Dear PoPville – Crazy Long Lines Return to Columbia Heights Giant


“Dear PoPville,

I remember you covered the crazy lines at Giant in Columbia Heights at one point and they promised to keep all lines open at the busy times. But I’m here now, and it’s packed, not all lines are open, and most don’t have baggers.”

Were you there between 4-8pm?

Update thanks to a commenter for sharing a photo of the line Sunday at 6pm:


109 Comment

  • I’m sorry, but hen did they go away?

  • I made the mistake of shopping at 230 pm on Sunday the 3rd. The line for the self service check out was the deepest in terms of number of people – 30 or so – that I’ve waited in.

  • YES! Sunday at noon it was crazy. I think the policy only relates to weekdays between 4-8

  • colheights67

    I walked in yesterday (Sun Nov. 3) around 4:30, walked through the huge crowd, saw the self-checkout line had folks waiting almost to the end of the aisle, and walked out. Madhouse.

  • I was there last night (Sunday evening) and it was like the 7th circle of hell in there. I had 15 items, and probably waited a solid half an hour or more in a check out line that went down the aisle. In fact, every single line was like that.

    I hate, hate, hate going to that Giant, but I needed to grab groceries for a few days and didn’t feel like traveling far (I live in Park View) to a store. Every time I go in there, I immediately regret it. I really don’t understand why the lines in there are so outrageously long and on a consistent basis.

    • They are the only major supermarket in a very densely populated area: Columbia Heights and 14th St are the most crowded areas of DC, and the O St. Giant and Petworth Safeway are under construction.

      And they don’t put enough people on schedule to work at the cash registers. It’s the same problem near me at the SW Safeway. They pay their staff pretty well–both Giant and Safeway are unionized–and they don’t want to pay people more than they absolutely have to. Since they’re the only stores in their respective areas, there’s no incentive for them to provide an appropriate level of staffing. In SW, I think it will change when the Harris Teeter by Navy Yard opens (and even more in 2017 when there’s a whole foods too).

      • Interesting you mention that, because I usually travel to the SW Safeway for this exact reason. While I have been in a long line there, the cashiers are pretty good about keeping the line moving so that there isn’t an awful wait. Plus, I don’t think I’ve seen as many registers open at that Safeway as I do at Giant.

        Initially I thought, maybe what’s slowing them down is that the cashier has to bag and ring at the same time, but once I got to the register, I saw that all of them had baggers.

        But to your point ,I agree that perhaps the Giant is just not able to accommodate the number of people from the neighborhood.

        • Farragut

          Depends on when you go to the SW Safeway, it can be very crowded or at least lengthy to get through because of people rolling up with an extremely full shopping cart.

          Safeway has 6 self-service stations (when they’re working) and only about 5 or 6 actual staffed registers (2 or 3 of which are express lanes only), so if you’ve got more than 15 minutes you can have quite a wait with only a few lines to get into.

      • Yes, I think the construction is a big part of it. It’d be nice if they extended the rush hour policy of having every line open to Sunday as well. However, as inconvenient as it might be, I just don’t do my shopping on Sunday afternoon. No matter where you live, or what grocery store serves the area, it’s always the busiest (and to me, the worst) time of the week. I’ve had better luck with mornings, with getting a few things at farmer’s markets, and with taking advantage of the fact that it is a 24 hour store. It’s kind of annoying, and I don’t always have time, but it mostly works out. Hopefully, things will improve some when the other nearby stores reopen.

  • Please remember Friday was the first of the month, when I believe food subsidies and such show up at our less-than-fortunate neighbors. So this typically causes additional traffic.

  • This Sunday was the worst I’ve seen in a long time. At least part of the problem in my line was people forgetting the exact amount they had left in food stamp benefits — resulting in multiple rounds of trying to pay with the food stamp card before any success. If using food stamps requires recipients to remember, to the cent, how much of their benefits is left for the month, that’s an insane system.

    • It doesn’t require that. You swipe your card and it deducts the purchase price of your eligible items (food only–shampoo, diapers, toilet paper, etc. aren’t eligible for purchase with food stamps) and tells you what’s left so you can pay the balance. of course, if money’s tight, paying the balance might require some careful budgeting. Two other issues to consider:

      * in DC, food stamp distributions are spread over the first 10 days of the month–your day depends on your surname.

      * this month, everyone in the country food stamps had their benefits cut (it was the expiration of increases that came during the stimulus) so it is more confusing than usual.

