Safeway began in 1915 as a Skaggs store, owned by M.B. Skaggs, in American Falls, Idaho. In 1926, the company merged with 322 Safeway (formerly Selig) stores. In the 1930s, Safeway introduced produce pricing by the pound, dating on perishables to assure freshness, nutritional labeling, even some of the first parking lots. Today there are 1,702 Safeway stores across the U.S. and Canada, including 312 Vons stores in Southern California and Nevada, 112 Randalls and Tom Thumb stores in Texas, 37 Genuardi’s store in the Philadelphia area, and 17 Carrs stores in Alaska.

Positive Themes

Consumers like Safeway’s take-out food: cakes, sushi, sandwiches, soup and more.

  • Yay, I have cake for my birthday. Granted, I had to go buy myself a slice of Safeway cake, I still have it. Safeway cake is AMAZING! (source)
  • Taco Bell sound yummy. That or a nice sandwich. Safeway has the best sandwiches. The have one with salami, ham, provolone, and olive tapenade. So yummy! (source)

From aspirin to blueberries to ribs, Safeway shoppers like the house brands.

  • They were hard to flip and made a mess but I still will not make them the smaller size. *When I do not have wild blueberries in the freezer that I picked myself I use the Safeway Organic Wild Blueberries (O Brand). They are the most like wild blueberries and are perfect for baking and pancakes because they are small and tasty. I KNOW wild blueberries. My Mom was obsessed with picking blueberries my entire lake life. (source)
  • 4.5 snow days is a charlie-horse in your life. Unless you don’t have a job…unexpected days off from work are pains in the butt. I really like Safeway. Their store brands of everything hit the spot…and they had fresh produce most of the hell week. Also, I could survive on red seedless grapes and Safeway brand Homestyle Vanilla Ice Cream. (source)

Consumers appreciate the shopping experience at Safeway, especially the friendly staff.

  • Most checkers are really nice, they have a new one that needs to cheer up a bit. I still like this Safeway for the convenience and location. Safeway rocks…great customer service. I’ve been going here since I was a kid. Same great staff…. (source)

One unexpected positive theme was the chance to get air miles for pharmacy purchases.

  • I love Safeway for collecting AirMiles. I got 98 AM today on just prescriptions. They give 7x the AM based on the total value of prescription so if you have coverage then you pay your portion but collect on total amount of prescription. (source)

Negative Themes

A common negative theme was items out of stock, and I’ll add my personal experience to that. Almost every time I shop at Safeway, there’s something out of stock. I’d love to see them fix this problem—and apparently it’s fixable because other retailers we’re profiling don’t get this complaint.

Red velvet cake mix, Tim Tams, smoked turkeys, whole wheat pastry flour, wagon wheel pasta, bagel thins, even milk—all these and more were out of stock when consumers wanted to buy them at Safeway.

  • Safeway had neither raspberries or Mini Eggs. I’m devastated. What kind of grocery store doesn’t sell groceries? Safeway! (source)
  • REVIEW TO COME! That concludes Monday. I did stop at Safeway and get 4 Mann’s Broccoli Slaw’s and 2 rain checks because they were out of stock and on sale for $0.99!! (source)
  • Safeway doesn’t have a very good selection. And either I’m scared of their meat or scared of cooking chicken..not sure. But I’m always scared to eat it and tonight cutting up the chicken was seriously thinking about going back to being a vegetarian. (source)

And here’s a complaint about ending the air miles program other consumers praised.

  • Given that I’m going to get $9.99 back, doesn’t feel too bad. I also recieved 250 United Airline miles for the purchase. Sadly, Safeway is ending that promotion. They’ve had it around for years & I’ve gotten one free ticket through the Safeway miles. Glad I could squeeze in one more round of miles! (source)

As it almost always seems to be, price was again an issue. Consumers think Safeway is expensive.

  • Quote: Originally Posted by Sweet 16 I stopped going to Safeway because they got way too expensive. Giant isn’t cheap, but still not as bad as Safeway and has better deals when you use your Giant card IMO. I do the bulk of my shopping at Food Lion but go to Giant for certain things I can’t get at FL. (source)
  • And their produce is pretty good. They don’t have everything Safeway has but for items they don’t have, I go to Lucky. Safeway is way overpriced! (source)

And just to prove once again that taste is an individual thing, many consumers don’t like the house brand of diapers, ground beef, turkeys, and other items—although as we saw in the positive themes, many do like Safeway-brand products.

  • Safeway mango/peach salsa sucks. Now I know better than to stray from Trader Joe’s. (source)

Insights

How to explain opposite reactions to the same thing? One explanation is that in most cases, it isn’t the same thing.

  • Some people say “friendly employees,” others say “bad service.” Well, maybe one consumer had a friendly, helpful checker and another caught their checker on a bad day, or maybe they themselves were difficult. Many comments pertain to a single, specific interaction.
  • Some say “tasty Safeway brand,” others say “nasty Safeway brand.” Well, they’re almost always talking about entirely different products—one consumer didn’t like their mango-peach salsa, another loved their chicken.
  • Many say “great take out,” referring to cakes, sushi and other products; a few say “bad take out,” referring to tofu and turkey salad.

It’s important to pay attention to complaints, but grocery stores, by virtue of selling such a vital commodity as food, and selling so many different types of it, will find it impossible to please everyone.

One key issue that’s not a matter of personal taste is the out-of-stock issue. Safeway could improve its image and sales by addressing this problem, maybe by studying best practices at other grocery stores and implementing them itself.

And that air miles program—Safeway probably has a defensible business reason for ending it, but it did seem to generate good will and draw customers to the store.