Review of Consumer Reports Article of the 10 Main Retailers…

When it comes to pleasing customers, Costco does a better job than any other major retailer in the country. By Herb Weisbaum


When it comes to pleasing customers, Costco does a better job than any other major retailer in the country.


At least that is the conclusion from an extensive survey conducted by Consumer Reports.


“People like a lot of things about Costco,” says senior editor Mandy Walker. “They were extremely happy with the quality of the things they bought there and the price they paid.”


The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed more than 26,000 subscribers about their shopping experiences at 10 of America’s major chains: Costco, JCPenney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart. They rated the stores and their websites on quality, selection, value, customer service and checkout.


The just-released report shows the biggest complaints about walk-in stores were slow checkout, poor service and items that were out-of-stock. It turns out that in many cases, customers were as happy or happier shopping at the retailer’s website. After all, online you don’t have to wait in line for checkout.


Costco was the only one of the 10 chains to get an outstanding grade for the quality of the merchandise at both its brick-and-mortar stores and website. It earned above-average scores for all 10 product categories rated, including jewelry, sporting goods and entertainment. The Costco website received high marks for both value and ease of navigation.


Kevin’s Comments in Bold:

Costco has a pretty strong brand and does a pretty good job overall although some of their regular items are not always available – it’s frustrating as you can’t rely on them for certain items – it’s hit or miss. Because they often move things around (for marketing reasons), I’ve suggested training their employees to assist throughout the store when customers need direction.


But Costco wasn’t perfect. The brick-and-mortar stores rated below average for selection and service. Customers were also unhappy with the long lines at checkout.


At Costco, it’s quite common to have to wait in line at least 5 minutes. Some Costco stores do a better job of handling customers through the payment process. I will say this; Costco is notorious for closing lines very quickly if very few people are in line – even if there are many people in the store ready to proceed to checkout. Perhaps we could have a few “floating check-out associates” who monitor the checkout lines as they get other minor tasks done near the front of the store.


Target has done a good job over the last few years to ensure you wait very little during checkout and I’ve conveyed my appreciation to Target management. Kohl’s too is very conscientious about not forcing their clients to wait very long. From my experience, not all the others excel when it comes to paying for their items.


Other highlights from the Consumer Reports’ survey:

Macy’s rated better than average for product quality. It got high marks for its kitchenware and personal-care products.


I can see Macy’s rather higher for product quality – not necessarily price but they excel with quality.


Kohl’s and JCPenney had above-average scores for the quality of their merchandise in all categories where there were sufficient responses.


I keep seeing Kohl’s mentioned as a retailer with above-average scores on value — I’d second that!


JC Penney has a new CEO (Ron Johnson) and they’re trying a new marketing strategy. It appears they’re involved in “fewer sales” and “less gimmicks” and concentrating on overall low prices and value. Time will tell with the results. Mind you, Kohl’s is watching this strategy very closely and may be determining what, if any counter move they’ll make.


Sears, Costco and Sam’s Club were picked as the best places to buy hardware.


Not sure what this means? Sears, yes, but Costco? They have a very limited hardware selection, which may force you to be flexible to find what you’re looking for.


Target’s in-store shopping experience was rated average and its website was judged not especially easy to use.


You can find value at Target but this survey correctly captures the idea that shopping at Target is just “so so.” My local Target stores will ask me if I need assistance throughout my shopping and they’re very efficient with the checkout process.


Wal-Mart and Kmart scored much lower than other retailers. Kmart was the only chain to score below average for value. It also received low marks for selection, service and checkout.


I didn’t know Kmart was still in business.


Wal-Mart may boast low prices, but respondents told Consumer Reports they got better value at Costco and Kohl’s.


Often, people are so fixated on price and often they lose sight of value. For the most part, value is synonymous with Costco. You will find few items less than $5, but for the most part, value is a big part of their modus operandi.  


Nearly a quarter of Wal-Mart shoppers (23 percent) who returned an item to a store the previous year said they had a problem. That is significantly more than any of the other retailers. Consumer Reports says the common complaint was that they were only offered a store credit.


Costco has a fantastic return policy. I purchased a Toshiba laptop a few months ago and had to return it due to hardware failure. They were very accommodating and offered me store credit or credit back on my card. I rarely return anything but I’m inclined to shop at stores that are fair with their return policy.


This is a generalization that Wal-Mart does not seem to focus on quality as much as price. When you see or hear their “low prices” commercials, it’s all about beating the competition with lower prices — poor service in the stores may be a by-product. You rarely hear about quality products at competitive prices. I feel very depressed shopping in Wal-Mart or discouraged at all the Chinese products being sold. Perhaps it’s a generalization but much of the inexpensive items in Wal-Mart come from China. I call it CCFC (Cheap Crap From China).


When we start hearing about quality goods at a competitive price or a value oriented store, that will pique my interest.


It fun to visit Wal-Mart from time to time for the experience. There are always surprises and interesting things to review and read.


One more thing about Costco, their food vendor is CDS who provides free samples to customers in various stores in Chicagoland. CDS provides food samples to customers and does product demonstrations in most Costco stores throughout the United States. People don’t differentiate between CDS and Costco but these workers reflect Costco’s image indirectly. The irony is these workers are may be more familiar with product locations than some of the Costco associates. That was discovered over the course of several months with an unscientific study and comparing results between the two groups. 


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