Dear PoPville- Can We Talk About How Awesome the Columbia Heights’ Giant is Now?

Dear PoPville,

I know the Park Road Giant gets a lot of smack on this website, particularly after the great-checkout-line-debacle, which led to a new store policy. But, I went to Giant today for the first time in a little while and I was floored, in a good way! It’s a million times cleaner, and although we’ve had to put up with a little confusion during the reorganization process, I noticed how much better the foot traffic flowed. They’ve also added some nice little finishing touches, such as individual yogurt holders instead of stacking the yogurts precariously. Anyway, now that they seem to be close to finishing the revamping process, I thought it was time for some much deserved props.

72 Comment

  • This is great to hear, I might have to give them another try.

  • this makes me super happy. thanks for writing in.

    p.s. the Harris Teeter near me (Potomac Ave metro stop) has the new yogurt holders. OH BOY

  • I agree. Last year’s rant-fest about the Giant really produced noticeable change in that store. The employees are much nicer and the lines not has horrendous. Now if they would quit rearranging it every few months. I swear, they’ve moved the bread three times!

  • I agree it’s getting better– props to Giant for making some improvements; I hope they continue to make improvements–they need it.

    I stopped at Giant last Thursday and liked the new layout. I admit I was in a hurry and I was annoyed I couldn’t find the items I needed. The signs labeling the aisle hadn’t been updated.

    Does anyone else notice they often have closed registers from 4-8pm during the week? Granted most of the registers are open, but I always spot a closed lane. Do people actually go to Customer Service to claim a roasted chicken? Does Giant realize the line at Customer Service normally circles the store?

    • I’ve noticed the closed registers and complained to the Manager about it. Normally, it’s a register with its light on but no cashier. The Manager told me that someone would come if I’d just stand in the line. I tried that on another visit and stood in line for over 10 minutes before anyone came over to ring me up. The 4-8 promise is nice in theory but in practice, Giant is not abiding by it.

  • Better, sure. Better organized? I don’t know, seems pretty confusing to me. Staff is still relatively unpleasant, not digging more auto lanes as it kills jobs and I question customers ability to work faster than cashiers (then again if you’ve lost all desire for life like these guys, maybe so). It’s also one of the ugliest, run down, old yet still expensive produce Giants around still, but CoHeigh doesn’t deserve anything fancy they probably figure.

    Still try to avoid that place as much as I can and root for something new to come into DCUSA to give me good alternatives.

    • “not digging more auto lanes as it kills jobs”

      Reminds me of Milton Friedman’s response, when told by a Communist China official that using shovels instead of machinery to dig trenches creates jobs, “Well why not use spoons instead of shovels to create even more jobs?”

      • Nice try, but it’s pretty clear that self-serve lanes are a detriment to customer service, they are frustrating, add stress to shopping and erode customer and brand loyalty. The spoon thing is a false analogy. It’s only apt if you think a human touch is pointless.

        A well trained, well paid and empowered retail staff creates customer loyalty, but retail work is repetitous and potentially soul draining. There is such a divide in service between rich and poor neighborhoods with respect to big retail because the management is negligent. Self-serve lanes are just a penny-wise, pound-foolish way to externalize the consequences of bad management and bad team member support by making customers do the work.

        To follow your bad analogy, the trench is still being dug with shovels, but now you’re making me dig for you as a customer and then pay you for the pleasure.

    • Kills jobs, and takes several times as long to get through the checkout line, because 9 times out of 10, people are utterly clueless when it comes to doing this kind of thing for themselves.

    • Stop trying to make CoHeigh happen: it’s not going to happen.

    • More auto lanes mean less interaction with unpleasant staff. It’s a trade-off.

  • Totally agree! Giant has really listened to suggestions and made good changes!

  • I live a couple blocks away and largely stopped going to Giant because of the lines. My experience the few times I’ve been recently is that the lines are still inexcusably long and they still have far too few people working the checkouts. What’s really annoying is when they close the automated checkouts at a certain point in the evening, which are always far faster than waiting in the incompetently-staffed checkout lines. So my two proposed solutions, if Giant wants to win back my business, are to have more checkout staff working and to keep the automated checkouts open longer.

