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Best and Worst Supermarkets

Grocery shopping is seldom super

By Rich_Maloof Apr 23, 2012 5:07PM

Photo: /UpperCut Images/Getty ImagesUnless you’re small enough to ride in the cart, there’s not a whole lot to enjoy about grocery shopping. When you’re the one cruising the aisles, paying the bills, and filling the bags, patience for a less-than-super supermarket can be drained like milk from a leaky carton. 

In the May 2012 edition of Consumer Reports, a survey compiling input from over 24,000 shoppers finds that the same stores have topped the lists for best and worst supermarkets for three years running. Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, and Publix receive the highest ratings, while Pathmark, Walmart Supercenter and Shaw’s all get the thumbs down.

If you live in the Northeast and can shop regularly at a Wegmans, count yourself among the privileged few in supermarket nirvana. The prices are reasonable, the employees are cheerful, and more importantly the bakery smells so good you want to bury your whole face in the first loaf of challah you see. Somehow, Wegmans has figured out how to be a superstore with a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker — and a pharmacy, a wine shop, and a florist  — without sacrificing quality. Meantime, over at Walmart, there forever seems to be a clean-up in aisle 5 and the lighting alone makes you feel that you may never again experience joy. Perhaps there is something intrinsically wrong about buying your produce in the same place where you can buy a paddle boat.

Low prices earn high marks for Walmart in the CR survey, but not enough to overcome complaints about service and checkout. Why, shoppers ask, does Walmart bother with 35 checkout aisles when there seems to be a maximum of four employees available to man the registers? And why do all four get so cranky when we ask that they not bag the raw chicken with the lawn seed? Self-checkout aisles had seemed like a promising solution to understaffing and long lines, but it turns out that swiping your own UPC codes is more complicated than piloting a small aircraft.

According to CR editor Tod Marks, 43% of shoppers will choose to fill their carts elsewhere when prices run too high. Poor selection, long lines, and lousy food quality motivate another 25% to change stores, and a full 17% of shoppers are chased away by crabby employees. Meanwhile, at a Wegmans somewhere in upstate New York, the aroma of freshly baked buns wafts through the air while a contented shopper with a full cart tries free samples at the olive bar.

Apr 25, 2012 4:58PM

I do NOT shop at Walmart unless I have to, the customer service of the sales or stockers, whatever they are, is the WORST.  They are Rude and for some unknown reason, condescending.  Understand I live on a Indian Reservation, the walmart is on our land, and we get tax free sales. 

All they do is complain about tribal members.  I say goodbye wally, and hello Costco!

Apr 25, 2012 4:25PM

It's ironic that everyone talks about how low prices are very important to them yet they complain about long lines and poor service.  Labor is the largest expense a grocery retailer has so it is little wonder that minimizing labor is a huge component in a retailer lowering prices.  Can't have your cake and ......

Apr 24, 2012 5:53PM

My goal as a grocery shopper is simple.  I want to buy what I need at the lowest price. This hugely affects where I choose to shop.  Also, I don’t use shopping as a way to define my position in society.  I don’t spend my time finding people working or shopping that I feel are beneath me and I don’t get the least bit upset when people speak a language other than English in my presence.  The stores that come closest to meeting my goals are Sams, Wal-Mart, Albertsons and Freshfield Farms.  I normally don’t buy groceries at Wal-Mart but they do have large selection at good prices.  The main attraction of Albertsons for me is good selection of meat and sea food at better prices than many other stores.  Albertsons are now said to to be closing almost every store in Florida and I sadly am going to have to find somewhere else to shop. However, for the most part it won’t be Publix or Target where prices are too high for me.  Freshfield Farms has a great selection of fresh vegetables at great prices.   Many shoppers seem to find a correlation between price and cleanliness or price andcustomer service.  I almost never see such a correlation.  The local Whole Foods here is cramped and of course prices are very high.  I used to shop there on occasion but they inconvenienced me one too many times.  One evening I went and the employees wouldn’t let anyone in.  They said they were having Employees Day.  Another time I went and they wouldn’t let me in because they said they decided to clean the store.  My local Publix has or had a produce manager who in my oppinion has a bad attitude and one of his long time regular employees has as bad of attitude as any store employee I have even come across.  The Albertsons I shopped at in Tuskawilla was large, clean and well stocked with good prices but typically there might be10 to 12 cars in a huge parking lot while the Publix parking lot across the street was nearly full.

