps without increasing expenses. That’s at least something.

  • We certainly want to make sure that this store measures up to our standards and our customers’ expectations.

    Good luck! Based on some of the posts, that would mean doubling staff, tripling the size of the store, quadrupling the number of checkout lines, and ensuring customers wait no more than five minutes for anything.

  • It’s hard to tell. Most of it sounds pretty boilerplate and PR-speak, but this bit sounds (potentially) promising:

    “I have shared your specific feedback as well as the feedback on the blog with the store’s district manager and appropriate supervision. They will follow up with the store manager to address the situation and take immediate steps to make improvements.”

  • I also submitted a complaint online and linked to the POP posting. I received a call from the store manager and the email below from Deborah Riley.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us about our Tivoli Giant.

    I am sorry that you frequently find that you have to wait in line at the checkout and hope you will accept our apologies for any inconvenience or delay you were caused. I want to assure you that we share your concern, as we certainly want to provide our customers with the best service possible, including a speedy checkout.

    Our store managers should constantly monitor the number of customers at our registers and make adjustments in their scheduling each week to be sure that they have enough staffers to provide maximum customer service. Of course, it is possible for us to misjudge or to have unexpected demand at the registers. During these times, we should accommodate our customers by opening as many terminals as possible and calling other staffers from within the store to help at the front-end by bagging, etc.

    I have notified the district manager and store manager and they will review the schedule to ensure that they are adequately staffed in the future.

    Thanks, again, for contacting us. We appreciate this opportunity to respond to your concern.


    Deborah Riley
    Supervisor, Consumer Affairs

  • Summary: Managers will whip our minimum-wage employees into more work responsibility. now they will have to cut meat in the back AND work as cashiers. The working class is screwed.

    • Really – it is very rare to see those workers in that Giant really bust their ass at any point in time. Even in the early morning when it is empty – don’t you dare interrupt their talking and gossiping to ask them a question.

    • Giant’s employees are unionized and don’t make minimum wage. The meatcutters in particular have VERY cushy union contracts.

      • Cushy? 15$ an hour isn’t cushy for living in DC. Gas is 4.00$ a gallon. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big advocate of supermarkets fixing their problems and improving customer service, but these large companies often screw over their employees in the process, union or not…

        • i used to work at a supermarket making minimum wage (about 6$ an hour) in Maine and if anyone in my old store acted/worked the way many supermarket employees in DC do, there is no way they would keep there job very long. This city just sucks. Many employees at supermarkets here try to make you feel like an asshole for asking them to do what they are getting paid for. Unfortunately the alternative is more undeserved welfare.

      • The meat cutters who are on first and second tier contracts. New hires are making $10 and that is if they’re lucky.

        Cashiers at Giant get hired at minimum wage if they have no prior experience. That’s what the UNION dictates.

        You flood these threads talking down on union grocery stores, but you really have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to the wages these people are making.

        • exactly.

          Eric in LeDroit just hates unions. He doesnt know why, but he thinks it probably has something to do with why Reagan was so awesome.

  • A big problem at this Giant, as well as the Giant in Van Ness is that there is no work ethic.

    There can be multiple reasons for this from bad hiring, to bad management that does not set a good example…or one that just does not choose to reward those who do well.

    Humans gravitate to the lowest common denominator, and if someone gets rewarded the same for less work, in general the masses will move towards doing less work too.

    I have stopped shopping at both of these stores in general and have favored the Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan because I can get in and out of there in half the time I can and either of these Giants. Oh…and I try to get most of my produce at the various bodegas in MtP.

    Grocery shopping in the city shouldn’t be as painful as it is…and until the Teeter showed me that it could be repeatedly a good experience, I switched to doing most of my shopping when I was out in the ‘burbs.

    Be weary though, even the HT on a Sunday evening can be kinda crazy…but I don’t blame that on it’s employees, but rather the masses of people. Although they do seem to need to adjust their ordering so they aren’t running out of things on Sunday night.

    OH, and MILK, BREAD, and TP people…lots and lots of it…like dump trucks full! MILK, BREAD, and TP…and bourbon.

    • Hmm, let’s see, what’s the main difference between the HT and Giant work forces. Is it that they’re from different cities? Nope. Different wage scales? Nope. Race? Age? Gender? Educational attainment? Nope, nope, nope. Dang I just can’t think of anything.

