Changes at QFC location bring plexiglass ‘maze,’ worrying, frustrating customers

SEATTLE — Changes at a QFC store — apparently for security reasons — have some customers say the store is going too far. Some are worried about safety and exiting in an emergency.

Two Seattle QFC stores now have extensive plexiglass inside, directing traffic for shoppers and limiting how people can exit. The grocery chain told KIRO 7 the changes are “to maintain a safe shopping environment,” but customers believe the goal is to thwart shoplifting.

“It’s like shopping in a dystopian novel or something, it’s really bizarre,” said Chris Mobley, a shopper at the store. “Seems to be a way to annoy customers — it’s really hard to navigate the store,” he said.

QFC calls the change a pilot at two locations. One of the stores testing it is at 417 Broadway Ave. in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The new walls of plexiglass section off certain departments of the store, like produce and floral, away from the exit and entrance. To reach the produce, customers first have to walk in a circle around the store.

“To trap people into a literal maze, it’s like you’re a bunch of rats going around a maze in there,” said Rigo Gutierrez, who was outside the store on Friday.

Longtime Capitol Hill residents say because of shoplifting concerns, QFC has been tightening security over the years, by closing off two other exits and shrinking the main door.

“The whole reason they shut down the entrance over there was people were just running out the door,” said Genn MacGilvra, a frequent visitor to the Broadway QFC.

Some people say the latest change is too much.

“When they added the plexiglass, it was totally shocking to us,” said Tammy Luthy. Luthy says she’s shopped at the QFC multiple times a week for over 30 years.

“If there’s a fire, where do you leave, how do you get out?” Luthy said.

She posted her concerns on social media, calling it “dangerous” in a tweet and contacting Seattle Fire Department code compliance.

“There is a real concern for the safety of people when you shop there,” Luthy said.

KIRO7′s Deedee Sun reached out to QFC about the situation. A spokesperson said in an email, “We are committed to our core value of safety. As a result of customer feedback we reconfirmed with the local fire department that it meets code.”

The Seattle Fire Department said early Friday that it was “currently investigating.” By late afternoon, the fire department said inspectors had checked it out and confirmed the plexiglass barriers were not in violation of the Seattle fire code.

Some shoppers say they don’t mind the change.

“It’s not affecting my life. I can still get into the store,” said Shealynn Foster, another shopper. “Also, you’ve got to protect your business,” she said.

Others say it’s just unfortunate the area is in this situation at all.

“I’m sad at what this implies about the world, and our ability to be honest and not desperate in this world,” MacGilvra said.

QFC and parent company Kroger haven’t confirmed the plexiglass is to prevent shoplifting, but rather to “help control traffic” and “maintain a safe shopping environment.”

The full statement from QFC is below:

“QFC has proactively installed the additional safety protocols to maintain a safe shopping environment for our associates and customers. We are committed to our core value of safety. As a result of customer feedback we reconfirmed with the local fire department that it meets code. We are currently piloting this at two Seattle stores.”