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There is a Price for our Convenience

by Prince Of Petworth January 25, 2016 at 3:00 pm 60 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user justinbc

A reader alleges:

“The employees of the Columbia Heights Giant (14th & Park) were ordered to come in Friday/Saturday/Sunday without any extra compensation or travel assistance. The workers I talked to ended up staying overnight at friends’ houses in the neighborhood so that they could make their shifts.

This is ridiculous.”

  • Anonymous

    Probably explain a lot why the service there is so horrible. Management is even worse.

  • gilla

    Thanks for letting me know. I don’t shop there and will continue not to.

  • INDC

    Hmmm…can we can confirm this? If it is true, it’s horrible (and maybe grounds for some sort of law suit). I can’t imagine why a company would do something so stupid as to not provide at least overtime/holiday pay/etc. Which is part of the reason I have hard time believing this.

    • nyc_to_ma

      Clearly you’ve never worked retail.

    • Anon Spock

      They aren’t required to give anything extra (unless the hours worked were overtime which should be paid accordingly), and you can be fired for not showing up.
      I’m sure it’s true.

    • anon

      Why is it that professional, white-collar people who get certain benefits from their employers, which have become standard for many such employers, think that the laws on workers rights reflect those benefits? We have a system of few workers rights in this country – there are wages and hours laws, often easily skirted by employers, and then you can’t be fired or treated differently for a discriminatory reason, based on certain types of discrimination that have been ruled illegal (also often easily skirted, and for different pay and treatment, pretty much are standard practices.) That’s it – you can be fired for no reason at all, or any reason, as long as it isn’t a discriminatory reason. That’s what employment at will means. That’s why people founded unions over a century ago, to bargain for some rights. Maybe you are from another country? That’s the only explanation I can think of.

      • Workers at both the lower and upper end of the pay scale have done themselves a disservice in this country by not making all of their salaries public. It especially hurts women and minorities, but even white guys could benefit when negotiating if they knew exactly how much others in their position made. Nobody wants to talk about how much they make because they’re afraid it will make them appear inferior (or the other side they just want to be able to boast without backing it up), but by keeping the salaries “secret” it continually allows employers to have an invisible ceiling over you.

        • wdc

          Someone note the date: I wholeheartedly agree with Justin. Historic day.

        • INDC

          Agreed. I don’t know how much salary transparency would lead to fairer pay but it certainly would be a great start.

    • anonymous

      I got called in to work on Saturday and on my way home my suv got stuck and it tookme 6hrs between two days to make it up my alley. My boss told me i get to bill that time since it was because of work I had to leave my home.

    • Lawsuit? On what grounds? I know this is a litigious happy city we live in, but please get the details of these workers’ contracts before deciding the owners are inherently at fault.

    • AmyM

      It’s horrible, but typical. When I was in undergrad, I was required to drag into my job *at a salon* or risk being fired, snow emergency and all. And people still skidded in sideways to have their hair done because how can we be expected to live with our natural hair color?

      It’s not a holiday and it’s not overtime. It sucks and it’s horrible but it is what it is. (Of course, it’s that way because people, for the most part, look at retail workers as cogs in the machine. We expect service when we need it, and retailers recognize this.)

  • reality

    That’s awful. The city was under a state of emergency with directions not to be outside or on the roads, and yet Giant was requiring their employees to be there. Why? Last-minute shoppers should have known to grab their milk and bread by Thursday and midday Friday.

  • 10thSt

    I heard the same from several bartenders in Shaw. It seems a catch 22. I want to support local small businesses but not at the expense of my fellow man/woman.

    • It’s great to support them, especially if they “forced” to come in (although if you work shifts you possibly need the tips regardless of your mindset for being there), just make sure you’re extra friendly and tip well assuming management won’t be providing them anything extra. There were some patrons who came into Maketto this weekend during their brief opening hours who were real $@%#$@@$&ers.

      • jdre

        I ditto that making sure to tip extra would be a great thing to do.