Sometimes I just don’t get it.

Apr 24, 2012 4:40PM
Wal-marts produce comes from many of the same big farms in California or Florida that other grocers do. I know because i see the same tags at Krogers and Publix pretty often!  Not sure what the "inferior" produce is you are talking about.....hmnn I see produce sometimes at other grocerers that does not look that good, but that reason could be the produce is out of season and hard to come by peak crops> Wow..novel thought. Sure maybe the produce clerk missed a few items of produce that should of been removed from the crate, but missed them because they were on the bottom?  Every Christmas we invite both sides of the family over and have a big weekend holiday feast. Even though my father in law works at Publix corporate office as an executive, I buy my food at Wal-mart, but he dioes not know that! He thinks my wife shops at Publix (she tells him that...to keep the peace) and always likes the food....produce and meat!! I work in the utility business so I dont have any bias, and i do like my father in law by the way!
Apr 24, 2012 3:58PM
I shop at Target and Sprouts for the quality.

I don't use Walmart EVER but not because of the store or products but rather because of the people who shop there. Yikes! I'd trade the millions of hard working illegals for all the Walmart trash in an instant.

You want to know why we are losing out to China...go to Walmart and see the bottom 30%. Yikes Uhmurica!
Apr 24, 2012 3:28PM

i've set foot in walmart - headed there this a.m. just to pick up hubby's prescriptions and that's it - i've tried giving different ones different chances but all the same experience...the rudeness, feeling like i need a bath afterwards, etc. 


As for lines - at least the other stores have ppl making sure the lines don't get out of line.  At walmart, i stood at least 1/2 hour in a line with only 1 cashier manning the customers.  I even called cumstoer service and they did not give a crap...and it is worse at their black friday sales - no one (incl other customers) respects the long lines and will cut and no one in WM gives a **** as long as they get their money.  Oh - they rip you off during those sales too and won't give a **** if you a complain.


just came from Walmart - my experience - sucked - (a) I had to buy a new lancet for my hubby's diabetes - they had two boxes on the shelf - both were damaged boxes. When i asked if they had others - that were not so damaged - i was told no - hopefully the produt works for my husband. (b) when I was at the pharmacy, i waited 5 minutes (witho no crowds) before I even had help b/c no one was manning the pharmacy counter (2nd time in a row this has happened). So hopefully WM is seeing these posts and try to get their stores cleaned up...the ppl "bashing" those of us who complain about WM, are probably the ppl we laugh about who block alses with kids that run around like crazy and almost running into moving shopping carts


Finally- you don't hear of any other major shopping grocery stores every christmas on the news like WM b/c ppl get crazy and shoot each other or trample innocent ppl

Apr 24, 2012 2:15PM
I like how everyone has such a biased opinion of the stores mentioned.  I LIKE Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart.  It kills me that people complain about lines at Wal-Mart, when they all have them!  Generally, Trader Joe's has only 1-2 cashiers working and Whole Foods usually has 3-4, but their prices are so high I don't shop there that often.  Wal-Mart generally has 4-5 on each side of the checkouts (grocery side and the other side).  I have never been into a Target that has had more than 2 cashiers working.  I think the bottom line is that the business world does not put that high on their priority list and people are really impatient.  I remember a few weeks ago picking up a few things after work and I kid you not, I had one lady in front of me and the guy next to me had one guy in front of him.  I heard him say "this is ridiculous!" and set his stuff down and left.  I remember this because I was carrying a big pack of water and he had like 3 things.  The total wait time was like two minutes.  Two minutes!
Apr 24, 2012 1:59PM
WalMart isn't my favorite destination, but it serves a purpose.  In reading all the  posts, I have to wonder if WalMarts are different around the country.  The only time there's a shortage of cashiers in our local WalMart is at off hours,  between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.. (if you're like me and prefer to avoid crowds, 7 a.m. is a great time to shop.)  The store is clean and well lit.  Customer service is hit and miss, but my biggest gripe is the rudeness of the customers - standing in the middle of the aisle to make their selection, shopping in a group of 10, strolling along the aisles at a speed a snail could pass... or all of the above.  (that's why, if I go to WalMart, it's at 7:00 in the morning.)

It has become so "in" to bash WalMart, that I have to wonder how many of the people posting comments here have ever even set foot in a WalMart, and how many are just regurgitating other peoples' opinions. 

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