Latest ACSI Survey Is Out: You Really Like Dollar General

The American Customer Satisfaction Index has released its latest scores of retail businesses, so we thought we’d take a look at the department store rankings by constructing a handy graph. When it comes to customer satisfaction, apparently Dollar General is doing something right—and Wal-Mart, as usual, is doing lots of things wrong.

In the commentary on last quarters scores, ACSI says they’ve started including Nordstrom again because of its increasing market share, and back before it dropped off the survey in 2001, it held the top spot frequently, so no surprise there.

They also suggest that Dollar General, “which typically serves neighborhoods that may be too small to attract Wal-Mart,” may be scoring high because of its wide variety of items in such small retail spaces.

Sears and Kmart are pretty much exactly where we’d expect them after their plunging customer service last year.

One thing we’re not sure about is how the various recall disasters last year affected scores—clearly Dollar General emerged unscathed, despite its healthy dose of lead-tainted toys, Halloween pails, and holiday decorations.

“Q4 2007 and Historical ACSI Scores” [ACSI]
“Customer Satisfaction Falls Again; Retail, Financial Services Down; Wal-mart, Home Depot at All-Time Lows” [ACSI]

“How are ACSI data collected?” [ACSI]

(Thanks to Shaula!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. reviarg says:

    Please give us accurate graphs. Start the axis at zero so differences are truly proportional. This graph makes Sears look like it has half the rating of Kohls, but it is only ~8% less. I’m a math nerd… what can I say.

  2. visualbowler says:

    @reviarg: if they did that then people would complain they can’t read the graph and they would tell them to only focus on the parts with informaiton on it. But statistically, the format they used is correct.

  3. BlondeGrlz says:

    Dollar General scores high because I don’t expect much from a store where everything is A DOLLAR. If the stuff I paid $50 for at Macy’s falls apart I’m pissed but if I got it for $1 it’s ok! Plus our Dollar General is almost always empty of screaming children and pushy teenagers. Wow, I’m really not at old as that makes me sound.

    • Dawn Maki says:

      actually everything at Dollar General is not just $1!!!!
      there is stuff for upwards of even $10 or more!
      stuff at Dollar General is “generally” $1 but not everything and in fact most is not!

  4. joeblevins says:

    Kohl’s does rock.

  5. Scuba Steve says:

    Hard to find items, eclectic selection, spotty cashiers, the only notable thing about Dollar General is it’s cheapness.

  6. laserjobs says:

    Who does shop at Wal*Mart? We have a bunch of them in town but I do not know of one person who will shop there.

  7. radio1 says:

    This is why I hate statistics, when anyone, especially mass media, throws up a handy graph without a proper range. The Y-axis range is 66 to 84? Oh, yes the graph is easy to ready, but there’s no context.

    Make that Y-axis range 0 to 100, and suddenly it would be difficult to pick out any one retailer.

    From the first year- about a 15% spread between high/low retailers and, the last year- about a 12% spread between high/low retailers…

    Great byline, but no story, really.

  8. punkrawka says:

    Um… Wal-Mart’s “lots of things wrong” is a 4% change in customer satisfaction? And that’s the largest change on the entire graph? If the margin of error in this study year-to-year is 2% or higher, then nothing about any of these retailers can be reliably stated to have changed at all. How useful.

  9. mopar_man says:


    Unfortunately, all my in-laws do and they bitch about the economy. I wish I could slap the stupid out of them.

  10. Solly says:

    @laserjobs: At least no one admits to shopping there.

  11. Sherryness says:

    I’m surprised Target didn’t fall more. I know a lot of people who used to really like Target but who have had increasingly bad experiences with them over the last year. And that has pretty much been my experience as well.

  12. FLConsumer says:

    @reviarg: It’s a very accurate graph — I know the American educational system leaves much to be desired, but the graph seems quite obvious to me. They even were kind enough to provide scales for both axes.

    Hmm.. never been in a Dollar General, but the name already gives a hint of what to expect — not much. It could be this lack of expectation that gives such a high approval rating.

    I’d be curious to see KMart’s rating separate from Sears. I think there’s only one KMart in my local area and I’ve not been to it in close to 10 years. I poked my head in the KMart @ Astor Place in Manhattan out of curiosity and it was a true throwback to the 1980’s KMart glory. The only thing missing was the nasty smell of stale popcorn. Still not sure how any of their stores are still open.

  13. theblackdog says:

    The ACSI for each company is based on a sample of 250 customer interviews with more than 65,000 interviews conducted annually.

    So in other words, the score is based on less than 250 responses.

    For a national survey, that’s a crap number, this survey is no good.

  14. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @FLConsumer: Actually, I like Dollar General very much. If you need some basic kitchen gadgets or cleaning supplies, you’ll probably get a very good deal.