      • Find me some sort of evidence, aside from your constant confusion with causation and correlation to support the assertion that a union workforce is inferior to a non-union one.

        • Get it, Eric in Ledroit? What Anon 3:11 has taught you about causation is that the Giant workers are unionized BECAUSE they provide crappy service. You should probaby send a thank you note.

      • There are Giant locations in the DC area that are immaculate and orderly, and they’re staffed by the same union employees as the CH location. So your anti-union screeds really do not hold water.

  • it is nice to get a non-canned response. I still won’t be shopping there until there’s a “Dear PoP: CH Giant Friggin RULES” post.

    (because, yes, I only do what this blog tells me to)

  • This seems kind of form response

    1. Acknowledge issue. Pretend to care.
    2. State ideals/mission.
    3. Pretend to say you’ll fix it.
    4. Please keep giving us money.

    I hope it gets better, but I don’t think it will.

    • I think we have some earthquake/hurricane-weary cynics. But I tend to be the eternal optimist, eternally falling on my face.

      • Nope, I’m a cynic/realist all the time. I am an all-weather misanthrope, too.

        Seriously I’ve worked in customer service, that’s how it works. You make the customer understand that you’ve heard them and outline a plan, then they go away. Do you have any idea how expensive having CSRs who aren’t form filling robots with latitude to make change would be? Zappos is the only company I can think of that does this.

  • As far as corporate responses go, this was a good one. Ms. Riley is, I’m sure, restricted by corp standards as to what she can say and certainly can’t make promises for improvement.

    But her response was better than most copy-paste corporate form letters — give them credit for actually reading the complaint, at least, and tailoring their response to it.

  • I have some experience working for large retailers and I’ll write this: if a District Manager makes shorter lines at this Giant his priority, it will happen. I’m not pleased to be in the position of defending Giant, but I know how much power someone like the Giant DM wields. DM’s often make unannounced visits, and managers are universally frightened of them.

    I think we ought to give Giant a month or so to see if there’s any improvement before we write this off as a form letter. DM’s are very serious people.

  • As someone who has spent time in a management position for Giant, in this particular district (granted I left the company right as this store was opening), I can tell you what will happen:

    -The District Manager will catch wind of this
    -Someone will tip off the Store Manager that the DM is planning a store visit
    -The SM will use all of his allotted hours for that particular week to prepare for the DM’s arrival (which is always in the morning, never during rush hour or a weekend, they don’t work at those times)
    -The SM puts on a dog and pony show, makes the store look perfect
    -DM walks through the store and says “No problem here”
    -SM saves his ass soon after it’s business as usual

    • I’m inclined to think that the District Manager is already fully aware of the long lines at the CH Giant. If he’s not, then he’s not doing his job. In either case, I don’t expect any substantial improvements and I’ll continue patronizing HT instead.

    • Yes. I haven’t worked for Giant, but for another retail chain and that definitely was my experience.

  • Is this really about long lines or an aversion to the type of people who go in there. They take up time bc many have oodles of unruly kids and/or cant speak English. They pay with public assistance cards or pennies and that takes time. They dont care about ambiance or freshness or healthy produce etc etc. They, and many of the employees, have unsavory pals in the immediate area and they congregate on Park.

    You can’t do anything about the clientele. In many ways they are happy as clams to even have a supermarket there, rather than a corner store and Murray’s. But yeah, the management needs to instill some pride there. Target seems to be humming along and the employees, wheter they are students (I know 3 or 4 Howard kids in there making an extra buck) or regular hourly folks trying to get by, seem to have things nailed down. Working at Giant prol-ly SUCKS, and Giants parent co. doesnt care about it’s employees. But they are the frontline with the customers, and that store cant afford to just write off the non low income buyers to Harris teeter.

  • austindc

    I like the letter. I wouldn’t call it a canned response. A canned response is like when my buddy wrote a complaint to Pepsi and they wrote back with a letter that said, “Glad you like Pepsi! Here’s some coupons!”

    I have worked with many customer service companies, and it’s pretty common to have some pre-approved text on hand that you can cobble together into a response. It helps to keep communications consistent. I think this is nice that a supervisor actually took the time to read our crazy rants and replied with a semi-customized response.

    That being said, I still prefer several other stores over this Giant.