      • The OP Anon

        Let’s just say all the bartenders I encountered made sure there was LOTS of “breakage” over the past few days. Got tons of free drinks in exchange for generous tips.
        If you force your staff to trudge in, they will find a way to f*ck over the owner. Penny wise, pound foolish.

    • Jamie

      I’ve been a bartender in DC for over 10 years. It doesn’t matter what is going on in terms of weather. Show up, or lose your job, and/or get shit from managers who don’t care about their employees safety. local places may be nicer, especially if enough of their employees can walk, but they are not the norm. Any longtime bar or restaurant most likely gave employees few options this weekend. Work, or figure out other options.

    • JohnH

      The thing to do is to not visit the establishments period.
      They are being forced to come into work so they can be open. If their sales suck, they probably won’t open in that situation again. If they are busy, you may feel good giving them a tip – but it’s just going to continue the same practice.

    • Anon

      Murphy’s in Old Town paid to rent out a block of rooms for their staff to stay in for the weekend. I thought it was great, and didn’t realize how rare it was.

      • west_egg

        Ted’s Bulletin on 14th did something similar; the news reported that one of the chefs was shuttling staff (who’d volunteered to stay through the storm) between the hotel and the restaurant in his SUV.

      • eggs

        I heard A Town in Ballston did the same thing. It’s really the only decent thing to do, if you’re going to ask your employees to come in during something like this.

      • jumpingjack

        Busboys Takoma got empty apartments upstairs for staff to stay in during the storm so it could be open Sunday. It’s something, but staff still had to spend Friday and Saturday nights in sleeping bags.

  • The Worst

    Worst grocery store in DC, hands down. I lived 5 minutes from there and have gone 3 times in 5 years.

    • SassyinDC

      I would counter that Safeway in Hillcrest on Alabama Avenue, SE is worse.

      • west_egg

        Yeah, CH Giant can get pretty insane but it’s far from the worst. I’d rank it above the Petworth Safeway, for sure.

  • jdre

    I agree that this really sucks – but the volume of comments from people in utter shock is surprising. Have that many people never held minimum wage jobs? How are that many people that out of touch with how the working public operates?

    Why don’t they just get their driver to take them to work?
    They have no bread? Why aren’t they eating cake?

    • jcm

      Most of the people who read and comment here have never been poor or working class, and have literally no conception of how the poor and working class in America live. It’s not surprising that they are surprised. The gap between the haves and the have-nots (or have-a-littles) is huge, and growing, and it’s not just an economic gap. It’s cultural and experiential as well.

      • jdre

        It’s sad, and says a lot about DC in 2016.

      • Anonamom

        I think you are spot on that a lot people have no clue what it is like to risk your own saefty to go to a shitty job because said shitty job iis better than the unemployment line. However, it takes those exact types of people to align their shock with action to make change occur. Let’s face it – businesses listen to those who affect their bottom line. As always, if you do not agree with a business’s employment/business practices, don’t patronize them or their subsidiaries. Make noise. Be a voice for the voiceless.

      • spookiness

        It is not uncommon today for the youngsters to finish a master’s degree, yet have never held any paid position. I don’t mean to be all get-off-my-lawn, but I worked restaurant and hospitality from age 15 through the end of undergrad. People who don’t work in service occupations expect service. You have to work in any weather, and if you don’t work you don’t get paid. Could you imagine the uproar if Giant decided to shut down on Thursday night?

        • anon

          Between undergrad and completing my Ph.D, I did the following:
          -worked illegally at a camera shop
          -washed dishes
          -worked at a comic shop
          -delivered pizza
          -worked at a record shop
          -worked as a carpenter
          -substitute taught in high school
          -unloaded trucks at UPS
          -taught English to immigrants
          -delivered pizza (again)
          -worked construction (in a painfully hot part of the country)
          -worked the equivalent of three full-time jobs as a part-time instructor at various colleges
          -supplemented my income busting my ass in a shitty punk band

          My students today have never even mowed a goddam lawn, let alone had a job that left them calloused, bloody, and stinky. I hold them in contempt… can’t help it. They’re soft.

