Dear PoPville – Why does checkout at the Giant have to be so unbelievably terrible?

Photo by PoPville flickr user rosiedawn

“Dear PoPville,

On Friday night around 7:00 PM, I stopped into the Giant at Park and 14th St, NW to buy a couple of things for dinner. After 5 minutes of shopping, I hopped into the express aisle with about 5 people in front of me. 35 minutes later, I finally made it to the front of the line and got out of the store. As angry as this made me that night, it’s not remotely unusual. In fact, over two years I’ve probably booked hours in lines stretching halfway through the shopping aisles thinking about how ridiculously awful checkout is at this Giant. Is it that they always put underage checkers on the express aisles where beer and wine are often purchased? Is it that there’s no capacity to open the invariably closed lanes that are all too common during peak hours? Or more likely, is it that there’s no incentive provided to staff to quickly and accurately get people through the line?

Whatever the reason is, I’m more concerned about what it will take for things to improve. I admit I always say I’ll call the manager (whose number is listed on every receipt) when I leave, but I’m just so ready to get out and put the whole awful experience behind me that I never do. I’m curious about what the PoPville community thinks could be done to inspire some change. On Friday, I programmed the number into my phone so I can actually call him while waiting in one of his outlandish lines – maybe if more people did that and described exactly how bad the lines are, we could get things moving. Are there other ideas out there?

And just to be clear – there’s no question that there are actions the Giant management could take to have a positive impact on the lines; this isn’t an issue where there aren’t viable solutions available. I bet your readers (who, like me, have had a lot of time while they wait in line to think) have tons of ideas.”

174 Comment

  • I know it’s not an option for everyone, but if you’re able – just stop shopping there. The line issue is just one of a slew of problems with that Giant. It seems clear to this former CH resident that no amount of complaining is going to fix the wait times, or the rotten produce, or the lack of selection.

    Go to the Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan or the Safeway in Petworth etc. Vote with your dollar.

  • Any update from Jim Graham about luring another organic grocer to the DCusa space? He claimed he would be working on it after the grocer-who-shall-not-be-named backed out. I really think there is too great a demand in CH and even if Giant were well run you would have the afterwork bottleneck. It’s a dense population center and we need another grocery.

  • This seems to not be isolated to just this Giant, even the ones in Virginia are super slow. I can check 30 things out using the self-checkout before someone with 5 things can get through the express lane. I think Giant only hires checkers that operate in slow motion.

    • +1

      It seems like every Giant has this problem. I live close to the one by Rhode Island metro, and it always takes 30 minutes or so to check out. The Giant off of Spout Run and the one off Washington Blvd (both in Arlington) are no better.

      I have spent an embarrassingly long time thinking about this, and have concluded that their computer system is just slower than Safeway or Harris Teeter. There is a good checker out in Arlington (he was at Spout Run and they transferred him to Wash Blvd, jeez I need a life) and he looks like he’s moving at super sonic speed. Result? I check out in relatively normal speed. It seems like there is *nothing* he could do to speed up the process. Of course, there are plenty of things checkers can do to slow down the process…

      • Giant in Silver Spring is pretty speedy. Giant on 7th and P is slooooooooooooow as molasses and I will avoid it or go at ridiculous hours when no one is shopping… don’t get me started on the CVS Pharmacy on P street…. incompetent at it’s core

  • This Giant is in the epicenter of the densest neighborhood/Ward in DC – there just needs to be more grocery stores around here. Heck, even in the sprawling suburbs, there are shopping centers with 2 or 3 grocery stores across the street from each other. I think this only adds fuel to the argument that we need a new grocer, of whatever variety, in DCUSA in the “Ellwood Thompson” space to help meed the obvious need for groceries.

    • +1
      Too true. Not enough grocery stores in this area. Also, I do my best not to shop on a Sunday evening. I’ve noticed that much like doing the laundry, grocery shopping seems to be everyone’s Sunday afternoon/early evening chore.

  • i’m a fan of this giant, but avoid it anytime before 8:30 pm generally on weekdays (part by choice, part my schedule necessity). it helps a lot to know which checkers are good and fast and to get in their lines. i think a lot of the problems would be alleviated if they had every lane going strong. i don’t think i’ve ever been in there with every check out lane open. as an associated rant, please don’t go through the express self check out if you’ve got a lot more than 20 items. and please call out folks who do that if you see them.

    • i always secretly wish that the cashier would just dump items 21-47 into an unused shopping cart and say to the offender “sorry, you’ve used your express lane allotment for now. Please go to the back of the line if you’d like to purchase your remaining items.”

    • Sometimes the only lines that are open are the express lines. Or there’s one regular line and four express lines. And 10 empty lanes.

      • +1 last time I was there there was one cashier with 4 or 5 people with packed shopping carts waiting. so i cheated and took my 25 items through self express.

  • It’s not just giant – I’ve waited FAR too long in line at the Shitty Safeway on 17th. They never have enough lines open, and the stretch through the store on a given evening. Even Whole Foods on P St has crazy lines during high times and they definitely aren’t fast moving…though people helping to bag their own groceries would definitely help solve that.

    Which is why I drive my car to Wegmans. The 20 minute drive to Lanham is about as long as I’d wait in line at a less than good grocery store, plus it’s cheaper with way happier employees. Completely worth it.

