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Wegmans made headlines when it was ranked number one in a Consumer Reports survey of supermarkets around the nation. The magazine surveyed 24,000 people and ranked 52 stores.

Now we’re finding out which chains were ranked at the bottom. Tops Friendly Markets was ranked the 6th worst in the country. The Fiscal Times reports:

Tops should probably start brainstorming a new name that includes the word “bottom” or “middle.” In the Consumer Reports survey, it fell in line with the same rating as Weis, and reviews hover around 3 stars on Yelp. One reviewer on a Syracuse, NY location reported an odd smell and disorganized shelves, and another in Niagara Falls said she was frequently overcharged at the register.

Ouch!

Tops has long lived in the shadow of Wegmans. It has 129 stores with sales of $2.4 billion. Wegmans has 79 stores and sales of $6.2 billion. Tops stores are about one-third to one-half the size of Wegmans stores.

I like the Wegmans shopping experience better. But I cringe every time people knock Tops. The chain goes into under-served areas. The City of Rochester has four Tops stores. Wegmans has only one. I occasionally stop into the Lake Ave. store and it’s very well-stocked and clean, though long lines can be an issue. Tops also opened a store in Spencerport, where residents had been clamoring for a grocery store. Some Tops locations are adding gas stations.

Harsh ranking or not, Tops has steadily filled a need.

- The Rochester firefighters union says the reduction in personnel and equipment “bit them in the ass” during major fire incidents.

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- I participated in a panel discussion at St. John Fisher last night about the future of the news industry. Democrat and Chronicle publisher Michael Kane was among the guests. This is a collection of tweets from the event.

16 Responses to Don’t Knock Tops

  1. April 20, 2012 at 9:33 am James Simons responds:

    I do love Wegmans. How can you not? But I agree that Tops serves a specific need in our community and due to budget restraints I actually find myself shopping there more often than Wegmans. Tops is not perfect by any means, and this survey reflects that. But other than it’s standard reduced items, Wegmans can be on the expensive side. Tops is a much needed alternative.

  2. April 20, 2012 at 9:42 am Donald Murphy responds:

    I avoid the Tops stores located in the city like the plague. The service is absolutely intolerable, apparently neither the customers, cashiers or store managers know the meaning of 5,10 or 15 items ore less, apparently believing that a full shopping cart counts as one item. The parking lots are generally filthy, poorly lit and poorly (pot holes) maintained. The Lake avenue and Winton/Blossom Rd stores are the worst, with the Winton Store absolutely reeking of some foul odor almost every time I’ve ever had the displeasure to shop there. The North Goodman store is only marginally better. Due to my work location I do use the Clinton Ave. store on occasion, and it is marginally cleaner and the staff more professional than the other stores. As a RCSD HS teacher I have had many students hired at Wegmans, who when they failed to make the grade (little things, like not showing up for work repeatedly, arguing with customers, theft, etc.) almost always use their Wegmans training to then go to Tops, which explains the customer dissatisfaction with Tops. It seems to be a local issue however, as I routinely shop at Tops in Geneva and although it still doesn’t measure up to Wegmans, it is a much nicer shopping environment than in any of the Rochester city stores.

  3. I always try to defend Tops. The mostly have a bad reputation but as a resident of Spencerport I couldn’t be more happy with our neighborhood store. Plus you can’t beat saving on gas for buying stuff you need anyway! Honestly, if you shop sales and use coupons Tops can be much cheaper than Wegmans. I think Tops is making great strides to improve their customers’ experience and is working hard to update their stores. I’m all for supporting Wegmans but I get defensive of the Tops bashing.

  4. April 20, 2012 at 9:55 am Ruth Russell responds:

    I agree with Donald. It’s not the what the store stocks. It’s the service. Worst ever. I don’t have a problem with the Lake Ave store except that they’re very slow. Friendly. But slow.

  5. April 20, 2012 at 10:08 am Jim Webster responds:

    I’ve had a problem with Tops for years over what I felt was an unfair business decision. And I vowed to never go in to one of their stores again. I’m sure loss of my business didn’t hurt them much.
    But I have been going in to their Ontario, NY store, and find it very clean, a lot of very helpful, friendly employees, and a good atmosphere.
    No, it’s not a Wegman’s, but I don’t think the chain deserves that kind of ranking.
    Of course it’s not the first time Consumers Reports surveys were proven bogus.

  6. April 20, 2012 at 10:35 am lynn e responds:

    Tops might fill a need in some areas but it is not that great of a supermarket chain. It used to try to compete with Wegmans. Ut stopped years ago. Most stores are filthy and the workers don’t even look happy. I think it probably warrants that rating. Their reach is a bit farther than Wegmans. Many more people have experience their stores.

  7. April 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm Patricia Mannix responds:

    I agree Tops serves city neighborhoods. However, my experience with the Tops store on Winton and Blossom has been consistently terrible. The store is dirty. The help are uninterested in helping and often downright rude. There is an attitude through the whole store that the customers are a real bother. I never go there unless it is a real emergency. If I can’t find something at East Avenue Wegmans I will drive all the way to Pittsford rather than go to Tops.
    Another thing I have noticed. The suburban Tops stores have a somewhat better attitude and appearance. Notice I say somewhat.
    I agree Tops is the bottom.

  8. April 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm Kevin Yost responds:

    Right on, although I have heard that Tops is not really great to work for.

  9. April 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm Cindy B responds:

    I used to shop pretty regularly, since it was closer to my city home than Wegmans, and yes – prices lower on a number of items. I put up with the substandard service.

    But that all ended the day I slipped on a wet spill and fell. I was not hurt, but I reported it to an employee who looked at me blankly. I then said – I fell. you don’t want another person to fall. Neither he nor any other person asked if I was okay – and 15 minutes later the wet spill was still there.

    Contrast that with a Sunday in Wegmans where Mom and I were having coffee – and Mom knocked over my coffee onto me. Almost immediately there was someone there helping us clean up, asking if I was okay, asking what I was drinking so they could get me another. Then a manager showed up and gave me his card saying – if the coffee doesn’t come out of your slacks, send me the drycleaning bill. I said = but we spilled it! He responded, that’s okay we just want to make sure you are comfortable.

  10. April 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm Cary Barnhart responds:

    As you know, Rachel, your mother and I have shopped almost exclusively at Tops for the past 16 years. Not once have we had a bad or unpleasant experience. I have never felt the store was unkempt. The main reason we shop at Tops is, that from the moment we enter the parking lot to the moment we leave it, the experience is much less stressful and far more relaxing than Wegmans ever is.

  11. April 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm Woyvel Lloyce responds:

    I’ve been to several Tops stores in Western NY over the years regulalry. Some are deplorable (Niagara Falls), some are quite nice (Amherst). They also serve the smaller demographic areas, but tend to hold them hostage with higher prices and fewer selections.

  12. April 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm Rick G. responds:

    True, Tops will go where Wegs won’t. The Tops in Spencerport is nice. The one on Ridge Road in Greece is a dump. Most Tops market have a funky, weird smell. The produce is horrible. The cashiers ambivalent.

  13. In response to Cary’s comment, I can’t say I love the Lake Ave store, as the lines are long at the registers, and it doesn’t stock all the products I use. If I have a big order I go to the Mt.Read store.

    However, I applaud the commitment to the cities. I was very sad when Wilson Farms left the TOPS umbrella, because the food prices for inner city people went up, as opposed to having the same prices as in the TOPS market. I wish the commitment had extended to keeping those stores.

  14. April 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm Sheryl responds:

    I just LOVE Wegmans. I also shop for food at Aldi, PriceRite, Wal*Mart, Big Lots, and lots of little Mom and Pop stores. I will not shop at Tops. I have tried, and tried over the years. They have fewer products and the prices are higher. I think the IQ of the entire cashier staff added together in any given store still does not add up to any more than double digits. The lines are long, and the stores are gross. I remember even back in high school singing (to the Tops Never Stops jingle:) Tops never mops their dirty floors…

    I’m truly surprised that they don’t go under.

  15. After adding up my wegmans bills for the last six months, I’ll be shopping more at Topps.

  16. June 2, 2013 at 11:08 am Bryan responds:

    I lived in Ithaca for a while. Yes, Wegman’s is much nicer. Yes, I got the great items at Wegman’s, but Tops does have its place. It only needs to change two things, to wit: 1) Cleanliness. Tops needs to get and stay on top of keeping their stores clean. 2) Fundamental customer service.

    I’ve worked at a deep-penetration grocery chain in Texas. We worked hard, pay wasn’t great, but the attitude from the unit leader on down was service–happy customers fund our paychecks. Store managers would man a broom and bag groceries with a smile.

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