Survey Says 73% Of Shoppers Don't Care For Their Grocery Stores

Earlier this month, IBM released some interesting findings about grocery shoppers from its new study “Why Advocacy Matters to Grocers,” including:

  • 73% of shoppers “feel either antagonistic towards or have no loyalty to their local supermarket”
  • 46% feel antagonistic
  • Among regular supermarkets, 27% of customers act as advocates, meaning they are “loyal customers who recommend their grocer to others, buy more from their grocer and stay with their grocer instead of going to the competition.” Among specialty supermarkets, however—where more emphasis is placed on delivering a quality shopping experience and an appropriate selection of products—advocacy goes up to 46%.

So what’s a poor grocery store to do when faced with so many indifferent or hostile shoppers? IBM (which has a vested interest in pushing its own customer data program) says,

Clearly the customer loyalty card efforts across the grocery industry have fallen short of their goals as grocers sacrifice customer experience to focus on lower prices.

Whether friend or foe, all shoppers identified the following attributes as important factors in how they feel about their grocer:

  • quality
  • selection
  • employees
  • product availability
  • social responsibility

We would just appreciate it if the cashiers didn’t always treat us with theatrical displays of contempt when we check out. We’re also surprised there’s no mention of crowding or store layout—in NYC at least, the markets are almost always 1/5th the size of “normal” stores, and god help you if you go on a Saturday afternoon.

“IBM Survey Finds Grocery Industry Falls Short in Building Loyalty With Customers” [IBM via USA Today]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. humphrmi says:

    In Chicago, the two BIG chains are Jewel (Albertsons) and Dominick’s (Safeway). My Dad always shopped at Jewel, mainly because it was across the street from them. On the left coast, my Mom always shopped at Safeway, mainly again due to proximity. Until I moved back east, I shopped at Larry’s Market because it was the only supermarket chain open at 1:00 AM, when I got off work.

    So anyway, I move back to Chicago, gotta pick – Dominick’s or Albertson’s. Hmm. We keep Kosher. Dominick’s in Lincolnwood has a great selection of Kosher foods. Jewel’s is better, but more expensive. Fast forward a couple of years, we’re eating ground turkey every night because Dominick’s can’t be bothered to stock Kosher beef any more. No cheeses anymore either. Their Kosher section is getting smaller and smaller. So, despite the higher prices, I go back to Jewel because – well, they care that I eat more than friggin ground turkey for dinner every night.

  2. XianZomby says:

    I’m antagonistic towards “my grocer” because they artificially raise prices and only offer me the opportunity to purchase food at a fair price if I allow them to record every purchase I make and database it against my age, income and home address. I’m tired of being databased, parsed in a system and being a number to some f**k at “corporate.”
    Why don’t you consider the food on your shelves as your “product,” not me, my privacy, and a dossier of my spending habits? Stop selling a rundown of my lifestyle to Proctor and Gamble and I might be loyal again.

  3. ghostwriter says:

    Go Trader Joe’s. I swear by that place. And I live ontop of another large grocery chain. I go three blocks to trader joe’s. They care about fresh/healthy food. Their selection is relevant, and there staff is friendly and seems to enjoy spending their time their. Huge difference… I shop there a lot, and I let people know it. Keep up the good work.

  4. Dilbitz says:

    The store I go to sucks. Their produce is old and wrinkly. Bananas never get yellow. They go rotten in a few days. You have to check the expiration dates on everything. I almost bought a jar of baby food that expired TWO years ago. Why do I keep going there? Because they still float checks and I always run out of food before payday. I have priorities…

  5. umbriago says:

    I have totally adopted the Costco lifestyle, for better or worse. So everytime I walk into a grocery story to get something Costco doesn’t carry, like a few potatoes or a bottle of lime juice, I feel like I’m being screwed, price-wise. In addition (at least where I live), the groceries don’t have enough help, there aren’t enough checkouts at peak hours, prices generally suck, nor do I have my own loyalty card – the one I found in the parking lot does nicely.
    See you at the Costco Anonymous meetings.

  6. sauceistheboss says:

    The problem with the average grocery store is that service is entirely dependent on the staff member that one deals with. It is so easy for a person to say “we don’t have that in stock” or “we can’t accept that coupon/discount” simply because they don’t feel like checking with someone else (or they simply can’t be bothered).

    At this point, I will simply check the weekly flyer and buy sale items. I have no loyalty to a single store.

  7. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    @xianzomby: same with me. Prices on food are ridiculously expensive and i can only afford things when they are “on sale.”

  8. Bryan Price says:

    Of course I don’t like my current grocery store. I’m living in a city that is just a bit smaller from where I used to live at (Jacksonville, FL now instead of Columbus, OH, by population, not area). And all the grocery stores are half the size of what I’m used to. They have no real variety here, the one chain that did have a better variety, Harris-Teeter pulled out a couple of years ago. Albert’s left the area, so now it’s either Winn-Dixie (my store), Publix (the variation that I go to just to be different) and Food Lyon (which has a rather horrible past both personally and with other friends—in other states no less). Wal-mart? I tend to avoid going food shopping there. The other three are closer to me anyway.

    I want Kroger to come to the area and kick all of their asses. Giant Eagle might do the same thing, although I’ve only been in their stores a couple of times. Big Bear when it was on its way out was better than what I have today.

  9. BigNutty says:

    I love me grocery store (Albertson’s) and the employee’s too. If I did not care for it I would go somewhere else.

    I guess it depends where you live because I have about 12 full size grocery stores within a few miles to choose from.

    Those with not much choice (usually depressed areas in large cities) are stuck with what they have.

  10. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    @Bryan Price:
    Funny you should pine for Columbus; I live there and agree that all of the major stores here are pretty decent. Meijer is like Wal-mart without selling your soul and Giant Eagle is top notch but expensive. Kroger is starting to lose me, because only the sale items are reasonably priced. Still, much better than what you get at the stores I visited in other states.

    Funny thing, Meijer is the cheapest and the only one without a “loyalty” card.

  11. visualbowler says:

    I love my grocery store as well. Sudbury Farms is a small family owned chain which is very local to where I live. There prices are not the cheapest but they are pretty close to it. Their staff is usually pretty friendly and they dont seem to hate their jobs or their life. Not to mention they help you take your groceries out to the car, unnecessary but a nice touch. What impresses me most is how much they give back to the community. They frequently donate to local events and if you are having something catered and its for a non-profit or the proceeds benefit a cause. They will usually double your catering order for free which to me, is a very well run family supermarket.

  12. mgyqmb says:

    I’m sorry – I can’t read this story unless I know the answer….

    Is that Pedobear???

  13. justinph says:

    After shopping at a regular grocer in college for a while, I switched to a Co-Op (there are many in the Twin Cities). I wouldn’t go back. The prices aren’t bottom barrel, but with food, you get what you pay for. I get organic food from local growers. Can’t say that about a Cub, Rainbow, Jewel or whatever else the mega-stores are…

  14. trollkiller says:


  15. timmus says:

    My gripes about stores fall into two categories:

    (1) Filling the aisles with tables of merchandise. Albertson’s is notorious for this and they tend to make you run a gauntlet of them to get past the entrance.

    (2) Not having enough checkers and baggers working the register. Store, show you care about the community and hire a few extra checkers and baggers. I don’t want to wait in line 10 minutes and I don’t want to be bagging my own groceries when I’d rather be watching the price scans.

  16. MeOhMy says:

    @ghostwriter: Trader Joe’s is great, but they aren’t really a full-scale grocery store. Every so often we give it a try, but we have been unable to cover an entire shopping list at TJ’s without making an additional trip to another store. I wish TJs was in the same shopping center as my regular supermarket!

    I don’t have any serious loyalty for “my” supermarket (Acme, currently owned by Albertson’s), but I don’t have any complaints about them either.

  17. allirob says:

    After trying several chains here in WA state, we have finally gone with Central Market. Safeway lost us when they started jacking the price of products and putting their “Select” brand next to them on sale…then replacing stuff we bought with their brand and lying about it, saying they do not replace national brands with their own. They have and do. Plus, they got rid of the seafood guy and just put a case out there with pre-wrapped stuff. QFC got bought by Kroger, which instanttly ruined those storesm, bringing them down to the level of Fred Meyer. Top Foods/Haggen has horrible produce and no real butcher dept. So that left Central Market…live seafood in tanks, aged beef, real butcher shop, great selection of fresh, organic produce, best wine/sake selection around…and they have fresh sushi made to order…that does not suck.

  18. magic8ball says:

    Around here it seems to be a question of location. There is a Kroger and an Albertson’s near where I live; both are pretty ghetto and have poor selection. In the town that’s fifteen minutes north of here, the Kroger and Albertson’s both are nice, clean, well-stocked, and have better selection. I wouldn’t go to the pharmacy at the “nice” Kroger on a bet, though – they’ve screwed up my prescriptions once too often.