  • I’ve noticed slow checkout across most long-time chains (Giant, Safeway, Shopper’s) in the DC area, and I’ve always thought it was due not to slowness on the part of the clerks, but simply to there not being enough open check-outs. Whether this is due to inadequate staffing or training, I don’t know. My own solution: Going to the Wegman’s in Lanham, where I have never waited more than a couple minutes for an open register. I don’t know how Whole Foods or Harris Teeter are in this regard, but I don’t shop at either.

    • I try to get to Lanham every other week and supplement with Whole Foods outside of the area, like Tenley or Chevy Chase. They are a little less busy on weekends. Also, shop early mornings if you can – that definitely helps.

  • That Giant is horrendous 24/7. As a neighborhood resident, I gave it a couple years of my time to work out its kinks but a few months ago I completely gave it up and do my serious shopping elsewhere, and last minute random items at Target. I haven’t set foot in the place in ~3 months.

    Forgetting for a minute that it was beyond annoying to always have the aisles blocks by large carts of stuff needing to be stocked on the shelves (never seen that at other stores who seem to do their stocking at more opportune times) but it floors me that you go in there during a standard “rush” after work (M-F ~5:30-8) and only half the checkout lines are ever opened.

    Then, to add insult to injury, you stand in a line for 10 minutes only to have the 12 year old checkout person who is the slowest checkout person alive to begin with, announce that “now” their line is closed.

    I have to think no Giant suit above the rank of store manager has ever set foot in the place because its pretty obvious something is amiss when you have checkout lines reaching half the length of the store and you are closing lines.

    Add in the high percentage of people writing checks for 4 dollars worth of groceries that holds the line up for 15 minutes and Giant employee who stands at the front door with a broom he never uses and cat-calls every woman that walks into the place, I said “F-it”.

    I’ll so my shopping elsewhere.

    • +100000

      I love this post. I thought I was the only person in the neighborhood who thought this place is garbage, since it is clearly still packed on a regular basis despite its TERRIBLE produce selection, expensive prices, and HORRIFIC service. I mishmash groceries from Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and Target, the latter being terrible for other reasons.

      Every once in a while, after the horror of my last visit has worn off, I will get tempted to go into Giant, say late on a Sunday night to pick up capricious ice cream once Target has closed, and I am always rebuffed by outrageous lines. I haven’t stepped foot in there in months.

      To make matters worse, they close the self-checkout line after 10 p.m (I think?). WHY DOES A COMPUTER NEED TO CLOSE?!?!

      My kingdom for a decent pedestrian-accessible DC grocery store!

      (CAPTCHA: 4WLK)

  • The lines at the 14th & Park Road Giant are generally not as bad as the lines at the 8th & O Giant, which happily will soon be torn down. After the City Vista Safeway opened I swore off the 8th & O Giant and I have not bought so much as a slice of bread there since. Maybe the Safeway checkout people are more competent than the Giant people but who really knows? Everything’s relative I guess.

    • Granted, I’ve been there “off hours” but I have found that Giant to always be dead quiet when I’ve been there. It’s also a dump, so I am definitely not complaining that it is going bye-bye.

  • Agreed. As convenient as this Giant is, I hate going because of those lines. Plus, the butcher cuts the steaks waaay to thin.

  • Seems to me the problem is that management has failed to adequately staff the front end of the store. I think the people running the registers do a fine job, especially given the huge volume of customers. And when there are baggers present, the lines move quickly.

    Too often, however, management has not assigned anyone else to bag the groceries, leaving that additional task to the cashier. Further, when people have to pay for their groceries with food stamps, that also creates delay. Again, however, that is not a delay caused by the cashiers but rather by the government-mandated rules governing redemption of those food vouchers.

    • Completely agree with the 1st paragraph. I’ve found that most of the cashiers are pretty good, but seeing only half of the lanes open at peak times is frustrating. I have no problem bagging my own groceries to speed things along.

    • I think the management is at fault, though there was a poster that suggested the company prevented the store from hiring more staff. I’ve only really encountered problems after around 8:30 on weeknights though. It’s clear to me that they don’t hire enough people to work the late shifts, leading to closed lines and long waits. I can’t recall ever having issues with the cashiers (they may not be as friendly as at Harris Teeter, but I can survive my weekly grocery trips without being asked ‘did you find everything you were looking for today?’). More often it is people trying to buy alcohol without a license, or those with language issues, or food stamps.

  • I wish there was something that could be done too. I just moved from Columbia Heights, used to live on 13th and Lamont for 3 years. I went to the Giant all the time.

    Here’s the truth.

    Those people who check you out are simultaneously extraordinarily lazy and slightly dumb. They could definitely be sharper but they won’t.

    You would need to hire from a group of people who are willing to work quickly and efficiently. Giant can’t do that.

    I blame the Union, but that’s just my opinion and take it for what you paid for it.

    I don’t think anyone on this board would be NEAR as mad, if the people checking out were working quickly and efficiently and it still took 30 minutes. At least then you’d be pleased that the human working their cared about someone other than themselves.

    • I don’t really think it can all be blamed (in such an insulting manner) on the staff.

      When I’ve been there I’ve seen people make orders VERY complicated, arguing about prices, taking things out of the order requiring manager override, food stamps and complications from that, etc. That eats up a lot of time and allows the lines to build up.

      I’ve seen the staff be absolute SAINTS to people who could not understand how much money they owed due to a language barrier. All while being respectful and patient.

