Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Walmart Neighborhood Market

Lost among all the Kroger/Harris Teeter/Publix hubbub of the last couple of months is that Walmart is still the #1 grocery chain in the area, in terms of market share. Let's talk about them for a second.

I don't actually have a Walmart within 10 minutes of my house. (How many of you can say that?) But even if I did, I'd still avoid them, for groceries or otherwise. Sure, Walmart has low prices, but their Supercenters are huge, and almost always busy. It takes an hour just to find a parking spot and walk in the front door. (Slight exaggeration, but you get the point.) And, checkout takes forever. Shopping at Walmart is rarely a pleasant experience, especially for grocery shopping, and it's certainly not efficient. In fact, if a Walmart Supercenter was my only option for grocery shopping, I'd probably hate grocery shopping.

But, Walmart has an answer to those who feel Supercenters are too impractical for everyday grocery shopping: Walmart Neighborhood Market. You won't find everyday goods here, like at a "regular" Walmart. Instead, it's just groceries, like at the grocery store down the street.

I thought I'd give it a try. The nearest Walmart Neighborhood Market to my house is a good 15-20 minutes away, so it would have to really blow me away to become my weekly grocery stop. I figured that was pretty unlikely, since after all, it still says "Walmart" on the front. But you never know until you try it, right? If I'm happy enough with it, maybe I can go once every few weeks.

So, I said that Walmart Supercenters are always busy, and that's a turn-off. Walmart Neighborhood Market, on the other hand: not busy! The parking lot was no more full, and the store no more busy than, say, a Food Lion. (Which is to say, less crowded than my neighborhood Kroger.) We're off to a good start.

My next item of concern: would the Neighborhood Market be a small-ish grocery store with not much in the way of selection? Nope. It's a full-size grocery store, and is able to compete with Kroger on that front. No problem there, either. Sure, there are some items I can find at Kroger that I couldn't find at the Neighborhood Market, but it works both ways. Those "Whips" strawberry yogurts that Kroger doesn't carry anymore? Walmart Neighborhood Market has 'em! I stocked up.

Walmart obviously specializes in low prices, and the Neighborhood Market has those, too...some of the time. While things like Cheez-Its and cereal were often cheaper, Milk was more expensive than I usually pay. And one major beef (pun intended) a lot of people have with the Walmart grocery section is the quality of their meat and produce. (Same with SuperTarget.) But, I chose this particular week to try out Walmart Neighborhood Market because we didn't need to buy any meat or produce this week. So, there you go.

I'd say everything has been pretty good so far, prior to checkout...

How does Walmart offer such low prices? By hiring only as many employees as are absolutely necessary, particularly in terms of cashiers (maybe two?) and baggers (LOL!). And, the cashiers they do have aren't particularly efficient. So, at your typical Walmart, checkout takes a while. Sometimes, a long while.

How is it at Walmart Neighborhood Market? Well, the checkout lines are shorter, because a Neighborhood Market isn't as busy as a Supercenter. However...the cashiers are still painfully slow, and of course, there are still no baggers. Instead, they really, really, really want you to go through self-checkout. I've always loathed self-checkout, but I thought I'd give self-checkout another go this time, since that's likely going to be the best way to get out of there efficiently on a week-to-week basis. And, it's been a while since I've used it - maybe self-checkout technology has advanced over the last couple of years, and isn't such a pain anymore?

Nope. My self-checkout took 10 minutes, during which time the register twice locked up and required assistance. And, of course, said assistance is anything but prompt. That's what I get for bringing my own bags, I guess. Seriously.

I'm sure I would get better at self-checkout the more I did it, but I really don't feel like concluding my grocery store trips by banging my head against the wall every single week at self-checkout. No thanks.

So, in summary: in terms of everyday grocery shopping, everything about Walmart Neighborhood Market really is better than Walmart Supercenter. But checkout is still slow, so next week, it's back to Kroger.

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