    They also have some food there and some clothes and toys.

    I wonder where Big Lots is. I really like going there.

  15. B says:

    This is apparently the first time that Dollar General has been charted, so we don’t know how the recall disasters affected them. Maybe they’ve gone up, maybe they’ve gone down.

  16. timmus says:

    These metrics fall within a very, very narrow range. Why do they all sit between “70” and “80”? It doesn’t sound like they’re doing much to differentiate the responses.

  17. sleze69 says:

    @reviarg: There are lies. There are DAMN lies. And there are statistics (including graphs).

  18. ptkdude says:

    @reviarg: Your average math and economics nerd (i.e. me) should know to look at the origin to see where the graph starts. That said, they should show the broken x- and y-axis to further indicate it doesn’t start at zero.

  19. qitaana says:

    @theblackdog: Actually, if the sampling procedure is well-designed, 250 can be enough observations to get a good estimate of what the true figure (i.e., if you asked everyone…) would be. It’s often astonishing to people taking Statistics for the first time how small a proportion of the population you actually need to sample in order to get a reasonably good estimator.

  20. Hanke says:

    @laserjobs: Everybody does it, no one talks about it. (Thank you, Dan Connor)

  21. mrafternoon says:

    To clarify-

    Dollar General is *NOT* a “dollar store” they are a small-box retailer that sell goods at many price points. They offer goods ranging from light groceries, cleaning supplies, apparel, hardware, pet supplies, ect ect. It is the head-to-head competition to Family Dollar stores that have 6500 stores in 44 states. If you’ve never been to a Dollar General or Family Dollar store, the easiest point of reference is that it’s like a a Wal-Mart on a much much smaller retail footprint. Shop @ Family Dollar-its much better than Dollar General!

  22. jpx72x says:

    @ptkdude: No, your average math or econ nerd would know that there’s probably a lower bound to consumer satisfaction that is way above zero. There will always be some people who are satisfied, and there will always be some people who are unsatisfied.

  23. stre says:

    good graph.

    @radio1: @reviarg: what makes you think that if you can figure the graph out (which i’m assuming you did, based on your comments) someone else wouldn’t be able to figure it out?

  24. SaraAB87 says:

    @Dead Wrestlers Society:
    I love big lots too. The store here just gets products manufacturers cannot sell in retail stores, then we get to buy them at a discount. Gotta love getting merchandise that was once overpriced at a retail store for a lot less. Which means their prices are actually on par with what I will pay for a lot of goods instead of what I feel is overpriced at stores like Wal-mart. Contrary to popular belief, Wal-mart does not have low prices here, their prices are just as high as the rest of the stores here. There is nothing wrong with the merchandise there. The food they get is just what the manufacturers cannot sell before they change the packaging on the food, everything is fresh and its the same product inside the box as the stuff on the shelves of current grocery stores.

  25. kittenfoo says:

    dollar general did a lot to help me wean myself from wal-mart. the prices are comparable, and there’s one within walking distance of my house. it’s my best bet for sodas, cleaning supplies, and basic bath things like soap and shampoo.

  26. mike1731 says:

    Something is strange here… Kmart outranks Walmart????? I’m no Walmart fan, but question how it’s possible for any store to do worse than Kmart. Does the sampling methodology look solely at store experience, or compare against expectations, belief in public policy stands, etc?

  27. Toof_75_75 says:


    I think you are missing their point. What they are saying is that if you showed this on a full graph, all of the stores would essentially be in the same place on the scale. When you zoom into like the graph above, you can see changes and differences of a few points, but in the grand scheme of things (0-100) the changes are minuscule and no one company greatly stands out.

  28. Xkeeper says:

    Wow, so much bitching because the graph doesn’t start at 0. Should we do that with the years, too, so you can safely understand that the beginning year isn’t 0 AD? Because it’s so difficult to look at the scales. Morons.

    Anyway, I’m just amused that the marker for Sears/K-Mart’s last reading is placed as if it was an arrow pointing downwards. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come? :)

  29. qitaana says:

    @mike1731: Mmm, I think you’re asking about the questions asked rather than the sampling methodology. The sampling method would just determine how to pick who gets asked the questions in the first place. My first guess would be that the questions posed would be of the form “Have you shopped at Store X in the past quarter?” If not, they move on to the next store on the list, if yes, they ask something like “Please rate your satisfaction on a scale from 1 to n”

    Now, how the person responds may vary: Say they’d always had a good experience at Store X, but on their last visit, the service was terrible. They had an equally terrible experience at Store Y, but that was their first visit ever. A person might be inclined to give Store X a higher mark than Store Y based on past experience, when in fact their most recent experiences with both stores were equally bad.

