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» Shopping Smart: Comparing Retailers

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Every city has a plethora of department stores, both upscale and midrange, and each of them touts themselves as the best buy, the best quality and the best range of goods, but where do they really stand in the overall scheme of things?

Is one department store better than another at the end of the day? They all have marked differences however having done a lot of comparison shopping at the varying stores purchasing the same products, or as close as possible and comparing price, value and durability, I’ve found that some consistently out pace others in one area, while the other areas are somewhat lacking.

I also found that price comparisons are not always fair, and that the value of the goods means more to me than the three dollar lower price.

We all see the consumer comparisons and I really felt that some of the pricing and test goods got a bad rap, because the tests didn’t seem comparable in their methods, using different people to test the varying goods, which means the test conditions are not the same by any means. That being said, I decided, after a few bad experiences in the area with goods from certain stores, to test my own way, and proceeded to do so.

Using comparable goods from Walmart, Shopko, Kohls and Kmart, I did a few tests of my own, and the results were somewhat shocking to me to be honest. I shopped a great deal at Walmart, and have in fact curtailed that a great deal when my own results stared me in the face.

I purchased a rug shampooer, from Walmart and shopko, as well as a satin and velvet comforter, and curdoroy trousers.

From Kohls and Walmart I purchased a tabletop oven, or toaster oven, and from Kmart and Walmart I purchased a pair of their store brand blue jeans.

Walmart prices were consistently lower than Shopko, but their value was also consistently far lower than that of walmart.

Heres what I found:

Corduroy Trousers: Worn the same number of times, washed the same number of times in the same machine, using the same detergent, (Era stain release formula)

After one washing the items were comparable, however after the third washing, the Walmart item, less than one dollar price difference under the Shopko item, had seams that had twisted frontwards, so that the side seam now ran up the front leg center. After ten washings, the Shopko item shows some signs of color changes while the Walmart item is now unwearable, due to the seaming changes and a tear that has appeared where the back pocket meets the item.

Satin Comforter with Metallic embellishments, Queen Sized labeled Machine washable. Walmart Purchase Price, 80.00

Satin Comforter,( squares of satin,) Queen Sized, Shopko Purchase Price, 89.00 USD. Machine washable, line dry labeling.

The first washing of the Walmart comforter saw the seams which held the comforter together fraying badly, and holes about 4 feet long ran on two sides of the comforter, rendering it completely unusuable. ( The issue was that the seaming had been done in an extremely cheap and poor grade manner, without overcasting the edges of each square, so that the fabric frayed beyond the stitching and completely ruined the comforter. Needless to say with the price paid, I was more than upset.

Walmart (Kearney Nebraska) did not refund the money for the comforter, explaining to me, extremely politely I must say, that they were a “high risk store” who did not refund monies for goods unless the receipt was in place and the original packaging was accompanying the goods.

Comparable comforter from Shopko after one washing was still intact and today, more than four months later that comforter is still in service and still has a wonderful look to it and washes well.

The purchase of the tabletop oven, a combination toaster oven, from Kohls, was about 65 USD, while that of Walmart, for a comparable oven was about 40.USD.

The third use, the Walmart oven, labeled Sunbeam, blew a breaker and consistently did so each time I used it thereafter, my brother who is in construction and fixes small things such as this said it was a dead short, and to toss it, and repurchase, which I did rather than risk a fire..

I then purchased an oven from Kohls, which was about 20 dollars higher in price, however the safety improvement alone is well worth twenty dollars for me. That oven is still in service today, about three months later.

The rug shampooers that we purchased were our favorite comparison as those from Walmart seemed to be a comedy of errors from the beginning.

The first rug shampooer, we took home three months ago, in August 2007. We unboxed it and filled it with water, and I turned to do something else, turned back to find the tank empty and the white living room rug completely flooded.

Guessing that I had done something wrong, evn though this was a rug shampooer I had consistently purchased and owned, I took out the directions read them thoroughly and filled the shampooer again, to find the same results.

Now having two gallons of shampoo on the rug, I took out the tank and filled it, and held it up in the air, to watch it empty in less than five minutes. The tank bottom, a separate piece, was not sealed to the sides and top.

This was apparently a common defect in this shampooer, however given that walmart pays its suppliers far less for goods, setting their own prices, I believe it has to do with them, attempting to break even and taking short cuts. The second shampooer purchased from Walmart(Grand Island Nebraska both time) had the same defect, and when upon returning it to the store, I was asked to describe it, instead i took the tank and filled it with water to show the ladies at the service desk.

Having had the purchase price of 139.99 refunded, I went to Shopko again in Grand Island, and purchased the same model of shampooer, (Hoover Spin Scrub) for about twenty dollars more, took it home and shampooed my carpets without incident.

hoover shampooer
hoover shampooer
Walmart, did not offer any manner of recompense to us for the myriad 5-10 mile trips to return the shampooer, nor did they compensate for the lost shampoo or the flooded rug.

Post test I compared notes with my daughter, who has found the same thing that I have, however perhaps on a smaller scale.

While we’ve both found that pet supplies from Walmart are in fact comparable and do indeed supply the same nutrients, and that items such as woven nylon floor rugs are nearly as durable as those at a larger cost, we did find that in some cases we saw quality changes in things such as food items (Ritz Crackers, although in fairness to Walmart we simply felt they were stale and that the stock had not been well rotated) and we saw changes in the way we were treated in the store as well.

Walmart tended to be less friendly and less forthcoming with assistance, when asking where to find an item, we were not accompanied or showed, but in fact the sales person stood in the center of the store and pointed to a place toward the back and mumured, nearly loudly enough for us to hear “I think its back there toward the shoes.. I’m pretty sure”

Walmart goods, although priced to sell, are in fact far less durable, and far less serviceable than those of Shopko, and in their service does not give you an additional reason to go to the store as it once did..

Kohls, and Shopko, for comparable goods, at a price difference of between 5 and 10 dollars per item for clothing, and 15 dolllars per item for bedding and accessories, are far superior in value, last far longer and do not show the signs of poor workmanship that those of Walmart consistently displayed for us.

The moral I suppose of the story is, that when it comes to Walmart goods, is that the extra few dollars you pay for the goods at another store, will in fact be saved when you do not have to run consistently back to walmart to replace those items who wear out far sooner than they might if you purchased them from another store, and that should you have occasion to need assistance in another store, at least in this area, you will find them far more forthcoming than those service oriented individuals at our local Walmart.


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