  19. SaraAB87 says:

    We have Tops and Wegmans here, both use those shopper club cards, but Tops is HORRIDLY overpriced. They seem to think a good business model is printing up a millon tags with ” 5 CENTS SAVINGS ON THIS ITEM” on them, in order to make you think your getting a sale on an item, instead of just offering lowered prices outright. Wegmans is ok and has much lower prices than Tops, and they don’t have retarded business practices. They both like to inch prices up 10 cents each week though on various items, and you can see the increases, although Tops increases are significantly higher. For example a gallon of Perry’s ice cream is typically 5.99 at Tops but about 2.50 at Wegmans.. thats how drastic the price differences are between the 2 stores.

    We also have the other grocery stores such as Family Dollar, Aldi, Save A Lot, that carry generic brand products. The trouble is these stores don’t save you that much money (if any at all) and the quality of goods is significantly lower. These stores are slowly bridging the pricing gap between the lowest price products at Wegmans and their products, because they know they have tons of customers coming in to buy their products due to percieved savings because their brands are generic, when the savings are just that, percieved. There might be 10-20 cents difference per product between generic brand and a brand name at Wegmans. For our family of 4 adults that does not overbuy groceries or have massive portions of food for every meal those savings are negligable at best. Better off just going to Wegmans.

    Due to the increase in the value of the Canadian dollar (i live in a border city), we have massive amounts of Canadians coming over to shop in our stores, which raises the prices because the stores here cannot keep stock of products because there is such an influx of customers and it makes things more expensive because the demand is there no matter what price is charged. People have to eat, people will never stop buying groceries, peroid, so grocers feel they can overcharge because there is huge demand for our products.

    I am not loyal to any grocery store, I have no reason to be, they are all the same here. No I will not drive 3 miles to save 10 cents on a pound of butter but I will go to whatever store has the lowest price on item X here. All of our grocery stores are within 5 min of each other in the same shopping area.

  20. allirob says:

    @magic8ball: Yeah…Albertson’s=ghetto around here too…no one seems to mop the floors, there are always fat chicks with screaming kids and carts full of tater tots and generic kool-aid…makes me cringe if I have to go in there for something…I take the lesser of our vehicles too because no one there seems to respect other people’s doors.

  21. jodles says:

    where i live at home we have midsize grocery stores like foodtown, keyfood, walldbaums and king kullen, and all of them are pretty equal in price. i prefer trader joe’s. up at school i pretty much only go to wegmans. they are a little more expensive, but ours is so massive and fun to be in, and is open 24 hours which is wonderful for college kids. plus, their international food section is incomparable to anywhere else. they have kosher, chinese, japanese, german, eastern european, israeli….anything you can think of (that’s really authentic).

  22. loueloui says:

    @Bryan Price: I want Kroger to come to the area and kick all of their asses.

    I totally agree. I do a lot of food shopping at Costco, but you can’t get everything in bulk. The rest of your choices in Florida are either:

    Publix- Nice and clean, with a great deli, happy smiling employees but expen$ive. You need a second mortgage to shop here.

    Winn-Dixie- Slightly cheaper, but filthy. They save money on cleaning, and pass the savings along to you! Canned goods only from here.

    Albertsons- Expensive, incompetent, run by miscreants. Ever been sneered at by a grocery clerk because you don’t speak spanish? Here’s you chance.

    Food Lion- Cheap, grungy, hicky. You must need a pickup truck to shop here. Nascar brand bacon anyone?

    Save-A-Lot- The bare bones champion. They have one of each brand of everything, and only one. Never heard of Seriglio brand cheese? Neither did we.

  23. m0unds says:

    I’m still bummed that Raley’s pulled out of New Mexico. All the Raley’s stores in my areas have been picked up by Albertsons. This is a Bad Thing(tm). Also, our local Smith’s (Kroger) suck *bad*.

  24. Pylon83 says:

    You and all the conspiracy theorists crack me up. “I don’t want them taking ANY of my data, even though it’s not personalized in any way”. The reason the stores can offer lower prices is because they can use the statistical data to make decisions. I simply do not understand what you crazies have against data mining, particularly non-invasive kind they do at your grocer. I imagine you are working on a manifesto of some sort? With a section devoted solely to Grocery Store discount cards? Get over yourself and take the discounts.

  25. juri squared says:

    We hit up at least two, sometimes three grocery stores every time we need to shop. Why? Because we want to avoid Jewel/Dominick’s. It’s ridiculously expensive there, so we go to Aldi to buy basics and then to somewhere like Meijer or Super Target to get the stuff Aldi doesn’t stock. All three stores are much farther than the Jewel or Dominick’s, but it’s worth the hassle. They just remodeled the Dominick’s to a “lifestyle” store, which makes me wonder if they’re just trying to hide the fact that they cost so much more AND require a club card to avoid massive wallet assault. Maybe they’re afraid of the Whole Foods being built. I know I am; they’re even MORE expensive.

    When we’re feeling adventurous or are in the area, we go to Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately, the closest one is about a half hour away, so it’s not a very viable option most of the time.

  26. new and troubling questions says:

    This is news? I honestly don’t know anyone who’s even vaguely “loyal” to a given grocery store, except for maybe Trader Joe’s, which apparently can do no wrong.

  27. psm321 says:

    I love Kroger… store brand items that are better than the brand name, decent prices, good health food and international selection, and consistent layout (unlike the local Meijer’s which isn’t even recognizable as my childhood Meijer’s anymore). Kroger layout also tends to be pretty consistent between locations, varying only a little.

    Only downside is they stopped carrying Kraft “fat-free” mozzarella which I used a lot, and reformulated one of their store-brand crackers so that it’s slightly worse than before.

    Availability of Kroger was a consideration (though obviously not a major one) when looking at moving to various places for a job after graduating from college.

  28. atalantapendragonne says:

    I live in a crappy neighborhood, so the grocery stores near me are really scuzzy. Since I don’t have a car, my choices are very limited. What bothers me most is all the expired stuff out on the shelves. Both the HEB and the Fiesta closest to me are atrocious in that regard. Sometimes I go to Whole Foods (it’s not a too-horrific trip by bus), and they’re insanely expensive but a good place to get the occasional treat.

  29. Pylon83 says:

    I live in downtown Chicago, and I have no car. My options are Jewel, which is cheap, but has terrible employees, and Dominicks, which I use all the time. The Dominicks is new, nice, fairly spacious, and has reasonable prices. The other “options” are Trader Joe’s (which we occasionally frequent, but is a decent walk), Whole Foods (Hippe store that I dislike, aside from being expensive), and Fox and Obel (ultra-fancy grocer that is crazy expensive, but has things like Kobe beef, etc.). Overall, Dominicks is very nice, has a competent staff, and has reasonable prices (for downtown Chicago).

  30. frankadelic says:

    Someone above mentioned this but the supermarkets around me here in Queens, NY need some help with making the customer experience a little better. They all crowd the isles with displays or tables that make navigating your cart impossible without begging other customers to moving their carts.

    As a teen I worked at a local Waldbaums. I’m not sure if this is true of all store but the store managers received bonuses for ordering more merchandise from the warehouse. It didn’t seem to matter if this merchandise sold (we threw out cart fulls of outdated food every night) so they just piled our products in the warehouse and in the isles. It created a sometimes dangerous situation for both the customers and the employees.

    Anyway, they just opened up a Trader Joes near me so I’m going there.

  31. EvilSquirrel says:

    The best thing that ever happened by me was all of the Farmer Jack stores closing. Ever since my local Farmer Jack turned into a locally owned store, the quality has gone up by leaps and bounds. They always have plenty of cashiers and people working thoughout the store. Best of all, I think the food is fresher based on the fact that the meat sections no longer smell like old fish and rotting beef.

    Trader Joes also rocks but their selection is a bit limited. Of course I would rather shop somewhere that does a few things well instead of many poorly.

  32. xl22k says:

    Anyone go to Stop & Shop?

    Never had a problem with them … prices are decent, store is clean, there are lines during busy periods but I shop off-hours. And the couple times I’ve bought something rotten or something that just wasn’t right, I never had any problem getting a replacement or refund.

  33. xl22k says:


    …and forgot to mention, whenever I forget my Stop & Shop card, they always have the “manager’s card” they’ll scan so I can still get the sale prices…which is awesome in my opinion.

    So yea, I guess I’m loyal to my grocer now that I think about it.

  34. yg17 says:

    Here at college, I have 2 choices (small towns suck). Wal-Mart or Kroger. Kroger is twice as expensive as Wal-Mart for the same stuff, and on a college budget, money counts, so Wal-Mart it is. I hate that place, and wish I had something better.

    Back home (St. Louis), there are a few options. There’s Shop n Save, which my mom swears by (they are cheaper, stores aren’t as nice and you bag your own groceries, but the savings are significant compared to the competition). We have Dierbergs a locally owned chain, owned by some multi-millionaire asshole….I used to work there back in high school (the Dierberg family were all a bunch of snobbish douchebags, I don’t care if I’m not supporting the “local guys” because I can’t stand them) which is expensive, so I don’t go there often. We also have Schnucks which is even more expensive. St. Louis County is getting it’s first Wally World Supercenter (which I don’t plan on ever setting foot in). And they’re putting up a new Target like 2 miles from our house. I don’t think it will be a Super Target, but, since it is right next to a Schnucks and they want to compete, they should have a fairly decent grocery section which I imagine we’ll be going to often. Probably meat and produce from one of the grocery stores and everything else from Target. Their prices are almost as cheap as Wal-Mart, and I don’t need a rusted, 30 year old barely running pickup truck and a mullet to not feel out of place there.