      While it’s fun to blame young, uneducated staff, you’re ignoring another part of the problem all while sounding like a jerk in the process.

      • Yes, I love it when the person in front of me watches the price ring up and *then* decides if they really want the item or not.

        “Oh, that’s $2.19? you can take that off….Really, that’s $4.47 per pound? Don’t need it then” Ugh…

        It’s not always the cashiers.

        • Be thankful that you’re not in a position to have to worry about a $2.19 price overage while buying groceries.

          • Perhaps there is a connection between being in that position and not being able to do the math ahead of time…

    • The lines at Trade Joe’s can be unbelievably long yet they move them so quickly. It CAN be done! Same thing at Harris Teeter. What are these two stores doing that Giant and Safeway are not?

      • Re the discussion on other stores:

        1. Trader Joe’s West End and Whole Foods P Street use bank style lines — one line for multiple cashiers. This can help speed customers through at peak times, although neither of these establishments (even when Whole Foods added 12(!) new checkout lanes in a renovation) can avoid long lines and peak times. Not sure why more mainstream grocers don’t adopt this.

        2. Safeway, Giant, and Costco (not known for speedy lines) are unionized. Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, and Target are not. Could this make a difference in staffing levels and flexibility? Feel free to discuss.

      • Re the discussion on other stores:

        1. Trader Joe’s West End and Whole Foods P Street use bank style lines — one line for multiple cashiers. This can help speed customers through at peak times, although neither of these establishments (even when Whole Foods added 12(!) new checkout lanes in a renovation) can avoid long lines at peak times. Not sure why more mainstream grocers don’t adopt this.

        2. Safeway, Giant, and Costco (not known for speedy lines) are unionized. Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, and Target are not. Could this make a difference in staffing levels and flexibility? Feel free to discuss.

  • I definitely only shop here during weird hours. the selection is so poor you might as well just go to target anyway, save a few dollars to put towards the $19 dvd player you just impulsively bought while picking up bananas and milk.

    7th & O giant is worse though I think. but in general giant especially seems to have a lot (not all!) of employees who are dumb as nails, and when they combine with clients who aren’t all there, no one’s getting out.

  • Giant’s lines totally suck! That’s why I always shell out more cash to shop at Yes Organic Market.

  • I first shopped at Petworth’s Sketchy Safeway when I first moved to the neighborhood and then started shopping at the CH Giant when it first opened, but now shop at Yes! Organic Foods, due to the horrific service and low quality of products at Safeway and Giant (not to mention the Sketchy Safeway’s stench!).

  • I share the frustrations here, but for those who don’t have a car, there are numerous delivery options, from Peapod to CSAs to

  • Incentive? They are getting PAID to get us through the line as fast as possible, that is the JOB of a cashier.

    The real problem is that these grocery stores are in neighborhoods where they have to hire the uneducated, lower class folks who live. They have not been taught about customer service, or about how to properly hold down a job. Try shopping at the Safeway in Georgetown or the Giant in Bethesda. They serve a LOT of people and the lines are never as bad as in Columbia Hegihts.

    • Several of the customers aren’t the brightest bulbs in the pack either. The few times I have gone there some of the delays have been due to people not knowing what they can and cannot buy with their food stamps and having a fit if certain things cannot be purchased. It’s not always the people who are working there’s fault…

    • You think the people who work in the grocery stores in Georgetown live in Georgetown? Please.

      • +a million.

      • 1) Where someone lives can have very little to do with which branch they work at. There’s a participant in my youth program who is very smart and competent, and lives in the Garfield Terrace apartments (yep, not everyone there is a loud, dangerous criminal!) but works at the Safeway in Bethesda.

        2) Somewhat tangentially, buying groceries with food stamps and WIC can be more complicated than those of us who are lucky enough not to need them think it is. With WIC, you can buy fresh sweet potatoes, but not frozen sweet potato fries or pancakes. You can buy fresh lettuce, but not a bagged salad kit. Plain immature canned beans are allowed, but not mature (ie chick peas, black beans, or kidney beans). Spices and herbs are not allowed. It can be tough to keep track of all of the rules for food benefits, and it’s probably not the #1 cause of slow grocery lines. Just sayin’.

    • How I long to visit the glorious upper class domains that you call home, sir, where you were properly edumacated in things like “job description = economic incentive.” A truly enlightened place indeed!

  • Move to the suburbs. Long grocery lines are a fact of city life.

    • Not at the harris teeter in Adamds Morgan. Crowded for a few hours on Sunday evenings, but dead quiet the rest of the time.

      • Harris Teeter is great- even when it is more crowded they have more registers open and the lines are barely more than 2 deep.

      • shhhhhhhh

      • austindc

        Agreed! We used to live right by that Harris Teeter, and I am in love with them and I cry every night because I now live close to this Giant. The Harris Teeter was so happy and clean and well stocked. Their customer service was brilliant, their food selection was robust, their produce was pretty damn good and had some local options, their Harris Teeter brand food was cheap and usually healthy, and the lines were rarely an issue. I can’t recommend them enough.

        • austindc

          Oh yeah, and HT has a line monitor who shepherds people around and keeps lines in check usually. As soon as you wander up kind of looking like you’re ready to leave, they will ask you if you are ready to check out and point you to the shortest line. There’s none of that guess work about which line to gamble on.

