Over the past 30 years, Walmart has grown from a national chain of discounted general merchandise, clothing, and electronics to the international market giant that sells all of those items plus food. According to a 2017 study by Business Insider, in that time, Walmart has actually grown to the point where it has a 21-percent share of the United States grocery market.
Even though Walmart has a stronghold on the market, its grocery departments rank next to last (67 out of 68 national chains) in terms of customer experience. Consumers gave the retail giant low marks in all of the freshness categories
"Walmart also didn't do so well for its courteous staff and store cleanliness," Consumer Reports Tod Marks said. "It did score better than many chains for its prices, but it wasn't the best for price."
With those signature "rollback prices" and other deals that seem to be too good to be true, it's not hard to imagine that there's a catch. But what are customers sacrificing when they walk into the largest grocery store chain in the country? Are they trading quality for low, low prices, or something more?
Let's take a look at some of those fresh food items that are too good to be true.
It's no surprise that the produce section is the first thing most customers see when they walk through the doors of their local Walmart. It's brightly lit, colorful, and seems to offer endless varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. But look past the sheen of the "fresh" produce and "low, low" prices, and you'll find old and rotten produce, prices that might save you a penny here and there, and a laughable "local" and "organic" section.
Tracie McMillan, a reporter based in Detroit, once went undercover in a Walmart produce section to see if the fruits and vegetables were as fresh and cheap as Walmart likes to claim.
"I spent a shift one day throwing out about 200 pounds of asparagus that had molded and rotted in the cooler and hadn't been rotated out -- it was about six weeks old, McMillan said. "The cooler had a leak from the ceiling that lasted almost the entire duration of my time there, about a month, so we were losing a lot of produce in that way."
McMillan also reported that other stores in the Detroit area had better prices than Walmart. She said this was also true for the store's fresh meat, which brings us to our next type of food you shouldn't buy at Walmart.
Nothing says freshness quite like a bunker of tubes of ground beef where you can't even see the actual meat behind the colorful plastic wrapping. I mean, who needs to check the ground beef for freshness when there's an artist rendering on the packaging? And don't even get me started on those premade burger patties.
Besides those two atrocities, Walmart has a number of issues when it comes to the quality and safety of its fresh meat offerings. Just this past October, a company that provides ground beef and premade burgers to Walmart was forced to recall approximately 3,200 tons of product over salmonella concerns.
The United States Food Safety Inspection Service and the Center for Disease Control conducted an investigation into the source of the meat after eight patients were treated for salmonella symptoms after purchasing ground beef sold by JBS Tolleson, the supplier in question.
Through the joint investigation, the two agencies discovered that 57 patients in 16 states were treated from for the illness between August 5 and September 6.
Just buy your meat from a local butcher. But if that's not an option, go to Trader Joe's or Aldi, where you'll find cheaper meat, if that's your thing.
The list of fresh foods to avoid at Walmart is more like an encyclopedia of disgusting, not-all-that-cheap items that are better off being purchased elsewhere. With that in mind, we'll conclude by saying that it's best to just avoid Walmart altogether. It's hard, I know, but it will pay off in the long run.
Between hurting local communities by strongarming them for special public financing and pushing out competitors and having terrible employee relations, Walmart isn't the cheerful place it claims to be.