Grocery checkout resembles a breadline | March 24, 2017 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - March 24, 2017

Grocery checkout resembles a breadline

Neighborhood irate over Safeway store's lengthy lines

by Mark Noack

Like waiting at the DMV or heading to the courthouse for jury duty, almost everyone can relate to certain unavoidable hassles. In Mountain View, one such common gripe has become especially unbearable as of late: the long lines at the grocery store.

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.

Email Mark Noack at


10 people like this
Posted by Jeremy Hoffman
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 24, 2017 at 6:55 pm

Sounds like Safeway needs to hire more cashiers. But, ah! Where would those cashiers find housing?

4 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 24, 2017 at 9:04 pm

Safeway is exploiting their monopoly in the area, are you really going to drive 15 minutes longer to shop at another store? No, you will wait 15 mins in line instead.

Notice that there are never long lines in the San Antonio store. People wouldn't put up with it, they would walk across the street to Sprouts, Trader Joe's, Milk Pail, etc.

9 people like this
Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 25, 2017 at 7:17 am


There are very long lines in the San Antonio store every day after work.

5 people like this
Posted by Solution
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2017 at 8:46 am

Long lines are everywhere after work, not just this safeway. Go early in the morning before work. Problem solved.

9 people like this
Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 25, 2017 at 9:42 am


Ok, please show up at my house at 6:30AM on Monday to help my children get ready for school

3 people like this
Posted by backtosafeway
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 25, 2017 at 11:39 am

Thank you George Markle. Your ability to take such a keen interest in our collective woes and craft such a fine letter is outstandingly impressive. I have noticed more checkers over the last week.

3 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2017 at 11:48 am

I suspect it is due to minimum wage and/or the lack of available potential employees.

The solution would be more self serve checkouts.

Minimum wage means that the cost of hourly paid staff is higher than it used to be. Even a 16 year old bagger in an after school job still has to be paid minimum wage. Staffing costs are high and so stores run on a minimum complement of staff to keep prices low.

Lack of staff is due to two reasons, I think. Firstly it is expensive for low income people to live around here and they probably are moving to areas of lower rents. Secondly, there are fewer high school students who want after school jobs for all sorts of reasons. They are busy with school and jobs are not something they want - perhaps because parents are too likely to give them spending money or drive them to where they want to go which negates the need for saving for a car.

I'm not surprised that grocery lines are long and I feel sure this is going to be more widespread. Why else do places like Target and WalMart bring in self serve checkouts.

15 people like this
Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

I think PA Resident has it right. This happened almost immediately after (and I think as a direct result of) the minimum wage increase. I have spoken on this topic many times and even predicted this as a result (that there would be layoffs of low wage workers and/or they would be replaced by automation.

This is what happens when Government tries to set wage and price controls, you get long lines, inefficient systems, higher prices and a host of other negative results.

I do all the grocery shopping for my family and I have noticed a price spike of 25% on average for staple products such as milk, bread, cheese, fruits and vegetables; but I suppose that we are supposed to blame the "greedy stores" for trying to make a profit instead of operating as non-profits or charities. After all, isn't having food a right?

Richard Nixon tried wage and price controls and failed. The Soviet Union tried wage and price controls and failed. Argentina tried wage and price controls and failed. Greece tried wage and price controls and failed. However Bay Area City Governments are so much smarter than those people, surely they can make it work THIS time despite the 100% failure rate of the past?

Jim Neal
Old Mountain View

7 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 26, 2017 at 3:28 pm

The problem has nothing to do with housing or minimum wage. That's a ridiculous excuse. The Safeway across town can staff their location. The Sprouts, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco and Milk Pail don't have lines out the door. It is pure mismanagement from Safeway.

Mountain View should pass a local ordinance - grocery stores are strictly not allowed to have lines that exceed 10 minutes wait, with a fine of up to $1000 per day. Every other grocery store in town would have no problem meeting that standard. Safeway would either have to staff their location (fine) or close it down (preferred) where it would be replaced by a Trader Joe's, Sprouts, or Whole Foods within a week.

3 people like this
Posted by Richard M
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 27, 2017 at 2:09 pm

One way to pass the time while you wait in these horrific lines to buy your groceries is to use your iPhone and make a donation to the United Way. Perhaps your donation could help buy food for a family that lives on the edge of starvation every day.

2 people like this
Posted by Monta Loma
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 27, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Yeah, I've stood in these insane lines a few times.

I've asked for the manager twice. Both times I was told they are working on hiring more cashiers.

I do believe the job market is competitive right now. Every retail business has hiring signs up. It's a good problem to have but hard when you're standing in line at Safeway for an hour.