  • I have noticed the improvement. I actually like the self-checkout lanes. Especially when I have a few items. I have noticed with the new conveyor belt ones, people don’t realize they are open lanes and a quick stop is actually quick. Produce is still sad.

    • I went in there one day and there were no greens: collards, turnip, mustard, kale, spinach.

      None. The whole damn shelf was empty down to the rubber lining.

  • Is this a joke? I’d rather saw off a limb than have to shop at this giant. The only convienent aspect of it is the fact that it is walking distance to most of us in Col Heights. The store is always overcrowded, the selection of most items is bare, and the staff is not helpful. And let’s not forget the shady folks outside hasseling people to give you a ride home. And the fact that somebody was killed in front of the store 3 months ago. Get real people.

    • totally agreed. though to be honest part of me wants to give someone a ride home. it’s been awhile since i went on a date.

    • Is there a racial or gender issue at play here? I (pasty white female) have been offered a ride by one of the “courtesy drivers” exactly ONCE, in six years. I’m there about three times a week, for one thing or another. And it wasn’t a hassle. Just “need a ride, ma’am?” “No thanks!” “Ok, have a blessed day.”

      • Not a race thing at play. I think it is shady/dangerous to accept rides from total strangers (that are not cab drivers, etc) and I think it makes the already shitty looking exterior of the store look worse.

        • 13th st, are you serious? giant is fine as it looks. feel free to complain about it, but know that at least some of us think you’re pretty off base. i didn’t grow up going to a pretty grocery store and don’t expect one to look like the campus center at princeton. the lines are fine, the employees generally nice enough, and if the quirks of your neighbors (being clueless at the autocheck or whatever, i.e. not hurting you but just being slow or not to your liking) bug you, either help them or move somewhere you won’t have these things bug you.

      • are you effing kidding me? race? We’re talking about cleanliness of a grocery store. How in the world did you find the crazy to connect this to race? I guess I must be racist against Asians because I’m not a huge fan of egg drop soup (but I guess that’s because they’re just dirty business owners)

        • I believe this was a tangent not about the grocery store per se, but about the drivers of “rogue taxis.”

          (I think… I wasn’t quite sure from the above. And does Giant actually employ “courtesy drivers,” or WDC, were you using the term ironically?)

          • even still why is race even brought up? Black, White, Asian, Arab, Ewok, or Melmac… if someone is sketchy they are sketchy regardless of race.

          • Wondering if I am immune to “hassling” by these drivers because of MY race. Do they not approach white women? Do I have bitch face? Why is this such a huge issue to “13th st” (such that he or she won’t even patronize the store because of them!) but it’s barely on my radar?

            As for “courtesy drivers”, I think that’s what they call themselves. Based on a long string of comments on a prior PoP post. No real knowledge here.

          • saf

            Yes, that is what they call themselves.

            I get offers of rides, and they accept, “no thank you” perfectly politley (“You have a blessed day now.”)

            (Middle-aged white female.)

      • There are older and/or disabled and/or poorer people who have a shit ton of groceries and struggle with their carts.

        This gives un/underemployed men something to do and helps out those who need help. It’s community self-sufficiency at its finest.

        They don’t help you because they – correctly – assume you are a local who isn’t going too far and probably would drive if you needed to.

  • sorry but individual yogurt holders don’t really make up for the overall filth of the place (unless there was a dramatic change since i went last about 3 weeks ago, i disagree with you on that point). Not to mention the attitude from employees and not to mention meat selection that would probably give me some fecal-related food borne illness

    and also, what the hell is that smell?

    Harris Teeter 2012

  • I live in CH and Giant the only real option for food shopping (Target although MUCH cheaper as very small selection and I am not sure they know what organic food is). Beware though, according to consumers’ checkbook, Giant among the most pricey supermarkets in the city – wholefoods excluded of course. On items 5-6$, Target is often 1$ cheaper. What I find most entertaining about the Giant’s is that they organize aisles according to ethnic/sociological criteria. So, you find the votive candles in the middle of the rice and beans, rice in at least four places (latino/afr american/asian/the “non-denominational” rice spot and the “yuppie” aisle – where all the organic stuff is). When you look for something specific and a bit unusual you have to ask yourself “which cuisine uses this ingredient the most” and then go on a hunt. When I have visitors, i send them there for pure entertainment!