    Unrelated question: are they actually owned by a giant? If so, maybe we shouldn’t mess with them.

    • “Unrelated question: are they actually owned by a giant? If so, maybe we shouldn’t mess with them.”

      How is that unrelated? I hadn’t thought of that, but your RIGHT! Now I’m a little nervous.

      I’m not posting anything else bad about Giant, just in case…

  • Wow, what a different experience from my own. I have on occasion been in the store when it’s busy and the lines are long, but for the most part service has been very good, lines have moved quickly, and the cashiers and other staff have been efficient, friendly, and helpful. Customers who abuse the express lines will always be a problem but I recently saw one cashier tell a woman in line, with a full cart, that it was an express line and ask her to go to another line. My main frustration with this store is that produce is often poorly labeled and you can’t always tell what the price on a particular item is.

  • I moved into Columbia Heights about three years ago when I was stretching my dollar. I was one of those creepers who went to Starbucks and looked for discarded Sunday paper coupons, etc. I knew which coupons doubled where and which sales would get me more or less. I kept my eye on prices at Target and Giant, and sometimes Giant just seemed like the way to go (even by cents…). God help them, twice in a row they never entered coupons that I had given them (totalling $3.50) and once they didn’t give me the bring your own bag bonus. I rode my high horse over to the nearest email machine and crafted a gloriously pissy and articulate letter warning them that if the employees weren’t going to honor my coupon/bag efforts, that they needed to give me a self-checkout line where I could handle it myself. Also, I warned them that a grocery store across from a Target ought to be more diligent about things. Got word from the manager (I think Joe at the time? Still? Haven’t looked at my receipts for a name since…) within 24 hours, got $3.55 back in cash, a Giant gift card (unnecessary, but amazing), and word that self-checkout was on its way.

    It’s still a hellhole, but I was extremely impressed by the response. I imagine sometimes the best you can do is placate. (I’m just as annoyed by the other customers as I am by the staff – but I’m just that kind of jerk, and you can’t complain your way to a private grocery store…can you?)

  • Just yesterday I went for the first time to this Giant, thinking that the one closer to me was tragic and I wanted a new experience (I am in Eckington, and was in the CH area). I said to myself last night that I too will never go there again. The Rhode Island Giant – sadly is much better run, and that’s not saying much.

    The meat counter was so slow it took me 15 mins. to get some turkey, with one woman (her help seemed “slow”.

    The store had an “unclean” appearance

    The food was understocked – I couldn’t even find a simple type of Barilla spagetti

    And oh! The lines. I believe there were about 7 registers open, not including the express. And this is during rush hour, when there is a storm coming this weekend. The lines were well into the aisle, and no one was doing anything about it.

    I will never go there again!

  • If O’Donna Mathews and Izzy Cohen were still around this wouldn’t be happening at Giant.

  • I gave up on this place a long time ago. Harris Teeter is not too far away and is the anti-Giant: clean and well run, with helpful staff.

  • Giant. 5 mins shopping, 25 mins on line.

    It’s petty tyranny. Makes me want to lose conciousness…

  • The sad thing is that when I lived in Petworth, I would got to this Giant because it was the “nice” grocery store in walking distance (besides incredibly expensive Yes!) Still better than the Stinky Safeway!

  • To get a response at all is a good step. Regardless of how long it takes them to fix the problem, at least they know it exists & people aren’t happy… and that’s the first step

  • hispanicandproud

    Service in DC is horrible… not just at Giant.

  • Part of the issue is that there’s not enough space to handle the traffic they have. Given the lines (which are often horrible) they should have put in more lanes. That would also ease some of the congestion of getting through the front part of the store.

    • The sales at that particular location have literally quadrupled in the time that store has been open. No one had any idea that the store would become that busy (which can also be said about Columbia Heights as a whole, to an extent).

  • i was in there one night when the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate. What did the employees do? lock the front doors… now that’s safe…

  • So what if the sales have quadrupled since the store opened? Look at Trader Joe’s in West End, which is one of the busiest in the country. That place has way more customers than space, the lines are huge but the move FAST! Harris Teeter also moves their lines. Giant is doing something WRONG. If Teeter can find motivated employees so can Giant.

  • I’ve sent in suggestions to Giant to install webcams so that consumers can check ahead to see how crowded the store is before going. I never know what to expect with this Giant in terms of crowds.

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