      • That’s what I thought too — until I watched the card of the woman in front of me because she told the cashier she has $16 left, when in fact she had $15.33 left. After trying the card 3 times, the cashier found out the exact amount left on the card, entered it, and only then did it work.

        In any case, I hope it doesn’t usually work like that — I can’t imagine having to remember down to the cent!

        • I mean, of course it works like that. They have X dollars left. The system is not allowing them to spend more than X dollars. They get more money next month. I don’t see any issue here whatsoever. If you have $72.91 in your checking account, you are going to make sure you don’t overdraft… right?

    • I seem to find myself in line fairly regularly behind someone using paper stamps–they look kind of like large checks or deposit slips. These have to be incredibly confusing to use because even with the experienced cashiers, there’s always a bunch of back and forth over what can be bought with which “check.” Is this a different program than the card system?

  • I don’t know why anyone would want there to be baggers. My experience with them has always been terrible. They take too long and never care about properly packing the bags. Crush-able/soft items need to be on top. I don’t need all of the heaviest things I’m getting shoved into one bag. I say get rid of the baggers and bring in more cashiers.

  • These problems aren’t unique to this store. At the Georgetown Safeway, I’ve dealt with some pretty “slow” cashiers and even worse, idiot managers who clearly don’t give a damn.

    • +1

      I was just going to say this!! And while they have very friendly cashiers I have before seen the line at Trader Joe’s go around the entire store and nearly out the door.

    • I went to the Georgetown Safeway on Sunday afternoon at exactly this time, as it happens. I waited in line for about 3 minutes, with only one other person in front of me. I’m sorry, there’s just no comparison between these two grocery stores.

      • I’m not saying the Georgetown Safeway and the CH Giant are the same thing, but you got lucky if you only waited at the Gtown Safeway for a couple of minutes. Sunday evenings can be bad there, I have several times had to wait half an hour in line (yes, I timed it, by looking at the time stamp of texts I sent to alleviate boredom).

  • Got there around 6:30pm Sunday evening!!! Stood into a line that apparently was for two checkout lanes…..yet no one was directing customers!!!

    Shopping there you need the use the buddy system: Have your buddy get in line when you arrive while you go shop!!!

  • I used to live inm Mt.P and used this grocery store. Do not miss it at all.

  • This Giant is horrible. If i just need a few items, I pop into Target. There lines always move very quickly and they have the basics like milk, eggs, cereal, etc. If i am doing serious grocery shopping I travel down to the Harris Teeter near the park. It’s a much better grocery store and the lines are never as bad.

    • Exactly – Target has lots of good produce, salad mixes etc. and Harris Teeter is simply a hundred times faster and nicer. The only time I’ve ever seen long lines at HT was superbowl Sunday with pre-game shopping. They are always monitoring the lines and jumping to open new ones as needed.

    • +1 Target. As a CH resident, I have learned to avoid that Giant like the plague. Target has most everything I need, and a ton of registers always open. Even during crazy rush, the wait at Target will be about 5 mins max.

      I did go to Giant this week to use a $5 off coupon that came in the mail, around 4 on a weekday. Even that was cutting it close to the rush, and I had to bump around boxes and shopping carts. No good.

    • shhh, don’t tell the secrets!

  • By far one of the worst grocery stores I have ever had the misfortune of shopping in. I find, if you must go on the weekend, time your trip to the start of the Redskins game. Traffic is much reduced. I normally wait in the self checkout line that runs down the gluten-free/frozen section. This is probably why I always seem to buy tater-tots.

  • It was a mess yesterday at 6pm but whatever it always is on the weekend. That’s why I own a smartphone.

  • Why not just go up to Rockville to get groceries?

    • I can’t tell whether you are being sarcastic, but in the event that you were being sincere: many of us don’t own cars! I happen to own Zipcar/Car2Go/EnterpriseCarshare accounts, and hate that it feels more appealing to drop $20+ on a car rental than wait in these lines at the local supermarket. And for the many people who don’t have those carshare accounts, the options are even fewer.

  • I’ve been to that Giant once. Waited 20 mins for ~3-4 people to check out. Never again.

    I’d rather starve or eat at Arby’s every night of the week rather than shopping there.

  • Why not walk down to the Harris Teeter on Kalorama? It’s a much nicer grocery store and the time saved in line probably equals if not exceeds the time for the walk.

