SAFEWAY DEFENDS CHECK-CASHING POLICY

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Safeway, Oakland, Calif., is defending its check-cashing policy after a Washington Post survey found that the company's inner-city locations tend to offer lower cash-back limits than stores in wealthier neighborhoods.At issue is the amount of money shoppers can add to a check above the cost of their groceries. The maximum cash-back level varies between $50 and $15 in Washington-area

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Safeway, Oakland, Calif., is defending its check-cashing policy after a Washington Post survey found that the company's inner-city locations tend to offer lower cash-back limits than stores in wealthier neighborhoods.

At issue is the amount of money shoppers can add to a check above the cost of their groceries. The maximum cash-back level varies between $50 and $15 in Washington-area Safeways, where individual store managers set the limit based on the store's history of receiving bad checks, said Brian Dowling, director of public affairs for Safeway's Eastern division.

The limit is the same for all customers, even if they have a perfect history of check-writing and good credit cards as identification.

The cash-back limit "has nothing to do with geography or who the store serves," Dowling said. "It has everything to do with needing to make a rational business decision." Stores in lower-income neighborhoods tend to have much higher losses from bounced checks, he said.