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We need a better Safeway

Original post made by Midtown, Midtown, on Jan 5, 2020

Midtown Safeway is looking tired and runs out of items regularly. It is too small, shelves are often empty, it has no bakery, its deli and ready prepared food is a poor selection, cheese that is there one month is never there again, the meat department often has nobody to serve the meat and fish in the display, I could go on.

Is it time to petition to get a full service Safeway? It is what all other cities have and it will cut down the need for us to drive out of town to get a better selection of reasonably priced grocery items.

Comments (34)

5 people like this
Posted by Way2Unsafe
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 6, 2020 at 12:48 am

Let me tell you something about the Midtown Safeway. I was shopping there and bought their special 6-pack wine deal where you get more than the Safeway card discount for buying 6 bottles or wine. More wine that I really know what to do with, but I thought I would try it to save money and be the wine sophisticate. Went to the cashier and checked out, but then I looked the register ... it was about double what I thought. I almost just ignored it, but then I thought about it and that was a lot.

I got the checker, we went back to check the price sure enough I was right. We ran it through the scanner again, the same thing happened. There is something very bad going on in that store, or maybe all Safeways. I tend to not look at the prices and just plug my card and get out thinking that computers and scanners are great, but it even scanned right, but did not add up right. I usually like the human cashiers, but now I wonder, what the heck?

Check your totals in this dump. Also, regularly I see stuff that people pick up from other parts of the store and just drop in the aisles or right before the checkstands. This stuff gets picked up, maybe after it is halfway melted and put back on the shelves where it came from. This is happening at all the supermarkets now.

Has this happened to anyone else, and what do you think is going on?


15 people like this
Posted by Uh Huh
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 6, 2020 at 1:56 am

Thank God that The Market at Edgewood opened on Embarcadero Rd./101. If you have not shopped there, the meat, sushi and seafood are superior as well as the produce. The aisles have great selections of brands, it's not all gourmet, they have basic brands too. The store is clean, the owners really care, and the employees are friendly and helpful. It's better than Piazza's, which has higher prices.

It started with the super long lines at Safeway that drove me away (5-10 people per line). I hardly shop at Safeway Midtown because of those very long lines, the low quality red meat, dirty store, and the employees are not clean. There has clearly been something going on at corporate because the place is poorly managed and corporate clearly doesn't care. The only things better at Safeway are their ice cream and frozen food selection, as The Market has a small section. Safeway has more junky food and lower class clientele. There are times that I have to go to Safeway but most of my daily meal shopping is at The Market.

As stated in the first posting: "Also, regularly I see stuff that people pick up from other parts of the store and just drop in the aisles or right before the checkstands. This stuff gets picked up, maybe after it is halfway melted and put back on the shelves where it came from. This is happening at all the supermarkets now." I agree, people are more and more selfish—it's become a "me" nation, etiquette is extinct.


7 people like this
Posted by Uh Huh
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 6, 2020 at 2:00 am

I forgot to mention that the bakery in The Market is run by a baker who grew up in San Jose and the cakes are fantastic!


10 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 6, 2020 at 7:18 am

Another is a registered user.

Are you guys kidding? The Middlefield Safeway has a great location, fantastic prices (Piazza's is ridiculously expensive in comparison), and a surprisingly comprehensive inventory despite its smaller size. Even though the humongous Safeway is now open on San Antonio, there's usually no need to go there because anything you'd need is at the Middlefield Safeway.


Posted by Only a sucker
a resident of Downtown North

on Jan 6, 2020 at 8:05 am

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8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 6, 2020 at 8:23 am

Midtown Safeway is very convenient for me. Nearby, 24-hours, no panhandlers. Fair prices especially if hitting the sale-items. Maybe not always everything I want but all the groceries I need. And I see more neighbors there than any other store.

Been shopping at that location since it was built, but was sorry to see the A&W go.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2020 at 11:01 am

I have noticed Piazzas now has paper bags and compostable plastic bags as well as selling reusable bags.

Is Safeway doing the same because I haven't noticed. Their meat in particular leaks and plastic bags are necessary to prevent leakage.


3 people like this
Posted by Behind
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2020 at 11:19 am

Safeway is behind the times as far as environmental packaging goes.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2020 at 11:42 am

Depending on what and how much you are buying, you can go to Costco, Trader Joes (3 nearby locations, one actually in Palo Alto), and Sprouts (just over the border in Mtn View). For the more affluent, there is Whole Foods downtown.
Then, there are smaller stores like the one at Edgewood, and along ECR. Why would you ever need to go to Safeway?


