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Odd experience at Warrington Wegman's

So my friend and I love to eat dinner once a week at the food court at the Warrington Wegman's. Been doing this for about two years now. We both got kind of addicted to coconut water so we always grab one of those, a couple of hot entrees and eat upstairs. Not this time.
We got an older woman named Cath who informed us that she couldn't ring up groceries at the food court register. She was quite sure this was impossible. At this point I should have just walked down to the line of registers about half a store length away and paid for our stuff there. But something about her pissy attitude made me want to stick up for myself. I told her that we always got the coconut water and it was always rung up at this register, no problem. Every time. Cath said no she was quite sure that didn't happen. I made some joke about imagining the last two years of my life, did without the coconut water and paid for the two entrees.
My friend and I were both tired and hungry and just wanted a relaxing meal. We managed to scrounge up some tap water. While we were eating I thought about the nice Indian cashier who one time told us the coconut water was healing, and all the customers we had seen go through the line buying diapers or big bags of pretzels with their beer.
So then I made my second mistake, I asked to speak to a manager. We stood around for five minutes until Mary showed up. Then we got a long lecture about the evil torturous ways of the Penna Liquor Control Board and were told that Cath was quite correct. She was formal and cool.
So all I did besides aggravating myself and wasting my time was possibly getting all the nice sweet cashiers in trouble for ringing up coconut water and such.
Note to self: always suck it up, never complain. It was just the way she kept insisting that they never rang up anything like coconut water in that area. It was like calling me a liar.

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  1. Carbs,

    Fret not. Its not you.

    I've never been to the Warrington Wegmans but their flagship store here in Collegeville with its high end pub (fresh oysters and chilled Grey Goose available while watching the World Cup on the wide screen) is adjoined by the hot food court and sumptuous beer selection as a seemingly separate universe from the rest of the store. There is a polite nylon ribbon "reminder" (i.e. barricade) to let you know that traversing the line with a six pack will have you yelling "Nicht schiessen!!!" and hoping they don't let the dogs out. In my several dozen visits to the C'ville store, the beer/bar/food court transactions have always been separate from the store and ne'er the twain shall meet.

    My take is that Cath and the crew were read the riot act after Ms. Mary Manager was throttled by upper management when PA L&I caught diapers and coconut water to going through the food/beer-only stiles. Considering the Cromwellian-era liquor laws (and hence our designation as a Commonwealth), Warrington was probably in violation and Mary was told to tighten up her ship or ship out. Her lecture to you was only a variation on a theme of what she received.

    I take Mary's stance as "we're never doing it again' more than 'it never happened." She has more egg on her face than you have any blemishes on your character. On that note, please resume former stance of "always complain, never suck up." Again, its not you.


    9 Replies
    1. re: Chefpaulo

      Well stated CP. Having lived in the freedom of SF and with the laws of most NC counties; I can say PA was in the middle then. That was then, this is now and as other states or government entities have evolved to less restrictions good olde PA is mired in the past. The time is right to privatize: revenue directly to the bottom line for the state and they can and will still tax the booze for a net repetitive gain.

      1. re: Chefpaulo

        I love my fellow hounds! >sniff< I thought I was gonna get scolded! All your kind comments mean an awful lot to me. My parents raised me to never complain unless the situation was truly dire. I saw my dad complain Once, when he was served some fish that had gone bad.
        I've been waiting a long time for the Pa liquor laws to change. Dunno what Benjamin Franklin would think of all this mess we have here. Now there was a boy who loved him some beer!

        1. re: givemecarbs

          gmc: If a PA LCB crack down is what prompted this odd product segregation at the checkout line, wouldn't you think that management might put up a sign at the checkout saysing something" "To our wonderful customers: PA LCB regulations prohibit it us from ringing up alcoholic beverages and food items in the same transaction. Doing so could result in forfeiture of our ability to sell those beverages. Please forgive the inconvenience, it is not our choice." If you do end up contacting corporate, try suggesting that.

