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12 reasons Americans hate grocery shopping

Shoppers reveal the most common problems and the worst offenders

Published: April 10, 2015 03:00 PM

Out-of-stock items are a problem at some stores.
Illustration: Eva Tatcheva

Americans have a love-hate relationship with their supermarkets. One minute, we're blissfully taking in the intoxicating aroma of fresh ripe peaches, the next we're livid over getting stuck on the slowest checkout lane in the store. No doubt a lot of the frustration has to do with the huge investment we make in our stores. Last year, consumers averaged 83 trips and spent $5,400 grocery shopping. While it’s unrealistic to expect smooth sailing on every occasion, some chains make the experience more irritating than others.

In our new report on America's best and worst supermarkets, 55 percent of subscribers surveyed experienced at least one problem during the store visit they told us about. But there was quite a range among chains. For example, Publix was the least problematic; only 29 percent encountered any single problem. Conversely, 83 percent of Walmart shoppers found one thing to complain about, more than any other supermarket. Sixty-two percent of Walmart's customers had two or more problems, while 41 percent encountered at least three.

Not all gaffes, of course, are equally egregious. Some are particularly aggravating and occurred well above the average for all supermarkets. For instance:

  • 8 percent of Pathmark shoppers said they were the victim of scanner overcharges; 13 percent said they encountered missing or spotty price labeling.
  • 9 percent of those who shopped at A&P complained about their store selling damaged or expired goods.
  • 11 percent of respondents who shopped at Walmart, Pathmark, and Waldbaum’s were put off by dirty floors and shelves.

Learn about the cost of organic food. (Hint: Don’t assume that organic is always pricier.) And check out the best store brands and America's cheapest supermarkets.

Here are the 12 most common problems, the grocers that stood out—for better or worse— and the percentage of subscribers who complained.

Problem

Winner

Percent

Loser

Percent

Too few open checkouts

Trader Joe’s

3%

Walmart

57%

Congested aisles

BJ’s Wholesale Club

3

Market Basket (Northeast)

35

Too few choices

Raley’s

3

Aldi

30

Poor selection of locally-produced products

Wegmans

1

Walmart

19

Uninformed or indifferent staff

Trader Joe’s

<1

Walmart

30

Confusing layout

Brookshire’s

1

Schnucks

12

Out of stock on basic, non-sale items

Fresh Market

1

Walmart

23

Inept bagging

Trader Joe’s

1

Giant (Pa.)

10

Out of stock on advertised specials

WinCo

1

Pick ‘n Save

24

Inadequate parking

Bi-Lo (Ga., Tenn., N.C., S.C.)

<1

Trader Joe’s

19

Store offers more junk food than healthy food

Sprouts Farmers Market

<1

Walmart

10

Spotty labeling of prices

Lowes Foods (N.C.)

<1

Pathmark

13

—Tod Marks

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