          • anon

            Get off my lawn! But try mowing it first!

      • Longfellow

        This seems very true. This is the first blizzard I’ve had a “professional” job and haven’t had to drag my butt into work, through mountains of unplowed snow, to cook other people’s food or clean up their messes. It’s nice to sit home, do my work via computer, and not worry. I can imagine people who have only had this kind of job not quite understanding how everyone else experiences snow.

        Don’t forget all the peolle driving plows, either. Not sure about down here, but up in New England my neighbors would put in 12-16 hour shifts on back-to-back days to move that snow. Make hay while the sun shines, right?

      • anonymous

        I myself was witness to a horrifying display of epically privileged ignorance this Friday in sweet, little, farmers-market-loving, generally-liberal, Mt. Pleasant. There I was standing in line at Sambar market, behind one of those perfectly attractive and friendly families with 2-3 smiling children. They were, like descent people, having a very friendly discussion with the owner about snow storm plans. They even seemed to be on a first name basis with the owner’s wife. At some point the owner’s wife mentioned that the (60 yr old?) owner planned to sleep in the store, keeping it open for the neighborhood and no doubt to bring in a little bit of extra revenue. Without losing a beat, or her friendly tone, this smiling, well-educated, well-dressed, 40ish mother says, with all sincerity, “Why would you do that? That’s crazy! This is why you need to live in the District! Why don’t you live in the Mt. Pleasant? This is why you should live here. You should live here so you don’t have such a terrible commute!” Smiling awkwardly, the owner and his wife said nothing. I silently wondered what this world is coming to.

        • Anons

          Cringe-worthy for sure.

  • Anonamom

    First off, I agree with the need to confirm this. Secondly, does Giant no longer have union representation? While understand that there is a significant argument regarding how much/little unions actually benefit their members, this seems like a case where having representation can help, perhaps not in the short run, but hopefully long term.
    Having worked in healthcare for well over 10 years in various capacities, I have always been expected to report on time to work regardless of weather conditions. When I was a caregiver, this meant being expected to pack a bag and plan on staying for as many days as needed. I have, unfortunately, been the manager who has to discipline folks for not showing up for shifts. I have also been the manager who drives her own vehicle to go pick people up and take them home to ensure that the facility is fully staffed for the safety of patients. When I moved in to purely admin support positions, I was still expected to be at work when conditions were poor under the “all workers are essential” policies of two major hospitals in the area – even though in all of my positions at those hospitals I had zero patient interaction and was purely there in an administrative function. Missing a day due to snow might not necessarily mean losing your job, but it would absolutely be held against you and could absolutely lead to termination. When I worked at Hospital Center, some admins were in the union, and at least they could not be fired without significant hoop jumping. Those of us who were non-union were pretty much on our own. Having said that though, there are cases where union members were fired for not showing up for shifts. This was a big deal some years ago at Hospital Center and I believe more recently at Providence Hospital.
    Anyway, just wanted to point out that this issue affects many people in various industries. Those of us who work for organizations that follow OPM closings or who are given the option to telework are incredibly fortunate.

    • jdre

      I was UFCW for a decade, and we had no inclement weather policy/benefit. (To be honest, we had very few benefits)

      • Anonamom

        Is that who they are represented by? I remember a strike when I was kid and it was Teamsters then. Not that Teamsters is any better….. I just remember us not shopping there because my (formerly) liberal mom refused to cross the picket line.

        • zartan

          when i worked at giant 20 years ago the truckers were teamsters and the rest of the staff (at least in the stores) were UFCW.

  • Anonymous business owner

    We closed on Saturday. We had intended to stay open, but it just wasn’t safe for our staff. The few who live outside the district were relieved. The majority who live nearby were unhappy because they wanted the hours. So we opened Sunday, with a rearrangement of duties to cover those who couldn’t get in. No one is getting fired. The very idea makes my blood boil.
    What jcm was saying about how little people understand the lives of the other side… our employees who missed 2 or 3 days of work due to the closing and the lack of transit are going to have a VERY tight month; we’re trying to figure out a way for them to make up some hours.