    Now, statisticians would really much prefer that folks just answer the question asked (like “Please rate your most recent experience, without regard to any previous experience with the store…”), but the reality is that folks just don’t do that.

    And yes, I’m a major dork and spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this.

  30. bdgbill says:

    Ugh, Dollar General depresses me.

    The last time I was in one I couldn’t find a single product I would have taken out of the store for free never mind a purchase.

    I did once see someone buying about 10 boxes of generic cold medicine at a Dollar General without being challenged.

  31. brent_w says:

    @FLConsumer: K-Mart is the closest big store to my apartment and I go there every now and then.

    Don’t see anything particularly wrong with the store, other than the fact that the building has seen better years.

    And Its also got that Little Caesars in the back, only one I know of thats still open, can’t argue with a $5 pizza.

  32. yesteryear says:

    give consumerist some credit… though data analysis and presentation is clearly not their strong suit (they have plenty of others!!)… if you look at the raw numbers it’s a mess. the data is full of holes and would be very hard to plot and present without problems.

    my complaint is that the headline is totally misleading. dollar general only has one score, for 2007. is that because they are a new store? i make these kinds of graphs for a living (when i’m not reading consumerist) and i wouldn’t have included dollar general in this comparison for that reason. the historical analysis is what’s interesting about this – not one score for one year.

    oh, and target has been tracked since 1994, just under a different parent company (scores are included in the raw data) the average there shows that they’ve dipped ever so slightly since 2005, but overall they are doing much better than in the mid to late 90s.

  33. MissTic says:

    another Consumerist article that’s all preperation and no H. Sigh.

  34. jstonemo says:

    @bdgbill: The cold medicine purchase should tell you who shops there the most in my area. Tweakers!

  35. HOP says:

    everything in dollar general isn’t a dollar….they sell mostly junk stuff that you can actually buy for a dollar at tthe dollar tree…..

  36. mbz32190 says:

    Those fake dollar stores (Dollar General, Family Dollar) are a rip-off IMO. I can get toilet paper, soap, basic health and beauty items, etc. MUCH cheaper at the grocery store. They are good in small towns without a Wal-Mart, but otherwise, aren’t real better than anyone else. If I really need some cheap no-name munchies and other odds and ends, i’ll go to Dollar Tree.

  37. nardo218 says:

    You get what you expect from somewhere with “dollar” in the name. People like cheap crap that they know is worthless, but, ykno, they’ll but it just because. Meanwhile, (stupid) people have some high expectation of walmart for reasons I can’t fathom.

  38. sibertater says:

    @blondegrlz: That’s not true…everything at DG ends in an even dollar.

    The Dollar Tree is where everything is a dollar. Please make a note of it.

  39. sibertater says:

    @mbz32190: But Wal-Mart is the evil empire. You should only shop there if you’re going to hell, anyway.

  40. BlazerUnit says:

    @sibertater: That’s not true, the part about all DG items ending in an even dollar. They’re still a discounter, but the price advantage for shopping there is always shifting.

    DG used to brag about it’s thousand of items for “Just $1!”. Now, many of those items now sell for $1.35, if not higher. But to make up for it, they gladly raised the prices of dirt cheap items they once priced at 50-75 cents–now they are “Just $1!”.

  41. Anonymous says:

    i love our dollar general we live in a small town but not far from city but i still go to dollar general. the people are great there and i have always been satisfied. the fact that they acceot coupons is great. our store does have one problem with the credit machine. they need a new one! it is always down beig fixed and i feel bad for the workers its not their fault but do take a lot of flack from some customer. help them and me.r

  42. Anonymous says:

    I am not surprise at DG rating,everyone I know shops at DG. I am in DG which is located in my neighborhood at least 2-3x’s a week.I save a lot of money by shopping at DG.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Dollar Store has been a big help when the moths fly out of your purse. I have found so many items that are priced so economically that I couldn’t turn them down. I even buy stuff I don’t really need cause they are so reasonable. Please don’ tell my husband though, he thinks I need all that stuff.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I’m retired and look for prices I can afford and is of good quanilty. I do alot of charity work and need to shop for bargains for many projects I am involved with. Dollar General has alway been there for me and in my price range.
    Thank you, General Dollar. Helen Shirley.

  45. maggie440 says:

    I love DG, i do all my household needs and cereals, and pet foods including garbage bags, saran wrap etc. They are all brand names at lower prices, i do not shop at Walmart, they are a ripoff! I’ve had some really bad experiences at Walmart and don’t care to go back. If i find something cheaper elsewhere they will meet the price. I won a pie contest last yr using DG flour and shortening, go figure. In previous yrs i used High priced contents.