          1. re: PattiCakes

            I totally agree Patti. What confused the heck out of me is what the store expects patrons to do when they want to purchase a non alchoholic beverage to consume in the cafe. They have a cooler of Wegmans Ice tea right by the check outs. Do they patrons to balance a try of food, and go through two different lines to purchase a drink, and another for the food only to carry it upstairs to eat? Carbs was just trying to purchase coconut water to drink with her meal. Its not as if she was trying to pay for her meal and her groceries.

            1. re: cwdonald

              PattiCakes and CW: Another example of "failure to communicate." Wegmans corporate would very likely welcome this suggestion since they are in new territory with its anachronistic liquor/beer/wine regulations and repeatedly stepping on customers' toes by not understanding this. Wegmans needs to post more consumer-friendly information (in-store and by email to their card subscribers) to address the separation of bar and store, why grandma gets carded, why the delineation of bar/beer in one area with the wine dispenser in the produce court. AND...if they have real you-know-whats, posting the email addresses of local representatives who can address the issue in Harrisburg.
              My experience has always been positive at Wegmans. I'll take any defensive posturing as "we don't know" more than "you know nothing."

              1. re: Chefpaulo

                I have no problem with Grandma being carded. I have seen that behavior in the strangest places before (try to buy a beer in O'Hara... all people are carded... ). I am perplexed at the way they deal wtih people are dining in the store. You are certainly correct complaining to Rochester may help, though I worry that Jack Benny is dead.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  Most regular drinks CAN be purchased.
                  The coconut water may have come from a different part of the store, or just someone been incorrectly tagged in the system as "grocery".

                  1. re: leepinleemur

                    Thats the silliness of it. How is a consumer supposed to distinquish between what can and cannot be purchased especially if its non alcoholic. Government bureaucracy at its worst..

                  2. re: cwdonald

                    "Jack Benny isdead": snort. guffaw.

        2. Just food for thought. Wegmans did an end run around the PA Liquor Laws in order to be able to sell beer, so I would imagine they are under the microscope by the PLCB. I think we will all agree that our liquor laws are insanely complicated and are in serious need of revision.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chefmonty

            The sad part is, this is actually progress for the PLCB.

          2. carbs, I recognize myself in your post!

            Oh boy, the PA Wegman's beer and food line! Yikes!

            At the State College store we experienced the same thing, on New Year's Eve. We had several six packs and a wedge of blue cheese. No way was the clerk going to ring up that cheese.

            1. I grew up in the north where there were always wegmans and have been to all the ones in this region. I have to say that the warrington one is my least favorite of any that I have ever been too. I had a very bad experience with a store clerk there and tried to deal with the manager but to no avail. Won't ever go back. Yes there alcohol rules are annoying, especially when they won't sell beer to my 80 year old mother without carding her. But I am glad that it is available. I would suggest you contact their corporate office. They are still a family owned business. They take a lot of pride in providing good service...in all locations but warrington.

              3 Replies
              1. re: 18465

                Your suggestion to contact the corporate office is right on the money! I had a problem which I thought was not responded to by the local Wegman's managers. I sent an email to corporate and had a followup phone conversation with a corporate customer service manager. If I recall correctly she was THE customer service person at corporate. Things happened quickly to resolve the issue.

                1. re: Bacchus101

                  Actually, in this case, you need to complain to your State Representive in Harrisburg to do a complete overhaul of our liquor laws.

                  1. re: Bacchus101

                    I'll second the "contact corporate" advice. I had a problem at the Collegeville store and emailed corporate. I had a response in about 10 minutes and the issue was resolved within a 1/2 hour. Bacchus is correct, you will get a response, and you'll be talking with someone who has the authority to get something done.

                2. I ran into the same thing there before Christmas, and all I was doing was buying some of their prepared stuff from the coolers -- roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans and some gravy. The beef, spuds and beans were all cool to go out through that register, but the gravy (their own in the pouch that's displayed right above all the other components) was classified as "grocery" and was supposed to go through the other registers.