    • zartan

      and this is the other side of the equation – if these stores don’t open, the workers don’t get paid since they’re hourly. I suspect at least some of them preferred to have the chance to find their way to work (and get the paycheck they depend on) than come up short on their bills.

    • Anon

      Thank you for being a good business owner, employer, and neighbor.

    • Jamie

      Can I work for you?

    • PetworthAdam

      This was my first thought. I’m always looking for hours wherever I can find them. That Giant probably has a hundred employees and I bet that at least a few of them wanted those hours. Also, I’m sure that many many people were immensely relieved to find a grocery store open.

      I do feel for anybody that was forced to put themselves in danger to get to work, but we don’t really know that that is the case here.

  • Shaw Resident

    That’s odd because the Giant employees at the City Market at O street Giant told me they were given hotel rooms at the Cambria hotel right there to stay in all weekend. I assume there is different management at the different locations.

    • elbeech

      I agree with the need to confirm this. Other issues aside, I asked a cashier at the CH Giant Saturday if she lived nearby and she said Giant was putting her up in a hotel.

  • boybert

    So… how many people would’ve been totally fine with Giant not being open, or with it being understaffed (even longer lines, even less well-stocked shelves etc)? I’m not saying it’s OK what the workers were subjected to, but I think there would’ve been a similar “it’s ridiculous!” post if the store had been closed and someone couldn’t get their organic produce or whatever in the middle of a blizzard.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, I was totally surprised they were open. So I would have been totally fine with them not being open. Reasonable expectations for a major snow event.

  • Anon X

    Harris teeter put their employees up in a hotel. One more reason they’re better than giant.

  • Columbia Heights Resident

    The Giant staff I spoke with at 14th & Park, NW. said the store had hotel rooms for them to stay in, so worth clarifying with the store’s management and staff before reaching additional conclusions

    • Anonymous

      This whole post is kind of icky rumor.

  • JasonInColumbiaHeights

    They absolutely had hotels rooms and were provided transportation back and forth from their hotel room.

    People please check your facts before you post something like this. While I admit the service is not that great at the CH Giant, there are a lot of really good employees their that do indeed care!!!

    • MPinDC

      I don’t understand all the negative comments about this Giant. It’s crowded and sometimes they run out of things. But the staff are friendly and helpful, they stock what I need, and it’s convenient.

      • saf

        That’s how I feel about it too.

      • Anon

        I agree with both of you. No matter how many positive changes they make at that Giant there will always be some commenter declaring it the worst.grocery.store.ever. Sometimes (not often) they run out of things, but I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with the staff. Same goes for the remodeled Petworth safeway.

        • eva

          After the years of having to shop in the old Giant on 14th street (where the Allegro is now), I still want to kiss the floor of the Park Road Giant when I walk through the doors. Not it’s not perfect, but it’s another world compared to what we used to have to live with. It’s no longer my primary grocery store because I’ve moved closer to another, but I don’t hate it.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think people realize the amount of business that have to stay open during snow storms. Even the hotels that other employees are staying at have to have full time employees there, as well. I work at a hotel downtown and only had to work two shifts of the snow weekend, but that still meant being stuck at the hotel for 48 hours. There were more employee rooms than guest rooms. The amount of people who come up and say “Oh no! You shouldn’t be working in this, go home!” is infuriating.

  • say what

    this is a union store and they need to rely on the union to deal with this. They actually have more rights than most retail workers. God knows they can’t be fired for shitty attitude and incompetance, I seriously they doubt the OP had all the facts.

  • anonshaw

    I spoke to a worker at the Giant in Shaw on Friday morning and he said that they would be working throughout the storm but their management would put them up at the Cambria hotel just a block down from the store…I guess management varies greatly from one Giant store to another in the district.


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