...And That's My OpinionŠ

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon

A Dismal Day at Dominick's

(And How It Turned Bright)

The Prologue

The importance of these facts will become apparent as the story unfolds.

The Story

On Thursday, March 9th I shopped at the new Dominick's grocery store located in the Gateway Center, at Clark and Howard Street in Chicago, as I have every week since they opened Dec. 16, 1999. I handed the checkout person my Dominick's Fresh Value Card and my check. She returned the card, but just stared at the check. Then she went to the next checkout station and that person just stared at the check. Returning to her station, the first cashier called for a supervisor. I asked, "What is the problem?" She said, "The numbers don't match!" and shrugged her shoulders.

The fact is that the top right side check number had five digits (11851); the bottom right side bar code I.D. had only 4 digits (1851). There are, you see, a maximum number of digits, which can be accommodated on the bar code line.

I tried to explain this to the cashier and then to the customer service person who also just stared at my check. At this point, three people had handled my check. I was also at the front of a growing line of impatient shoppers. I was particularly exasperated because there were people I know in that line. I was becoming increasingly agitated. (Surprise!)

The customer service person, continuing to stare at my check, disappeared behind a door. I don't know what she could possibly have done because 30 seconds later she reappeared and said, "Everything is O.K."

Now mind you, NOBODY HAD EVER ASKED ME FOR AN I.D. or given any reason for the delay except for the digit dilemma cited by the first cashier, but not the supervisor.

When I asked to see the store manager a young man named Hemal Prajapati, who introduced himself as the Customer Service Manager, came to talk to me.

It became increasingly apparent that the befuddlement was over the numbers on the upper and lower right side of the check. It also became increasingly apparent that Mr. Prajapati was embarrassed over the lack of knowledge and/or training in this situation. He continued to insist that it was only a routine check verification procedure in spite of the fact that as I said earlier, NO ONE HAD EVER ASKED FOR IDENTIFICATION to determine the authenticity of my check, my name and my address.

He indicated to me that all checks are being scrutinized in this manner. A quick glance down the check-out counters proved this to be incorrect. Continuing on, Mr. Prajapati began to patronize me, telling me that many senior citizens were being robbed of their checkbooks, purses, and wallets or that they were losing them. "This", he said, "is for your own protection." Did I say I was agitated? Now, I was bombastic!

"Do you know how many bad checks we get?" I did not; I didn't care; I wasn't surprised. I wanted the problem corrected so that it would not happen again. Mr. Prajapati, the Customer Service Manager, could not do anything. Although his title said Customer Service Manager, his actions did not meet any of the definitions of those words.

The store in the still-to-be completed Gateway Center has been open for only three months and already there are serious problems requiring extraordinary procedures. What does this portend for the future?

I can't wait for the theater complex to open.

The Follow-up

My call to Dominick's headquarters was taken by Ron Munson, Operations Manager. I read the story to Mr. Munson who agreed that this was poorly handled. He said personnel should be trained to inspect checks with dispatch; a quick I.D. request should be sufficient and that managers should review procedures with employees, paying attention to the situation of checks with high numbers. He was going to contact the store manager at Howard and Clark.

Ted Lazar, the store manager, is a personable young man, whose name I recognized from the Chicago Ave. store in Evanston. He explained the technical computer procedure now in effect. He also explained that the Fresh Value Card is now good only for discounts not checks. But there is a process (based on the Fresh Value Card number and the info contained therein) whereby checks can be verified instantly. This needs to be done only once or when updated by Dominick's. Mr. Lazar indicated that upon his investigation, my background check-up proved to be legitimate, genuine and authentic. Since I have been shopping at Dominick's for 25 years with these checks there seemed to be a huge "snafu" somewhere. My check should have cleared with no problem. Perhaps, he suggested, that the cashier inserted the check incorrectly, causing it to be rejected, in which case, there should have been a second attempt.

It was certainly a comedy of errors and mistakes at the lower level of store personnel and management, together with an "us versus them" attitude. This could have been avoided completely with a little common sense.

The Epilogue

Ron Munson and Ted Lazar are to be commended for their polite and professional manner. They listened attentively and analyzed correctly. Both men displayed critical thinking skills! They were apologetic and helpful. Ted Lazar promised to correct the situation at the store personnel level. I am grateful that now I will not be required to stand at the head of a long line of glaring, impatient shoppers while several people stare at my check.

The Postscript

I'm still waiting, however, for Cineplex-Odeon to open its theaters. I wonder what the name of their operations manager is?


...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

Send me your e-mail address or those of others who would be interested and I'll add them to my rapidly growing distribution list.


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To Email Me: smgoldman@ameritech.net