    • True (and I shop at both stores) but depending on where someone lives relative to the Giant, the walk to HT can add a substantial amount of time–not a bad thing if you’re just out for a stroll on a nice day, but it can make a big difference if you’re hauling a decent amount of groceries.

    • houseintherear

      Love the Teet, especially the Kalorama location.

  • thank the union!

  • This is why we need a full grocery store at 965 Florida Ave!

  • Mug of Glop

    I got there at about 6 last night (Sunday) and the lines were crazy long indeed. I spent about 25 minutes shopping and the same amount of time in the self-checkout line. It looked like most, if not all of the registers were open, but lines were still a third to halfway to the back of the store, and the self-checkout line was clear to the opposite end of the aisles. If it were just busy, I’d be able to understand it. But even when it’s not busy, it seems like each transaction in a manned checkout is so slow. I can’t really offer an explanation why, other than maybe they need better training. The fact that getting checked out by a human is such a pain drives people with ever larger orders and ever smaller technical know-how to the self-checkout lanes, where the problems just become compounded.

    I wonder how many sales they lose because it’s so hard to shop there when half the aisles are just packed with people waiting to get out of there.

  • I used to have to go there at 8AM on Sunday. I’ve since left the area and am supremely thankful I did.

    That Giant is so poorly run it’s laughable. People there do not work hard and then get mad at customers when they get upset about the terrible job they do. It’s a fact.

  • this was the line on Sunday at about 6PM:

  • The crazy thing is that they still put displays in the middle of the aisles to promote impulse buying, when they really just need to ease movement through the store. I’ve noticed that the Safeway at 5th and Mass is starting to get busier too, even in the odd hours that I shop.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the new Giant opens at 7th and O. Hopefully they’re planning for lots of people…

    • I can’t tell you how much I hate those *(&^ things. There’s barely enough room for two carts to pass each other in the aisle without them. I’m surprised they don’t get knocked over more often.

  • There are a bunch of reasonable explanations in this string as to why the Giant would be so busy, on this occassion or just in general: its large captive market and the timing of SNAP benefits stand out. But they can’t fully explain why other, similar stores don’t get as snarled. There are usually plenty of cashiers and lots of self-checkout aisles, and things STILL don’t move. The Giant is really broken. I’m always tempted to ask the managers at the Giant if they’re aware of the problem and, if so, what they’re going to do about it. Maybe some day, when there’s no line.

  • There have been a couple of comments blaming the fact that Giant employees are unionized for the long wait times. What’s the explanation there? Since they’re unionized it’s okay if they work more slowly? Or do they get additional breaks due to their union membership? Or is the store prevented from having more than a certain number of employees on at certain times? Just curious if there are any facts being marshalled in the claim against unions and if so what they are. Thanks!

    • yes, yes, and no, to your specific questions, along with the fact that the union imposes a bureaucratic framework on hiring and firing which gets in the way of good customer service.

      • That’s total bs. This person has a political ax to grind against unions. If the others are talking about how great the Georgetown Safeway is and the Adams Morgan Safeway, that is the exact same union at all of the grocery stores in DC. So if the Giant is crap because of the union then all of the unionized stores would be bad and clearly others don’t think that.

        The Giant in Columbia Heights always has long lines because there are tons of people who live here and the store isn’t big enough to handle all the traffic.

        • Actually I worked at Giant when I was younger and have direct personal experience with the union. The Giants and Safeways in the area are uniformly worse than the non-unionized groceries – Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s amongst them. There’s a reason for that.

          • What’s wrong with Giant besides the long lines? At least their deli staff as a rule can take orders involving fractions despite having a digital scale. In fact asking for anything behind a counter is more nerve-wracking at Whole Foods and Harris Teeter than it is at Giant or Safeway (actually Whole Foods on P St. has improved greatly recently, but up to a year ago I’d get “what’s a 1/5 a pound? A half-pound?”).

          • why the hell would you order a 1/5 pound at a deli?

          • “why the hell would you order a 1/5 pound at a deli?”

            The Italian meats are $20/lb (and rich)

          • So that extra dollar would have really broken the bank had you ordered a quarter pound like normal people? Maybe you should stay away from $20/lb meats, eh?

    • Just look at all the scowling, miserable people in the self-checkout lane next time you go. They’re all young Republicans working for nazi congressmen from the flyovers and astroturf lobbies downtown. Of course they’re complaining about unions, that’s what they get paid to do.

      • Comparing Republicans to Nazis? You win the mouth breather comment of the day!