7 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2020 at 11:44 am

Midtown Safeway does seem a bit under-staffed.

However, the main problem is probably not fixable. It will never be as nice the Mountain View or Menlo Park stores, because the square footage is so much less. I'm not certain I'd want them to improve it, since that would further increase traffic in the area.

San Antonio Safeway is just 5 minutes away.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2020 at 11:48 am

Sorry for the followup, but, I forgot to mention Grocery Outlet, which is worth a visit if you haven't been there. They don't carry everything or have great deals on everything, but, they carry enough different products, and some of those are great deals. Try it. (I could also mention Mollie Stone and Piazza's, although I don't shop often at either because of the prices.)

But, seriously, what should actually happen is that Safeway should sell that property to an Asian grocery chain, such as (not my favorite, but, as an example), Ranch99. There are large Safeways just over the borders in Menlo Park and Mountain View, for those who feel some sort of brand loyalty to Safeway.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2020 at 3:13 am

I spoke with a Safeway employee who said that after Albertson’s bought Safeway four years ago, it’s gone downhill. Management is now cutting hours of employees, thus the empty shelves. How short-sided of management to dis their employees and customers. Time for an Undercover Boss episode at Safeway.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2020 at 7:36 am

There are many questions about this particular grocery store. It is probably something a good investigative journalist could look into and report.

The historical size of markets has been broken by Piazzas. Why can't Safeway expand?

Small Safeway branches, eg the new Safeway at Middlefield/Rengstorff, can be made to be a lot more attractive and carry more comprehensive line of inventory.

This Safeway is nearly always busy during the day. There are often not enough checkouts open.

The grocery carts are old and dirty. The look of the store is old and dirty.

The aisles are often blocked by "specials" which always seem to be in front of what I am looking for.

But, the underlying question has to be why Safeway itself has not invested more in what must be lucrative space? It must be as profitable as any other Bay Area store in respect of turnover v square footage or whatever formula is used to judge a store's profitability. Why hasn't Safeway put in self serve checkouts (I can't stand them myself but since they are appearing everywhere else it is a good question to ask).

This store gets locals, gets workers from local businesses and gets residents from East Palo Alto, three groups of people who obviously think it has value to them. However, Safeway is not investing in this particular store. Is the Corporate HQ hoping to leave the site, or what is the story? Because to me, it seems they don't care about their only Palo Alto store. Prestige alone would suggest that having a store in Palo Alto must be good for them. Unfortunately they are failing their customers, failing the local market, and failing to appear to care.

Or is it just complacency?


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2020 at 9:12 am

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> There are many questions about this particular grocery store. It is probably something a good investigative journalist could look into and report.

>> The historical size of markets has been broken by Piazzas. Why can't Safeway expand?

Safeway is just one of the brands of Cerberus Capital Management along with Albertsons, Shaws, Vons, and a few stores each under various historical brand names (e.g. Lucky). Why should "we" care about "Safeway"? It is just a brand of a store chain.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2020 at 3:13 pm

The Safeway is terrible. I'll occasionally run in for something and, every time, I vow that I will never go in again. It isn't the cramped space or old feeling (I'm fine with that), it is the checkers. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen such a gathering of slow, unmotivated workers in my life. I feel like I'm in 1950s communist Russia or something. I usually shop at Trader Joe's and I bet they easily check out 10 times as many items in the same amount of time.


3 people like this
Posted by Midtown Safeway checkers
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Midtown Safeway checkers is a registered user.

There is one checker in particular whose line I always avoid if possible. He is crazy slow. I appreciate that he has found a way to endure at his job, but it doesn't mean that I want to be in his lane...

Regarding self-checkout systems, the checkers often feel threatened by then, and in this small store it would take away one or two checker lanes. If they have no other skills that are applicable to Safeway, then their jobs are threatened.


11 people like this
Posted by long time resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2020 at 6:03 pm

fyi - Palo Alto currently has a 20,000 square foot limit on grocery stores in residential areas. NIMBYs fought for this limitation to discourage people from other neighborhoods increasing the congestion at "their" store. Some stores have protested the limit, including Albertsons, who abandoned their Alma Street location when the city would not let them expand their store. This limit has been in effect for decades. If you think it is a dumb idea in the internet age, you should tell that to your city council members.


7 people like this
Posted by Safeway Overcharges
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2020 at 6:11 pm

Safeway overcharges and lost a law suit a while back because of it. Part of the settlement was that they must offer the overcharged item for free if the customer requests it. I've received multiple items free from the Middlefield Safeway. Not sure if there was a time limit on this part of the settlement.

