Entries in Supermarkets (5)


What's the Worst Supermarket in the US?

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- It's not just Donald Trump who's yelling "You're fired!"  Consumer Reports, in its May issue, says a third of its subscribers fired their supermarket in the past year.

In an article titled "Best & Worst Supermarkets," some 24,200 readers get a chance to vent about 42,700 shopping experiences.  More than half say they have at least one complaint about their current store, and almost a third have two or more.

The biggest complaints, says project editor Tod Marks, include markets setting their prices too high (cited by 43 percent of shoppers as their reason for firing a store), not having enough checkouts open (cited by 27 percent), having rude employees (17 percent), or not having advertised specials in stock.  Inept bagging, scanner overcharges and missing price tags round out the gripes.

Happily for shoppers, there are plenty of stores to choose from.  The magazine rates 52 leading chains four ways: by service (which combines customer satisfaction with employee courtesy and checkout speed), perishables (quality of meat and produce), price and cleanliness.  Wegmans gets the best overall rating, 88; Pathmark the worst, 68.

Marks says this is the third time the magazine has rated supermarkets.  Earlier rankings appeared in 2005 and 2008.  Despite some surprises, the rankings themselves have remained fairly constant.

"It's a mature industry," he explains.  "These companies have had lots of time work out the kinks."  The chains that make it to the top, he says, tend to stay there.

No chains, finds the report, tried their customers' patience more than Walmart Supercenter, Pathmark (Northeast) and Pick 'n Save (Wisconsin).  At all three, 75 percent of shoppers had one or more complaints.  Walmart, the nation's largest grocer, earned the next-to-worst overall rating (69), one notch above Pathmark.  Customers gave Walmart lowest possible marks for its service, and next-lowest for its perishables.

The four best supermarkets (Wegmans, Trader Joe's, Publix and Fareway Stores), all scored high in service and in cleanliness.  Shoppers' only quibble with Wegmans was price.  Whole Foods and Jewel-Osco, however, got the worst price ratings of any markets in the survey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supermarket Customers Hit By Debit Card-Skimming Thieves

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MODESTO, Calif.) -- Thieves who inserted data-skimming devices into card readers at Lucky's supermarket self-checkout counters ripped off as many as 500 of the California chain's customers, officials said.

Lucky's, owned by Save Market Supermarkets, said in a statement that the company has removed tampered credit/debit card readers from 24 stores. The readers have been sent to the Secret Service, which is investigating the scam.

Data-skimming devices inserted into the readers allowed the crooks to steal information like the shoppers' PIN numbers, expiration dates and security codes from the cards wirelessly. Lucky realized something was up, according to its statement, when during a regular review it discovered a reader that "looked suspicious."

Lucky said in its statement that its customer-support team has been fielding up to 2,000 calls a day. It said all the readers that were tampered with were replaced by Nov. 23. The company doesn't know how much money was taken illicitly because of the tampering.

To protect themselves against skimmers, shoppers should consider using credit rather than debit cards, says identity theft expert John Sileo, author of "Stolen Lives, Identity Theft Prevention Made Simple."

"It's much more attractive to a thief to get a debit card, and it's much harder on a victim," Sileo says.

The reason: with a debit card, consumers often have only a couple of days to notify the bank that they were victims of fraud, whereas credit-card companies generally allow 60 to 90 days and do the investigation themselves.

Sileo recommends checking out the reader you are about to use and making sure it looks just like the one in the other aisles--with nothing loose, sticking out and with no sign of a camera attached.

He also suggests setting up debit and credit card alerts via text message or email. "If you're home watching the football game and you just spent $5 in Starbucks, you know you've got a problem," he said.

