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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  • InGA

    Aldi for its clean stores and low prices, Publix for quality and freshness, Kroger for consistency(kroger plus card),
    Ingles for fresh meats, and my local farmers market for over all great products that are fresh local and sustainable.

  • Glenn Coco

    Harlem’s Pathmark really is THAT bad. smh, fix that Pathmark, fix it NOW!

  • Tamz

    I live down the street from a Food Lion and I’ve never had a bad experience with them to be honest. I will NEVER buy my produce from WalMart again, it goes bad too quick. If I have some extra $$ to spend, I’ll go to Publix or our local grocery store Piggly Wiggly (I’m in SC).

  • NotYourAvg

    I’m a stickler for freshness and selection…I love Wegman’s, Whole Foods, Fresh Market,Trader Joe’s and Balducci’s.

  • York

    LAWD, daggone Food Lion. Gotta be the only store where you can go in for a pack of gum only, NOBODY in line, and still need 15 minutes or better to get out….

  • Trisha_B

    Where i’m from, i love Mars, walmart, Safeway (there little $5 fridays are theeee best! lol) & Shoppers. Everywhere else is just expensive for no reason. But by my school in the city of Baltimore, there is a grocery store called Save a lot. i hate it lol. It’s dirty, they charge you 10 cents for each bag, & now they have added 25 cents to use the shopping carts, & they do all of this while selling majority off brand things lol

    • PollyPearl

      I’ve only been to one nice Shopper’s and that was in upper Montgomery County, Olney I think. I hate Wal-Mart for ethical reasons, Mars is subpar, Safeway and Giant are just ok. Save a Lot should be shut down. Give me Wegman’s all day!

    • BetaMax

      How the heck do you charge to use a shopping cart?!?!?!

  • bluelampas

    I am surprised that Keyfood is not on this list. I am from the NYC area. I am not sure if they have locations in other states. It is absolutely the pits. They have the worst fresh produce section in the world.

  • Elle

    I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia and Wegmans is a 2 minute drive from my house. I going to miss Wegmans more than my own family when I move (jk, jk…).

  • lulu f

    favorite super markets where i’m at are HEB (central market HEB is my favorite) and if it wasn’t for the ridiculous prices, Whole Foods would be the top for me.

    • che

      Central market is my favorite too. If you have diverse food tastes, it’s a food wonderland.

      • lulu f

        Yes, I’ve always preferred it to Whole Foods on all fronts and I’ll correct myself and say that even if WF was cheaper, CM would still be my favorite. I lived 5 minutes from the flagship WF and CM in Austin and almost always went to CM. I especially love the massive CM in Houston…it’s absolutely a food haven like you said. I could vacation there!

  • Wow

    Wal-Mart super center should be no. 1 is where the ghetto and the trailer park all converge at once, takes the patience of Job to just to walk down an aisle. The nicest super markets I’ve shipped at we’re Publix and Giant. The prices are kinda high but the service is consistently good.

  • afroveda

    I only shop at Wal-mart’s supercenter because their prices are cheaper than all of the other grocery stores in my area. I live in NC and hate the high prices at Harris Teeter, Fresh Market, and Lowe’s. When I lived in GA, Kroger was my grocer of choice.

    • Kiyoko Kayo Hisoka

      It is almost as if one has to shop at Wal-mart. Other markets sell the same items for double or triple the price.