When it comes to supermarkets, biggest isn't always best, according to Consumer Reports' latest supermarket survey, which reveals America’s largest grocer at the bottom of the food chain.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based megastore finished last among 55 supermarkets, earning subpar scores for checkout speed, employee courtesy, and meat and produce quality. Nevertheless,Walmart’s 3,300 supercenters remain the destination of choice for 28 percent of Consumer Reports’ survey of 27,208 subscribers, many of whom still remain fans of its low prices.
But Consumer Reports found that shoppers needn’t “settle for limp produce, helpless help, and long checkout lines. Fourteen of the top 20 chains even had prices on a par with Walmart’s,” including Wegmans, Trader Joe's, Publix, Costco and Sprouts, all of which earned the highest scores overall among the nation's major grocery stores.
The report, which is available in the May issue of Consumer Reports, includes the entire ratings of grocery stores and tips for saving time and money at the supermarket. The survey, which reflects 48,076 shopping visits, reveals that while most respondents said they were quite satisfied overall, more than half had at least one complaint about their current store, while almost one-third of respondents cited two or more problems.
“However, no chain tried their customers' patience more than Walmart Supercenter,” according to Yonkers, N.Y.-based Consumer Reports. “The biggest gripe overall: Not enough open checkouts (cited by 19 percent of shoppers), followed by congested aisles, out-of-stock advertised specials, and lack of choice. Walmart shoppers surveyed were especially irritated by too few open checkouts, out-of-stock basic items, and spotty price labeling.”
'Store Choice Matters'
Moreover, the world’s largest independent product-testing organization said, “Store choice matters because Americans are heavily invested in their supermarkets. One-third of subscribers surveyed told Consumer Reports they quit shopping at a nearby grocery store in the past year, mostly because of high prices, but also because of long waits, inadequate selection, or poor food quality. Fifty-eight percent of respondents gave a store the boot because of prices, compared with 43 percent in 2011.”
Among the food retailers that ranked high in Consumer Reports survey include: Costco and Trader Joe's, Publix, Sprouts Farmer’s Markets and Wegmans, which were cited for offering better quality meat and produce, and clean stores. All but Costco earned the highest possible marks for service, defined as employee courtesy and checkout speed. “Service is minimal at warehouse clubs such as Costco, and lengthy lines are a trade-off for day-in, day-out deals.”
The supermarkets that the publication said best enable shoppers to stretch their food dollars are: Trader Joe’s, Costco (including its $55 annual membership fee), Stater Bros., WinCo, Aldi, ShopRite, Save-A-Lot and Sam’s Club (including its $45 annual fee).