It's up to us customers to vote with our dollars. I've been shopping at the Walmart Grocery Store off 101 in Santa Clara. The prices are way better and they have plenty of cashiers.

Considering the prices Safeway charges you'd think they could afford a few more cashiers.. we'll see.

2 people like this
Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 27, 2017 at 2:39 pm

There is no space for self-service checkstands at the Shoreline Safeway...not even at the Miramonte Safeway either. There simply is not enough space. BUT I even see long lines for self check-out as well.

4 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 27, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Bernardo Safeway has self-checkout. No waiting.

2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 27, 2017 at 9:16 pm

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." ~Yogi

30 people like this
Posted by First World Problem
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 27, 2017 at 9:18 pm

I go to the military commissary on Moffett Field. Prices are rock bottom, no lines and they bag your groceries and help you to your car with them. Of course, you'll have to suffer through three deployments and put your life on your line fighting for all the entitled people who complain about long lines at Safeway.

6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 27, 2017 at 9:22 pm

The lines are ridiculous. I stood in line for 5 minutes without moving still stuck 12th in line. I gave up. Management is either incompetent or intentionally run their business in such a manner. I left a $14 of perishables on a shelf and walked out. I'd always put the items back but I'm not restocking their shelves. They should consider it the cost of doing business in their deliberate manner of pissing off (former) customers.

1 person likes this
Posted by Old Saying
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2017 at 11:04 pm

Well there is an old saying that says the customer is always right. So
the customer has made it clear they want shorter lines at Safeway. What
does Safeway have to say about that?

6 people like this
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 28, 2017 at 11:36 am

USA is a registered user.

Staff costs money. That money comes from what you pay at the register.

Want more staff and shorter lines? You will pay higher prices.

People vote every day with their feet and their wallets. The long lines at Safeway indicate that those people prefer lower prices at the expense of having longer lines.

Make your own choices.

3 people like this
Posted by PeaceLove
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 28, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Safeway is the worst at night. You literally can't walk in there to buy a banana without a 10-minute minimum checkout. That's true at the San Antonio, Miramonte and Shoreline Safeways at night. They simply don't hire enough staff.

Blaming minimum wage laws smacks of doctrinaire free-market cultism, which is perfectly okay with a nation of serfs as long as "owners" don't have to have any accountability to society.

Best bet is to stick with Whole Foods, which is customer oriented and often cheaper than Safeway on identical items. Plus, WF has better produce and fewer toxic items labeled "food."

7 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 28, 2017 at 3:13 pm

@First World

Thanks for some perspective and a bit of levity. Thanks also for your service. I waited ten minutes to check 4 items last week, did not even have time to consider it a first world problem, so thanks again.

9 people like this
Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 28, 2017 at 8:10 pm

I live in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood (as part of Rex Manor). I have been shopping in this store ever since it opened in 1965 or 1966. I was a tween then and now I am 62. But never have I seen the lines as long as they are until now. Perhaps 6 or 7 months now have I seen these long lines.

I myself have worked for Safeway Stores---from 1977 to 2010---33 years in the company. And the Safeway of old would never allow these super massive long lines to happen. Safeway had ample help in the store. But the company that took over Safeway just does not seem to care about true customer service.

I've been at the Shoreline Safeway at 10 in the morning, and have seen these long lines then. It's a travesty to see this. And I am sure the few checkers that are working don't care to look up and see all the angry customers.

The Safeway of old would always have an express line open. All day long. But not any more. Saturday's in the mid afternoon I would be in a long line and with only two checkers working...AND THE EXPRESS LINE WILL BE CLOSED!!! That is not customer service. I'm sure the same thing is happening at the Safeway in the Blossom Valley Shopping Center on Miramonte at Cuesta.

The workers at the Shoreline Safeway need their hours back so that the store can operate more efficiently and with a lot more help at the front end. This is not the way to run a store. Will Safeway run the new store this way, the one opening up where Fresh N Easy used to be? Lets hope not. If the new company continues to operate their stores this way with a lot less help and have huge lines, Safeway as a company since 1929 or so will cease to exist.

Will the new Safeway company management WAKE UP TO WHAT THEY ARE DOING to the stores, AND TO THE CUSTOMERS!!!! Albertson's then should wake up to reality.