                  I pointed out that it was displayed together, and was kind of necessary to be eaten together, not even belligerently, just because it confused me. The cashier, sensing that I'd had the long day I'd had, just gave me the gravy. She explained that there had indeed been a crack-down on grocery items due to the beer sales. The state will check SKUs to ensure there's no overlap between grocery store items and merchandise from the food court. Which I think is ridiculous, but it's PA.

                  But I got free gravy.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: lsmutko

                    What seems most ridiculous about the situation that started this whole discussion is that the OP was eating in the store. They have a cooler up front by the register with iced tea, which I assume is intended to be consumed with the prepared food in their cafeteria. So I cannot fathom why they wouldnt ring it through the register. In this day of computers, why can't they just categorize things as prepared food/cafe/liquor purchase and grocery.

                    Warrington is probably getting the most scrutiny because it was one of the pioneering stores that used the loophole in the PLCB antiquated regulations to sell beer.

                    In terms of Wegmans, I like Warrington a lot better than ones I have visited in NJ, especially Princeton which is pathetically small, and the clerks take surleyness to a new level.

                    1. re: cwdonald

                      I agree -- I'm in New Hope, and sometimes go to the one in Princeton, but I'm always sorry I have.

                      I grew up on Wegman's back in western NY where I grew up, and for some reason, the customer service didn't travel as well. Even when I'm back visiting my parents and go to the ones up there, even during the Christmas crush, the people are always great.

                      I have had only great experiences at the Malvern Wegman's, which I've used for catering for my business back on the Main Line. So I don't know what the differences are store-to-store.

                      1. re: lsmutko

                        I've run into this as well at the Collegeville Wegmans; last year when they first opened up until recently if I had a few grocery items and some hot food to go and a six pack, it was fine. The last time I tried that a few weeks ago, the checkout girl adamantly refused to check me out and directed me to the regular checkouts for my grocery items. I guess they had a crackdown recently by the powers that be. I don't see what the big deal is here?

                        1. re: 94Bravo

                          Thanks for the info Bravo. We went last week and the week before etc etc with no problems. Very jarring.

                          1. re: givemecarbs

                            Funny reading this--it's not just that part of the store with the outrageous memory problems. A few months back, I was in the back by the natural foods looking for the 2 liter container of Honest Tea's Moroccan Mint, which they've carried for who knows how long. I didn't see it, and there was an employee right there. I asked her why they didn't have it these days, and she immediately pinged a manager. He came and insisted to me, very firmly, that such a product NEVER existed. As in never in the history of mankind or Wegman's. I jokingingly offered to bring him an empty container from home and he continued to deny that it existed and became red in the face doing so. It became kind of hilarious, actually.

                            What's going on with the management here? Is it some sort of an Area 51 spokesman training program in disguise?

                            1. re: emcd

                              oh my gosh emcd! Thanks for the laugh. I feel so much better now that I know it's not just me. Plus you may be right. :)

                              1. re: emcd

                                I don't get it either, emcd. Wegman's has a reputation for well trained employees, or did! It would have been so easy for this manager to say, " I am not familiar with that particular item therefore can not answer your question" or for carb's clerk to say " You may have done that in the past but we are told it is not allowed". This may be an example of an individuals personality overiding their training. Happens to me frequently. To quote the sage of our age Sienfeld " but you're a cashier", not that there is anything wrong with that!

                    2. i had the same experience. tried to buy cupcakes and beer... no-go!

                      i'll never forget when i moved here from NY and walked into a 7-11 looking for beer....

                      4 Replies
                        1. re: AmblerGirl

                          AmblerGirl....I'm sure you've been 'there and done that' - but just want to make sure...you've checked out Cupcakes Gourmet in Wayne - Gateway Plaza and the original location in Frazer. Yummy cupcakes, but a bit pricey.

                          1. re: yummykimmy

                            Mmmmm... never tried them. I have friends who live right around there so next time I'm in the area I'll have to pick some up!

                        2. re: missfunkysoul

                          Missfunky, I'll never forget when I moved here from Missouri and asked where the liquor aisle was in the grocery store. You should have seen the look i got!