    • you lost me at “organic”… resenting urge to go into my lecture on why organic is bad…

    • thebear

      Grammar Rant: The “$” sign ALWAYS precedes the number. No exceptions.

      One can save quite a lot of coin by taking the time to cruise the weekly supermarket circulars online, making a list of what you need/want, and also going through the coupon inserts in the Sunday Post (and the weekly neighborhood rags like the Current). It takes all of 30-60 minutes. We’re hardly extreme coupon types, but usually cut at least $15-$25 off our weekly total. Several times in the last few years the coupon total came to more than what we wound up paying. Granted, this requires the ability to plan ahead some, and being able to hit Giant, Safeway and Teeter…but many (if not most) of us can, but it certainly does pay off. There really is a rush from watching the coupons adding up to $80 and giving the cashier only $12. 😀

      • I always thought when someone followed the numbers with the dollar sign, they were trying to be different. Yes, I knew someone who did that, an old colleague of mine…

      • Your grammar rant is correct… but I’m not sure you’re in a good position to be throwing stones here, considering that in the following sentence you used both “one” and “you” (rather than picking one and sticking with it).

      • I do amount then $ if i forget to put in the dollar sign and get too lazy to go back and redo it

      • Perhaps we should use the international style of 25USD, 25EUR, 25GBP, 25BSD, 25DJF. The $ is used by others outside of US (e.g. Canada, Mexico, Taiwan)

  • thebear

    I miss the O Street Giant. Yeah, it was Giant and, yeah, it was in a kinda sketchy neighborhood, but it was pleasant to shop there and it was nice being able to just roundtrip on the G2 at the corner (usually on the same fare) if the car wasn’t needed. I hope the replacement store is worthwhile.

  • I also miss the O St. Giant. I started shopping there when going into that part of the neighborhood was almost uncomfortable for a single woman, but the store workers were invariably kind and helpful. I hope the new Giant is completed soon.

  • This Giant is awful! The wait in line, even on an early 7 am weekend trip, is horrendous. Staff is unfriendly… If Target doesn’t have it I make a trip to Whole Foods (not that bad of a walk, if it’s nice out).

  • I give them a B+. They did improve on the whole opening more lines thing, and I think they’re genuinely making an effort. Even so, they really should see what the P St Whole Foods did to their checkout lines and do something similar – this place is too high traffic for what they have now.

    The reorganization is pretty crazy. A checkout lady told me that it would continue for several weeks more. I just hope that the end state of the place makes it more navigable. If they could just put food in one part of the store and non-food items in the other part, we’d really be getting somewhere.

  • Such an improvement. Though I am also annoyed at the re-arranging. I know about the studies that show shifting things around increases average $ spent, which is nice for the store, I guess, but it makes me resentful. I know I’ll get used to it, and if that’s the tradeoff for having the lines under control (which they are, in peak hours– I don’t know how anyone who’s been there in the last six months could say otherwise), I’ll take it.

  • this sounds like the Giant Manager wrote this.

  • I have to agree with the OP. Last time I was there, the staff was friendly and lines moved quickly. Bravo.

  • This is so interesting to read everyone else’s experience. I live two blocks away so do my shopping exclusively at Giant and have no complaints (except for the temporary adjustment to the reorganization!). I barely have any trouble with lines – MAYBE the longest I will wait is about 5 minutes, but that’s when I go on Sunday afternoons or other typically busy times. Usually I have no wait or a very minimal wait, and I’ve gone on weekday/weekend nights, weekday and weekend mornings… I usually just avoid weekend afternoons and it works out perfectly. Seems to me it’s a customer schedule problem and not a Giant problem.

  • Giant could help the check out speed by having baggers helping with the check out process. Do grocery stores no longer have baggers anymore?

    Also, I couldn’t help but notice that with the reorganization the price of some items increased (i.e. kale).

  • I love that it’s walking distance but drive to HT in NoMa. 24 hour grocery store, we have to all love that in this city where nothing stays open past 10, yes? Where else can we grab some donut holes & coconut water on the walk home from a bar?