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 28, 2017 at 8:54 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

All the grocery stores locally have 4 U-SCANS that replace TWO staffed cashier lines. They have just a Senior Cashier to help, as the workstation is there as well. Safeway here has this. Petition the upper management to duplicate the U-Matic ( the other name of the equipment ) systems to be installed ASAP. I know this because my daughter was a head cashier for King Soopers in both Boulder and Evergreen. Kroger Corporate has done this, Safeway Distribution Offices ( Midwest region ) has done this to compete with Kroger stores. Four U-Scans WILL eliminate long lines. The only long lines we see are at Costco these days.

Like this comment
Posted by IVG
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 29, 2017 at 6:55 am

I think the lines are actually shorter now. All the pressure from customers seems to have helped.

4 people like this
Posted by SafewayProblem
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2017 at 1:14 pm

It's embarrassing for the only checker to beg or be hassled for another checker over the intercom.
Clearly, the on duty manager is in hiding. That's their job to get another checker.

Like this comment
Posted by Better
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2017 at 2:02 pm

They're already shorter, I have noticed.

5 people like this
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 29, 2017 at 3:51 pm

USA is a registered user.

@Old Steve Yes, "First World Problem" trumps all comments.

@PeaceLove Ironically, suggesting that people vote with their feet by going to Whole Foods is the very definition of free-market capitalism. I will send you a MAGA hat.

Safeway management will need to adjust staff levels and prices to match what customers want or suffer the consequences.

16 people like this
Posted by bc
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 29, 2017 at 9:07 pm

CA state min wage means people do not need to drive 100 miles to Mtn View to get the higher wages. We now have a shortage of entry workers. It is so bad I saw help wanted 14 year old accepted.

13 people like this
Posted by winegums
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 31, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Breadline? I can't believe I just read this headline. How insensitive can you get? I am disgusted. You need to rethink comparing your everyday BS to those who must wait in 'breadlines.'

Just look at what's happening in Venezuela right now!

9 people like this
Posted by Shopper
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 2, 2017 at 11:44 am

This is a direct result of Safeway being bought out by Cerberus Capital in 2014. Their method of operation is to squeeze every cent out of operational costs (ie: reduces hours of employees and employee count) to boost margins, then resell the business later. I'm sure the manager was given an ultimatum by headquarters to cut expenses by XX% or loss his/her job. I've also noticed that the selection is down at all the Safeways I shop at, with items just disappearing from the shelves for weeks at a time.

5 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2017 at 3:44 pm

I shop at Ava's when I can, it's locally owned, it's downtown, and only one mile from the store mentioned in this story. Not saying I never go to Costco or TJ's, but I will do what I can to prevent another startup from taking over downtown retail space.

6 people like this
Posted by Rengstorff Community Member
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Apr 5, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Having asked cashiers questions over the past few months, this is what I've learned - This location is having a hard time hiring cashiers. Part-time only, but employees need to be flexible in their availability to work - who can do that in this economy? Some of the long-time employees are tired and fed-up, and I will add, not happy with the new owners stating the new corporate atmosphere is anti-employee and anti-customer. This I believe from my experience as a shopper in that store.

I have been shopping at this location for 20 years, but on my last visit with lines snaking all the way down the aisles, I left without my produce vowing never to go back. I drove over to Nob Hill Foods and had a very pleasant, efficient, and quiet shopping experience.

There are many other options in Mountain View, and near-by Palo Alto that, in the end, take less time and are much more pleasant.

2 people like this
Posted by Yermomalot
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 6, 2017 at 12:01 am

In Alaska, they dream of Safeways. Focus on cops and priests molesting your children right under your noses

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Whole Foods without lines, what WF (Whole Paycheck) are you people shopping? There always seems to be lines at WF. You would think with the prices they charge they could get more cashiers.

Like this comment
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2017 at 10:31 pm

We have lots of grocery stores within a few miles of this Safeway, why do people keep shopping there if it is such a horrible experience? Aside from that , why are we reading about long lines at a grocery store? Seriously? That is not newsworthy IMO....maybe a slow newsday.

Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm

I lived in Mountain View until recently. We used to have a very nice Lucky's, then Albertson's over there by Middlefield and Rengstorff, but somehow there was not enough business to keep it open. I also used to go to the Safeway, but it's the same story at the El Camino and San Antonia Safeway. Sounds like Mountain View could support a few more supermarkets. I remember back in the 70's there used to be the Food Fair on El Camino on Bonita ... gone, and lots of other stores and markets too, Maybe this is called being a victim of one's own success.

Safeway should upgrade that dinky Shoreline location anyway.

The thing that bothers me is that I used to go shopping not so long ago and spent $25 on average, and now for the same stuff I can barely get out of the store for less than $60 ... all this while they tell us what a success story the local and national economies are and how there is no inflation.

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