    STL kinda gets screwed when it comes to grocery stores. The UFCW union has always been pretty big here, lots of influence, so that’s why we’re just now getting our first Wally World Supercenter (we still have normal Wal-Hells though) and don’t have a Target Super Center or any of the other nationwide chains. Rumor has it that they’ve basically been lobbying (aka bribing) the county to not issue building permits for non-union competition, but I guess they finally gave up. I remember when Wal-Mart and Target first started selling groceries and the union threw a fit, because the union stores are expensive, the big box stores are cheap, and people started going to the big box stores (Gee, imagine that?) When I worked at Dierbergs (union) they preached all that “Wal-Mart and Target are evil, don’t ever go there” crap. I eventually got fed up, quit and went to work at a Target. Fuckers.

    Although I guess they got the last laugh because Target sucked just as bad.

  35. azntg says:

    I don’t really care much for my grocers either. Rant alert!

    The closest one to my house is a local chain called Food Dynasty/Key Food or whatever they’re calling it now (they seem to have a penchant for changing the store name every couple of years). Despite a recent expansion, the food selection sucks, they’re notorious for selling expired items and they’re experts at bait and switching (or not honoring their sale prices). Almost every employee looks like they’re miserable from working there. It’s a nightmare. Shame this store had to be right across the street.

    Then, there’s a Stop and Shop about four long (midtown Manhattan-sized) blocks down from my house. In comparison to Pathmark. They’re occupying a huge footprint, yet they have closed off many sections. Goodness, they’re right in line with the products they sell (huge packaging, little substance). They’re consistently the most expensive out of all the area stores. Good to see that they provide jobs for elders as cashiers. Only problem is, they really cannot clear out the crowd when “rush hour” equivalent comes. I’ve seen people abandoning their entire shopping carts and leaving after waiting in line before.

    Finally, there’s Pathmark, one of the earliest supermarket chain serving my neighborhood. Far from perfect, but the least detestable grocery shopping experience there. They seem to have a penchant for misleading sale items though (e.g.: stocking non-sale items in big pile at a conspicuous location with a sale sign on it, making you think the item is on sale. Only if you read the fine print on the sign, you can find out that the stocked item is NOT on sale!)

  36. getjustin says:

    Move down south, shop at Publix, be happy.

  37. DallasDMD says:

    Whole Foods is A++. Once you realize how bad some of the garbage they put in food at most other places is, you’ll dread shopping anywhere else.

  38. DrGirlfriend says:

    My closest supermarket is Safeway. I don’t hate them, but I don’t love them, either. They’re extremely average. I feel their selection could be better, and they never, ever have enough cashiers.

    The one thing I hate about them is their deli section. They make pretty decent sandwiches, but they’re always out of some ingredient. And management has forbidden them to get supplies from elsewhere in the store – so if they’re out of sliced turkey, the deli guy who is 10 feet away can’t give them any. And I too have noticed that seafood is now shrinkwrapped and in cases only.

  39. capitalass says:

    I have not been to a real grocery store (read: supermarket) in months. There is a little natural foods store a couple blocks away, but I honestly get most of my “groceries” if any from the deli across the street. Yeah, I’m not a single guy.

  40. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    If you’re in the North or Northwest burbs of Chicago, go to Jerry’s in Niles.
    The absolute cheapest produce around.
    Also has a lot of weird specials.
    Lots of overstock & closeouts from all over the place.
    I loaded up on Nestle turtles a few weeks ago, just 99¢ a box, over $4 everywhere else!

    Also always has matzo unbelievably cheap for months after Passover.
    At one point, farfel & meal was 10 boxes for $1!
    Last I saw it was 5 for $1!
    Or try Stanley’s Fruit Market at Elston & North Ave.

    Otherwise, most shopping is done at Costco, but Aldi is for staples.
    Jewel & Dominick’s are so overpriced it’s disgusting!

  41. dieman says:

    SuperTarget is great, personally. My wife has a chronic illness, so she racks up the 10% cards (one for every 10 scrips filled) nearly monthly — 10% off your grocery bill is a heckvua perk for getting your drugs there (we easily get a month of groceries free then!). If they were to discontinue or otherwise reduce the program we’d seriously think about going somewhere else or back to delivery or something.

    Proof: Loyalty begins with a bribe. :)

  42. wezelboy says:

    The best grocery I’ve shopped at is Shopper’s Corner in Santa Cruz. I miss it. Expensive as hell, succinct and awesome. They don’t have much space, so they don’t stock a lot of junk. If you want something they will get it for you- even if that something is “Venezuelan Beaver Cheese”.

  43. MickeyMoo says:

    I guess none of the commenters here are from the SF Bay Area – My folks used to shop at Andronico’s a block from home because it was convenient, but once I had to take over the shopping duties, it’s about 95% Costco, 3% the Korean Green Grocer a few blocks away (Hi Mrs. Park! :-) ) and the rest Safeway (with my fake name club card) and the grocery bills have dropped dramatically.

    Andronico’s is like shopping for groceries at a Mercedes dealership – all super duper fancy and ultra luxurious inside with prices to match. I had no choice but to get some last minute dessert there with company imminent, and the $9 Just Desserts cake I could have gotten at Costco had time allowed was $18 dollars! 18 FRIGGIN dollars for a little cake to serve 6 people. A pint of Haagen Dasz was 4.99 (2 dollars MORE than the damn 7-11 (king of price gouging)

    I’m sure that a lot of the pricing is due to the fact that our formerly middle class neighborhood has transformed into a yuppificated Wisteria Lane – and those folks make so much money they don’t care if things are 50% more than you can get them somewhere else. Playland Safeway isn’t too bad at the right time of day – but seems a little dicey after dark when all the homeless drunken folks start hassling you for change in the parking lot. I still miss Park n Shop though…

  44. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Ha, ha, you underprivileged kids. I live in Houston. I have six or seven favorite grocery stores:

    Regular shopping: HEB (God bless you, Mr. Butts)… for more upscale shopping, HEB Central Market. Better HEBs at the HQ city of San Antonio, but the newer ones in Houston are just fine.

    General ethnic food: The super Fiesta on Bellaire has the best prices and caters to every ethnicity imaginable.

    Specifically Asian food: Golden Foods Supermarket, three kinds of everything and you’ve only heard of ten percent of it. If you can’t find it here, you have to fly to San Francisco.

    Whole Foods Market: Oh, I rarely actually push a cart there. Special ordering by the case is where it’s at, baby.

    Fresh local vegetables: The immense farmer’s market at Greenway, every Saturday. Real farmers, real food.

    Kroger, Randall’s (the local Safeway front), Wal-mart, Super Target… KMA.

  45. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    (puts down the glass of wine)…

    OK, my point, to the extent I had one, was that I don’t have A favorite grocer, and most of the ones I’m loyal to would never show up in a nationwide survey. So I don’t know where that leaves the IBM study.

  46. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @atalantapendragonne: I think I have a clue where you live, if I’m right that it’s Houston. The farmer’s market I mentioned (Bayou City) is in the parking lot behind 3000 Richmond. []

  47. HatAndSuitcase says:

    Trader Joe’s is the only grocery store i’ve ever evangelized. The prices are good, and the selection is the way that i want it to be – a wide variety of products, but usually only one brand of each.

    Also, there’s always a free sample of something cooking in the back. Free sample!

  48. gibbersome says:

    If there’s any grocery store worthy of loyalty it would have to be Wegman’s. Those of you from the North East know what I’m talking about. :)

  49. AndyMan1 says:

    @mgyqmb: gb2/b/

    @Pylon83: It’s the principle of the matter. The product is IN the shopping cart, not PUSHING the shopping cart. The “loyalty” card form, at least what I’ve seen, has you fill out name, address, phone, and then some other survey questions from income to number of children. Some of the latter questions may or may not be there, but with the former stuff you can find out the rest.

    If I *need* a card to not get the non-customer fine, I’ll either not fill out the form or fill in false info. If I forget my card, I get a new one with equally missing/false info. If I haven’t forgotten in a while, I’ll make sure to do so.

    I have a King Sooper and Safeway near me. I don’t give a rat’s behiind about either of them, but King Sooper is open 24 hrs. and offers me a discount on gas (which is still the cheapest around even without it). If Captain McFartyPants’ opened across the street tomorrow, there’s nothing special about either King Sooper or Safeway that would keep me there.

  50. Lyrai says:

    I worked for Safeway years ago, in Texas, when it was Randalls. It was very nice. Then Safeway started pushing the store to “conform more” to standard safeway stuff. STarted cutting the hours of people who had been there for a while – including me – to try and shuffle us all out. Hired a manager who openly called a customer “A stupid nigger” because he was able to cut costs. Inconvienced everyone for 8 months to “reconstruct” the store – and all they fucking did was change the signs and the design of the shelves.