                        3. As a Rochester, NY native, and many-year Wegmans employee in high school and college, I have to agree that my main disappointment is that I don't think the customer service is quite the same here. It's probably strange to hear, but we have Wegmans there that are the size of your local Acme or Superfresh, and it's considered your "everyday" grocer (while still maintaining the high quality products that we have here). The customer service there is really something unusual, I think that people take a lot of pride in working at Wegmans in upstate NY because it's the one company that we started that is actually flourishing (Kodak, Xerox, et al), and is still family owned and treats its employees really well. I think that these mega-concept stores are wonderful in their own right, and I am thankful that they have made it possible to buy beer in a quantity less than 24, but I imagine it is a huge pain to have to go through separate check outs if you want to buy a pack of gum. I think that there's some culpability of our arcane liquor laws for sure, and am looking forward to the hope that they may change, perhaps in my grandchildren's lifetimes. The 80-year-olds getting carded is a Wegmans phenomenon though. You'll get that in any state in the union.

                          At any rate, I am happy to hear that everyone has good experiences when they call back to my hometown. And I hope that Wegs will have better luck infecting some of its more remote locations with the service bug that is much more its trademark than any product.

                          Ok, that's enough Rochester pride for one day.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: tfalbo

                            tfalbo, I used to live in Miami and shop at Publix. Sounds like your Rochester experiences were like my Miami experiences. They walked the walk as well as talking the talk. There was a rumor that if you were a former Publix employee other supermarkets wouldn't hire you because if you couldn't stay at Publix you certainly wouldn't be able to stay at Acme, etc.

                            1. re: tfalbo

                              My intro to Wegman's was in Rochester, when I was taken there for lunch by a client. I was simply amazed at the size, the quality of the products and the people. This was in the early '90s. There was not then, and is not now, another store in this area that compares with Wegman's. The employee issue here may simple be that - local management and local employees. Try as they might, Wegman''s will be very hard-pressed to find "Rochester people" in this area. Western NYer's are simply different people than Southeastern PAer's. I still think the local Wegman's folks are far better than Acme, Genuardi's, SuperFresh, etc. employees.

                              The short reply to eliminate all the hoopla caused by the person Carbs had the issue with would be, "it's not Wegman's that decided on this process, it's the PA LCB". Any person who's ever set foot in a "state store" would know exactly what that meant, comply with the ridiculous rule, and move on.

                            2. I've been biting my tongue ever since I saw this post and the replies go up.....I grew up in the Syracuse area & Wegmans (no apostrophe) was the place we shopped even though it was the furthest away. In HS I worked in the (then) Gourmet Foods/Heath Food Department. It was a great team atmosphere and I learned so much about food. They've grown rapidly into this area and before they started selling beer and having the pubs they were on par with native Wegmans. This is new territory to them and I think they don't have a handle on how to make the customer experience 'Wegmans' and comply with the evil PLCB....we need to give them the feed back. I encourage everyone to constructively give your feedback to Wegmans corporate.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: yummykimmy

                                In my experiences at Wegs, although there are no units in Fl., I have been to the stores in N.Y. State, D.C. area, etc. all visits were a pleasure and a very productive shopping adventure. Sounds like the trouble is Pa. itself, ever consider relocating?

                                1. re: ospreycove

                                  He he ospreycove! Yes I have, used to live in FL and also NC. And spent some time in CA also. Thanks for writing them for me yummykimmy.. Chowhounds are the best! Okay okay I cannot resist though. I am a smart aleck at heart. I would hate to see them loose their license. :) Who knows where it might end up? Probably at Chef Paulo's house.

                                2. re: yummykimmy

                                  fyi - sent an email to customer service this AM with a link to this thread.....here's the reply

                                  Hi Kimberly:

                                  Thank you for writing and sharing this. This has been a very difficult thing for us and our customers. We are very sorry in this particular case our customers did not have a good experience. We will continue to try and educate our employees and our customers about the laws and restrictions we are required to follow.