Another part of the settlement was that they would stop overcharging. I'm sure the same attorneys would be willing to go back and sue big time. Now it's a pattern and would be easier to win the suit.


3 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 7, 2020 at 8:54 pm

eileen is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by long time resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2020 at 8:43 am

[Portion removed.] The vast majority of fresh produce at 99 Ranch is grown in northern and central California. It doesn't come from all over the country and central America like the not-so-fresh or not-so-ripe Safeway produce. Because of the distance and cost, fresh produce is rarely imported from China to the USA.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Midtown

>> fyi - Palo Alto currently has a 20,000 square foot limit on grocery stores in residential areas. NIMBYs [...] If you think it is a dumb idea in the internet age, you should tell that to your city council members.

Count me as a NIMBY. I think you have it exactly backwards. I think that in the Internet Age, non-perishable groceries and all the other super-market items will be delivered directly to people's houses via electric delivery vans. Giant supermarkets like the Menlo Park Safeway will be history, because people will just order directly the detergent, toothpaste, paper towels, etc. brands and sizes that they prefer. The only items people will shop for in person will be things where people want to see and/or touch what they are buying. Produce and meat-counter items. The weekly trip to the supermarket for "everything" will disappear. Already the big stores have reserved parking right next to the handicapped spaces for delivery pickups.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 1:07 pm

I think it is exactly why in this "internet" age and Costco age that we do need better grocery stores. Yes, buying in bulk or online for regular staples we need, non-perishable items, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc. but for the remainder we really do need decent grocery stores. Even for new items, it is better to be able to buy a small amount to try it out. A new toothpaste or shampoo is unlikely to do well in bulk stores or internet only.

It is true that grocery stores are going to have to change because of the internet and Costco. Instead of them being the main source for weekly groceries, they will become even more necessary for fresh produce, fresh meats and fish served by knowledgeable butchers, instore bakeries selling just out of the oven breads and other baked goods - both mealtime staples as well as dessert type treats, delis with freshly prepared salads, meat items, fish items that can be taken home to eat with very little time taken to prepare a meal, hot food counters, sushi counters, soup selections, salad bars, etc. Good cheese, wine, dairy, produce and specialties. I think the term market may be much more the operative word rather than grocery store.

We need really good food markets with a large array of selections for home eaten meals. We also need recipe items so that those who cook, bake, grill and cook from scratch meals can get what they need.

Yes, grocery stores are changing, but food markets need to evolve and they need the space to do so.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> I think it is exactly why in this "internet" age and Costco age that we do need better grocery stores.

Thanks for the reply, but, we will have to agree to disagree about this one. Bigger is definitely not better in this case. Trader Joe's are 10,000-12,000 square feet average -- look what they do with that. Other meat and produce stores have done just fine in sales and customers -- the former JJ&F, newcomer Dittmer's at San Antonio/ECR, the Milk Pail. DeMartini on San Antonio in Los Altos. These smaller places can't compete in the paying-for-rent category with offices, but, they do just fine competing for customers. In the Internet Age, there is just no reason why you need 50,000 square feet super-markets with most of the space devoted to non-food items. Super-markets are going the way of giant malls -- they only make sense in areas where land is cheap and abundant. Which, is definitely not Palo Alto.



2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2020 at 2:33 pm

@ Anon. Regardless of whether you or I make the most sense, I think we both have reasonably good concerns, I think we can agree that the Midtown Safeway is not up to par.

Many do not like prepackaged foods of non major brand items, such as Trader Joes. Many love that concept. I tend to think both can be useful to a community and at present, Safeway seems to be better at fulfilling a more general need in the place it is situated. We are plagued by small grocery stores offering boutique niche goods. Can't we have just one that has a huge range of foods, ingredients, rather than frozen pizzas and lasagnas!


6 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2020 at 6:46 pm

There are two mega-size Safeway stores north and south of Palo Alto. No need to add another one!


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2020 at 7:31 am

Now it seems there was a robbery there overnight. According to the morning news there is crime tape blocking the parking lot and presumably the store is closed.


11 people like this
Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 10, 2020 at 8:10 am

Safeway on Middlefield is merely a large convenience store for Midtown residents as was All-American for those of us in Barron Park. I'm surprised no one is proposing a housing development on the site.


Like this comment
Posted by Way2Unsafe
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2020 at 12:04 pm

Another care of Safeway overcharging. I went in to buy an item, placed above the price sticker, but it was the wrong item. It was on the bottom shelf so was almost impossible to get down and read. I got to the checkout stand and was surprised when the price was over double what seemed to be posted. I almost just ignored it, but then I decided to ask about it and it was the correct price that got rung up, but the posted sign was the wrong item.

