Where’s the best place to buy your groceries these days if you’re deciding based on cost? It may no longer be your local supermarket chain. Broad-based retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, and Target are beating the food chains based on new data from Basket, a company started by the founders of Waze, to track and compare grocery prices by its users, both on and offline. (Warning: This is another app that trades information for letting them know where and what you are doing.)
Among the 15 most commonly searched grocery items on Basket, the lowest prices were from Walmart, with a 16 percent savings over local grocery chains. Next was Target, which was 13 percent less expensive. Amazon Fresh was only 4 percent less costly, not accounting for their $16.15 monthly charge ($14.99 plus tax). Jet.com, a Walmart-owned alternative to Amazon for online ordering, had the highest prices.
Consumer Reports also recently surveyed grocery prices among retail chains and came up with their own list. The magazine’s results from polling 50,000 subscribers show eight standouts among 62 national and regional chains. They were Aldi, a chain mostly located in the eastern half of the U.S. and southern California; Costco; Fareway, a family-owned chain with stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota; Market Basket in the Northeast; Trader Joe’s, WinCo; and Woodman’s of Illinois and Wisconsin.
But price isn’t the only consideration for many of us. It’s also convenience, product availability, quality, and long lines. Consumer Reports found in surveying their readers that 10 percent complained about congested aisles, 9 percent about too few choices, and 7 percent about the poor selection of local products. The stores with the most complaints were Pick ’n Save, Safeway, Target, and Aldi
My personal experience with online shopping using Amazon Fresh was not good. While it may be useful for shut-ins and those who don’t care about quality, I tried it for a month and found too many errors and substitutes for what was ordered and poor quality fruit and produce.
Compounding that, Amazon’s “free” trial automatically enrolled me in Fresh for $16.15/month. That fact came in another message that was tiny and mostly hidden. Making matters worse, they refused to refund all the charges. Yes, I should have caught it on my credit card statement, but the charge was disguised. It didn’t say “Amazon Fresh,” it said “Amazon US Prime,” clearly a misrepresentation.
What’s the bottom line? Shopping is such a personal experience that there’s no one size that fits all. Perhaps that’s why most of us shop in more than one location. And shopping based only on price means we’re often trading it for time, convenience, and quality.