          Also, I don’t know if Giant has this, but HT’s self-checkout machines let you put your reuseable bags on there before you start scanning your items so you can put stuff in your bag as you go.

          Sorry to gush.

    • “Move to the suburbs.”

      Or don’t– the lines are just as bad out there, or maybe even worse. The Safeway I used to go had lines that snaked down the aisles to the back of the store, even at 11pm. And after you finally get out of the store you still have a jam-packed, chaotic parking lot to escape from.

  • I went here once when I moved from U st to Fairmont. I was in the 25 or less item and 3rd in line. I waited 30 minutes, I don’t know if it was the checker or the patron with issues. While I was waiting the line grew behind me. While I was in line, I saw 3 staff people chit chatting and not working. Then they opened a new line and instead of grabbing the next person in line, they just yelled out “Line open”. Thus the last person in my line was first in this new check out line. I was pissed and told the check out person this was unprofessional and I would never be back. It has been two years and I will NEVER step foot in that store again.

    I love the Harris Teeter. The lines are short and when they open a new register, they pull the next person in line to the new station. This store is clean and the people that work there are nice and helpful.

  • That Giant went downhill about the second it opened.

    I suspect, however, that the problem is systemic with Giant. At the old Giant on 14th and Meridian, it was just as bad, and that one only had about six checkout lanes (of which only two were ever open). One time there, after waiting about 20 minutes to buy two things, I asked the manager (who was manning the cash register at the time) why they couldn’t open up any more lanes. He told me the company wouldn’t let him hire enough people.

  • I might be the only one who thinks that it isn’t that bad.

    The self-check out line can be really slow, sure, so I usually just avoid it. Even if I only have a few things, I’ve found it’s generally faster to find a regular line that only has a few people with smaller hauls in line.

    Giant frustrates me due the poor quality of its produce, but I’ve never had to wait longer than I would at, say Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods during peak hours.

    If you don’t want lines, go to the hidden Harris Teeter in Adam’s Morgan! I have never seen it crowded.

  • Yep.

    Harris Teeter, Safeway, numerous international markets, Whole Foods. Sure, they might take longer to get to, but if you’re waiting in line that long at Giant then it might be more efficient just to go to the other stores that are a little farther away.

    • If I ever had a 30 minute wait at a grocer, I’d never go back again. HT is great for lines. I live closest to the O St Giant, but I always walk or drive to the NoMa HT or City Vista Safeway.

      My time is too valuable to waste in lines. I’d say a de facto boycott by individuals is one answer. Go elsewhere.

      • No one else has had this kind of issue at the City Vista Safeway? Ugh. I hate that place.

        • I have. Friday evenings are crazy, as are Sunday afternoons. I got there once during the week at 6 and was done by 6:30, a record for my bi-monthly shops! Because City Vista Safeway is so nice I just try to stay away at the busy times. I live 2 blocks from the Petworth Safeway and only shop there in emergencies (when Yes doesn’t carry what I need).

      • Your time is too valuable to spend it waiting in line, but it is not too valuable to spend it b!tching about waiting in line. Just sayin…

  • Look — it’s not just Giant. My experience has been the lines at any grocery store or pharmacy in this city are silly long and slow. I think it’s just a cost/benefit thing. Here is what Target in Columbia Heights looked like Saturday night:

    Yeah, they could hire a couple extra workers at $8 an hour to fix things. But I think they feel it’s just not worth the cost. People will shop there anyway, regardless of the crummy service, since the lines/service suck everywhere in this city.

    What are you going to do about it? Shop at a different Giant? Get better service at Safeway? Pay double the prices at Whole Foods? You got not options. They know we’re screwed either way, so they save the $8 bucks and make us put up with it.

    • …Get better service at Safeway?

      As other folks have pointed out, the service at the Safeway at Georgia and Piney Branch is usually very good.

    • I shop at a store with shorter lines because it saves me time, even though the Giant near me is a shorter walk. Clearly, there *are* options.

      The more I think about it, the more I think calling the manager while in the store is a good idea. If you’re not out the door in 15 mins, call. If everyone did that…

    • Cashiers at Giant and Safeway are unionized and cost WAY more than $8/hour. Think $40+ with benefits.

      • @Eric I call BS on this union-hating comment (and he’s not the only one suggesting that union = lazy workers). Cashier at $40 an hour? How does an $11 average sound for a unionized cashier? I’m not saying unions are always the best solution for low-wage workers, but people sure do love to hate them. How about better incentives to management to create a well-run store?

        The NOMA HT is excellent. Like a suburban store selection-wise and always good staff. Googling says HT cashiers earn $7-10 an hour. Sounds like Giant has very poor management and corporate management.

        • I used to work for Giant 20 years ago and was a member of the UFCW as a result. I made $8.50 an hour as a bag boy, was paid time and a half on weekends and double time on holidays. Do you actually know anything about Giant and Safeway’s labor costs or are you just making assumptions based on your sense that unions are good and corporations are bad? Your link to the AFL/CIO website is showing national data, which will be below this area, and does not take into account benefits or the difficulty in managing and motivating staff who can’t be fired.

          • All I’m saying is it sounds like this Giant is very poorly managed – staffing rush hour checkout lines with inexperienced kids, poor line management when they are able to open a new checkout line, lack of enforcement of limits for express lanes etc. And yes, worker motivation and competency is the responsibility of management. Holding folks to a high standard of performance is part of running a good business.

