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To reassure shoppers in these times of wide-scale recalls, Wegmans Food Markets has pulled back the curtain on its internal procedures in response to such an event. According to the company, hundreds of its employees are mobilized, customers who purchased the item are informed by phone when there’s a risk of serious illness, and an investigation is launched to find out what happened and how it can be fixed. Only once those questions have been answered and the problem is resolved is the product put back on store shelves.
Wegmans most often receives its earliest alert about a recall from a service that many major food retailers, manufacturers and restaurant chains use to monitor the global food chain for incidents on a 24/7 basis. “These alerts are an important early warning system,” noted Wegmans chief scientist Kathleen O’Donnell.
“We focus on two things immediately — getting the item off the shelves right away and letting our people and our customers know about it,” continued O’Donnell. Once a recall has been detected, a rapid-response team snaps into action, alerting all stores through an internal Web site and instructing staff on removing the product from shelves and posting explanatory signage for customers. Additionally, Wegmans security team members call each store to make sure the information was received and appropriate action taken. Further, the recall team informs Service Desk employees and 1-800-WEGMANS call center specialists so they can answer customer questions. The grocer also posts recall notices on the home page of wegmans.com, and tweets about the recalls on Twitter.
Beyond those actions, Wegmans flags the item electronically in case it appears inadvertently at checkout. “A stray product can end up on the wrong shelf,” explained the company’s recall coordinator, Sherrie Diamond. “If a customer picked up a recalled item this way, the cashier could spot it at checkout and intervene. It’s one more way to make sure we’ve been thorough in removing a recalled item.”
In cases where serious illness or injury is a possibility, Wegmans delves into its Shoppers Club database to determine which customers bought the item using their Shoppers Club card. The grocer then calls those shoppers to provide information on safety and refunds. “In instances like these, it’s important to have current contact information for our customers,” observed Diamond. “That’s why we encourage everyone to keep their contact information up to date, either on wegmans.com by clicking on Shoppers Club contact information, or by stopping at the service desk in our stores.”
Following those procedures, Wegmans works with suppliers to find out what caused the problem and to agree on corrective action that will be implemented before the chain will offer the product again. Such agreements often include third-party testing and periodic safety audits.
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans operates 75 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.