The Safeway Hot 100: No Refund Until You’re Proven Innocent

Michael’s fiancée sent him to the grocery store late one night. He came home with the wrong moisturizing cream, which happens all too often during shopping expeditions based on someone else’s instructions. No big deal. They just brought it back to Safeway the next time they visited the store. He paid cash, but it was still all sealed up and had a Safeway sticker on it. Only the cream’s price tag and popularity with shoplifters meant that the store’s Loss Prevention staff would need to review surveillance tapes to make sure that Michael hadn’t stolen the item.

A couple months back my fiancee had sent me to the grocery store in the twilight hours of the night to pick up the essentials for the next morning – milk, eggs and moisturizing face cream. I foolishly use cash instead of my debit/credit card, but I do use my loyalty card. I spent way too much on some Oil of Olay something-or-other that was apparently not what she wanted. It was subsequently argued over and then shelved in our medicine cabinet.

Fast-forward a couple weeks and I have the foresight to remember prior to our next grueling shopping expedition that this pricey item is gathering dust in our medicine cabinet, so I suggest we return it. We can’t find the receipt, but it’s still in the shrink wrap with the Safeway sticker on it, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

She returns it and is told that she’ll receive a refund in the mail within 5 days. After it doesn’t appear in a few weeks she calls Safeway and is told that she’ll have to speak to a Manager. After a few tries we find out that the item is on the Safeway “Hot 100”, and until their Loss Prevention team can review footage proving that we didn’t steal it they won’t refund or return the item.

As someone who has been a loyal Safeway shopping for the past 5 years I find this treatment to be extremely disrespectful – she should not be guilty until they can prove her innocent.

What’s the point of having a loyalty card that tracks our every spending habit if we can’t use it to prove our innocence of shoplifting?


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  1. az123 says:

    I don’t see what is unreasonable, evidently the OP waited several weeks and has no receipt. Given that people do steal things to return for refunds I think that them not handing out the money without a review is just fine, so long as they do that for everyone who attempts to do this. To be honest the OP is lucky they are even accepting the return since I am sure somewhere they have a sign that says no returns without.

    Stop crying and just deal with the fact you live in the real world, and there are plenty of perfectly nice looking people trying to scam things.

    • FatLynn says:

      He is trying to return a single item, and likely, because he shops there a lot, he’d be fine with getting store credit. Plus, they can link it back to a purchase on his loyalty card, and probably make him show ID as well.

      I know there are shoplifters out there, but the solution is not to treat every customer like a criminal.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      I’d have no problem if they just refused to take the return, but taking the product back without giving them back their money is stealing. (I also wouldn’t just hand over said product with just the promise of a mail refund either but that’s beside the point)

    • Charmander says:

      What’s unreasonable is that they returned the item (meaning they brought it back and the store took it) but did not receive a refund for said item within the 5 days that was promised.

      After several weeks they contacted the store, and then they were told security would have to review surveillance tapes? Doesn’t really make sense. All they’d have to do is run the list of items the OP bought in the last few months to find the item via the loyalty card. (yes, they do track your purchases).

      You don’t think it is unreasonable to be promised a refund that’s supposed to come in 5 days, but not receive one? I certainly do.

  2. Captain Spock says:

    Seriously, you argued with your fiancee over whether you bought the right thing, and didn’t immediately turn around and return/exchange?

    Rookie move, Son…

    • The Beer Baron says:

      I say, those are awfully strong words coming from a species that mates only once every seven years.

      Nookie move, ponn… farr.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      No. Brilliant move! She’ll never ask him to get girl stuff for her ever again. Kudos young padawan.

  3. dicobalt says:

    Well, maybe if 30min program blocks weren’t 11min of commercials, intros, credits, and stationids then people wouldn’t mind commercials so much. When I see a network playing a 1hr45min movie and stretching that movie to 2hr30min on the guide I know that I don’t want to watch it. I don’t even watch much TV on TV anymore because of too many commercials.

    • Captain Spock says:

      Posting in the wrong article?

      Rookie move, son.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        I will give dicobalt the benefit of the doubt that he/she posted in the correct article. Consumerist is still acting squirrely; the articles posted from 8:00 AM till now didn’t show up until after 10:00 AM.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        For some reason, when you click “sign in” above the comments section on a particular article, it boots you to a different one.

        • Captain Spock says:

          how peculiar… That doesn’t seem the proper way to build a website

        • nugatory says:

          If you open several articles, each on different tab, then sign-in, the tab will refresh to the last article opened.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          What I’m finding annoying is I can’t seem to bookmark the page so I’m actually signed in, so I don’t have to log in every time I come here.

    • mobiuschic42 says:

      My boyfriend uses this argument for why he doesn’t empty the dishwasher unless specifically asked: “I’ll put things away in the wrong places!” (I do all the cooking and have OCD). He’s stopped using it since I pointed out that Peter Griffin says almost the same thing in an episode of Family Guy.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    Anyone from the East coast remember Caldor’s Top 100 albums/songs list in their record department? I remember getting the J. Geils Band Freeze Frame album from there and I couldn’t wait to bring it home to play it.


    Sorry, I’m in a somewhat nostalgic mood.

    • Delicious Spam is delicious says:

      I bought my first cassettes there.

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      I worked at Caldor way back in the stone age. In the photo department, where we actually all had some knowledge of the merchandise we were peddling.

