Business

Federal Way grocers guard their liquor

Fred Meyer, Safeway, WinCo Foods, Walmart and Target all use similar locking devices on their liquor merchandise, but only on select brands. - Josh Nelson/For The Mirror
Fred Meyer, Safeway, WinCo Foods, Walmart and Target all use similar locking devices on their liquor merchandise, but only on select brands.
— image credit: Josh Nelson/For The Mirror

Convenience, quality service with a smile, and now, available in Washington supermarkets for the first time, liquor and spirits — complete with added security.

Since June 1, Federal Way grocery stores have provided liquor and spirits for the public. With the new merchandise, stores have also taken measures to ensure the liquor is purchased legally.

One of these added measures is a locking mechanism on the tops of liquor bottles.

Fred Meyer, Safeway, WinCo Foods, Walmart and Target all use similar locking devices on their liquor merchandise, but only on select brands.

“Some of the bottles have locks, some don't,” said one Target employee. “Some of the locks don't fit on certain bottles and it's usually the more expensive bottles, like Grey Goose, that get the locks.”

He said that if the locks are tampered with, or someone attempts to remove the locks from the bottles, an alarm will sound. The locks are designed to set off an alarm if they pass the front door without being deactivated or removed.

The locks can only be properly removed during checkout, where the cashier uses a magnetic key to remove the lock from the bottle, similar to removing the tags on clothing items.

Target's main focus is on underage theft and purchase of liquor, the employee said. "But we've been expecting an increase in theft, so that area of the store is constantly watched.”

Target isn't alone when it comes to added surveillance.

“We have a decent video surveillance system that monitors everything throughout our stores,” said Mike Reed, a spokesman for WinCo Foods. “Our liquor and spirits section is also located in the customer service area, so someone is constantly watching the merchandise.”

Most Federal Way stores take the precaution of hiring internal loss prevention specialists. As their job title suggests, theft prevention is their mandate. However, should a customer attempt theft, there are measures the store can take.

“We detain the perpetrator if we can, but it always depends on the circumstances,” Reed said. “We cooperate with local authorities on a case-by-case basis, usually depending on the store manager's discretion.”

While these stores have taken measures to ensure their merchandise remains intact, Costco Wholesale hasn't seen much change in their operating procedures or security.

“Our primary advantage is our membership,” said Ron Vachris, a spokesman for Costco. “We have a relationship with all of our customers, which is conducive to lower shrinkage and less loss throughout all categories of merchandise.”

Vachris said that Costco has the ability to control who enters the store and who leaves the store.

“At the point of sale we know who the customer is. It's pretty hard to get in and out without our knowing,” Vachris said.

Vachris said that Costco does not use any kind of locking mechanism on liquor and spirit bottles.

“The locks are very expensive,” Vachris said. “This adds cost to the goods we sell and those costs are traditionally passed on to the customer.”

Although it has only been two weeks since the beginning of privatized liquor in Washington, Vachris said he doesn't expect an increase in theft attempts — at least no higher than any other merchandise.

 

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