    I refuse to shop at anything related to Safeway anymore and will tell anyone who listens the same thing.

  51. homerjay says:

    Here in MA we have a local chain called Market Basket. People LOVE them because they know they’re not going to get screwed. Prices are always FAAAAR lower than other stores. To me, the only difference between this and a ‘dollar store’ is that they sell mostly all the same stuff you can get anywhere. The stores are kinda dingy and dated and they’re very cramped and crowded- but CHEAP!

  52. Namilia says:

    Unfortunately in my part of the country, Food Lion has taken over. There’s also a Piggly Wiggly and Lowe’s Foods (and of course Wal-Mart but that’s neither here nor there), the former is never crowded and is dark and dismal and the latter is severely overpriced but has the widest selection and nicest staff of the three.

    I absolutely deplore Food Lion, I guess the only upswing is that I haven’t sold my soul to Wal-Mart.

  53. Celeste says:

    I’ve got a Giant, a Safeway, a Bloom, 3 local farmers markets and a Harris Teeter within 10 minutes of my house. If I’m willing to drive 15 minutes, I can also go to the local Latin/Asian grocery – Global Foods. I can’t do a full weeks’ grocery list at any ONE of those stores. So we end up rotating every week. During the farmer’s market season, we get most of our produce there, but otherwise, we’ll normally hit Bloom first, then later in the week either hit Harris Teeter’s or the Global Foods for everything we couldn’t find at Bloom. We save Giant/Safeway for when we’re in a rush and only have basic items (potatoes, milk, etc) on our list.

    Harris Teeter is sneaky though. We shouldn’t shop there since their prices just aren’t nearly as good as any of the other stores, but they keep on doing things like giving great customer service, and smiling, and letting my son have a baby banana while we’re wending our way through the produce section. Their customer service seduces me into returning despite the prices. Otherwise, I’d probably limit myself to Bloom/Global Foods.

  54. spugbrap says:

    I live in Northern Virginia, and have a Giant, Safeway, Harris Teeter, Bloom, and Super Target about equally close to my house. Then, there’s a Shoppers Food Warehouse a couple miles further.

    We’ve found that when we shop at any of those first 5 stores, we always end up being shocked at how high the total is when we check out. Their prices are all equally bad, except for occasional good sale prices.

    When we shop at Shoppers, we’re usually pleasantly surprised when we see the total at checkout. When comparing receipts side-by-side for Shoppers versus those other stores, there’s not always an obvious difference. But we’re pretty sure that in the long run, we save money by doing most of our shopping there.

    Costco charges $50/yr for membership now, and provides less value to me than they did when it was only $30/yr (about 6 years ago). I find that most things I buy at Costco could be found for just as cheap (or cheaper), and in smaller packages, at Shoppers Food Warehouse or, for non-food items, at Wal-mart. If you *ever* use coupons (we do) and/or buy generic products, then I can almost guarantee that you can save money using coupons at Shoppers/Wal-mart, rather than Costco.

    I believe that Costco does provide some value, and it’s definitely better than buying brand-name merchandise at Giant, Safeway, Harris Teeter, Super Target, or Bloom. If you want to stock up and don’t want to bother dealing with coupons, Costco isn’t too bad.

  55. dirtymoney says:

    The consumer/seller relationship is an adversarial one. The seller is doing everything possible to try to manipulate, trick, coerce, mislead the consumer into buying his goods. While the consumer is just trying to buy what he wants/needs at a decent price.

    The deck seems to always be stacked in the favor of the seller (with marketing strategies, tricks of the trade & a whole industry devoted to find ways to manipulate the customer into spending his money). All consumers have is their wits & what info they can gleen from the net to get the best bang for their buck.

    Let me give a perfect example…. when I am basically FORCED to walk nearly through half the store in a single winding corridor of products (that the store is trying to unload) before I can get to a spot where there is an aisle junction so that I can actually GO to where I want to within the store to get the items I specifically came for. I dont like feeling like I am a rat in a maze, manipulated & guided towards crap I dont want to buy.

    What matters to me most is convienience, quality, selection, affordability…. what ever grocery store can offer the most of those… I will go to.

  56. anyanka323 says:

    Re: people complaining about understaffed stores.

    I work in a small regional chain as a cashier with slightly higher prices than the two larger competitors, one of which is Wal-Mart. Management claims to be customer service oriented, but they won’t hire any more baggers or cashiers than is necessary because they would have to raise prices. Also, a lot of the stockers and baggers either are high schools or started out as high schoolers, so they can get away with paying them less.

    It’s thanksgiving week and we’re just so understaffed due to that. Some customers understand, but the holidays just make people more irritable. Such is life during the holidays.

  57. bohemian says:

    Our options stink. We have Walmart, Hyvee or a small local chain.
    Most of the local chain’s stores are tiny ghetto stores that carry lots of things like lard and pig knuckles, good luck finding a head of romaine at them. They do have one nice store in the McCastle part of town. It is small and overpriced but they have a decent onsite butcher and a few gourmet & organic items.
    Walmart is just disgusting even for a Walmart.
    Hyvee pretty much owns the town and they know it. Prices there are totally out of control.
    What really annoys me about Hyvee is that their checkout staff are beyond rude. Ask them to bag in paper and they will look at you with contempt and ignore the request. It is a 50-50 shot if there will even be a bagger on your lane. When there isn’t the checkers pitch everything together into plastic and toss it to the end of the checkout thing. God forbid you bring your own bags. They do have self checkout but they are only set up for 10 items or less.
    I find expired items on the shelf all the time and they will purposely leave rotting bagged lettuce on the shelves and just mark it down.

    I can’t wait until Super Target gets here and hope maybe that SuperValue or Whole Foods might come to town.

  58. vex says:

    I have nothing against my grocery store. But I’m not loyal. Why would I be? It’s easy to be loyal to the local grocer, when the owner walks around saying hello and you see him at church on Sunday. Much harder to be loyal to a national corporate chain that just exists to make money.

  59. In western Massachusetts, we basically have two choices (aside from the tiny local stores and Costco-types, of course) Big Y and Stop and Shop. Though the Big Y has an awesome selection of produce and a fantastic bakery, I usually steer clear of it both because it’s all the way across town and because I’ve seen them raise prices before their legendary buy-one-get-one sales.

    Stop and Shop has always had good prices, and their generics are great – I actually prefer them over the national brands on some items. Between the two Stop and Shops within a mile or two of my house, I have to admit I choose the one that’s a little more “ghetto.” The prices are the same and the selections are comparable, but the more upscale one rests in the middle of a huge twisted mass of parking lots and strip malls – I find navigating the parking lot to be a total pain in the ass, and I only go there when I have other business in the area.

  60. Jon Parker says:

    I’m extremely loyal to Wegman’s. Really nice high-end stuff (dry aged beef, excellent cheeses, exotic produce in excellent condition) along with really low prices on regular groceries. The other groceries around here are Giant, SuperFresh, Shopper’s Warehouse and Mars, and none of them even comes close to Wegman’s on price or quality.

    The only other store I shop at is the Asian market for some produce and Thai and Chinese groceries.

  61. WindowSeat says:

    I like shopping at my local Wegman’s, but they’re sorely testing my loyalty. The store is constantly being rearranged and the aisles have sprouted HUGE end-cap displays that have narrowed the lateral aisles at both ends of the store way too much.

    What used to be a well-laid out store has become crowded and difficult to navigate.

    Wegman’s consistently places in the Top 100 places to work so I know they’re doing something right, but they need to spend a little more time training the staff. I’ve taken to bagging my own groceries after finding cans of soup on top of lettuce too many times. While we’re on the subject, whatever happened to baggers?

  62. figz says:

    I love you, Wegmans.

  63. HappyCustomer says:

    Oh, to have one store to do all my grocery shopping! (Chicago Northwest suburbs) I have to go to Whole Foods once a week or so because they have great selection for vegetarian items. For the dead animal eaters in my family, I go to Food4Less. Their selection stinks. Once I found a package of whole wheat pasta, far from the pasta aisle. At first I was excited, but then I wondered, “how did this lonely, random package of whole wheat pasta get here? How long has it been here?” I do buy vegetables there in the winter when the farm stands are closed. Whole Foods produce is just too expensive.

  64. I’m loosely loyal to my grocery store, which is a Kroger. It has a well-trained, friendly staff; it’s unionized; its prices are locally competitive; and it staffs the busy times pretty well (though I rarely shop then). Most of my beefs are with irritating other customers, rarely with the staff or store (though of course there are your typical moron cashier moments, but they don’t happen that often and managers show up quickly when called).

    I could do with a slightly wider produce selection, more local produce products (though that’s hard for a chain), and more upscale deli stuff (like artisanal cheese and crap, Trader Joe stuff), but overall I’m pretty happy. The wine section is actually really good. They have an ever-expanding organic section that’s pretty good, and the organic manager frequently stops shoppers in the section to ask us what we want to see more of or if there are specific products we’d like to see — AND THEN STOCKS THEM.

