March 27, 2014 at 9:00 AM ET
The perfect supermarket would offer the highest quality food at very low prices. It would be squeaky clean and the service would be exemplary.
There is no such store, but according to the latest ratings from Consumer Reports two national chains – Trader Joe’s (87 out of 100) and Costco (84) – are getting very close.
Several regional chains, such as Wegmans (which has the highest overall score of 88) in the East, Publix in the South, and Sprouts in the West are also giving their customers most of what they want.
“Trader Joe’s gets exemplary marks for service and very good marks for perishables. Their prices were considered extraordinary and they’re a very clean store,” said senior projects editor Tod Marks.
Costco got top marks for prices and perishables, but only rated average on service, which makes sense to anyone who shops there.
“Most people don’t expect to get service at a warehouse store, but they’re willing to overlook that to get high-quality merchandise and awesome prices,” Marks said.
The news was not so good for Wal-Mart. The nation’s largest grocery store had the lowest score (67) of the 55 stores in the survey. It got points for price, but low marks for service, quality of the perishables and cleanliness.
“People didn’t dislike Wal-Mart,” Marks said. “Its prices are definitely good and the stores are everywhere.”
Wal-Mart spokesperson Danit Marquardt said the company has “taken significant efforts” over the last several years to ensure the quality of its meat and produce. Wal-Mart is “more committed than ever to delivering our customers the products, prices and store experiences that exceed their expectations,” she said in a statement.
Sam’s Club, which is owned by Wal-Mart, rated nine points higher than the regular Wal-Mart supercenters. Sam’s Club got much higher marks for food quality and price. It even rated better for service.
“Can you believe that? A warehouse store got better marks for service than a regular store?” Marks said.
The magazine’s ratings are based on a survey of more than 27,000 readers. While most shoppers said they were generally satisfied with their current supermarket, more than half had at least one complaint and almost a third had two or more problems.
The top gripes: long lines at checkout because not enough checkout lanes are open, congested aisles, out-of-stock advertised specials and inadequate selection. Nearly half of Wal-Mart shoppers complained about the lack of open checkouts.
Stores that don’t keep their customers happy should expect to see them go elsewhere. One-third of those responding to this survey said they had stopped shopping at a nearby grocery store in the past year. High prices were the main reason, but long waits at checkout, limited selection or poor food quality were other reasons they switched stores.
“This shows that people have choices and they are going to exercise that choice,” Marks said.
You can read more about the Supermarket Survey on the Consumer Reports website.