        • No no, the comparison is apt, but as someone who thinks that AND used that self-checkout on occasion, I take offense to the blanket tarnishing of self-checkout users!

  • i can’t help but wonder if there is really an incentive to do anything about it. yes they may lose a few customers (like myself) but on the whole people still shop there in droves.

    • Exactly. They have a captive customer base who can’t/are too lazy to go anywhere else. Why put more staff on the registers and waste company money when you can waste customers’ time for free without consequences?
      Vote with your dollars by going elsewhere and then maybe the Giant will improve. However, it’s the only grocery store in the densest area of the city. They are probably already operating at nearly full capacity.

      • Mug of Glop

        It’s not really laziness so much as it’s a huge relative pain in the ass for everyone that lives within a few blocks of the Giant to head to another store, either because it’s a long walk or it involves hopping on a bus or train. What’s really baffling is why people that choose to drive there (and there are many) drive to this Giant instead of any other grocery store. It can’t be more than marginally more difficult to drive to another store that’s less terrible.

  • Amazon grocery delivery can’t happen soon enough.

    Anybody who shops at this store knows they are in for a bad time. It’s been horrible for years, and never really got any better after the management’s pledge.

    • No, it got MUCH better for a while. I live a block from there and never shop anywhere else. But then they started slacking off again.

      And in response to bb above… yes! What’s with those aisle displays?? I’m tempted to start “accidentally” mowing them down and making sure that the nearest employee/ manager knows that I’m very sorry, but given the crowding being exacerbated by the checkout line stretching down the aisle, it was simply unavoidable. I figure if a few dozen of this do this every time we shop, either the checkout lines will improve, or they’ll stop blocking the aisles with impulse racks.

      • Don’t be an entitled passive-aggressive dick. A low-paid stockist will have to clean up the mess you make. Just file a complaint with the manager.

  • I’ve been shopping at this Giant for about three years, and listening to people complain about it for about as long. I don’t get it. I haven’t had a problem shopping there since they agreed to open all of the lines between 4PM and 8PM on weekdays. This is very weird, I’m known as a fussbudget, and I actually really like this Giant. The main problem is all of the people who insist on shopping for one or two items and then wait in the incredibly long self-service lanes. If they’d just make a normal weekly shopping trip, it would be a better experience. But if you really want the line in all supermarkets everywhere to speed up, they need to stop accepting personal checks and force the folks who do this to use ATM cards like the rest of us. It isn’t the unions, it’s young people with two items in their basket and old ladies with checkbooks.

    • (1) Not everyone can carry dog food, detergent and a week’s worth of groceries with 2 arms.

      (2) Not everyone can live on Rice a Roni. Vegetables need to be fresh.

  • You live in a city. There are lots of people in a small area. Stop complaining and just go to the grocery store on a less popular day or during less popular hours. Isn’t that one of the benefits of living in a place where amenities are within walking distance of your home? I was at whole foods on p street yesterday and it was a chaotic mess, as it is almost every evening. There were way fewer items available than on other days because everyone was stocking up for the week on the same day. So, guess what? I’m going back after work today when everything will be restocked and fewer people will be stocking up. You say it’s the workers and neighborhood demographics. Sounds like poor planning to me.

    • Totally agree! I try to avoid going to Whole Foods on Sunday after 11:00 AM, because It is always pretty chaotic with long lines. Weeknight evenings are almost as bad. I also never go to the CH Giant. Harris Teeter is the best grocery store to go to on Sunday, hands down.

  • Can’t believe people at such absurd times. What do you expect. Go at 8:30 am (wine, beer cannot be checked before 9:00 am). Warning: do not get in a line with a customer who is using a tattered wheelie suitcase as their cart/bag.

  • I went in on Sunday afternoon and walked right back out… It was surprisingly much better over at Target

  • Who goes to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon/evening? Everybody.
    All grocery stores have this issue. Switch up your schedule. Or shop during the redskins game.


  • Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant are the most underserved hoods for groceries. And now that DCUSA filled the potential grocer spaces in the mall there is basically no incentive for Giant to up their game. Too bad the Whole Foods or Ellwoods never came to fruition. they would have made a killing and alleviated the grocery crunch. Now I dont even know of a space big enough to add a grocer. Basically stuck with the shitty safeway on columbia rd and the shitty giant. Its funny because safeway seems to be developing all their dc stores into condos with nice new safeways on the ground level. But the one store they skipped right over was in Adams Morgan. Seems silly considering Adams Morgan is so sought after and all the infill development going on there with the Hotel, Ontario Condos. Exxon Condos. Dorchester house condo expansion. Lot of yuppies headed that way

    • “Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant are the most underserved hoods for groceries.” Not by a long shot. Have you BEEN to other parts of the city?

