The great customer service you got after the recession? It was a blip.

Customer satisfaction is on the decline.
Customer satisfaction is on the decline.
Image: REUTERS/Neil Hall
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The US economy is healthier and unemployment is down since the Great Recession, so when you go shopping you should encounter a surplus of smiles, right?


Consumers are more unhappy with customer service at department and discount stores than ever. According to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, satisfaction is at its lowest level since 2008, falling during the last year by 3.8%. Consumers are griping about store cleanliness and slow checkout lines, specifically.

The relatively buoyant economy is partly to blame. After 2008, competition for consumer dollars intensified, prompting discounts and better service. Employees fearful of losing their jobs stayed motivated to work hard pleasing shoppers.

Then, things got better.

Of the bigger companies, the steepest decline in satisfaction—an 8% drop—went to Macy’s.

While an improving housing market increased competition between Lowe’s and Home Depot, both groups saw drops of 9% and 4%, respectively. Among supermarkets, Whole Foods took a 10% hit, knocking its ranking below Trader Joe’s, Kroger and Meijer.

“Whole Foods cannot shake its reputation for high prices,”the ACSI report states. “Customers have recently reported the perception of increasing prices despite the grocer’s statement that they are trying to align their pricing to be competitive with other grocery stores.”