  65. (Oh, we don’t have Costco, Trader Joe’s, or Whole Foods where I am.)

  66. geekfather says:

    I’m a big fan of our local Hy-Vee store.

    They are employee owned and it really shows.

  67. theblackdog says:

    I used to be fairly loyal to Bottom Dollar grocery here in MD, but lately I have been shopping more and more at the co-op grocery store behind my house. Bottom Dollar is still good for when I need to stock up on the basics, but I can’t beat the fact that I can walk to the co-op in 2 minutes since it’s right behind my apartment.

  68. floydianslip6 says:

    @ghostwriter: YEA! They used to be crazy expensive when they first showed up, but they are really reasonable now.

  69. alilz says:

    There’s not a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s here, although there is a Fresh Market, but I don’t shop there because it’s all the way across town and too expensive.

    I mainly shop at Publix, it’s close to my house, always looks clean and the prices for the most part are better than Albertson’s and Winn Dixie. There are some exceptions, Albertson’s sometimes has better deals on produce, but there’s one almost across the street from the Publix I shop at so sometimes I hit both in one trip.

    I hate Winn Dixie, it’s always dirty looking, their aisles are strangely laid out and it’s expensive, I’ve seen some items a $1 more than at Publix.

  70. RandomHookup says:

    I love the way stores treat customers like they are a nuisance. Shaws recently changed their price correction policy without any notice (in those states that don’t legislate a price correction policy). Used to be, they made a mistake…the first item is free. Now, all they do is correct their price. There’s a real penalty for doing a crappy job of price marking and perhaps even an incentive for leaving up old sales stickers.

  71. TWinter says:

    @bohemian: Interesting to hear about your bad HyVee experiences – my town is also dominated by HyVee, but I’ve had very good experiences there. HyVee’s prices are a bit on the high side, but the place is always spotless, there are always tons of cashiers and baggers, and everyone is really nice. I’ve also heard that they treat full time employees pretty well and I like the fact that they go out of their way to carry and promote local and regionally produced products.

  72. muddgirl says:

    Here in San Antonio, all we’ve got is HEB, Super Targets, Walmarts, and Costcos. In other words, the only real grocery store chain is HEB.

    Thankfully, most HEBs are pretty awesome. Since there’s one every few blocks, I can shop around. No customer cards, great selection of food and beer.

  73. freshyill says:

    I’m stuck shopping at Key Food in Brooklyn. That place is absolutely awful. It’s small, dirty, has a poor selection, and rude employees. I can’t wait to move the hell away from here to some place where I can easily shop at Wegmans and Costco.

  74. johnva says:

    I really don’t understand why people think Whole Foods is so expensive. It’s definitely not here, with comparison to other groceries. You just have to compare apples to apples in order to make a fair comparison. For example, it’s not really fair to price compare some high-end imported tuna from Italy with the cheapest tuna you can find at a regular grocery. A lot of the stuff Whole Foods sells is higher quality/fancier food than is even available at many other groceries, so of course it’s more expensive. But they don’t usually seem to be more expensive for the exact same brands of the same items (when the other groceries stock them). Actually, I find they are often much cheaper in many of those cases, maybe because they don’t use loyalty cards and therefore don’t mark up prices so much when they aren’t on “sale”. And I track my expenses fanatically so I’m pretty confident in saying this. Whole Foods is making their money by convincing you to “upgrade” your eating habits, not by being more expensive for the same stuff.

    I also like Whole Foods because unlike some other stores here I don’t get the impression they view me as the enemy. They aren’t forcing me to carry a stupid card, and they have good customer-friendly policies (for example, if they can’t get an item to ring up right, they’ll just give it to you free in a lot of cases). And of course there are plenty of things you can’t get anywhere else. I still go to a “normal” grocery too, but they look worse by comparison all the time.

  75. BlondeGrlz says:

    @xl22k: I like my Stop & Shop. With my card (no comments!) they show my savings each time on the receipt, and I’ve saved something like $185 this year – that’s shopping for 2. The self-checkout makes me happy in the face.
    I miss my Harris Teeter from down South though…even though they weren’t super cheap they had fantastic selection and clean, quiet, friendly stores I could walk to.
    I would kill for a Wegamans.
    But my saving grace is the Commissary on base (woo dependant ID card!) where I bought EVERYTHING for Thanksgiving, right down to salt and flour, and only spent $120. Half of that was the turkey & fry oil.

  76. pauljunk says:

    Wegmans! Best grocery store in the world. Love it.

  77. JackHandey says:

    Honestly, if you are that paranoid about loyalty cards tracking your personal information, fill them out with false information (if possible) and pay in cash.

    When someone at corporate reviews your records, all they’ll see is that Mike Hunt on 169 Middlesex Lane is quite the value shopper, but they won’t know who it is.

    Just don’t leave your loyalty card on your keychain especially if they guarantee a “free return to shopper if dropped in the mail…”

  78. He says:

    @xianzomby: That’s why I tend to use Shopper’s Food Warehouse. They don’t do bonus cards. But even when I don’t shop there, does anybody put real info on bonus card applications anyways?

  79. oneTee says:

    ugh, don’t even get me started on the crappy grocery selection in Manhattan. We have a Gristedes next to us which is the WORLD’S WORST GROCERY STORE

  80. oneTee says:

    oops, pressed submit by accident…let me keep going.

    people at Gristedes are rude, their prices are INSANE, AND they have a crappy selection.

    The other option is Dagastino’s which is just the better of two evils. A little cleaner, a little friendlier, but insanely over priced and not a great selection.

    I would KILL for a Target, ShopRite, or a Stop and Shop in my neighborhood. I’ve always had great experiences at ShopRite and Stop and Shop. they have great prices, great sales, huge selection, and of course Target just rules.

    the other option of course is Fresh Direct which is decent but not great. Prices are OK but they’re selection isn’t always great.

  81. Hoss says:

    Bring back the days when you could talk to your butcher and ask him for a special cut. When the fish counter sold fresh local fish, not frozen stuff from asia and farm raised. The days when the bakery had stuff that tasted like it was made at home (a shelf life of a day, not all week!).

    I don’t go to the market for banking, pharmacy, to get movies, etc. Invest in good fresh food!

  82. timmus says:

    @speedwell said “Whole Foods Market: Oh, I rarely actually push a cart there. Special ordering by the case is where it’s at, baby.”

    What? What is special ordering by the case?

  83. freshyill says:

    @oneTee: Key Food is worse. At least the Gristedes I’ve been in have been clean.

    @johnva: I haven’t shopped there enough yet to really get a feel for their prices. A lot of it comes down to the fact that they sell so much organic stuff, and organic stuff is jacked up a bit anywhere you go. I just wish it wasn’t such a haul to get to one. I feel like any health and nutritional benefit I gain by shopping at Whole Foods is totally negated by then having to take that healthy food onto the NYC subways.

  84. quail says:

    Oh, how I miss the grocery shopping in the D/FW Metroplex. In North Dallas we had tons of grocery stores competing for the customer. About 5 major chains, 3 alternative grocery stores, and many ethnic based stores. Safeway went out of business in our area many years back because of poor selection and prices. They only came back when they bought the Tom Thumb chain and could keep their union out. (A sad day because they went with cheap meats in the deli, stopped selling the Thanksgiving Meals, etc.)

    Up in the NorthEast now all I’ve got are 3 chains, poor selection, and high prices. Bleh.

  85. johnva says:

    @JackHandey: For me it isn’t the paranoia/privacy that’s the big deal. It’s the hassle and the games that grocery stores that use loyalty cards tend to play with prices that bother me. Basically, many of them will continually change the price of items by putting them “on sale” with the cards, and then taking them off sale. This forces you to either shop very strategically and come back often (which I think is the goal, since so many people will buy extra stuff when they come for one thing) or to pay much more than is reasonable for something you absolutely need at that moment. Basically, it helps them disguise price increases and research how to extract even more money per trip from you. I know they could do some of these things even without the cards, but I’ve noticed that the cards tend to go hand-in-hand with places that like to constantly change prices and then put placards up everywhere claiming you’re “saving” money by using their cards. Stable prices let me better track my spending mentally. Of course, the stores probably want you to be confused about where you’re spending. I just think that they underestimate the negative effect on customer satisfaction that all these nifty marketing tricks have.

  86. smitty1123 says:

    I shop at King Soopers because there is one only 4 blocks away from my apt. I’m not particularly loyal and will get some groceries if I think I need something when I’m at Target.

    The only grocery store I actively dislike is Safeway. Their Lucerine brand milk turns my coffee gray, not the golden brown it’s supposed to be. Very odd.

  87. Mary says:

    I have complete loyalty to my grocery store, I have had nothing but fantastic service there, I almost always find what I need (there are a few things they don’t carry).

    Of course, I also don’t actually care about all this mumbo jumbo about the customer cards. I’d rather care about the service I’m getting, and the cleanliness of the store. At my Harris Teeter, I get both.

