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Consumers' ratings diverge for WNY's largest grocers Wegmans excels as Tops lags in magazine survey

Western New York's two largest grocery chains have ended up on opposite ends of a Consumer Reports survey in the magazine's May issue.

Wegmans scored the highest for overall customer satisfaction in a list of 52 national grocery and warehouse chains, while Tops Markets landed just six spots from the bottom.

Rochester-based Wegmans received a reader score of 88 out of 100. It got the highest possible ratings for service (employee courtesy and checkout speed), perishables (quality of meat and produce) and cleanliness. It got the second-highest rating for prices.

"Obviously, we are thrilled with the results of the poll of more than 24,000 readers," said Jennifer Kurzdorfer, a Wegmans spokeswoman. "Our employees take our motto very seriously: 'Every day you get our best.' It's gratifying to know that our customers recognize the hard work of all our employees."

Amherst-based Tops received middle-of-the-road rankings for service, perishables and prices, and the second-highest rating for cleanliness. It's overall reader score was 72 out of 100.

"We continuously listen to our shoppers, and what associates and customers think of their experience at Tops is our highest priority," said Katie McKenna, a spokeswoman for Tops. "We conduct research on a regular basis, and from those results we're able to deliver on the things that are most important to our customers, like value, variety, convenience, service and freshness."

ALDI received an overall reader score of 79, Target got a 78, Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club each got a 75, and Walmart got a score of 69.

Wegmans also placed at the top of several other categories in an accompanying Consumer Reports article. It was listed as having some of the best fresh produce and baked goods of the stores on the list and was lauded for having visible price labels and speedy checkout lines. In each of those same categories, Walmart was named among the worst.

Tops was applauded for having good loyalty card policies, buy-one-get-one-free deals, three-day markdowns, mix-and-match 10 for $10 deals and customized coupon offers. However, it was singled out as being among the stores where customers experienced three or more problems. A full 27 percent of Tops shoppers experienced three or more problems during their trip, while 32 percent of Walmart shoppers experienced that many.

To compile the rankings, Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a survey of 24,203 customers about their experiences at grocery stores between April 2010 and April 2011. A store's reader score reflects the customer's overall satisfaction with the shopping experience.