Saturday, March 20, 2010

Missing Wally World?!

I think I’ve finally figured out why I dislike shopping at Safeway. I mean, I should love the place. It’s a beautiful facility. They have great parking. They carry an international selection of goods. There’s even a small department store where you can find a variety of household, garden, and gift items. The problem is, I never seem to have a completely pleasant experience when shopping there.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect grocery shopping to be ‘fun’. It’s a chore… it is usually a pleasant enough job, but for some reason, Safeway keeps annoying me. I can go in with a short list, and yet, only manage to walk out with about half of what I want or need.
Last time I went grocery shopping I tried to go to my favorite store, but it was very crowded. The parking lots were full, with cars circling like buzzards. I didn’t feel like being in a crowded store. I put on my Rosy Glasses of Cheerful Optimism and headed to Safeway.
One thing that I wanted was Ocean Spray juice. Let me explain - I realize that I am not in the US. I KNOW I should not find all the brands I would be used to if I lived there. I KNOW that I am lucky to find so many brands that I do look for. I am not one of those whiners who complains about everything, or about products being not quite the same, etc. I am perfectly willing to adjust and I enjoy the challenge. I usually PREFER to buy substitutes and local brands (better price and more chance of finding it when I need it), and I have even been known to experiment with items when I cannot read the label well. I find some great stuff that way! BUT, we like Ocean Spray juices. We drink a lot of water, and we prefer it with a tiny splash of a cranberry mix juice. I CAN find Ocean Spray here, so I had a very good reason to have it on my list. Safeway had a huge display of Ocean Spray too … all plain CRANBERRY flavor. The one variety we really do not like… and this is my typical experience! So close, and yet so very far…sigh...
I also had tortilla chips on my list. We had friends scheduled to come for dinner - we were making burritos, they were bringing homemade salsa (Thanks Lisa!). When I saw Tostitos, Brad’s favorite chips, on the shelf, I nearly threw them in the cart without looking… glad I did though. They were over $10 a bag. Ok. I realize that there are import costs, etc. but that’s pure craziness. I refuse to pay that on principle. Fortunately there were some other brands.

Other cons –
I have run into too many surly employees. No, not all are surly! There are some very pleasant employees too. Very helpful. Perhaps they are trying to compensate for their crabby peers? I cannot apply this complaint to other stores. This aspect is actually improving so I have hope…

I get harassed by beggars more often in the parking area of this store. I do not appreciate hordes of kids hanging on me when I am trying to load my car. I can only watch my kids, bags, purse, car, etc. so closely… I feel sorry for the kids, of course!… but not enough to get robbed or have my kids handled by strangers. Other stores seem to have security that is more on the ball.

Safeway has one register to handle VAT exempt purchases, and they are extremely slow and grumpy about using it! For those who think that this is the spoiled whining of an indulged diplomat, let me remind you of two things: One, is that this type of exemption is usually a reciprocal deal - we are given the same benefits in our host country, that other countries' foreign service personnel are given in the US (I do not honestly know if that's the case in this situation, but usually..), and two, although we live here, we are still US residents, and we still pay taxes in the US. It's not really fair to have to pay taxes in two countries. Most stores around here handle this very easily... some quite cheerfully and overly helpful. I went to another store the other day, realized that I did not have a copy of my VAT card, and attempted to wave it off and pay the high VAT... the cashier insisted on getting it copied for me!... and this was for a relatively small purchase, at one of their many registers.... not at a single, often un-manned, sometimes broken, register off in a corner.

I always run into obnoxious customers at Safeway. Maybe they are simply annoyed and cranky for the same reasons I am? Maybe they’ve been run out of the nicer stores? Last time I went, I actually had some uncivilized idiot push my cart out of the way to cut in line in the vegetable weighing line. Ordinarily I’d just shove him back and explain in a very LOUD and condescending voice where the end of the line is  – I’ve done time in Egyptian Carrefour stores, I know how to defend my space, shame working better than force – but I really was DONE by that point and so walked off, dumping the bags of vegetables I had considered purchasing. I didn’t feel like paying for aggravation… and again, I don’t have this sort of problem in other Amman stores.

To be fair, here are the pros… the reasons why I keep going back - 

The customer service is getting friendlier. You know who you are… Thank you! You are the number one reason I keep coming back! Even if everything else is perfect, I will avoid stores with completely poor customer service – they’d be ‘banned for life’ in my book, and I’d even be highly suspicious of other stores in the same chain. YOU are the most important part of my shopping experience.

Safeway carries a lot of international brands that other stores do not. It may be pricey, but if you’re looking for something specific, they might have it… just don’t get your hopes up on finding a variety.

The store is clean and pretty, and everything smells nice and fresh (yes, that really matters to me).

They have a home store upstairs. Think of a super WalMart… one that looks better, costs more, and has less selection… but, they do have a home store. They carry toys, lawn and garden, household goods, small appliances, hardware and auto supplies, sporting goods, stationary, luggage, etc. There’s also a nice glasses shop, and a small cafe. We actually found a pretty Christmas tree and a small variety of decorations in December. We’ll probably look there first when we go shopping for a BBQ grill.
I think that, if I could adjust my perspective, I might learn to appreciate this store better. If I can focus on the list of pros – do some meditation exercises and chant some affirmations or something! – and PLAN on having to do my shopping at more than one store, maybe there’s hope. Planning on being unsuccessful at one-stop shopping might stave off the frustration. I’d be better off. Rather than seeing Safeway as a regular supermarket, I need to treat it as a limited specialty store – but it’s hard. It LOOKS like a supermarket! I fall for the illusion every time, and always leave disappointed.

I’m not giving up.


Expat Mom said...

I know how you feel. Even when you're used to these things, they can be annoying. We have a Walmart in the capital and it is HUGE. It's the only place you can get stuff like cranberry sauce and Campbell's mushroom soup (all other soups come in packages). I get there MAYBE 2x a year. And it never fails that the ONE time I go they only have cream of chicken soup or something that I have no interest in and not what I'm actually looking for.

Connie said...

I think what kills me is that I have such high expectations of the place. It LOOKS like it should have everything. It's a large building, rows upon aisles of shelves, massive displays... ooh, and all the shiny chrome and sparkly glass. And yet it always disappoints. Sigh... I need an attitude adjustment. ;D

Nicole said...

I have never liked safeway, and I'm in the US! They are way over priced and I just dont like them. I shop at king soopers.

Connie said...

A problem with moving is leaving our favorite stores, hair stylists, mechanics etc. I'm in that awkward 'new and lost' stage!