Special Report

Ten Retailers With the Worst Customer Service

10. Winn-Dixie
> Customer satisfaction score: 77
> Industry: supermarkets
> 2012 U.S. retail sales: $9.0 billion (45th most)

Winn-Dixie is one of the largest supermarket chains in America, with stores throughout the Southeast United States. In late 2011, Bi-Lo, another regional grocery chain, announced plans to acquire Winn-Dixie. Both supermarkets had filed for bankruptcy in the years leading up to the merger. Winn-Dixie’s customer satisfaction has lagged that of overall supermarket sector since 2011. The chain’s ACSI score even dropped last year even as it rose within the sector. ACSI attributes the sector’s improvement to stable prices and improved customer service. Weak customer satisfaction scores have not deterred Southeastern Grocers, operator of the Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo chains, from a planned $500 million initial public offering.

> Customer satisfaction score: 77
> Industry: supermarkets
> 2012 U.S. retail sales: $27.5 billion (16th most)

For the fourth year in a row, Supervalu underperformed the supermarket sector in customer satisfaction in 2013. Employees, too, had generally low opinions of Supervalu. Only one-third of workers who submitted a review of the company on job site Glassdoor.com said they would recommend it to a friend. The company’s move to shrink itself through the sale of a number of grocery chains does not appear to have improved customer satisfaction. The company still owns several regional supermarket chains, as well as the Save-a-Lot discount brand, and provides supply chain services to independent grocers.

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8. Gap, Inc. (NYSE: GPS)
> Customer satisfaction score: 77
> Industry: specialty retail
> 2012 U.S. retail sales: $12.0 billion (33rd most)

Gap owns a range of different brands, including Old Navy and Banana Republic — and its namesake, Gap. Gap recently chose to increase its minimum hourly rate for workers from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour. CEO Glenn Murphy noted this was not a political maneuver but a business decision to invest in the company’s frontline workforce. Whether or not this helps the retailer, which had an ACSI score of just 77, tied for the worst in the specialty retail sector, remains to be seen.While Gap’s ACSI score improved last year, it continued to lag the specialty retailer sector, which also improved in 2013. The company’s same-store sales rose in recent quarters as it reshuffled its product mix.

7. Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE: BBY)
> Customer satisfaction score: 77
> Industry: specialty retail
> 2012 U.S. retail sales: $34.4 billion (12th most)

Best Buy did little to dazzle customers in 2013. Its ACSI score of just 77 was far lower than wholesale giant Costco, which led the specialty retail sector with a score of 84 . Of course, Costco is not Best Buy’s primary competition, Amazon.com is. In recent years, the company has had to come to terms with its reputation as a “showroom” for products customers will eventually buy online. Despite the company’s recent marketing efforts to embrace its reputation as a display floor, holiday sales indicate problems remain. This last shopping season, Best Buy’s same-store sales dipped slightly, even as customers rushed to buy new generation video game consoles, leading to a massive share price drop.

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6. Safeway Inc.
> Customer satisfaction score: 76
> Industry: supermarkets
> 2012 U.S. retail sales: $37.5 billion (9th most)

Safeway had an ACSI score of just 76 in 2013. While the overall supermarket sector did not perform much better, Safeway’s score was still well below those of other grocers. Notably, Publix, an employee-owned supermarket with the bulk of its stores in Florida, earned an ACSI score of 86, while smaller-scale grocers collectively notched a score of 81. Not only have Safeway customers been unsatisfied, but many employees and investors have also voiced displeasure with management. Less than 40% of workers stated they would recommend the company to a friend, based on responses gathered by Glassdoor.com. Also, some investors have criticized the company’s executive compensation practices.

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