  5. dullard says:

    True, the OP should have returned the item sooner. However, if the policy is to accept returns for an extended period of time then it would seem that OP is within that policy, Safeway having accepted the item for return. There seems to be two ways to confirm OP’s purchase, reviewing the footage and checking loyalty card data. I can understand Safeway’s caution, but they should act within a reasonable period of time.

  6. Coffee says:

    I spent way too much on some Oil of Olay something-or-other that was apparently not what she wanted. It was subsequently argued over and then shelved in our medicine cabinet.

    I know this has nothing to do with Safeway, but dude…dude…seriously. She sent you to the store to pick up a beauty product, then argued with you when you bought the wrong item? I hope that, in the future, she buys all her own beauty products.

    • polishhillbilly says:

      This. The wife gets her own woman type products. I don’t want to get in a fight about getting the wrong scent or something trivial like that. I buy the manly stuff for me and the boys.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      I buy rose thorn and thistle cream. It helps build “character.”

      • Coffee says:

        I only buy the generic brand, and only when there’s a dented container special. If you scrape away all the discolored lotion from where the bottle was leaking, you’ll find that there’s plenty of usable lotion. It may smell weird, but I assure you it isn’t toxic.

        • Blueskylaw says:

          I buy the stuff that is scraped off of broken containers
          and mixed together. Every bottle is labeled as unique.

          The money I save helps me to pay my
          increasing emergency room visit bills.

          • Coffee says:

            Hmmmm…on second thought, maybe it is toxic. I should probably stop making fun of the gf when she’s throwing up everywhere.

  7. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    The loyalty card thing is what get’s me. They should be able to lookup receipts using it. Target has the strictest no receipt policies but the largely make up for it with a strong receipt look up system when you don’t use cash. If they had loyalty cards I would expect the lookup system to expand to cash transactions as well.

  8. tanyaandkarl says:

    “What’s the point of having a loyalty card that tracks our every spending habit if we can’t use it to prove our innocence of shoplifting? ”

    The point of having a loyalty card is to collect information about your buying habits which is then sold for profit.

    If it were used to prove your innocence (a backwards concept as you allude in your earlier paragraph), then NOT having one would be interpreted as evidence of guilt.
    Not logical, I agree, but people are morons and people with even a little power and no accountability are bigger morons.

  9. mikedt says:

    How could you ever prove you didn’t steal that particular bottle? Surveillance footage is imperfect and if you were a reasonably adept shoplifter I’m sure you could get a bottle out. Pretty hard to prove a negative in this case.

    • PunditGuy says:

      A receipt?

      • mikedt says:

        a receipt doesn’t mean I didn’t steal the bottle in my hand. It only means that at one time I purchased a bottle.

    • JJFIII says:

      Oh there is always that thing called a receipt. It is what they are designed for. Why would he not have the receipt if he brought it home and IMMEDIATELY the fiancee said it was wrong. Safeway should have to backtrack through their loyalty program and detail each and every transaction because he is too stupid or lazy to save a receipt?

      • Peggee has pearls and will clutch them when cashiers ask "YOU GOT A WIC CHECK MA'AM?" says:

        Adept shoplifters actually buy a product to look like they’re shopping and then return it later, keeping the one they stuffed in their bag/down their pants/whatever. So even if he returned the first one with a receipt, there’s no way to prove he didn’t steal another.

  10. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    “twilight hours of the night ”

    Yeah, no.

  11. Shadowfire says:

    Why did you leave the product with them without receiving the refund? Did you

    • Shadowfire says:

      Huh… that’s interesting.

      Er… did you get anything from Safeway on paper saying you returned the item? I’d take a trip back in person and ask for the refund. Let them accuse you of being a thief to your face.

  12. msbask v2 says:

    Can someone tell me how loss prevention is going to figure out if this bottle is stolen?

    Did they take the OP’s photo and are now going to comb their surveillance videos for the past year to see if they see him shoplifting?

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      There is no hope, it wasn’t even he who returned it, it was his girlfriend. So they won’t find a match when they see him buy it on the tape.

  13. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    The OP tried to return a hot item a few weeks later WITHOUT a receipt. Case closed.

  14. Kestris says:

    The OP waited a couple weeks before taking the cream back for a refund??? Guess what, OP, most stores don’t keep backups of survelliance tapes for more than a week before they’ll recorded over. You may well be S.O.L. on this one.

    Should have taken it back the very next day.

  15. dush says:

    If it’s so pricy and unwanted why throw away the receipt?

  16. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    A couple months back my fiancee had sent me to the grocery store in the twilight hours of the night to pick up the essentials for the next morning – milk, eggs and moisturizing face cream.

    “Gimme a bottle of anything…and a glazed donut…TO GO!!!”

  17. Sham says:

    I worked at the “Big Red S” for nearly a decade and agree that the item the OP bought was one which is frequently stolen due to the small product size and big price. But during my time working, I have never heard of a customer receiving a refund in the mail. This seems like a tactic used by the store to dissuade actual shoplifters from receiving money. As for use of the club card to purchase the item, there is probably a 0% chance of this being accomplished at the store level. This would require a phone call to someone at corporate and I bet the store manager was too busy to do this. I suggest the OP call Safeway customer service 1-800-SAFEWAY (1-800-723-3929) for help.

  18. baristabrawl says:

    I usually don’t blame the OP, but he didn’t have a receipt. If you don’t, then you get to jump through the store’s hoops.