  88. i love all the coops around here..and worked at one of them for about a year or so.
    i have also worked at a byerlys and, currently, am working for cub foods.

    cant complain too much about byerlys. its the customers tend to be stuck up and bitchy…and they liked to put their children (complete with drool and cookie smeared across their mouths) on the register and look confused when i had to turn around so i didnt throw up. but otherwise…the place isnt that bad.

    cub…on the other hand…(at least the one i work for) is atrocious. basically, getting a job there was a desperate attempt at making sure i had some form of income after being laid off from my previous job….
    what i make at cub doesnt even pay the bills.

    anyways, the floors are always nasty. and where i work, in the deli, i get yelled at for trying to sweep or clean. “people do that at night” (yeah..but its dirty *now*)
    the meats, cheeses, “salads” (aka: 1 gallon of mayonase to 1 big bag of chicken) and olives…basically everything…is opened with the same boxcutter knife. which is never sterilized or cleaned.
    i once found a dirty, semi rusty blade in the salami.

    the customers are often a pain in the ass too. but ill give them the benefit of the doubt and just assume that cub put something in the fried chicken similar in chemical structure to nicotine.

    a semi conclusion: i was treated very well at the coop, and that reflected on how i treated the customers (very effin well..)
    at cub…i am underpaid for the kind of work that i do…overworked and treated like a barcoded piece of shit. and yeah…that often reflects on how i treat the customers.

    such is life.

  89. Blueoysterjoe says:

    I hate the long lines and can’t understand why most grocery stores have 400 cashier lines but only 3 are open at any given time.

    It’s not like cashiers are that expensive. I don’t have any hard data, but I think most cashiers get paid a kick in the head plus an expired ham at Christmas. I don’t think it would kill their operating margins to throw a few more out there so that my food doesn’t go bad while waiting to pay for it.

  90. skeksil says:

    Grocery shopping around here sucks. I live in Fayetteville, AR which is 30-45 minutes away from Wal-Mart’s World HQ. We really only have Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club (also Wal-Mart), Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Grocery, Harp’s, the local Ozark Natural Foods (if you CAN afford organic), and IGA. One gets the feeling that the smaller , non-Wal-Mart stores don’t want to attract the attention of Wal-Mart, less they go out of business.

    The Wal-Mart mentality permeates into everything around here. Back to the point, Wal_Mart Grocery has great prices, sure, but lousy selection. To make it worse, Sam’s Club’s food selection varies on whatever they can get the best deal on.

  91. Brad2723 says:

    My 3 complaints that cause me to drive farther to purchase groceries (in order of importance):
    1. Quality – especially in meats and produce
    2. Selection – store nearest to my house does not have a large “ethnic” / gourmet section at all
    3. understaffed checkout lines – at 5:00pm, there should be more than 2 cashiers on duty to accommodate everyone getting off of work and just trying to pick up something for dinner.

  92. kingedwin says:

    I live near Wal-Mart HQ, so they dominate groceries out here. However, I’m fortunate enough that there’s a Food-4-Less nearby: it’s a warehouse-style store where you have to sack your own groceries, but the prices are lower than anybody, and they have AN ACTUAL BUTCHER. I can also buy local brands there.

    To give you an idea, butter there is A DOLLAR a pound less than Wal-Mart.

    There’s a semi-Asian grocery nearby (they’ve expanded to cover almost every type of foreign food) that I bring friends to when they visit from out of town. They carry things that can’t be found anywhere else, and their bulk spices are a fraction of the price of the supermarkets.

  93. Mills says:

    Of course grocery stores have little customer loyalty-very few people have the time, the energy of the inclination to go out of their way to grocery shop (it’s like going out of your way to get gas, in my mind, the rewards just aren’t high enough). The majority of the time I end up at the grocery store between my home and work, just because it’s easier, not because I like it.

  94. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @timmus: I’m a vegetarian and i use a lot of specialized food that I know is available but that they don’t usually stock because there isn’t a lot of demand in my area. On the West Coast, for example, they sell a wheat-protein-based “meat” called “Celebration Roast” that is so damn good the meat-eaters rob it from me every Thanksgiving and Christmas. I need six each year (a case) and all I have to do is talk to the buyer for my area’s WFMs to get some ordered in for me.

  95. robotprom says:

    The thing I miss the most since moving to Florida is Kroger. When we lived in Georgia we only shopped at Kroger.

    SuperTarget does a close approximation, but it still lacks. I hate Publix with a passion. I only shop there if I need something immediately or need to stop on the way home. Sweetbay is OK but more expensive than Publix. The rest of the grocery store chains are awful in Florida.

    Kroger ROCKS, all others (except Bi-Lo) suck rocks.

  96. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I always forget something… if you special order a case quantity from Whole Foods, you get 10% off retail. YMMV but I always get it.

  97. B says:

    I don’t feel any loyalty towards my grocery store, or any other store, because they don’t feel any loyalty towards me. And I prefer it that way. I base my shopping on price, quality and convenience, not loyalty. If a store provides those things, they get my money.

  98. jeffisme says:

    I think one reason why so many people are unhappy with their grocery stores is that in many places there’s no pressure on the stores to improve them. One reason is advertising. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. I was the editor of a small local paper in new york city years ago, and we we had the idea of basically doing a consumer reports style article rating the local stores. once the publisher heard the news he had a fit and threatened to fire us all, because if we ran the stpru the chains would pull their big weekly ads that helped keep the paper alive. I’m sure the same unspoken agreement occurs all across the country and no doubt contributes to the fact that the stores get a free ride when it comes to standards of service, cleanliness, etc.

  99. Finder says:

    I grew up in Upstate NY so I’m definitely a Wegman’s fan. I’ve lived all over and nothing really comes close as far as the big chains go. I currently live in Chicago which is home to two of the WORST grocery stores I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with: Jewel and Dominick’s. I really can’t express just how much I loathe either store, both of which I find horribly overpriced.

    These days I do the bulk of my shopping at Trader Joe’s, which works out pretty well and is definitely the cheaper option. For produce and smaller trips, I stick with a neighborhood corner grocery that carries decent local, seasonal produce at reasonable prices. Even more rarely, I’ll stop into Whole Paychex for their great meat, fish, and cheese selection. Occasionally I’ll pick some things up from Jewel, but I’m usually not happy about it.

    Wegman’s needs to come to Chicago. They would SLAUGHTER the competition as there wouldn’t be any.

  100. forever_knight says:

    thankfully, i live in an area that doesn’t use those loyalty cards. those are so annoying.

  101. falc says:

    @gibbersome: tru dat!
    @Jon Parker: right on!
    @figz: amen!

    Wegmans is the BEST grocery store i’ve ever shopped at. they have always had very good customer service and more often than not EVERY REGISTER LANE WOULD BE OPEN for use (what a novel idea, i’m looking at you Acme!). also their cafeteria had great food and would be very conveninent. i used to shop there all the time when i lived in the lehigh valley. and now that i’ve moved back home there isn’t a store for like 45 minutes. although i do like to make the trip every now and then to get a meatball sub… thats right, i make a special trip for a GROCERY STORE! its that good.

  102. kerrington.steele says:

    I lurrrv Trader Joe’s! totally worth the walk across Manhattan there, and the 14th Street bus ride + 8 block walk home loaded down with shopping bags.

  103. HRHKingFriday says:

    @xianzomby: I hate that too. So I signed up for a card with a fake name and info. What are they going to do, deactivate my card? I’ve had it for 7 years. HAH! I still don’t like that you have to use it to get the special prices.

    But now there’s a Whole Foods right next door to me, and they don’t use cards at all. Granted its more expensive, but I like buying organic and not having to waste gas money driving out to the old (conventional store)

  104. darious says:

    I hit Costco for what I can, Walmart for what’s left.
    Why Walmart? Because in terms of service (poor), quality (low) and selection (minimal) I might at well as get the slightly lower prices of Walmart.

  105. GearheadGeek says:

    I guess it’s a function of where my house is and how far I’m willing to drive to buy groceries, but I’m not overwhelmed with the level of choice in DFW megaloplex supermarkets. I miss HEB! The only HEB in the area is a Central Market, which is VERY nice but not quite the choice for regular grocery runs. Happily it’s on my way to a very nice Tom Thumb, but of course you need the track-me card at Tom Thumb and must watch the sales to get your regular grocery purchases at a similar overall price to what I was paying in San Antonio just by walking into regular HEB stores and buying what I need.

    To anyone thinking that the tracking card has anything to do with the store’s inventory and ordering management, catch a clue! They have every bit of data they need to track every internal aspect of their business, the “loyalty card” is tracking YOU. I don’t think it’s an NSA plot to know which brand of soft drink to put the mind-control drugs in (Safeway Ginger Ale would get me.) I just realize that they created the loyalty cards to get more information about specific shoppers, and I play their little game to keep from getting completely raped on the prices.

  106. kellyhelene says:

    Wegmans is awesome. I worked there in high school, and they really do treat employees, even the high school kids at the registers, like real, valued humans. And it shows in the customer service you get from the staff there.

    Plus, they’re cheaper than everyone else, and their store brand stuff tends to be as good as the brand name, or better.

  107. spugbrap says:

    Yeah, I’ve seen horrible price increases on almost every type of product, at most grocery stores, just over the past few years.