            To me fair labor practices don’t mean the workers have to be unionized. It just really annoys me that people always jump on unions as being the demon when a given business is not well-run. People are quick to suggest that getting paid a *barely* liveable amount of money leads to workers feeling entitled to goof off all day. I do wish they’d used the median in that AFL/CIO data as that tends to account better for higher/lower #s. I’m not going to try to prove I know more about you when it comes to grocery payroll and I’m definitely not going to get into a huge argument about how everyone will just have to pay higher prices if we pay workers more. The point is that throwing an outrageous number like $40/hr is just stoking existing ideas about who hourly workers are and whether they are deserving of a living wage.

      • $40/hour is misinformation. If an employee is receiving roughly $30/hour and works 30 hours/week, their benefit compensation is worth $45,000/year. Those employees must have some fat pensions and/or 401ks, as well as the best health insurance!

        I can’t see any union ever negotiating a benefit package worth 3x wages. My income as a union employee breaks down to roughly 1/9 wages — not 3x.

        FWIW, word on the street is that Giant pays the lowest wages in town.

      • $40/hour as a cashier? Where can I submit an application?

  • The biggest issue with the checkout lines is the fact that they don’t enforce the “X items or fewer” rule. I say that as someone who’s gone thru that line well over the limit after forgetting about it and not heard a peep out of any Giant employee.

    I do try to shop at Target whenever I can, but unfortunately they don’t stock such exotic food products as white grapefruit juice. In those cases, I have to truck it up the block to Giant. And Harris Teeter just isn’t worth the longer trip, especially since it means paying higher prices.

    • I rarely spend more shopping at HT than I do shopping at Giant, and since I sometimes barely scrape by in a month, I do pay attention.

  • if you have a car, it’s definitely worth the short drive over to harris teeter. or if you’re in north petworth, the safeway at piney branch isn’t bad, either.

    it’s unbelievable that the giant management doesn’t realize that a lot more people would shop there if they just staffed all the registers during peak hours so there were reasonable lines.

    • I second the Safeway near Piney Branch! I call it the “surprising” safeway. It’s new and clean and the produce is good AND it doesn’t smell like toxic-chemical-covering-up-spoiled-meat-stench like the safeway near Petworth metro.

    • austindc

      I think they will be adding a Capital Bikeshare station near the Adams Morgan Harris Teeters soon too, so you can get there pretty fast from CH even if you don’t have a car! You could even take the bikeshares right from in front of Giant!

      • Damn. There goes the short lines at HT. My only hope is coming from most of CH, you have to go uphill for a bit from HT back to CH. That probably would dissuade some potential bikers.

  • I haven’t been to the Park and 14th Giant enough times to have an opinion, but the 0 and 7th Giant is abysmal. Part of it is incompetent (or occasionally, stoned) cashiers or the volume of shoppers to open registers, but some of it is also beyond the control of Giant management. A ton of low-income people with Food Stamps and WIC shop there. As far as I can tell from standing in line for hours of my life, it is more complicated to buy thing with WIC than to operate NASA. Sometimes a language barrier is added to the mix, and no matter how talented the cashier, it becomes a complete fiasco.

    Just last weekend, I was standing in line behind a Latino couple who were completely flummoxed by what they could and could not purchase with WIC, and they clearly didn’t speak English well. It took me 30 minutes to buy like five things. And while that sucked for me, I imagine it sucked even more for this couple that was just trying to figure out which damn juice they are allowed to buy for their kids.

    I’m guessing it’s probably a similar demographic in Park at 14th, and that could be part of the problem.

    • This isn’t a white whine. Nobody likes the slow-assed lines at that Giant. This is a white whine:

      Why doesn’t the CH giant carry organic unsalted butter? They have two kinds of organic salted butter, but I want no organic unsalted.

      It’s true, it pisses me off, and it complaining about it makes me sound like an overprivileged jerk.

    • ZING!!!

    • Doubtful – Me (hispanic), the family behind me (black), and presumably everyone else waiting in line 30 minutes this past Saturday were annoyed as hell.

      Even when I lived in Columbia Heights I avoided this Giant for this reason. Now that I live closer to the Harris Teeter, it’s even easier to avoid (except when I’m visiting nearby friends, and need something “quick” which is why I was foolish enough to venture into Giant Saturday).

  • I like the idea of eveyone programming in the manager’s number. Can you post it here?

  • I hate, hate, hate this Giant and get angry at myself every time I go in thinking I’ll give it just one more try. The third-world Safeway on Columbia Road is far better, with MUCH better service. Besides the long lines at the Giant, there’s also the surly service and the many, many employees standing around looking at their phones. One time my cashier was so busy looking at his phone that he forgot to take the credit card slip I had just signed. I had to go back in and give it to him.

  • Giant and Safeway are both union. Harris Teeter, Wegmans, and Whole Foods are not. Add it up.

    • It’s not a union thing, necessarily: the better stores tend to pay more in wages, which has a greater impact than union vs. not. Now, if you want to argue this particular union drives down wages somehow, then you can connect those dots.

      • Giant employees are very expensive because of union wages and benefits, leading them to understaff. They’re also impossible to fire, which makes them impossible to manage effectively.