      • Seriously. Mt. P has its own market, plus is equidistant from the Safeway on Columbia and Giant (plus Target). Not too bad. What does Shaw currently have? I’m thinking of the area around U and 7-9th st. Nothing around there. Once the Giant down on P opens, it will be much better.

        And of course that is just in NW. I am sure there are many, truly underserved areas in NE and SE.

  • Honestly, I don’t go there SOLELY because the lines are too long. Especially on the occasions where I want to buy three quick items, the long lines are prohibitive. The time I spend in line is at least 3 times as long as it takes to actually shop.

  • Eagerly awaiting the petworth Safeway. Can’t believe I am typing those words.

  • The managers at the Columbia Heights Giant are really great. They are always in the checkouts checking people out and ensuring the lines don’t get held up by breaks/shift changes. I know Jorge from when he was at the now closed Giant on Wisconsin Ave, and he is awesome. At that Giant he was super helpful and friendly and could move staff and customers around to get everyone through the line in no time. The issue with this Giant is that there are way too many customers all coming at the exact same time. I think the staff are friendly and fast but they can’t help it when the lines are full of people making multiple purchases with different payment methods, ladies arguing with them for 10 minutes on whether or not they get a credit for a reusable bag they brought but didn’t use and hundreds of young people buying their 15 items all at the exact same time. I like to go to the Columbia Heights Giant before work on weekday, when it’s raining or after 10 pm because it’s deserted and you never wait in line. This one will definitely be less congested when the Safeway in Petworth opens.

    • I agree – I’ve never had any issues with the staff here. They always know where everything is (unlike you, Van Ness Giant) and the checkers are always hustling and personable and polite. I’m convinced it’s the sheer numbers of people in there at any given time.

  • Last time I saw a line that long was when I went to a Safeway in Alexandria, VA, after work the night before a huge snowstorm was supposed to hit. Maybe the underlying problem is the same – volume. Even if every register is open and every self-checkout stand is operating, there may still be times when there are so many people shopping that long lines result. And keep in mind that the people who work in these stores have to have breaks as well. I would not expect an employee to work through his or her break, or avoid using the bathroom, just to get me out of the store quicker.

  • The Safeway on Piney Branch is just as bad. The only way to be guaranteed to avoid spending >45 minutes checking out there is to go before 3:30 on a weekday.

  • I don’t mind this Safeway that much. The selection isn’t bad, the staff, especially in the pharmacy, is always really nice, and I expect to wait in line because of the size of the population using that store. My only problem is that they promise to have all the checkouts open during the peak time, and they NEVER DO. I don’t think it would make that much of a difference, but having to stare at that big sign with the promise on it while your milk curdles is just irritating. Like someone in the next cubicle drumming their fingers incessantly. I’d report it to management, but I really don’t want a free chicken.

  • Slightly off topic, but does anyone know the opening date for the O St Market Giant? All I can find is “early november”

  • lovefifteen

    When I moved to DC almost eight years ago, I was dumbfounded by the long lines at this Giant. Slow lines like this were unheard of in the part of the US that I come from. I haven’t been back to that store in almost seven years. I can’t believe the lines are still so long!!

  • I made the mistake of going in there last night around 615pm. All the cashier lines were open and the lines were backed up to the far end in every aisle. And yes, this is typical after food stamp benefits are handed out at the first of the month (not being a jerk, it’s a fact). People are probably stocking up before the cuts kick in (or have they already?). So after checking things out for about all of two minutes, I decided that waiting to buy marked down Chobanni yogurts could wait for another day. Or just start shopping on Peapod.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    “…and most don’t have baggers.”
    So why don’t you stop being so lazy and bag your own groceries instead of standing there and complaining about it. This goes for all Americans. It’s amazing to me how people in this country will whine and moan about long grocery lines, but then when your turn at the register comes you sit there like a bump on a log. If there’s no one to bag groceries, help the poor soul checking you out who probably isn’t making much above minimum wage.

  • I witnessed the madhouse as well, but decided to call an audible and get my gronkamole supplies at the Panamericana Market a few blocks north of Giant. I was quite pleased with myself… and you can too.

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