The daily logjam at the checkout at the nearby Safeway on Shoreline Boulevard has become public enemy No. 1 for the nearby neighborhood. Whether a shopper is buying only a carton of milk or enough food to last the month, residents in the Moffett Boulevard neighborhood say they no longer expect any trip to the grocery store will be speedy.
The same scene plays out daily, they say. A few beleaguered cashiers working the checkout stand have long queues of shoppers that extend farther and farther back into the aisles. The supermarket has no self-checkout, and the express lanes are typically closed, residents say. Some say they occasionally see frustrated customers abandon their stocked shopping carts and leave because they can't endure the wait.
"If you go any weekday after work, then good luck: you're going to be camping out in the line for quite a while," said George Markle, a longtime resident. "This is taking a bite out of everyone's day, but you start thinking about this and you wonder: 'Why is this happening?"
That's the big question that has fixated residents in the neighborhood. On the local Nextdoor page, the topic has blown up with hundreds of messages from residents venting about their experiences or offering tips about the best times to go. Many have announced they are ditching the nearby Safeway for online grocery services or supermarkets in other parts of town.
The checkout-line problem has persisted for months, and many observers agree that the store seems to be severely understaffed. Safeway is hardly alone in grappling with that problem. Across the Peninsula, many retail and restaurant employers have struggled with a scarcity of workers.
In true Mountain View spirit, some in the Moffett Boulevard neighborhood have also gone one step further by putting their minds toward solving the problem. Markle, a 66-year-old retiree, seems to have taken on this challenge like it was a part-time job.
Last week, he sent off a polished report to Safeway's corporate board of directors making the case for why the store urgently needed to change. To show how customers were unsatisfied, he conducted his own polling data and graphed out a steady decline in the store's Yelp reviews. The problem would only get worse, he warned, pointing to more than 1,000 new apartments that would soon be built in the neighborhood.
To his surprise, Safeway sent back a response, promising the store would be adjust its scheduling and hire more cashiers to alleviate the long lines.
"We strive to be customer-service oriented in all aspects of our business and we make every effort to correct the situation when we fall short that goal," wrote Safeway spokewoman Wendy Gutshall in a statement to the Voice.
It was great to actually get a response, Markle said, although he probably still avoid the supermarket.
"I'm ashamed to say this, but my solution to all this has been to let my wife do the shopping," he said.