    • The quality of customer service at Whole Foods has declined SO much in the last 5 years that I dread shopping there. The employees don’t know the products, they spend far too much time making fancy pyramids out of lemons they can’t tell you where an item might be. there are no more baggers at every lane when it’s busy – I always bag my own groceries there (which I don’t mind, but for what you pay for a basket of groceries, it MIGHT be nice to have someone bag them). I was at WF yesterday and a produce employee didn’t know what chervil was. The woman said “an herb” and he said “then it’s probably with the other herbs” and went back to stocking the lemon pyramid.

  • I HATE that safeway in CH. I have never had an easy checkout experience. I now take the time to get a zip car and head to Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan, parking is so easy and the people there are 100 times friendlier and quicker. Maybe because its non-union and therefore people have to actually care about doing a good job in order to keep a job. Whatever the reason its a huge difference and I have noticed this in other HTs (VA and Potomac Avenue) or else they have a much better training program for employees.

  • There are definite problems with this store. I’ve talked to the Staff (both the yellow and purple shirts) numerous times and they seem to agree. They have admitted to me that:

    1 — The store is just too small. I don’t think anybody foresaw how Columbia Heights was going to blow up in the late 00s (at least in the sense of disposable income). So not sure I can blame them. But it just needs to be bigger.

    2 — According to the purple shirts, they really do make an effort to open all lines at busy times but are thwarted almost every day by a high number of workers that just don’t show up. I’ve seen them get genuinely angry about this. I think they do feel bad when the lines are THAT long.

    Given those constraints I don’t see how they can improve even if they want to. I think another grocer is the only option.

    Others have mentioned other national chains but let me suggest Best World on Mount Pleasant avenue. CHEAP and DECENT produce and meat. It doesn’t look like the stuff at Giant but it looks like food is supposed to. No lines, and great asian selection.

    • Very true about BW in Mt. P. And, heck, you can get 10 limes for a dollar and decent avocados to make some yummy guac. Also, I think the meat tastes better.

    • Great Asian selection? Really? I’ve walked by so many times and had no idea. I’m there!

    • The PanAm grocery on 14th right by the mobile station is a great option also. Its always a bit crazy and crowded, but I’ve never waited very long to check out. Plus they have wonderful chorizo sausage of all varieties, and other neat Central or South American food and snacks.

  • Kate, thanks for posting the article. We need to incentivize more corner stores into becoming bodegas with REAL food (not just Hugs and five year old bags of chips). that would go a long way to solving some of the cluster f–k of grocery shopping in DC.

  • Wouldn’t it be cool if the scanner actually announced the number of each item, 1, 2,3….15 etc so the crowd could shame the customer?

  • To the OP:

    Talk to the managers at the store. They, not PoP or the commenters here, control the management of the store.

    To everyone else who has posted here complaining but has never actually taken their complaints to the management:

    Please stop your whining and act like a grown-up. This isn’t kindergarten, when you have a problem with someone you have to take it up with them — there is no teacher for you to whine to.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      To Anonymous 12:48 PM: Since we are giving advice – Your advice is condescending. Don’t do that.

    • The OP admitted to not having talked to the store managers… but other commenters said that they had, and that it hadn’t accomplished much.

      PoP and the commenters don’t control the management of the store, but the comments here constitute a critical mass that — if Giant is alerted to it — might actually make store management (and Giant management beyond that) take notice and take action.

      • I agree with this. I admit I thought it was a little silly when the owner of The Heights came on to coddle the masses BUT if we got to like 200 comments and the manager of Giant came on to give a mea culpa I think that would be great. We’ve all gotta eat–we just don’t all have to eat out.

  • i complained to Giant directly and to the store manager and gotten a response back that their staff was too fresh and not trained that was 2 years ago. i have never seen any improvements. the problem is that the check out staff is just incompetent and lazy (sorry for these harsh words, but i can’t find any other. if you compare check out speed to any other chain the one at giant and especially at this giant is just crazy. go to harris teeter, go to whole foods, go to trader joe’s lines, even longer ones than at giant will easily move at double the speed.

  • This happens at pretty much every grocery store in the region… 26 aisles for checkout with only 2 staffed and possibly 3 computer checkout lanes with someone who “doesn’t know how to do stuff” if you run into problems. Price Check! *sigh*

  • Makes me feel lucky I live right near a harris teeter. I have only shopped at HT for several years, I have lived in several different locations, but I always wanted to be close to one. They really are far better managed and I have rarely ever had a problem. When I do, its rectified immediately.

  • You all DO know that many Giant stores in the area hire people with developmental disabilities to bag, stock, and check out, right?

    I actually would prefer to shop at Giant for this reason, other than the fact that there aren’t any near me.

  • While my initial frustration tends to get directed at the staff, most of whome don’t give a crap about working fast or being curteous, the blam belongs on the management, both at the store and corporate level. The right combination of positive corporate ethos, proactive store management, and financial incentives to employees should fix the problem. No reason why the whole foods in tenelytown should be any different then the Giants of DC – they both draw from the same labor pool.

  • It comes down to competition, as others have noted. The Giant can’t accomodate the current volume in Columbia Heights, and CH is only going to grow denser over time. Same issue as with Washington Sports Club — the combination of no other options and a business that has no incentive to improve leads to an overcrowded, decidedly not-customer-friendly enterprise. If there was another grocer interested in DCUSA, it would make all the difference in the world, both by diverting traffic from Giant and by creating some incentive for Giant to improve.

