CT Watchdog: Costco and Amazon Lead Consumer Reports’ Customer Service Survey

By George Gombossy, CTwatchdog.com

Shoppers like Ellee Rose of Middletown and Jessica Lyons of West Hartford already know about the great bargains, value and superb customer service you get at Costco and from Amazon.

But it doesn’t hurt to have our (I do the shopping and cooking while my wife does the cleaning) shopping habits supported by two recent studies.

The latest came this month from Consumer Reports, which analyzed the responses from more than 30,000 of its readers and found that Costco and Amazon stood out as great deals for consumers. The world’s largest retail business – Walmart – was way down on the list, despite the fact that people spent $405 billion at its stores last year.

“Walmart and Kmart scored notably lower than the other chains, but Costco stood tall,” the July edition of Consumer Reports states. “In addition to citing the warehouse club’s rock-bottom prices, survey respondents praised its bang for the buck: It was the only store judged much better than average for value. In our surveys over the years, Costco has earned high marks as a source of a surprisingly large selection of goods, including mattresses, electronics, small appliances, groceries, and books. In recent years, the chain’s Kirkland Signature products have often performed well in our tests.”

“For all the talk about Walmart’s low prices, 30,666 subscribers we surveyed said the prices at 10 other retailers, including JC Penney, Sears, Dillard’s, and Meijer, were at least as good. And bigger wasn’t necessarily better when it came to the overall shopping experience.

Almost three-quarters of respondents who shopped at Walmart found at least one problem to complain about, and half had two or more complaints about the store or its staff.”
Another survey, taken recently in Chicago by Laura Heller of Walletpop.com, compared prices for medicine, electronics, office supplies and books between Costco, Walmart, Target, CVS, Trader Joe’s, and two major book stores. In every price check, Costco came out cheaper, in some cases making huge differences.

For instance, the shopping blog compared prices for Excedrin Extra Strength and found these prices per pill: Costco, 43 cents; Target, 56 cents; Walmart, 58 cents, and CVS, 60 cents.

For the Wii Fit Plus bundle, Costco is charging $85.99, while Walmart, Target and Best Buy each charge $99.99. You can find more price comparisons on my website, www.ctwatchdog.com.

Lyons has shopped at two warehouse clubs, Costco and BJ’s, and the only reason she now uses BJ’s is because there is one in her hometown, West Hartford, and the closest Costco is in Enfield. In fact, the major issue for shoppers is that there are so few Costco stores. In Connecticut, besides the Enfield store, there are stores in Brookfield, Milford, Norwalk and Waterbury, while a store is planned for Guilford. My Costco sources tell me the company is still interested in building a store in the West Hartford area.

Not only is the service at Costco superb, Lyons said, she finds much better selection and higher quality products in toys and gifts and food than at BJ’s, even though Costco limits its selections to 4,000 items per store. Service is a major reason people like Lyons and I shop at Costco. The staff is highly motivated, well trained, friendly and supportive. Employees are there for years. The reason: they make a livable wage and Costco can pick and chose the best people.

Rose agrees about Costco, and like many Consumer Reports shoppers, is also a huge fan of Amazon for its dirt low prices, quick shipping, free shipping on orders costing at least $25, and great service.

“I have purchased magazines discounted on Amazon, for example I purchased ‘O’ two years ago for the price of about 14.99 for TWO years. Town and Country at $10 and the Smithsonian subscription was also purchased through Amazon.”

“Although I can go to a public CT library and find SALE book racks with previous #1 sellers from the past 2-3 years for $1, sometimes one simply has to have the Joan Didion book. When I do purchase CDs and books, it is through Amazon. Categorizing everything into price brackets, and usually looking at sale items UNDER 10.” she said.

“I have a small stash of many DVDs and VHS bought through the years exclusively through Amazon. The fact that one can LISTEN to samples of album tracks is wonderful. It has made the difference in my choices. I want always to hear a new Michael BublĂ© song or the CD DeLovely [Cole Porter film soundtrack] beforehand. The thrill is always there.”

You can reach The Watchdog at George@connecticutwatchdog.com and he will answer as many emails as he can. Please check out his site, www.ctwatchdog.com for comprehensive consumer, health, finance, travel and education tips.


George Gombossy can be reached at george@connecticutwatchdog.com or you can send him a letter at Connecticut Watchdog, PO Box 23, East Longmeadow, Ma., 01028.

He will respond to as many inquiries and complaints as time permits. Please check out ctWatchdog.com for other consumer, health and finance tips.

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