Review: Winco

Yes, before you really start to question my sanity, I realize that I’m about to do a review on a grocery store. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

The Good

I’ve always really liked the idea behind Winco. I used to work in a grocery store, and I can honestly say it was one of my favorite jobs mostly because I’m a people person. I can also honestly say that you’d never convince me to go back simply because of the wages ($3.65 at the time). And this is why I like Winco; they are employee owned meaning that each employee has a reason to do their best and to improve the store because they share in the profits, and it shows. Granted, this was a grand opening (it actually opened a month or two back), but I don’t know that I’ve ever shopped with a friendlier bunch.

I also REALLY like that one of the ways Winco keeps costs down is by not accepting credit cards. I assume you knew this, but credit cards charge retailers 1 to 3% of the  total cost of every purchase in fees to the retailers. That is a cost that is passed directly on to you. Winco doesn’t have those fees because they don’t accept the credit cards. Add to that the fact that I despise credit cards, and you’ve got a good set up for me.

I cannot remember when I’ve seen a broader selection and better prices, and that is something that my poor little OCD brain pays REALLY close attention to (just ask Courtney). Not only can I remember prices across a range of grocery stores for a specific product across a range of months (years in the case of staples), but I do remember those prices, and in all but a very few cases (mostly personal hygiene, cheese, meat, diapers), Winco won handily. Sometimes by over 50% cheaper (some cereals, chips, bulk foods). Let me put it this way, we normally spend about $90 on our monthly Wal-mart trip. We bought more than we usually buy when we went to Winco, and we spent $50. True, part of that is that Winco is grocery only, but add in what the cost of non-grocery purchases would have been and we still would have spent maybe $70. That’s roughly 20% less than our normal expenditures.

My single favorite part was the bulk foods section. Some of the cheapest prices on cereals, nuts, and candy that I’ve ever seen. Plus, the canned goods were about 25% cheaper than Sams Club (I still have to do a true comparison to be fully sure). They also have a health food bulk section that should appeal to most people who normally shop at Good Earth and Whole Foods. If that little bit of information gets out, Winco will give them a run for the money.

Last but not least, I have NEVER seen produce of that high quality, and I say that with the disclosure that I worked in the produce department for two years when I worked in the grocery store. Even Courtney commented on the overall high quality (and dirt cheap prices) of the produce.

The Bad

Hmmm…. It was really crowded. I chalk that up to it being a grand opening and a Saturday afternoon. Still, it generally wasn’t so crowded that I was frustrated.

The layout of the store isn’t ideal. I could never really figure out how to comfortably walk the store. There is always that first few times when you don’t know where things are in the store, and we spent far longer than we should have trying to find stuff. That will improve over time, of course, but it was still somewhat frustrating.

The layout also contributed to the crowded nature of the store. No one knew where to go because there was no clear entry point to the sales floor. It was more of a funnel that was terribly clogged.

Conclusion

You know, I had honestly reached the conclusion that no grocery store would ever pull me from Wal-Mart simply because Wal-Mart had the best prices. No longer. The ideals behind Winco and the quality of the goods have done it.

If you have a Winco in your area (mostly northwest coast, but quickly expanding eastward), you MUST give this a try. Understanding that I’ll adjust to the layout and eventually figure out where things are, I feel quite comfortable putting a solid four out of four stars on this one.

My only fear is that it’s down hill from here. It’ll take some real effort to maintain the level they are at now, but if they do, they can have my entire monthly grocery budget.

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7 Responses to Review: Winco

  1. Anthony says:

    4 out of 4 stars! I’m all over that! I love the concept of them not accepting credit cards and saving us the fees. That fact alone makes me want to shop there. So where is our local store anyway?

  2. daveloveless says:

    To find a store location, go here: http://www.wincofoods.com/

    They are currently in Idaho, Utah, Washington, Nevada, California, and Oregon.

  3. nosurfgirl says:

    I went today and now I’m converted. Sorry, Buy Low… you have been supplanted by the corporate monster. And Bananas for 38 cents a pound.

  4. Anthony says:

    I went today for the first time (ya, I know it took me forever to get up there…it’s quite a bit farther away than Maceys!) and I’m really pleased. You were spot on in your review!

  5. Pingback: Review: Winco, part II « the prodigal

  6. Mike Brewer says:

    Winco starts with really low prices upon Grand Opening and then raises them every 3 weeks like clock work. Nice try on third rate scam. After 90 days we figured it out and stopped shopping there.

    • daveloveless says:

      Yep, and that’s largely what I found as well and posted here: https://daveloveless.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/review-winco-part-ii/

      We haven’t shopped at Winco in about a year or so, mostly because of habit changes in our shopping patterns. There were still a few things that were a better buy there than other locations, particularly the bulk goods. Other than that, there was no real justification for the distance and time to get there.

      Having said that, I still like the idea of an employee-owned business that doesn’t accept credit cards. If a Winco were to open closer to home, it’d be on the list.

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