                                  Most places with a liquor license have the license for that establishment, the whole establishment so they can use any cash register they have and everything sold in that establishment is acceptable to be rung up. For Wegmans, it is a unique situation since we are a grocery store that happens to have a restaurant which makes things more complicated.

                                  For us we had to create a separate 'restaurant' section and are only allowed to ring up alcohol and specific restaurant items on those registers or we are in violation and could loose our license. Yet we have the rest of the store with all those other products and many other registers so it is understandable that customers would think they could go through any register.

                                  Thank you again for taking the time to write.


                                  Consumer Services Specialist

                                  1. re: yummykimmy

                                    Glad you got a reply! Signs would really help, though.

                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                      On the part of the customer ignorance of the law is not a defense or a complaint worthy offense on the part of the store ; so the clerks were just doing as the State requires.

                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                        Well the issue seemed mostly in how the clerks handled the customer.

                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          The problem, osprey, is that having alcoholic beverages for sale in a supermarket here is a very new phenomenon. Wegman's is more-or-less a pioneer in this area for having pushed the state to allow them to sell alcohol in their stores. As a result, virtually all customers, myself included, would be clueless as to what to expect. It's uncharted territory for PA consumers -- that's why an explanatory sign would help. Might alleviate some of the hassles the cashiers are facing as well.

                                          1. re: PattiCakes

                                            Lets be clear. The issue was with a person that was DINING IN THE STORE and PURCHASING A NON ALCHOHOLIC BEVERAGE that was obviously going to be consumed with the prepared food in the store.

                                            Wegmans was asking a patron of their cafe to go through TWO checkout lines one for their prepared indian or chinese food and one for a bottle of coconut water. Ignore the law and thing of the obsurdity that they were asking a REPEAT customer to go through.

                                            This is insanity.

                                            Any other reaction to that situation absolutely defys my understanding.

                                            We have a cafe. You can consume the mediocre lukewarm food we have here. But if you choose to choose a bottle of non alchoholic beverage that we did not put in our prepared food section you must go through TWO lines balancing your tray.. making your food grow colder than it is already on the buffet than it was when you slopped it on to your plate before you can consume it at our set of chairs upstairs.

                                            To quote Harry Potter's Movies....................... ridiculous.

                                            1. re: cwdonald

                                              cw - I think you're on the wrong track here. The issue is the PENNSYLVANIA LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD antiquated rules.

                                              1. re: cwdonald

                                                Well said cwdonald and Bacchus! I love chowhound and this is the second time the Philly boards and Philly area hounds have been very healing for me. It seems as though something has to go wrong for me to truly appreciate the outstanding community we have here. Thank you all so much for your comments. So many of my fellow hounds write better and with greater clarity than I do.

                                        2. re: yummykimmy

                                          Problems with the PA LCB, right! Problems with the Wegmans managing the procedures regarding checking out various items at different cash registers (other than booze), right! Both are major issues in this tread for sure. We have all been dealing with the LCB shackles forever. Wegmans has successfully made a major advance in providing an alternative for securing brew and wine. I am sure they are vexed by the LCB also. They need to do their best to play by the rules or we are back at square one.

                                          These LCB issues are annoying BUT for the most part there is little that we can effect which will soothe our pain with them. The restricted checkout of non-booze drinks should and can be corrected by Wegmans. They are now aware. Good move kimmy!

                                          The part that annoys me most is when Wegmans local clerks and managers do not respond appropriately to customers. Wegmans corporate will not abide this behavior. Let them know! I am pleased to have Wegmans in PA. Some local operatives, clerks and managers, are not upholding the corporate values. IMHO