    Take Breyer’s ice cream, for example. From 1999-2006, a typical  regular price was $4.99. When they went on sale, it was usually either “Buy one get one free” (so total price for 2 was $4.99), or “2 for $5”. Recently, at Safeway, I was dumbfounded when I saw that a sale price for Breyer’s ice cream is now $4.99–for ONE. Their regular price is now up to something ungodly like $6.59. For one [roughly] half-gallon tub of ice cream.

    Another glaringly obvious price increase is soft drinks. From 1992-2000, a 2-liter bottle typically cost about $1.09, and might go on sale for as low as $0.49. Usually, sale prices were somewhere in between like $0.79-0.99. Now, I’m seeing regular prices for 2-liters of brand-name soda in the $1.49-1.89 range. Sale prices now are often like “4 for $5” ($1.25 each).

    The “regular” prices (i.e. not using a loyalty card, and/or on a week when that brand isn’t on sale) are just PAINFUL. But the SALE signs and displays are just as pretty and bold as ever before.

    Yeah, my wife thinks the Lucerne milk tastes nasty, and so does her best friend. Safeway’s milk refrigerators are always filthy (spilled milk EVERYWHERE) and reek of sour milk. Safeway’s Primo Taglio deli cheeses are disgusting, too.

  108. V-effekt says:

    I gave up Wal-Mart for Giant Eagle a while back. The service and quality won me over. Walmart is cheaper, but for a reason. You are expected to buy a lot at once to stock up, but I would either end up snacking on my storage food or letting some of it go bad or not used. So I stopped buying in bulk and purchase only what I need for a day or two except for staples like Milk, etc. I drove by my Giant Eagle everyday anyway and I think I spend about the same amount weekly as when I bought in bulk at Walmart. I also have less food in the house and am less inclined to snack, eat better fruits and meat, and cook better meals as I purchase the ingredients before I cook. I know Giant Eagle is also a big chain, but they do it a lot better than the others.

  109. @spugbrap: Dairy in particular has gotten EXTREMELY expensive in the last couple years, partly because of rising costs of feed due to corn ethanol. If you’re seeing dairy ANYWHERE for what it cost two years ago, please share with the class, I’m sure we could all use cheaper calcium. :)

  110. johnva says:

    @spugbrap: When I just want some cheaper ice cream, I’ve started buying the Whole Foods generic. It’s quite good (much better than most other store brands), and it’s about $3.99 for a half gallon. Actually I buy the WF generic for a lot of stuff, especially packaged/canned goods…it’s almost always better quality than the conventional brands at other grocery stores (it’s sometimes organic, sometimes not) and it’s usually cheaper, too. This probably explains why I don’t find Whole Foods all that expensive. Store brands are a great way to save money, but you often take a hit on quality at conventional groceries. Not so much at Whole Foods, since their store brand stuff is really good.

  111. johnva says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Part of it is ethanol and part of it is just the weak dollar. Commodity prices are rising almost across the board right now, partly since it’s more economical now for producers in this country to export thanks to the weak dollar. Combine that with the diminished buying power of each dollar and it adds up to rapidly rising food prices.

  112. 3drage says:

    Here in CA, the aisles barely fit people, who are careless to others around them while they carry on with their cell phone conversations oblivious that people are trying to get their stuff and leave. My girlfriend and I now shop at a slightly more expensive place, to save from hearing the whines of 20 kids from a careless parent who thinks it is their right to ruin any kind of experience for anyone else. I dread going into Walmart when I have to, it’s a stressful unhappy experience.

  113. realjen01 says:

    Phoenix Ranch Market is the best chain in Phoenix, although it’s usually in ghetto areas (16th St and Roosevelt…ghetto). But I’m super excited about the new Tesco chains opening up in December. They’re supposed to fabulous!

  114. fhic says:

    I live in a small town outside San Diego, and I would *kill* for an east-coast ShopRite! My chain-store choices here are Albertson’s, Von’s, and Ralph’s. We had an ugly grocery workers’ union strike here a few years ago, and the stores have never recovered, on both the employee and management sides. Because of that, I avoid them whenever possible. If I wanted to check and bag my own groceries, I’d be working for them. I don’t and I’m not. But they all insist on having a bunch of self-check lanes open and empty with a checker at each one, while the real checkout has six people in line. If you want my loyalty, that’s not the way to get it.

    Fortunately I have a Henry’s (Wild Oats) and a great Trader Joe’s nearby. And a corner market that looks like a dump but has a full-service butcher shop hidden in the back.

  115. LTS! says:

    Yea, most people on here sadly have no idea what Wegman’s is.. it’s unfortunate because they really are that much better.

    The fact that they have been inside the Fortune Top 100 Companies to work for for the past 10 years doesn’t hurt. In fact, since 2003 they’ve been inside the Top 10 all while expanding heavily.

    Any complaint I have ever raised has resulted in a response within 1 business day and usually more than satisfactory resolution. The last comment I had was that the consistency in their sandwich shop was lacking. Within 2 days I had a phone call from the manager and a $10 gift card. Also notable is the quality improved dramatically right after that and has stayed high, this was 2 years ago.

    I’m pretty loyal, although I do agree with an earlier comment that they’ve recently altered the aisle layouts and I find it annoying. I haven’t said anything yet.

    Also, you should see their “flagship” stores. 2 floors.. that’s variety.

    No, I don’t work for them, I have family and friends who do…for MANY years.

  116. nobodygrrl says:

    Ever since the strike a couple of years back, I’ve noticed a marked decline at Vons (Safeway). Dairy products and bread or almost always at or past their expiration date and the customer service is awful. What really gets me, though, is the utter inability of Vons and Ralphs (Kroger) to sell ground beef or chicken in anything less than 1.5 pound increments. That’s why I shop at Whole Foods, where I can actually get .5 pounds of beef and a couple of chicken breasts for about the same price as what I’d pay to throw away half the stuff from the chains. (It’s not like I’m going to freeze and thaw.)

  117. ninjatales says:

    Lower prices and/or better selection + friendlier cashiers. That’s all I’m asking.

    I hate going up to cashiers who’re all grumpy and glaring at you as though you’re the cause of their miserable day.

    Companies need to give more breaks and a raise to all employees every 3-5 months. If that doesn’t bring a smile, take away those raises and see if there’s any change.

  118. Anitra says:

    @SaraAB87 and @falc:
    I grew up in Rochester – Wegmans and Tops are both SO much better than what is available in most of Massachusetts. There are more grocery chains than you can shake a stick at (Stop N Shop, Price Chopper, Shaws, Big Y.. there are more that I don’t remember the name of because I’ve never shopped at them) – but the only one that approaches the quality that I am used to is Big Y. And I’m not willing to go 10 miles out of my way to get to one (thankfully, I no longer have to – I just started a job that is across the street from a Big Y).

    I’m not a demanding customer. I rarely use the deli or butcher. I just miss having quality produce and staff that can at least pretend that they care about the customer.

  119. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @nobodygrrl: God I hear you! There are 2 Vons, a Ralphs, a Albertsons and a Food for less around my house. I usually go to Vons cause they are closer. We probably buy 80% of our groceries from the card related sales. But buying food here in Cali. I never see a bill less than $80 minimum.

    I hate the union! When they went on strike I would go to thru the picketlines on purpose to piss them off. I think they need to STFU, starting baggers and cashiers make only a $1.50 less than what I make with a degree!!! Stop crying and go find a higher paying job if you don’t like it.

  120. Keter says:

    HEB and Whole Foods have pretty much sewed up the grocery market in Austin, unless I want to drive 40+ miles. I won’t do business with HEB because they systematically destroyed so many nice smaller groceries, leaving many towns with no alternative source of food, and then jacking prices sky-high. I won’t do business with Whole Foods because of corporate ethical issues, CO-ed meats that spoil immediately, and the very strong suspicion that their organics are frequently far from it.

    I used to shop at Target until I found out that they operate a forensics lab that does DNA testing (yeah, WTF? and totally creepy for a place that sells food)…

    “In 2006, The Washington Post revealed that Target is operating two sophisticated criminal forensics laboratories, one at their headquarters, the other in Las Vegas, NV. Originally, the lab was created as an internal need for the company to investigate instances of theft and fraud and other criminal actions that have occurred on its own properties. Eventually, the company began offering pro bono services to law enforcement agencies across the country. Target’s Forensic Services has assisted agencies at all levels of government, including Federal agencies such as the United States Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The labs have become such a popular resource for law enforcement that Target has had to restrict the cases it assists in to only violent felonies. —Wikipedia

    I won’t shop at places that require you to register with them in order avoid being price-gouged, and will cease doing business with a company that appears to be tracking my purchases via my credit card number.

    In short, it is getting almost impossible to buy food these days without selling out to somebody’s beast. And that’s not even considering that about 90% of what’s on the shelves is not what I would consider to be food (adulterated with artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, corn syrup, modified food starch, MSG, etc.).

  121. boxjockey68 says:

    Publix, I love Publix…and shopping there really IS a pleasure
    Sweetbay, great store, nearly Publix quality but a bit cheaper
    those are the only grocery stores we go to….won’t even think about going to walmart…yuck.

