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NATIONAL REPORT -- When it comes to supermarkets, biggest isn't always best, according to Consumer Reports' latest supermarket survey, which reveals that America’s largest grocer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is at the bottom of the food chain.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer finished last among the 55 supermarket operators examined, 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 the 27,208 subscribers Consumer Reports surveyed, many of whom are fans of its low prices.
The report, which will appear in the publication's May issue, includes 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 cited two or more problems.
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 to 43 percent in 2011.
“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.”
Food retailers that ranked high in the Consumer Reports survey include: Costco, 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,” according to the publication.
The supermarkets deemed best for enabling 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).