Self-checkout makes fraud easier, he said. "There's nobody watching. It does make it easier to slip on a skimmer or put in a camera that records people's PIN numbers," he said. But he doesn't think shoppers need to stop using self-checkout. They just need to be vigilant.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Shopping Secrets: Ways Supermarkets Get You to Spend More Money

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The next time you take your weekly trip to the grocery store, take a look around you. It turns out all of the minute details -- the fresh flowers greeting you in the entrance, the shining vegetables on the tables -- may all be ploys by the supermarket to get you to spend more than you thought you would.

"We're priming the shopper to tune in to a kind of experience," said Liz Crawford, author of The Shopper Economy. "It's fall, it's a farmer's market. ... We're here at the farm stand."

Soon, you're immersed in the aisles, where items the store wants you to pair together are strategically placed next to each other. Next to the barrel of apples, for example, is caramel.

"So while I'm buying the apples, I'm thinking, 'Oh, you know, I could also buy some caramel and have caramel apples. Great idea.' Now I've got an impulse buy," she said. "That's a cross-sell."

The products you see, where they are displayed, even what you smell can all be a part of a sophisticated, market-tested method to get you to buy.

The apples, sitting in their pretty little baskets, look like they're straight from the farm. They put you in a pleasant mood, thinking of autumn. That's what they call a "symbolic."

Vegetables also are staged to excite the senses. They are sprayed with water every few minutes -- giving them a fragrant smell and a glistening appearance. Nearby, the cheese stand is loaded with choices so you have to linger to find the exact kind you want.

"So while I may have come for some feta, wow, here's some crumble bleu cheese, which I can have as an alternative in my salad during the day," said Crawford.

Another means of persuasion is packing food in ice.

"It signals to the shopper, 'Hey, this is perishable. It's perishable right now,'" said Crawford. "Now's the time to pick it."

Shoppers tend to stay on the edges of the store, circling around counter-clockwise. Retailers sometimes place an eye-catching sale item near the track.

"Once I get enticed down the aisle, the chances I'll buy something go up dramatically," she said.

Shopper Sharon McCain said she was influenced to buy something she didn't intend to. She didn't come to the store to buy apples -- but still left the store with some.

"Well, they were stacked up and looked good," she said. "So I bought some apples."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Limited-Assortment Grocery Stores Allow Consumers to Save Big

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The typical supermarket contains 50,000 different products.  Would you give up some of that selection for lower prices?

Millions of Americans are doing just that, at "limited assortment grocery stores."  The best-known are Save-A-Lot, Aldi and Grocery Outlet.  These stores are about half the size of a typical suburban supermarket.  They are stocked with 95 percent store brands and only carry about 80 percent of the selection traditional stores do.

Shoppers probably won't find olive tapenade, brie cheese or basmati rice at one of these smaller stores, but they can find big savings.

Save-A-Lot only carries name-brand products when it can score a deep discount on them and pass the savings along to its customers as a special deal.  Mostly you see shelves lined with unfamiliar store brands like Kurtz, Coburn and Portman's.

Other signs of a unique philosophy: a smaller meat department with fewer cuts, and products displayed on the palettes they came in.  Some products are offered in one type and one size, so the store is not using a lot of shelf space to stock dozens of brands.

Save-A-Lot claims to save its customers as much as 40 percent with this formula, and retail analysts back up that number.

The concept is working for the stores, too.  While traditional grocery sales are stagnant, revenue at limited assortment grocers Save-A-Lot, Aldi and Grocery Outlet is growing.  In fact, all three chains plan to expand dramatically in the next couple of years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Food Prices on the Rise

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Food sellers will be forced to pass on the rising cost of food to consumers after a year that saw the lowest food prices in nearly two decades, reports the Wall Street Journal.

As inflation sets in, supermarkets and restaurants have had to raise costs to make up for a sharp rise in the cost of staple products. 

Companies like McDonald's Corp., Kellogg Co., and Kroger Co. have signaled that consumers will begin to pay more for their products due to the higher price of ingredients.

Even Starbucks -- which announced in August it would stave off price increases -- said it plans to boost the cost of hard-to-make drinks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio