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Mom-and-pop stores are known for service, but many offer good prices and a better selection than the biggest nationwide chains--even Wal-Mart. That's just one of the conclusions from our latest Annual Questionnaire.
More than 6,000 readers shared their experiences buying small and large appliances at independent stores and seven of the nation's largest retailers. While many stores were comparable overall, we found big differences in the details.
Think big-box stores and bargains are synonymous? Think again. None of the major retailers out-priced the independents for ranges, refrigerators, and other large appliances, and only two were clear winners for small ones such as grills and vacuums. What's more, readers found Wal-Mart no cheaper than other stores overall, despite its low-price slogan.
Choice was another area where the mighty were humbled. Independent stores bested all but one large retailer for small-appliance selection; they beat two of the four for big-ticket items. Readers also scored mom-and-pop stores far above Best Buy, Costco, Target, and Wal-Mart on the personal-touch scale.
Besides service, selection, and price, we asked readers about how easy it was to pay for appliances and check them out of the store, as well as how they felt about what they bought once they got it home. We wound up with some illuminating details about how customers were treated--and mistreated. Here's what we found:
Where the little guys excelled. Readers cited independent appliance stores for their stellar salespeople. Nearly 90 percent of small-appliance buyers found service very good or excellent for the independents: fewer than 30 percent of those buyers said the same for large retailers. Seventy-five percent of small-appliance buyers thought independent-store staffers were pleasant, informed, or helpful: 5 percent or fewer felt that way about Costco, Target, or Wal-Mart workers.
Independent stores also proved strong on service when it came to large appliances, leaving more than 80 percent of buyers very satisfied. Fewer than 60 percent of large-appliance buyers were as satisfied with service at nationwide chains, and just over 50 percent felt that way about Best Buy, which did worst in this area. Another plus for independents: Nearly 70 percent of readers were very satisfied with delivery and setup, compared with 53 percent for large stores.
Costco and Sears: service vs. price. Sears recently completed a major …