Supermarket shoppers can be a picky bunch.
Consumer Reports surveyed more than 24,000 regular grocery shoppers across the country and discovered that even stores that received good ratings were subject to plenty of complaints. In fact, fully a third of shoppers told Consumer Reports that they’d stopped going to at least one supermarket or grocery store in 2011. Reasons for changing stores included crowding (14%) and long lines, limited products or bad food (25%).
Respondents to the survey shopped at 52 different supermarket and grocery chains, including major names like Wegmans, Pathmark and Trader Joe’s. Consumer Reports noted that shoppers in the survey had grown more selective about shopping venues due to the growth of food shopping chains, which have provided consumers with more retail locations and greater options.
Consumers ranked Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, Publix, Fareway Stores and Costco (NASDAQ:COST) as the five best supermarkets. They gave thumbs down to Pathmark, Wal-Mart Supercenters (NYSE:WMT), Shaw’s, A&P and Jewel-Osco, which comprised the worst supermarkets in the respondents’ collective opinion. Jewel-Osco and Shaw’s are owned by SuperValu (NYSE:SVU).
Consumer Reports noted the survey marked the third consecutive year that “the same three grocers have been at the top and the same three near the bottom.”
Shoppers had split opinions in some cases. Wal-Mart, for example, was roundly criticized for poor service, but praised for low prices.
More than half of the shoppers expressed at least one reservation regarding their current supermarket of preference, Consumer Reports noted. Nearly a third indicated more than one complaint with their favored store. This applied to supermarket chains that received relatively good marks in overall ratings as well as those near the bottom.
Customer complaints were unsurprisingly similar. Insufficient open checkout registers, leading to lengthy checkout waits, topped the list of customer complaints. Overstocked shelves and congested aisles were cited as annoyances by significant numbers of customers. Short supplies of advertised products also ranking high in consumer irritants, as did poor bagging at checkout and scanner mistakes at the register.
Not unexpectedly, the survey revealed that shoppers are increasingly concerned about spiraling food prices. Indeed, 43% of respondents who indicated that they had changed stores during the past year, said they did so in search of better pricing.