    As bad as it now, it is going to be that much worse in two years once Highland Park II, the new condo building on 11th and Monroe, and the smaller apartment buildings slated for redevelopment on Park Road are all opening up, not to mention more folks from the Georgia Ave. area streaming in once the Safeway is being rebuilt.

    Are there any stores that we know have expressed interest in DCUSA space? If so, mail them this thread, to show the level of discontent with current options!

    • Sorry, I meant to respond directly to this. I don’t know. We need some Giant data to get to the bottom of this. I can’t believe there aren’t Giants in MD or VA that aren’t just as busy with better service. I think that DC probably offers the perfect shitstorm of busy, needy customers, and crap customer service.

  • This is so true. The lines at this Giant are often too much to bear. I wonder, though, if this is just a consequence of Washington, DC having some of the poorest customer service of any place I’ve ever lived. The hour labor pool is weak, and it’s extremely hard for managers to get good hourly help in DC.

    Surely, there are suburban Giants that are busier than the one on Park Rd. with better customer service.

  • Allison

    I think this might be a combination of not enough lanes open for as many employees as there are in the store (wandering around the produce section eating grapes…) but also customer laziness. I say this because Giant often doesn’t have a bagger at each checkout lane, and some shoppers who feel too entitled to bag their own products just stand there looking bored as their products begin piling up on the bagging area. Then, once the checker finishes scanning, they have to bag that person’s stuff before they can continue to help the next customer. In short, help your checker (and even your bagger if there is one) bag your own products!

    • I worked at Giant when I was in college, and it was part of our job to bag the customer’s groceries. The checker should be bagging as they go (if they don’t have a bagger), not at the end of the order.

      • getting your groceries bagged for you seems like an American privilege… in London, you bag your own… no one is trying to help you out. I am in favour of bagging your own, it’s much faster

        • you need more places as a comparison to make that claim.

          every country i’ve traveled to bags groceries for you. also, the cashier always has a chair to sit in as they ring you up.

          is your experience to rule or is mine?

          in either case, it’s not just an american thing.

        • They also put your change on the counter instead of in your hand (rude!) there, and you wrote “favour.” Huh huh.

    • Also, cashiers and baggers often get pulled to gather carts and restock merchandise. If customers would simply return items to where they belong, bring carts back to the entrance, and take carts from the parking lot as they’re coming in, it would free up employees to work the checkout lines.

      • Allison

        +1, Agreed. I especially hate it when a customer dumps spoilable, needs-to-be-frozen-or-refrigerated food on a shelf because they later decided “Oh maybe I don’t want that raw chicken, here let me just throw it in the canned goods section.” It’s as bad as stealing, because now it’s ruined!

  • When I was 16 years old (in 1986!) I worked at a grocery store whose cash registers all had computers in them that would track how many items per minute each cashier scanned, and would also track how many mistakes you made (voids). Each week the cashier with the best time and no more than a certain number of voids would win a small prize (maybe $10 added to your weekly paycheck). Even though it wasn’t a big reward, cashiers were really proud to win and it provided a great incentive to be fast. I’m always amazed that 25 years later there doesn’t seem to be anything like this in place at Safeway or Giant.

    The store I worked at in 1986 (Big Star) was a chain that got bought out by Harris Teeter – which now seems to be the only mainstream grocery (I mean besides Yes and Whole Foods – both pleasant places to shop) that actually seems to care about its customers. And they are definitely a couple decades ahead of the competition in making sure you have a fast cashier at checkout!

    • holy shit, there used to be a Big Star in my neighborhood. That takes me back.

    • Oh yeah that reminds me

      problem number 3 with that CH giant is the computer system. I’ve seen it and it looks about 20 years old.

  • It’s amazing how much Columbia Heights has changed.

    When I lived there the only option was the Giant where The Allegro now sits. It was pretty abysmal, so bad that I would often take the bus down 11th to the Giant at 8th and O that has been so maligned in these comments.

    When the new Giant open I practically kissed its shining floors with glee.

    Now I live in Petworth with the world’s smelliest Safeway, so the Giant, lines or no still seems pretty good to me. I love YES, but it isn’t really a full service supermarket and it’s offerings in some areas (meat/fish/deli) are quite limited.

    Every once in a while I find myself in a supermarket in an upscale suburban area and it’s like being on another planet after 12 years in DC.

  • I’ve just gotten used to the long lines at this Giant so I plan ahead for it. Whenever possible I go to Panam instead. That place is a hidden treasure. (No, the Hispanics won’t bite) Occasionally I even make the long trek to Harris Teeter, or even longer to Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s may have super long lines but they move insanely fast.

    The Giant does have at least one cashier who is great and moves very quickly – props to Kelvin!

  • are we really having a conversation about how troublesome long grocery lines are in a major city … while there’s a terrible famine happening? #1st-world-problems

    • Prince Of Petworth

      If you don’t want to join the conversation that is totally understandable. I’d encourage you to visit the many news sites and blogs that are discussing a terrible famine. Please email me directly if you’d like me to send you some links.

      I will be “censoring” comments like this future.

      • It wasn’t THAT bad.

        • Prince Of Petworth

          It has nothing to do with good or bad. There are certain commenters who regularly comment completely unrelated to the post. And that truly fine. Elsewhere. If the comments aren’t related to the post it just clutters up the discussion. I realize not everyone cares about long lines at grocery stores. And that is fine. They don’t need to read the post or the site.

