Everybody shops for food. You just can't get around it (unless you're one of those survivalist "off-the-grid" types getting ready to do an episode of "Doomsday Preppers"). But nobody wants to shop and purchase food from places that are poorly maintained, poorly stocked, overpriced, are overcrowded, and/or have ill-trained or discourteous employees. But with growing consolidation and stores like Walmart, Costco, Safeway and Kroger expanding to take over larger and larger portions of the American grocery retail market, comparison shopping one's shopping experience is getting to be a bit limited. So to help you find which supermarkets you might want to avoid in the future (and that is only if you have the option), Consumer Reports magazine conducted a survey to see which stores were best and which worst -- and only one of the four largest chains were in the Top 12 worst, but chances are you shop in one or more of these stores on a regular basis.
According to Consumer Reports, which surveyed over 24,000 people to obtain their scores, Walmart was the only chain amid the top four largest chains to make the "Worst" list. However, chances are you shop at Walmart at least part-time and might understand why the chain received a total score of 69 in the four graded categories: service (includes employee courtesy and checkout speed), perishables (food quality), price and cleanliness – all of which were scored from “very satisfied,” “fairly satisfied,” “neutral, “fairly unsatisfied” and “very unsatisfied.” The retail giant accounts for 22 percent of all the supermarket sales in the nation.
And with all that shopping comes a deluge of complaints about the experience. So much so that Walmart ranks No. 2 in the "Worst" list. The "Supercenters" of Walmart (there are over 3,000 of them in the U.S.) received withering reviews on service, were found to have poor food quality, cleanliness was mediocre at best, and scored the highest percentage of shoppers (32) who reported three or more problems with their shopping experience. However, Walmart got a “highly satisfied” score on price -- which most likely accounts for their 22 percent share of the market.
Apparently the supermarket chain to avoid is that which flies the A&P standard. A&P once boasted being the No. 1 supermarket chain in America but that was years ago and in 2010 the company filed for bankruptcy. However, under new corporate leadership and guidelines, the stores that take the company's name ranked No. 4 on the list. The reason they are the chain to avoid overall is a result of Pathmark being the No. 1 "Worst" supermarket in America, according to the survey. With a score of 68, Pathmark, which is part of the A&P family, barely edged out Walmart. (Finally, a retailer doing better than Walmart at something -- unfortunately, it is better at being worse.) Pathmark scored thusly: Service: “highly dissatisfied”; food quality: mediocre; price: mediocre; and cleanliness: poor. But the kicker was that 75 percent of respondents had at least one complaint about the store and 31 percent found 3 or more things wrong with shopping there.
Here's a list of the Top 12 Worst Supermarkets in America and their overall scores:
12. Stop & Shop - 73
11. Acme - 73
10. Ralph's - 73
9. Pick 'n Save - 73
8. Food Lion - 73
7. Weis Markets - 72
6. Tops Markets - 72
5. Jewel-Osco - 71
4. A&P - 70
3. Shaw's - 69
2. Walmart Supercenters - 68
1. Pathmark - 68
Something that might be of interest: Of all the Top 12 Worst supermarkets to shop in, chains that exist primarily in the southern states were noticeably missing. Of the bottom twelve supermarket chains, only Walmart and Food Lion had representative stores in what is considered the South -- and Food Lion only in the mid-Atlantic and south-Atlantic states. It is uncertain whether this is a cultural phenomenon (such as the population perhaps being more verbally critical in the northern states or a lack of tolerance in the southern states for a sub-par shopping experience) or a population-density issue (more people, more issues).
By the way, if you were wondering about the best stores, the supermarket chain that scored the highest in the Consumer Reports survey was Wegman's, which pulled down a nicely symmetrical 88. The biggest complaint with Wegman's? High prices. Primarily a New England and mid-Atlantic chain, it's southernmost stores reach into Virginia.
(photo credit: Ben Schumin, Creative Commons)