                                      2. So my friend dragged me back to Wegmans tonight partly because they have the best deal around on generic listerine, so I figured I might as well get a quick dinner and do some other shopping. As usual the woman dishing up at the hot foods counter could not have been sweeter. I got french chicken, mac and cheese and a veggie medley while my friend got a large broccoli and cheese soup.
                                        In the interest of everyone's sanity I sucked it up and grabbed one of the juices from the cooler cabinets by the food court register. No coconut water for us. We had a relaxing meal up top and afterwards grabbed some much needed supplies for the week. But we were not to emerge unscathed. The grocery cashier, a woman named susan, treated my friend in an appalling manner. After he swipes his credit card she announces that the store is a LPGA sponsor and hands my friend a flyer, informing him that there are some good coupons inside. My friend is busily trying to put his card away, like most markets these days there is no room to fumble with your important stuff, so he sets the flyer in the bottom of his cart. Susan gets pissy with him and says if he is just going to leave the flyer in the bottom of the cart she is taking it back. And she does. We just kind of stare at her, my friend finishes what he is doing and we leave, but each of us takes a flyer from the big stack, not realizing the other one has taken one. We were both kind of stunned.
                                        We talk on the way home, (Lansdale area), and my friend tells me the cashiers really haven't been the same since last summer, he's been getting bad vibes from them. Maybe Wegmans is mistreating their cashiers and making them miserable. It's enough to make me cut up my Wegmans shopping club card.

                                        4 Replies
                                          1. re: givemecarbs

                                            That really sucks.I havent had nearly as bad experiences with Warrington Wegmans as you have. Are you close enough to consider going to Collegeville instead of Warrington?

                                            1. re: givemecarbs

                                              I recall a Dilbert cartoon from years ago. He was confronted with a post on the office bulletin board that read, "All vacation and personal leave requests will be denied until morale improves."

                                              This may be the crux of the Warrington matter. Mgr. Mary may have infected the troops from her difficulties with those above. She may also have a lot to learn about communicating with staff so that negative sentiments are not imparted to customers.

                                              Every organization is greater than the sum of its parts. I've occasionally made a decision as to whether or not to accept a consulting contract based on five minutes inside the door. Look to the forefront for example.

                                              Collegeville Wegmans has always proved the former for me. Helpful, well meaning and always available. Sorry that the sword of Damocles hangs over Mary's head to its unfortunate extent.


                                              1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                Thanks for your kind comments cwdonald and Chefpaulo. I went to the collegeville wegmans shortly after it opened and even ate in the food court. I just love the layout of the warrington store where the eating area is on the second floor and a lot of the tables are situated where you can look out over a large portion of the store when you eat. Collegeville seems claustrophobic in comparison. My dinner was generous and good and only six bucks last night.
                                                Love the Dilbert reference CP! I was thinking much along the same lines. My friend rejected a local college a few years back because the steep concrete stairs leading down to the parking lot were in disrepair and several of the computers in the lab had viruses or the blue screen of death. This made the decision easy for him, although it was painful for me because the school happened to be my alma mater. Things change. :(

                                            2. So my friend and I went for dinner at Wegmans last night and guess what??? They had coconut water available in the food court area. And it was on sale too with my wegmans club card. I'm impressed. Our dinners were tasty also. Thanks Wegmans, we'll be back very soon.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                                Thanks for the great report back. Its grea to know that a valued customer CAN influence how a large company operates.

                                              2. ...???... Wow, gmc glad you had a better experience but... you went back?
                                                I've written off stores/restaurants for bad service, it seems you're impervious.
                                                I mean I"m glad you had a better experience this time, but it seems that if you continued to have bad experiences in the past... why would you continue to set yourself up for disappointment by continuing to return?
                                                fwiw, I don't generally eat at Wegmans...so I'm not familiar with the whole expeirence you're having.
                                                My hubby and I have taken my daughter there once or twice because we were in the area and needed a quick bite. The food's "ok" in my opinion... there's one near Flemington/Raritan NJ that the Mister says puts the food in Warrington to shame. I do love to do my grocery shopping there... the produce is always top notch, the people in the produce department very helpful as are those in cheese, fish, meat... you can spend as much or as little as you want shopping there too. I could blow the better part of a pay-check if I had no restraint... but then again if I wanted to do my 'regular' shopping there I think I'd pretty much pay same as I do at Acme