  122. Lyrai says:

    Between a Wal-Mart & Super Target near me, I like Super Target more. They have a few odd foods that I like, although if they open a Trader Joe’s near me, I’ll be first in line.

  123. KJones says:

    My biggest bugbear is the changing prices. Sure, it sounds nice that an item is “on sale”, but that’s only done to get people into the store to buy overpriced items.

    Worse yet, shopping for food is not like shopping for a DVD player. If you want a cheap DVD player, you’ll wait until you find a price you like. However, you can’t do that with food and essentials; it’s not on sale, you pay full price, and then next week you find out it’s cheaper and you’ve lost money. Anyone who has worked in any retail knows that “sale prices” are not immediate knee jerk reactions to the market, they are planned price reductions of selected items designed to increase foot traffic and sales.

    The way I see it, stores have inflated prices and have occasional sales of them to increase items sold; any “loss” on the sale is averaged out over time. I would rather see a continuous price all year slightly lower than the “regular” overpriced price.

    But stores won’t do that. Why? Because if it’s one price all the time, the customer doesn’t have to keep coming back in to look for sales. If customers aren’t in the stores, then they aren’t making impulse purchases which are highly profitable for the store.

  124. UpsetPanda says:

    I love Bloom in my area. It’s got a really great section of health foods and organic items, and for the vegetables I usually eat there are organic versions. I think it’s getting harder to have loyalty to a grocery store nowadays because there’s less of a human component. It’s harder to form personal relationships with people, as many of them are moving onto other jobs or are high school students or college students who leave at the end of summer. I think if customer satisfaction with staff was higher at a more expensive grocer, more people would go there just to get the good experience, rather than go to a cheaper grocer where people aren’t as nice.

  125. UpsetPanda says:

    Ooh, also wanted to add that at Bloom’s, you don’t need a discount card to get their discounts. If it’s on sale, everyone can get it on sale.

  126. UpsetPanda says:

    @Keter: That actually seems to be pretty cool. It’s not like behind the breads and bagels, there’s a DNA lab. They’re headquartered in buildings that aren’t stores.

  127. Landru says:

    The name on my Safeway Club card is Stanley President. So when I buy something, the clerk says “Thank you Mister President”.

    It used to amuse me, but now I kind of feel sorry for the poor sots who work there and risk getting fired if they don’t say the customer’s name.

    (btw, it only works for cash payments, because otherwise it pulls the name from the credit/debit card.)

  128. UnnamedUser says:

    I live in a small town in western Washington, near Olympia. The grocer here are 3 grocers: “Fred Meyer”, a part of the Kroger chain: super Walmart; Safeway. All have reasonable prices, Safeway being the most expensive of the lot. All of them have truly dismal selections. I need to qualify my declaration of “poor selection” on these grocers. My community is a rural, less than affluent, blue collar kind of place. So, I really don’t have a big expectation of any of them having specials on black truffles in the fall.

    My big beef with all of them is the absense of any help at all if I want to special order something. Walmart simply laughs at me. Safeway takes my order, then does nothing until I have to engage the store manager. Fred Meyer says OK, but you have to order a whole case of it, whatever it is. Right, I need a case of Kun Chun Hoi Sin sauce. Like I can use a whole case before its shelf life is gone. For some items, Fred Meyer simply says that they have zero control because they sub contract that “section” to a contractor who puts what it wants to put on the shelf. Can I have the number of the contractor? No.

    OK, I’m spoiled rotten. I lived in Sunnyvale California for 25 years. For years there was the sheer joy of going to Cosentinos market. That they put one at Homestead and Lawrence Expressway was a joy: walking distance. If they didn’t have it, they could get it. In the last 10 years I was there the Safeway market at Maria and El Camino was good. The staff and management were always helpful.

    It gets worse. Olympia, the state capitol, is the closest “big town”. Alas, there does not seem to be a single “upscale market” in the entire city. The Thriftway market on 4th avenue in downtown pretends to be upscale, but does not seem to have anything interesting, short of outragous prices.

    If I want anything special, I’m stuck. I’ve occasionally made a whole day trip to Seattle to a Metropolitan market. Metropolitan is the best of the lot, but is still a far cry from the Cosentinos markets in Silicon Valley. … Yup. I’m spoiled.

  129. biblio26 says:

    I recently moved to San Francisco from teh New York City area and I don’t like the grocery stores as much here. I don’t feel that there is as much of a selection. I mean, I didn’t move to another country. I also hate that I have to go to 3 different stores to get what I need. I like Whole Foods but I’m not going to buy my toilet paper there. Safeway has a limited selection and I only go to Trader Joes for certain things. Grocery shopping is just a non stop adventure.

  130. anyanka323 says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:
    You’re right dairy is expensive. At the store where I work, at least one type of milk is marked down every other week to around $2.50 per gallon. I believe Meijer’s at least in Michigan, milk doesn’t cost more than $3.50.

  131. ianmac47 says:

    Let’s start with hiring enough cashiers that its takes less time to pay and bag my groceries than actually shopping for them.

  132. zolielo says:

    If Costco counts, as that is where I do my grocery shopping,then I do care. More often then not Costco has done the proper thing. Only fault is that their inventory does shift.

  133. karmaghost says:

    @WindowSeat: I work as a quasi-manager part-time at Wegmans and last summer they rearranged our store to the same layout. The idea was to make it so that you didn’t have to walk the whole way down the isle if what you wanted was only half-way down. Also, it added valuable end-cap space, which you clearly don’t like and I don’t really blame you. But honestly? Anything they put there sells like hotcakes. And if they put hotcakes there? Fuhgetaboudit!

    I’d be curious to know which store you shop at; all Wegmans are excellent, but some are definitely better than others. It could be that the trainer (usually a more experienced member of the cashiers) was recently changed to someone new and they’re not doing a very good job of telling people what to do. That’s the case at our store currently. Let the people at the service desk or one of the runners know when someone bags your groceries like crap and trust me, they’ll do something about it. If they don’t, write a customer comment at the service desk (or mail one in) and the store manager will see it.

  134. Artnchicken says:

    Portland, OR has lots of grocery choices:
    Fred Meyer – Oh, Freddy’s. Founded here but now part of Kroger. You can get a turkey for Thursday, plates for it, and table cloth! They don’t have a discount card (they have a “rewards” card). They’re a decent store, but when I was there they other day they didn’t have much fresh chicken.
    Safeway – Jacked-up prices and pre-packaged meat! It’s the closest supermarket from me so of course I go there like a dummy. I also notice the Freddy’s down the street from it has a lot more people in it. I have a savings card for Safeway but I never actually signed up for it. Yet it works- take that!
    New Seasons – I really should start going there since it’s local and has better food. It’s like a Whole Foods except Portland-based. Too bad I can’t afford a lot of it.
    There’s other stores in the outskirts of the city but I don’t go to those.

  135. dlab says:

    The only real “supermarket” I go to anymore is Whole Foods. Once in a while I’ll also buy bread or milk at the Publix next to my house when it is late.

    But mostly I do my shopping at the International Farmers Market. Its way cheaper for all the fresh stuff like veggies and meats, and it’s all locally grown, fresh, and mostly organic.

    I will say that the supermarket experience is definitely a store-by-store kind of thing. In extreme contrast with the Kroger-lover above, I think the Kroger closer to my house is one of the nastiest places I have ever bought food in. Forget about vegetables, and don’t even dare look at their meat section — I feel like I could get salmonella or e coli poisoning just from being close to it.

  136. joellevand says:

    I used to hate my supermarket (ShopRite) but shop there because it was cheap and family-owned. Then, one day, I bought some chicken breasts and when I unpacked them at home, the bag smelled like puke, let alone the meat! When I went to return it, the poor teenager at customer service asked if I wanted some replacement meat — after five pounds were already funky!

    As I was driving home, I happened to notice the new Wegmans that opened up … I went there, just to see if they had some good meat, and a year later, I’ve never shopped at another store! I love my grocer!

  137. dmoisan says:

    I’m in eastern MA, and I have a Market Basket in town, which has been lightly renovated even though it’s less than 8 years old. Good prices but crazy busy. (During a snowstorm I once waited 45 minutes to check out!)

    Stop & Shop used to have good-priced store brands until they decided to make them a profit center; I can’t see buying store-brand items at name-brand prices but this is apparently fashionable.

    Shaws is OK. They decided to be famous for plasma TVs at the salad bar and the checkouts.

    Both stores have shopper cards and I have them but oddly, I have never seen any more junk mail associated with them; Shaw’s does send out occassional coupon cards I can’t use because I don’t buy $50 worth of food a week.

    There is a TJ’s and a Whole Foods near where I live, accessible by bus, but I miss the old chains like Purity Supreme and (older, egads!) Finast.

  138. dantsea says:

    In my part of San Francisco (North Beach) I’ve got an intersection with Trader Joe’s on the southwest corner and Safeway on the northeast corner, which makes things convenient. For produce, I’ve got blocks and blocks of markets in Chinatown. You can’t beat those prices anywhere.