          The site has been running for almost 5 years now – the topics we cover are not a mystery. If there are those that don’t like the topics covered then don’t read them. It is really that simple.

          • Rather than comment on it here then, can we have a post about how absurd/out of line/factually incorrect the term First World Problems is and how it somehow has become ubiquitous over the past few months/year?

  • Costco Pentagon City and Trader Joe’s often have HUGE long lines. But they move people in and out very, very fast. What are they doing that Safeway and Giant are not? Also, Harris Teeter manages to hire locals who give excellent customer service and the lines move. At the Giant at 7th & O the cashier sometimes will not even make eye contact.

  • As a former employee of Giant/Stop and Shop, I can with certainty say that cashiers are rewarded for speed and sales per hour, but that isn’t always the case in each store.

    When I was employed as a cashier, PT employees were given shifts based on their IPM (Items Per Minute) and SPH (Sales Per Hour). Those with higher numbers got more/better shifts than those who didn’t. We were unionized and of course there were full-timers as well to whom this didn’t apply, but it was a pretty simple/fair way of awarding shifts.

    I suspect the case at this Giant is a lack of oversight by the management. Lines at my store RARELY exceeded 3 carts, even on busy Sundays. I was underaged and put on express all the time – whenever a liquor purchase came my way I would IMMEDIATELY page the supervisor, who would come by to verify the purchase.

    I also suspect that the slow check-outs have to do with the store’s capacity – it’s too small and CoHi is too dense, and getting more so.

  • Still amazed that I am the only one who has never had a problem there. If I go to that Giant it is usually in the afternoon on Saturday or Sunday. Could that be the reason?

    Genuinely confused. I don’t think that Giant is very nice, but I’ve never dealt with the kind of long lines I experience at Target or Whole Foods at the same time of day.

    • Correction: I shouldn’t say NEVER. Shopping there is always kind of chaotic, but I’ve never had to wait in a line so long that I noticed it as being unusual.

  • My rules for okay shopping at that Giant:

    AVOID at all costs before 8:30pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Friday AND Saturday and Sunday mornings after 11am.

    Wednesday and Friday, avoid before 7:30pm.

    If you follow these rules and do your grocery shopping during off-hours, you’ll be fine and get a better selection of produce.

    Agree that it’s a problem with the management and higher ups that aren’t hiring more cashiers and baggers when the store obviously needs more staff, especially during the “rush hours.”

  • Just go to Best World/Best Way on Mount Pleasant Street.

    Also, my favorite long line experience at Giant. Thought I had picked a good line as the lady in front of me only had $2.50 worth in items. BUT she paid for them with a $100 check and asked for the balance as cash back. I did not see that move coming.

  • The length of the lines at Giant are horrendous. But rarely do I find it to be the result of the actual cashiers. 9/10 times it’s the CUSTOMER making the line move at a snail’s pace by paying by check, having items removed, etc.

    But one way to speed it up is to remove the stupid practice of HIGHLIGHTING your “Shell Savings” on the receipt. Please…if I had a car, I sure as hell wouldn’t be shopping at Giant. I’d be at Wegmans.

    • + 1 billion and also several simley faces πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • Allison

      Haha yes, I want my dang “Shell Savings” (which usually gets me nothing more than a confused, dead stare from the gas-station attendant when my giant card doesn’t work… ever) mailed to me as cash so I can actually pay for groceries!

  • If I go to that Giant, my rule is Fri or Sat morning, prior to 10am. Otherwise, if you’re a Giant fan, try the one in downtown Silver Spring. Not terribly far with a car, busy, but not as frustrating. I’ve seen a head cashier or possibly manager stand at the checkouts and open new lines when it gets really busy.

    And I’ll drive to any Target within a 15 mile radius to avoid the one at DC USA. That store is hell on earth.

  • Request a Trader Joes:

    I’m trying to start a movement πŸ™‚

    It’s rare that I go to this Giant location, but when I do it’s before 8a and never have any issues. After 8a I just don’t bother. The Giant near the Friendship Heights metro is always great though.

  • My suggestion; everyone print out this entry and all the comments, and mail a copy to the Giant store on park Road, and another copy to Giant’s headquarters, wherever they are. I’m printing out a copy now and will add my name, adress, and how often I shop at the store.

  • I hate the Giant at Col Heights..everything about it just thinking about it gives me a stomach ache. I go to Harris Teeter….even the Giant by the Rhode Island ave is a lot more pleasant…and when i need to go to home depot i stop by that giant.

  • 35 minutes in line? That’s clearly an exaggeration. I go to that Giant all days of the week, all times of day, and I’ve never, ever waited 35 minutes.

    Most of the checkout people there are good. Some are not, but usually when I’ve had a long wait, it’s been because a customer was messing up a WIC purchase.

  • Go to Target, problem solved.

  • I stopped going there the day Yes Organic opened on Georgia. I shop at Yes for my food and then every few months load up on cleaning supplies, shampoo, etc at Target. At Yes, I can jump in and out in 15 minutes meaning I can easily go a few times a week and just shop what I need for the day or two rather than feeling like I need to load up in one major trip, inevitably buying more than I need.

  • Two things:

    1. Everyone should read this article on grocery lines:

    2. This Giant serves the community very well. For example, It stayed open during the snowstorm.

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