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Safeway snowstorm customers who redefined 'self-checkout' will get their bill

By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 12, 2010; A08

To those customers who took groceries from the ghost Safeway at the height of Wednesday's blizzard: The store has your IOUs and will be in touch real soon.

Four of the 10 customers who wandered into an unstaffed supermarket took groceries, and all left cash or an IOU on the cashier's counter, Safeway spokesman Craig M. Muckle said Thursday after store officials reviewed video from a security camera.

When the assistant manager of Safeway's Tenleytown supermarket in Northwest Washington realized he was the only one to show up for work on the morning of the wildest winter storm in memory, he followed company policy and went home, Muckle said. The employee won't face disciplinary action for "an honest mistake. He thought he'd secured the door."

"For safety reasons, we don't want just one employee in the store, and he knew that," Muckle said.

Safeway officials initially cast doubt on eyewitness reports that customers had helped themselves to goods during the three hours that the store was unlocked and unmanned, but a review of the tape showed that four people each took a handful of products and made an effort to pay for them.

It's not the first time shoppers have left cash at unsupervised Safeways. Shoppers at two of the chain's California stores left money at the registers after getting a few essentials on Christmas Eve and day.

"Those who took some stuff obviously had their heart in the right place," said Muckle, who said those who left the IOUs included phone numbers or other contact information and will soon hear from store management about arranging for payment.

Muckle said the store reopened Thursday and, like all area supermarkets, would need a few days to "get back up to speed" and restock depleted shelves.

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