On Lockdown: Ice Cream? Capitol Hill QFC??

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At the Harvard Ave. QFC the other day, all the ice cream display cases as well as the packaged seafood sections were locked. The store is chronically understaffed, so there was no one to unlock them. According to the store manager — I could leave without the items, but not without questioning him — it was on “orders from Corporate,” which declared that the items were too easy to shoplift. Apparently, when pilferage on particular items reaches a certain level, they just lock those things up.

Of course, this inconveniences those customers without petty larceny on their minds, but that’s apparently not as important to “‘Corporate.” (QFC, once a beloved local company, is now owned by Kroger of Cincinnati.)

Granted, Capitol Hill isn’t 12th and Jackson, or even 3rd and Pike, but if you’re going to operate a supermarket there you have to find a way to both protect and serve. Better cameras and someone to monitor them? A way to approach the shoplifters that doesn’t lead to violence (nobody should or would be ready to get shot over a pint of rum raisin or a piece of salmon) such as a quiet, would-you-like-to-pay-for that-fish-you-just-stuffed-in-your-pants, sir? Or require calling the police?

In a world where I’ve even stopped making rude gestures to the driver who cuts ahead of me because there’s a chance that he’ll shoot me, it may be futile to hope that “Corporate” could invest in hiring and training  security “de-escalators” to implement policies like this. Or even produce a video that could train employees in conflict resolution? I hope they try something before they start locking away the chocolate.

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"Jane Adams PhD was a founding editor of the Seattle Weekly. Among her twelve books is Seattle Green, a novel . She is a contributing editor at Psychology Today, and coaches parents of adult children."

7 COMMENTS

  1. I also shop at that QFC. You seem to be blaming the store and its corporate parent for this problem. I believe the deeper problem is a decline in moral behavior in contemporary American society. The current policy of our justice system to ignore shoplifting as a crime also contributes. Thieves are not completely stupid; they soon figure out they suffer no consequence for their crimes, so continue committing them with impunity. Homelessness and pervasive drug addiction among that population also contribute to this problem.

  2. The problem isn’t a need for “de-escalation training”. I haven’t read of any problems with security being violent in years; they know they have no power. The problem is there is no deterrent to shoplifting. Shoplifters know the worse that can happen is that their hidden goods will be taken away and then they are free to go to another store to shoplift. There is never an arrest; there is no downside to trying. I do not blame the store for doing what they need to do to stay open.

  3. Kind of an elitist attitude ……Retail stores in Seattle have been locking up items for a while and it is not that inconvenient to ask for assistance. Next time you shop in an area where they even lock the front doors, I would be interested in your take on that discriminating attempt to stay in business.

  4. Great story.
    I stopped shopping at (Kroger) QFC about five years ago (for many reasons), so I appreciate this update about what’s going on there. But if QFC is chronically understaffed and unable to find workers, the company might want to consider offering prospective and current employees a living wage and decent benefits.
    More than 8,000 workers at Kroger-owned King Soopers went on strike in Colorado last month over unfair labor practices.
    There’s an interesting story in the National Law Review that reports on the NLRB ruling that allows the company’s continuing hostility to unionizing efforts: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/nlrb-rules-employers-may-bar-union-representatives-their-property-even-though-they
    And here’s another story about grocery workers that includes a survey of Kroger workers that was conducted by Peter Drier, professor at Occidental College: https://inthesetimes.com/article/kroger-grocery-survey-disturbing-new-report-shows-dire-conditions-for-workers
    This excerpt from the above story made me wonder if perhaps some of the shoplifters at Krogers could be their own employees: “Dreier was not surprised at the suffering among grocery workers, but he was surprised by the sheer scale of the problem. ‘This is a phenomenon in America that’s almost invisible,’ he says. ‘There are people working full time, living in their cars.’”
    Cooperating with unions as a way to expand their base of potential employees may seem like a crazy idea to the Kroger board of directors, but if it improves the customer experience and the living conditions of their workers, why not try it? Bottom line is, whatever we assume about the motives of shoplifters in these difficult times, QFC should find a way to hire more security people and train them in safe and effective ways to deter shoplifting, instead of locking up their food and treating all of their customers as if they were shoplifters. Maybe it’s time the Board of Directors at Kroger (I’m talking to you, Elaine Chao) starts caring as much about their workers and customers as they do about shareholders.
    And now I will shut up, take up my battered copy of Les Miserables, and raise a toast to my favorite petty criminal, the indomitable Jean Valjean.

  5. It’s not a bad health food move; I won’t scream for ice cream if I gotta find a store employee to unlock the cabinet first. Please don’t lock up the veggies, though.

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