Friday, June 25, 2010

Wal-Marts Sells Empty DVD Case for $20

I recently organized a recognition event at City Hall for volunteers who picked up litter as part of Shelton's Clean Sweep.  Shop Rite stepped up to the plate and donated 120 bottles of Poland Spring Water for the event.  Give them a round of applause.

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, sold us an empty DVD case for $20 and refused to exchange it.   We had a table full of door prizes (above photo), including an Avatar DVD.   A Boy Scout drew a winning ticket and cheerfully took the movie home.  But when the family sat down to watch the movie there was no disc.

I took a closer look at the above photo and noticed there is no cellophane on the end of the DVD and the security sticker is partly out of place. Take a look:

I returned to Wal-Mart with the empty packaging and receipt. At the Customer Service desk I was told that I could not exchange the box for another DVD "because there is no disc inside the box to exchange."  Um, yes, that's the point.   I explained the situation. I showed an email from the Mayor's secretary that also explained the problem.  The representative called the manager, but the answer was still, "no." 

Later I search the web and found several posts about people stealing DVDs from boxes in stores, especially DVD boxes with the cardboard slipcovers like the one above.  Many of the posts specifically mentioned Wal-Mart. Thieves would slit the bottom and bend the case, allowing the disc to pop out. The slipcover conceals the problem unless you have a very sharp eye.  Several posters wrote that from now on, they would open all DVDs at the store. 

I understand they don't want people just claiming they didn't get a disc and getting a second one for free, but come on.   Wal-Mart should train its cashiers to look at each disc during check out, and employees in the electronic department should also be trained to search for problems.  Clearly this was not done, and Wal-Mart should do the right thing and exchange the empty box for one with a disc inside it. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Saving Money at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart easily wins this round of the grocery store competition, which excludes produce, meats, and health & beauty, coming in at $60.15 for my list of groceries compared to $78.97 at Stop & Shop and $79.24 at Shop Rite.

If you look at the chart below, there are only two instances of a competitor having a lower price than Wal-Mart's, including sale prices. The milk and cereal at Xpect Discounts were cheaper, and that was it. I've put the lowest prices in purple.

Wal-Mart Stop & Shop Shop Rite Xpect
Diet Pepsi, two 2-Liter Bottles $2.50 $3.00 $3.10 $2.68
Skim Milk, 2 Gallons $6.50 $7.18 $6.98 $5.56
Red Rose Tea, 100 ct $3.12 $3.29 $3.39 NA
Ramen cups, 4 $1.12 $2.68 $1.36 NA
Campbells Chunky Soup, 4 $6.00 $10.00 $7.56 $6.00
Spagettios w meatballs, 2 $2.00 $2.66 $2.00 $2.36
Hunts Tomato Sause, 8 oz, 2 $0.98 $1.34 $1.00 $0.98
Thomas' plain bagels, 2 $4.00 $7.98 $7.98 $7.98
Bread, Freihofers Country White $2.24 $2.50 $3.59 $3.36
Cabot Sharp Chedder, 2 lbs $7.78 $9.49 $11.96 NA
Tostitos, 13 oz, 2 bags $6.56 $7.98 $7.98 $7.36
Sugar, 5 lbs (cheapest) $2.34 $2.69 $2.79 $2.99
Flour, 5 lbs (cheapest) $1.78 $2.50 $1.79 $1.88
Special K Fruit & Yogurt 12.8 oz $3.00 $3.69 $3.79 $2.50
Kleenex 200 count, 3 boxes $4.26 $6.00 $4.98 $4.38
Scott or Bounty P. Towels, mega, choose-a-size, 6 $5.97 $5.99 $8.99 $11.34

TOTAL $60.15 $78.97 $79.24 NA

Shop Rite has a reputation for great sales (I know many Shelton shoppers have been driving to the Derby Shop Rite), but so far I'm not seeing it. Many of the items on my list were advertised at sales prices, but when I added everything up, they were in the same ball park as Stop & Shop. In comparison, when I did this in 1995 (using a much longer grocery list), Shaws was about 10% cheaper than Stop & Shop.

Xpect Discounts did not have some of the items on my list, but I included the prices for the ones they did have. When I excluded the items not carried by Xpect and totaled everything up, Wal-Mart came out at $48.13, Xpect $59.37, Stop & Shop $63.51, and Shop Rite $62.53.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Expired Pears at Wal-Mart

I just bought these canned pears yesterday (Great Value, which is the Wal-Mart store brand) and they're already a year past their expiration date. I decided to give them a try but they were mealy. I opened up a second can I also bought yesterday (expiration date 2012) and those tasted fine.