  • Guess they finally hit rock bottom. They were so awful 2006-08 when I lived over there, I will never return.

  • Love it or hate it or relegate it to your most ambivalent of feelings. But anyone who remembers the _old_ CH Giant (from the rubble of which arose the Allegro) knows that it could be worse. Much worse. Like permanent “where is that fish smell coming from?”-worse.

    Also, I’m adding “urban grocery store manager” to the list of professions that just aren’t worth it … must be such a thankless task.

  • Before or after whatever revolution this post is referring to, they’re deli counter is much more pleasant to deal with than Whole Foods. Say what you want and they give it to you; and no confusion about fractions of pounds.

    At Whole Foods on P St you have to visibly direct them to what meat you want from a jumble of unlabeled salami’s, and either have to preemptively talk down to them by stating a fraction of a pound as a decimal or get asked “what’s a 1/5th of a pound – a 1/2 a pound?” It’s a miserable experience for a “value-added” store.

    • I don’t know when you manage to go, but when I try and buy cold cuts there’s always a line 5 or 6 people deep and only one person working the counter. What would really help induce some calm feelings is just having one of those “take-a-number” dispensers and displays. As is it’s always one stone shy of a mob scene.

  • Ha. I just moved to this hood and went shopping at Giant last night and impressed with how much nicer it was then the Safeways (Starburst, SW Waterfront) I used to shop at. Seems like some of you don’t know how good you have it.

  • This was going to be my rave – I really like the new configuration. And some of their new products such as the olive bar.

    I go during the day/evenings/weekends and don’t end up waiting very long to check out. But then again, everyone has a different idea about how long “too long” is.

  • I think the CH Giant is just fine! For me it’s on par with the 5th St. Safeway. It’s especially good compared to stores in the other neighborhoods where I’ve lived. The O St. Giant was just okay, but the Petworth Safeway? Eww.

  • The self-checkouts with the conveyor belts are such an inefficient system unless you’re with someone. Scan your items, walk down to the end of the conveyor whenever too much stuff piles up, bag those items, go back to scanning, repeat ad nauseum. I’m all for self-checkouts when they make sense, but as soon as people realize they’re open, they’re just going to slow everything down.

    • Allison

      This is DC’s new anti-obesity initiative– check out groceries, run down conveyor belt and bag, return and repeat. Now if only we could do Super Market Sweep: Giant Style!

  • The Columbia Heights Giant has pros and cons, but anyone who says the lines there are long either hasn’t gone in the last six months or is flat-out lying. I’ve been buying food there (for my family of four) several times per week for three years, and I know the place inside and out: The lines USED to be long; they are not anymore.

    • As someone above said, it’s gotta be either different standards or just definitions. I find the lines ridiculously long and there’s never any management of them. If you’ve got lines backing into aisles, there’s clearly something not right going on.

  • What’s with the “staff is unfriendly” comments? What you people expecting from your local checkout clerk? Singing and dancing?

  • On the unfriendly thing — Trust me on this, if you speak some Ebonics they are plenty friendly. They are usually trying to be friendly but most folks just don’t get it. I’m white but was raised in Danville Virginia and have a great time talking to the Giant employees. Don’t know what we can do about it but just please realize they don’t dislike you.

  • The layout is definitely better. And for the most part I like the changes to the meat area. But those are basically the lone improvements.

    The produce is horrible (I don’t think I’ve ever found a non-wilted head of lettuce there ever, and good luck finding scallions), the lines remain long, the deli is woefully understaffed, and no one – including staff – knows where anything is. Or what tahini is.

    God, do I long for a day when a Harris Teeter like the one by Meridian Hill Park is as close as the Giant. I try and go to that whenever I can, but with the weather becoming…DC-ish, that walk is looking a lot more painful.

    On a side note, what’s up with the lack of bodegas/corner stores? Sometimes I just want a thing of half-and-half or sour cream or tonic water. How come we have to go to 7-11 or Giant for that?

  • I don’t care for the re-org. Maybe I just haven’t found what I’m looking for, but it seems that there is a decreased selection. Also, why in the world would they move loose produce out of the area with the automated water spray, and put bagged salad there? I foresee much complaining about wilted produce.

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