I notice a lot of supermarkets do this, they either post the wrong sticker, or a a misleading sticker, or they fail to mark something altogether, and then universally the price for that item is usually hiked up past normal.

Don't they have people to walk the store and make sure everything has a price label on it?

They they also put stuff that has melted or been opened back on the shelf or in the freezer. That is really sickening, especially stuff you can only find out when you get home, and then you have to either forget it or drive back all the way to return it to save a small amount of money. There should be a penalty to this kind of thing.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 14, 2020 at 10:30 am

All structures are a matter of scale. The Safeway at El Camino and San Antonio is a full service store in the middle of a new residential and commercial set of structures - a major business area. Likewise the Safeway in Menlo Park is in a huge shopping center. Palo Alto's major problem is that it resists major shopping areas. What do you expect to see on a lot that is the size of a postage stamp. There is no room for a major bakery. I do a lot of my major shopping at the San Antonio store and pick up other items at the Middlefield store. They are friendly and work to provide good service. Unless this city decides to change how they approve major structural changes then quit complaining about it. You should be happy that Safeway has not chosen totally abandoned that site and leave you all to go to the big stores that are in big commercial and residential sites which are taller than three stories. If they decide to move out you will then start complaining that you have no local store. A lot of older people live in the apartments directly next to the store and depend on it because they no longer drive.

Who thinks this type of stuff up? If you want to complain then provide a solution - where do you want the new store? Rip out the tiny useless shopping center next door and totally rebuild it? Where would you put the new, bigger store? If you complain have a suggestion that is realistic.


Like this comment
Posted by No big deal
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Agree with Resident 1.
I shop fairly regularly at this Safeway and find whatever I need. Occasionally something is out of stock, so I buy something similar or wait till my next visit. No Big deal.

I don't need a fancy updated store to re-assure me I am important. Parking is crowded, but always available. It works fine.


2 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 15, 2020 at 4:21 pm

We don't need a huge Menlo Park/San Antonio style Safeway. We do need a clean store with staples such as milk and bread on the shelves at dinner time. We do need a meat counter and a deli counter well staffed during the afternoon.

We do need clean carts, aisles and shelves, freezer and refrigerators. Some of the milk refrigerators smell like old cheese!

I was there this afternoon. One checkout open and a long line backing up all the way back to the pharmacy. Taking the cereal aisle as an example, there were huge spaces on the shelves with no items. Empty shelf space is often a problem as are too few checkers.

This is a popular store which always has plenty of customers during the day. We just need the management of the parent company to make it a lot better than it continually is.


8 people like this
Posted by Uh Huh
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2020 at 4:43 pm

@Midtown: Correct, but don't hold your breath, obviously corporate doesn't care, people are still shopping there.

One time I saw a dog put inside one of the grocery carts, a Terrier. A dirty dog's butt in a grocery cart. Shopping with Fido. Dog owners have lost their minds.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 16, 2020 at 3:47 pm

Are some of these posters from the market down the street at Charleston? Is competition an element here? Are both struggling for enough shoppers to stay open?
I don't go to Piazza's because I think it is dirty inside. Also the market on Alma and East Meadow. Walmart? definitely weird but a lot of shoppers in there. I will not buy any meat in Walmart. Every store out there is struggling with keeping it's shelves stocked at 100%. That has to do with trucking and moving the food items around. A lot of outside elements in play before the food ever gets to the shelves.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> I don't go to Piazza's because I think it is dirty inside.

I wouldn't notice. It became so expensive I never shop there.

>> Also the market on Alma and East Meadow.

Grocery Outlet? I like it. You can get good deals on certain things there-- you just never know exactly what will be a good buy.

>> Every store out there is struggling with keeping it's shelves stocked at 100%. That has to do with trucking and moving the food items around. A lot of outside elements in play before the food ever gets to the shelves.

I think it is mostly a labor cost/availability issue. Grocery stores operate on thin margins per item, and, have to maximize the use of their labor force. I always find it amusing to visit a supermarket in an out-of-the-way location, rural Oregon say, and find that the shelves are perfectly clean and stocked, no lines for checkout, etc. Labor surplus. Whereas here, costly labor limits the level of service you can expect. As more office space gets built, then, surprise surprise, grocery store service gets worse. But, we have lots of urban vibrancy now to make up for it. (Isn't that what they call the vibration from the heavy trucks going by?)


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