Wegmans Is No Stew Leonard’s

30 Oct

According to some of my friends, the opening of a Wegmans store in Northborough was akin to the second coming, or the Cubs winning the World Series.

Getting excited about the opening of a supermarket is not a foreign concept to me, but apparently, this was different.

“It’s not a supermarket,” they said. “It’s an experience.”

Cool, I thought. I grew up in New York, and shopped often at Stew Leonard’s, where there are samples around every bend, and whimsical touches like singing/dancing food help make the shopping experience more fun for shoppers of all ages.

So suffice it to say, I know what it’s like when a store goes above and beyond to make grocery shopping different and a more enjoyable experience.

Would Wegmans be anything like that?

We made plans

The opening of Wegmans was such a big deal that when it opened, some friends and I actually made plans to go.

And that day finally arrived yesterday.

I woke up at 8 a.m. (Yes, 8 a.m. on a Saturday!) so I could meet up with my friends in Hudson and so we could get there at a decent hour.

I expected trouble getting to the store, but two weeks after opening day (October 16), getting to the parking lot and finding a space was no sweat. Had the excitement died down already?

Nope.

Inside, this massive store was crawling with people. It was 11 a.m., and seriously, it was jam packed.

That’s a good sign, I thought.

From one side to the other

We decided to start on the far end and work our way over to the prepared food and café section. That meant our first stop was the alcohol and beer area, which was impressive.

A giant, diverse, and well priced selection meant we were tempted by the many craft beers and flavored drinks, like Chocolate Whipped Vodka. I had a party to go to last night, and was able to find a fun, seasonal brew to bring with me.

I was led next to the cereal aisle, and was told that the store-brand cereals were just as good as, but cheaper than, the name brand ones. So I stocked up on the Chocolaty Rice Crisps and Marshmallow Treasures (i.e., Cocoa Krispies and Lucky Charms), while my friends bought four healthier boxes. (Taste test still pending.)

Blah blah blah … We shopped.

I’m not going to go aisle by aisle telling you what we bought.

But here’s the thing: Despite the great selection of food, it didn’t take me very long to be disappointed, and to realize — and say — that we weren’t in some exciting, unique store like I’d been led to believe. We were just in a supermarket.

So my mind turned pretty quickly to thoughts of what foods I actually needed while I was there. I picked up a few other Wegmans-brand items, but basically, it became less exciting as I walked up and down aisle after aisle, with promises of abundant samples not amounting to much, and hopes of something, I don’t know, more becoming letdowns.

Nothing special

Wegmans is a nice store, but my experience shopping there yesterday didn’t even come close to the first time I went to the new Star Market in Chestnut Hill, with its creatively named aisles and enthusiastic customer service people asking repeatedly if I needed help.

And of course, it didn’t compare with Stew Leonard’s either.

At Wegmans, there was very little whimsy, very little above and beyond, and not nearly enough to make the hype worth it.

What there was, however, there was a lot of. I’ll say it again: This is one gigantic store. There’s a lot of food, and a lot of people.

Socially savvy

Here’s what did impress me about Wegmans, though: Over the course of the day, I tweeted about going there five times, including a Foursquare checkin when I first arrived.

Three of those times, the @wegmans Twitter handle responded to me, and did so within minutes. One time I simply retweeted what they said to me, and added that I was impressed with the customer service, and they responded to that.

That’s good stuff.

The quick-on-their-feet Twitter response, even (especially!) on a Saturday, shows just how much Wegmans prioritizes a good customer experience. (I wouldn’t be surprised if someone comments on this blog post too.)

That’s the “above and beyond” that I was hoping I would find in the store itself.

Just a supermarket

To be clear, I’m not saying I had a bad time at Wegmans. I just didn’t think the store was all that, especially compared to places like Stew Leonard’s.

Sorry to all my devoted friends, but despite all the hype, Wegmans is just a supermarket — a nice, big, well-stocked one, with good online customer service, but a supermarket nevertheless.

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4 Responses to “Wegmans Is No Stew Leonard’s”

  1. Wegmans Fresh Stories Blog October 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Hi Martin,

    Wow! Thanks for the shout out and for making the (early) drive with your friends to visit our new Northborough store! We are so sorry our store didn’t meet your expectations. Your feedback is very important to us, so if you have any specific suggestions please let us know; we would love to look into improving your shopping experience! We hope you’ll visit our store again 🙂

    Wegmans Fresh Stories Blog

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] guessed it) social media. One blogger documented his first experience at a Wegmans on Twitter (and https://martinlieberman.com/2011/10/30/wegmans-is-no-stew-leonards/) and he had the following to report: Over the course of the day, I tweeted about going there five […]

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  3. Experience Trumps Pricing: A Look at the Stew Leonard’s and Wegmans' Experiences | Value Prop Interactive - November 21, 2017

    […] (you guessed it) social media. One blogger documented his first experience at a Wegmans on Twitter (on his own blog) and he had the following to […]

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