Shopper’s Nightmare: Ranking America’s Worst Supermarkets

November 6, 2012  |  

Image: iStockphoto

It might be Election Day, but we still have to eat. And the just-released survey of the worst supermarkets in America shows that I have shopped at more than half of them.

A number of factors make these supermarkets so bad, but one thread running throughout is that the bigger they are the worst they are run. There is a major lack of customer service.  And while prices are usually great, they run out the competition. Small grocery stores, where you will most often get great customer service and quality prices, just can’t compete with the supermarket chains.

Ironically, many of these chains were opened decades ago as small grocery stores  but are now supermarket chains. We’re sure when they were small and family run, customers were more satisfied. Today people complain of  long lines, rude employees, unsanitary conditions and poor selection. Consumer Reports surveyed 24,000 shoppers to rank the best and worst out of 52 grocery chain stores.

The stores were rated on  four categories – service (includes employee courtesy and checkout speed), perishables (food quality), price and cleanliness – were scored from “very satisfied,” “fairly satisfied,” “neutral, “fairly unsatisfied” and “very unsatisfied.” “The highest-rated supermarket, Wegmans, received a score of 88,” reports the Fiscal Times.

Among the worst were: Stop & Shop, which scored 73. The store was founded in 1914 as Shopmate and now has locations in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Ralphs, which also scored 73, is a Southern California store founded way back in 1873. After all these years you’d like they would be getting things right. The chain is now actually a subsidiary of Cincinnati-based Kroger. It ranked below average on cleanliness.

Food Lion, which was founded in 1957 and is located in the Mid- and South Atlantic regions, is no stranger to bad publicity. A 1992 segment on ABC’s PrimeTime Live show accused the chain of deliberately selling spoiled food. Today, on the Consumer Reports survey it scored 73. “Food Lion was mediocre across the board. Customers weren’t even just a little bit satisfied with cleanliness, service, food quality, or price,”  reports The Fiscal Times.  Maybe next year they will fair better—the company recently announced it would be closing 113 stores and rethinking their marketing strategy.

And if you’re on the East Coast, no doubt you’ve shopped at A & P. The chain, which was launched in 1859, scored just 70 in the survey for issues with poor service and poor prices. According to The Fiscal Times,  the company, which includes supermarkets Food Emporium and Pathmark, filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and is now a private company.

Even though they get the most business (Walmart accounted for 22 percent of American food sales in 2010), Walmart Supercenter is nearly the worst on the list, receiving a rating of 69. Of course you can get everything in one location—from food to furniture—but if you hate going shopping at a Walmart Supercenter, what’s the point?  The only thing people who took the survey were satisfied with about the Walmart Supercenters was price.

But the worst of them all turned out to be Pathmark. The chain, which is located in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, earned a score of just 68. And like most of the those surveyed, I have found Pathmark stores are usually unclean. “One customer on Yelp who reviewed the Harlem, New York location went so far as to call Pathmark, ‘the bane of my existence.’”

For the full list, visit The Fiscal Times.

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