10 July 2008

The "Does Wegmans Rule" Experiment Results

Now that the “Does Wegmans Rule” experiment is complete, we (Sean’s Ramblings and I) thought it would be nice to share the results. For those of you new to this challenge, we asked for volunteers to take a checklist to their local grocery store and price the following items:

- 1 dozen large eggs
- 1/2 gallon Bryers vanilla
- 1 pound of bananas
- 1 head of romaine lettuce
- 1 box of San Georgio Spaghetti
- 1 1000 sheet roll of Scott toilet tissue
- 1 cup of Dannon Light ‘N Fit yogurt
- 1 12oz. can of Spam luncheon meat

We figured that this would give a wide variety of products that are commonly used. Well, except for Spam because Spam is funny and makes us think of Monty Python.

Our gracious volunteers visited these stores:

Wegmans in Fairfax, VA

Harris Teeter – Herndon, VA

Shopper’s – Alexandria, VA

Greenbelt Co-op – Greenbelt, MD

Giant – Alexandria, VA

Giant – Reston, VA

Safeway – Fairfax, VA

Kroger – Atlanta, GA

Publix – Atlanta, GA

On to the results. We prepared an elaborate spreadsheet and a 20-page PowerPoint presentation to share, but we couldn’t quite figure out how to post it here. Maybe we’ll publish it as part of our dissertation: Sean Learns the Difference Between Iceberg and Romaine Lettuce. Back to the premise of our experiment, does Wegmans rule? The answer is yes. We took the total of the eight items of the items at the DC area stores, and with a total of $12.93, Wegmans had the cheapest prices. Shopper’s finished in second at $13.25 and the Greenbelt Co-op earned the bronze with $13.34. Safeway was the most expensive at $18.09, although we think that the toilet paper priced was possibly a 4-pack and not an individual roll. (If one roll is really $3.35, we’re never going there again.) Even adjusting the price of toilet paper to $1, the total of $15.60 was about $1.35 more than the next most expensive store (Harris Teeter - $14.16, note: they did not sell individual rolls of Scott toilet tissue at Harris Teeter so we plugged in an assumption of $1 for comparison purposes).

What about Atlanta you ask? We say it is a city in Georgia. Oh, you’re wondering about the prices. Both Krogers and Publix do not carry 1000 sheet rolls of Scott toilet tissue or boxes of San Georgio spaghetti; however, if we add average price of each to the total, Kroger would actually be the cheapest at $12.29, largely due to Breyers ice cream being on sale (only $2.27). Kroger does have the most expensive eggs at $2.29 but Spam is apparently cheaper in the South ($2.29 – Kroger; $2.09 – Publix; between $2.49 [Wegmans] and $3.35 [Safeway] in the DC area).

In case you were wondering, the prices at Giant in Reston and Alexandria were exactly the same.

We were hoping people would document hilarious anecdotes about their secret shopper expeditions but by in large... not so much. Apparently, this is pretty serious stuff. So, we release you from your official obligations as secret shoppers and invite you to create a clean up on aisle 3 incident of your choosing.

So that’s about it. Thanks again to everyone who participated, to DC Blogs for linking to us and to Swapping Tales (aka The Abbot) who created the incredibly cool badge.


GreenCanary said...

Please create another experiment. I want to participate. I've always dreamed of being a secret shopper.

Gilahi said...

With gasoline at over $4.00/gallon, I'd have to live a lot closer to a Wegman's than to a Shopper's in order to make it worth going there to save the $.32. On the other hand, I could drive a few miles to avoid a Safeway.

rs27 said...

Trader joe's should be on this list. That place is discount heaven if you want some organic chicken nuggets with carrots.

Bilbo said...

rs27 is right about Trader Joe's. We love Wegmans, but always find it very expensive because we don't buy simple stuff...we always end up buying the exotic cheeses and pre-made meals and such, and can't get out of the place for less than $100.

Tina said...

Of Course Wegmans rules! You people questioned this?!? Oh - I forgot - I'm in the south now - I grew up in Rochester NY - Birthplace of Wegmans. I have to visit it everytime I go home - its like a pilgrimage.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Wegman's was cheapest?! Well, I suppose if you were sticking exactly to the list provided, you'd be fine. But Wegman's is gourmand heaven.

I had hoped to contribute some numbers from D.C. stores, but alas.

Interesting study. Now, when I'm being gypped at Safeway, I'll be thinking, "I could be shopping at Wegman's and saving $1.63."

Reya Mellicker said...

... begin soapbox rant ...

This post brings to mind that famous photo of Khrushchev, taken the first time he saw an American supermarket overflowing with food. In the photo, he's weeping like a baby.

We Americans are spoiled brats when it comes to food. We have such an unrealistic expectation that food "should" be cheap. Says who?

A favorite quote from Wendell Barry (don't remember the exact phrasing) is about how at 12 most Americans know exactly how to make a baby, but even into old age, most of us couldn't tell you how to grow a potato if there was a gun pointed at us.

I worked for Whole Foods for a couple of years a few years back. Getting inside the supermarket biz was very interesting.

Most big corporate grocery stores sell old food that's been sitting in a warehouse or traveling on a truck for many weeks before it reaches the shelves of the stores, let alone before it comes home with us. In addition, these chains treat their employees like shit. So, OK, the food is cheap. Is it worth it?

Not saying I don't pop into Safeway (because they sell Peets coffee) or Harris Teeters on occasion. But I mostly shop at Whole Foods because their food is top notch. The company is GREAT to its employees, plus they give back to their local communities in small and large ways. It was Whole Foods who finally pressured the government into coming up with standards for what it means to be organic. Previously anybody could call their food organic. It meant nothing.

Yes I almost pass out every time I see how much money it costs to buy good food. To me, it's worth it.

It always makes me sad, and ashamed (as an American) to think of poor Nikita, coming face to face with our overabundance.

...end soapbox rant ...

lacochran's evil twin said...

Green: If you want another contest, speak to Sean. He is the brains and the brawn of this contest. Maybe even the beauty.

Gilahi: If we've encouraged you to drive out of your way to avoid a Safeway, we have not toiled in vain.

rs27: They have great veggie meatballs! Yum! That's right, I say Yum!

Bilbo: Ah, the lure of the exotic. We have the same problem at Whole Foods. We go in for peppers and come out with four bags of groceries.

Tina: An ambassador from the home of Wegmans! Welcome!

JM: So Wegmans is both cheapest and gourmand heaven... I think one needs to arrive closer to me.

Reya: Interesting stuff. Didn't I just read about some issues with Whole Foods and non-sustainable fishing? I do love their quality but their prices are challenging.