Who among us is going to stand in line at the service desk to get reimbursed for a can of pears? Not me. Oh, well, I will say that this is the first time I've run into this at Wal-Mart.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fake Sale at Wal-Mart

HA! Remember my previous post wondering why Wal-Mart increased the price of their soda to $1.58 and then put it on a pallet right at the front door? Here's the answer: So they could drop the price back down and advertise it as a "sale price" a few days later.

I rather expect places like Stop & Shop to do that, but Wal-Mart's niche is supposed to be the no-gimmicks, everyday lowest prices store. And for the most part they do have lower prices. So is this really necessary? Is there some deep-seated need to feed into to the 'Wal-Mart is evil' reputation?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Produce Wars

Xpect Discounts of Derby easily wins Round One of the Produce Wars! Shop Rite (of Derby) and Stop & Shop (Shelton) were a draw. Quality of the produce was reasonably good everywhere (the items at Xpect looked just as good as the other two stores). The produce that I paid $17.31 for at Xpect Discount would have cost me $25.10 at Shop Rite and $25.08 at Stop & Shop. That's a savings of $7.78 or 31%. If this were repeated every week for a year, the savings would theoretically be $404 in produce alone.

However, Xpect Discounts is very 'hit or miss.' While I found the Produce Department very well stocked during my recent visit, there are times when I walk in and walk back out again because the shelves are bare except for a few rejected wilted fruits. I guess it depends on when they get their shipments in. Also, it's not the most pleasant store, so if you place a high value on ambiance, this is not the store for you. They don't even have moving belts at the check outs, and lines are often long. Still, if you need to save a few bucks, it's worth taking a look at.

Here are the produce prices I encountered during the past week, and my grocery list. If an item was on sale, I used the sale price. For some of the heavier items I specified more than one pound because that is more realistic, at least at my house. The potatoes at Xpect were so cheap I thought it must be a typo -- 10 lbs for $2. But that's how they rang them up. The lowest prices are in purple.

Grocery List
Xpect Shop Rite Stop & Shop

unit price
total unit total unit total
2 lbs cabbage (/lb) $0.54 $1.08 $0.69 $1.38 $0.69 $1.38
1 bag mini carrots - 16 oz $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $1.79 $1.79
1.5 lb yellow turnip (/lb) $0.89 $1.34 $0.79 $1.19 $0.99 $1.49
1 cucumber $0.67 $0.67 $0.66 $0.66 $0.75 $0.75
2 lb sweet potatoes (/lb) $0.89 $1.78 $0.99 $1.98 $0.99 $1.98
1 lb Red Peppers (/lb) $1.99 $1.99 $2.49 $2.49 $2.79 $2.79
1 lb Broccoli Crowns (/lb) $0.69 $0.69 $1.49 $1.49 $1.99 $1.99
.5 lb Banana (/lb) $0.59 $0.30 $0.69 $0.35 $0.69 $0.35
10 lb Potato - cheapest (/lb) $0.20 $2.00 $0.50 $5.00 $0.50 $5.00
2 lb Onion - Sweet (/lb) $0.99 $1.98 $1.29 $2.58 $1.29 $2.58
1 lb Pistachio (/lb) $3.99 $3.99 $6.49 $6.49 $4.99 $4.99


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Games They Play

This was the last straw:

I buy a lot of groceries at Wal-Mart. One week I decided to buy a 2-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi rather than the cans, because it's cheaper per ounce. I don't normally buy 2-liter sodas and wasn't familiar with what a good or bad price was, but Wal-Mart's price was $1, so I bought a couple bottles.

The next week the price was $1.25. Hmmm. I only bought one.

The week after that I walked into the store and was immediately greeted by a big pallet of Pepsi right at the main door, crowned by a large sign announcing the price as if this was an incredible deal: $1.58.

This reminds me of the Kentucky Fried Chicken tactic to get people to buy the extra crispy chicken. When priced the same as their regular recipe, people didn't buy it. So they raised the price. And people started buying it.

I decided I needed to know all the prices of everything I normally buy. High and low prices from each store I might go to. Then I can refer to my spreadsheet to see if something is a good price or not, because the retailer can fake you out in this regard if you don't actually know what a good price is. Those of you with photographic memories are truly blessed. I will carry a spreadsheet.

My first stop was Stop & Shop. Their Pepsi was on sale for $1.50, regular price $1.79. Doesn't seem like much of a deal. But the next day a Stop & Shop flyer showed a price of $0.99. My head hurts.

The saga will continue. I need to complete my first spreadsheet of prices (see the 'about' page for more on that) before I publish any of it, because I still haven't gone to Shop Rite and I don't want these stores knowing what items I'll be looking at.

But here's a teaser: I have prices from Wal-Mart, Xpect Discounts, and Stop & Shop so far. I did not encounter one single item at Stop & Shop, even sale priced items, that was cheaper that the other two stores. And yet the store was packed with shoppers.