WinCo: Hello and Hell No

wincoLow prices are good, right? I like low prices- especially these days, when we aren’t exactly rolling in the fat income-tax brackets. We’ve been bombarded by ads for this new-to-our-town chain, and the PR and buzz in the papers is good- this company supposedly is employee-owned, supports American producers and offers a no-frills experience so they can undercut Voldemart. I’m down with that. Let’s go check it out.

David, Abby and I head off to the new market. It’s been open a few days, so I really wasn’t expecting a mob-scene. People were stalking shoppers in the parking lot for a space; we skipped that, and took a spot in the south forty. There were no grocery carts anywhere, but surly there must be carts inside, right? Nope. There was a line of angry, scowling, cold people eyeballing anyone with a cart- and heaven help you if you laid your hand on an empty cart and asked the kindly old lady if she was done with it- I’m lucky I still have fingers. So, no carts. None. Nada.

David thinks we may as well try and go in, cart or not, and he carries Abby. On entering the store, the aisles are set up like cattle queues- you can only go one way. And it is wall-to-wall people. You can’t move. Over the heads of the people, I see a sign that says “Cheetos 98 cents” Oh wow. That IS cheap! But there is no way to get them. David makes a break for it and wiggles his way to the check-out counter- only to find it is an hour wait to pay.

Forget it. Now I’m ticked. I drive half-an-hour to this mess of a store, only to have no carts, a million people, and an hour wait to pay for cheap junk food? Nope. I don’t need it.

So a week goes by, and I think, hey, maybe it’s better now. I’ll give it a try. If I can pick up some treats for half what Voldemart charges, cool. I’ll give it a second shot. So last night, after the kids were in bed, I tossed my cloth bags in the car and gave it a second shot.

The parking lot was much better- and I parked easily. There were plenty of carts in the queue, and the crowds, while still there, were much smaller than last week. Excellent. I make my way through the maze of food. Cheerios for $1.49, bananas for 19 cents per pound, Kraft Mac n’ Cheese for 50 cents a box. All very good deals- I load my cart, continuing to meander through the maze.

At the register, check-out Dude tells me WinCo does things differently, and I will be bagging my own groceries, to save them money. OK, no biggie. I brought my own bags anyway. He also tells me they don’t take cards, only cash or checks or debit cards. Oh. Uhh…. Well, I never carry my check book, but I do have my debit card with me- only there is no money in that account. I call David, and he transfers some money, and we should be fine.

Only, they can’t run the transaction straight. They can only run it debit. And, since I never use it debit, I have NO FREAKING IDEA what my PIN number is. Don’t get me wrong- I use the card all the time- for gas, for groceries, for stuff- but I always just run it through. Never use a PIN. Not in years.

So there I am, piles and piles of groceries around me, half of them bagged and back in my cart already, and no way to pay. I call David back, and ask him his PIN number- he doesn’t know either. I tell him to go look in my other purse in our closet upstairs, because once upon a time, I had a scrap of paper from the bank scrawled with my PIN- and while he complies, Checker Dude rings through the next person, and the next.

No luck. David can’t find the paper. Helpful Checker Dude now suggests I use the ATM they have in the foyer to get cash from my credit card. Dude, you think I know the PIN that card, but not this one? And that I’m going to pay cash-advance fees on my cheap groceries?? Helpful Checker Dude also tells me they do take Food Stamps, if I want to pay that way. Oh &# %&*%, Checker Dude, it’s ON.

I walked out. And I plan on never, ever walking back IN.

Two trips, more than four hours of my life I will never get back, cheap prices on some food I didn’t even get to leave with, horrendous aggravation and frustration, crowds, and inconvenience. Hmmm… they make Voldemart look almost appealing. Almost…

25 thoughts on “WinCo: Hello and Hell No

  1. I’m not sure where you managed to get the picture of that Winco, but I swear it is the EXACT Winco that I shop at. Just found that freaky, since I know it’s not the one you’re talking about since I’ve been shopping at it for a couple years now.


    I’ve gone there. Gone through the checkout aisle, only to realize that I didn’t even have my debit card on me. That totally sucked. And I agree. They really should post in big letters at the front of the store “WE DO NOT TAKE CREDIT CARDS SO DON’T EVEN TRY IT.” Good luck at your next attempt. . . if there is another one. 😛

  2. I am sooo sorry. I know that frustration and pain. You are already tapped and desperate, trying anything to help your family and with your last bit of hope you try something new only to have a load of cacca dumped on your head. (could you consult your boys on the proper spelling of cacca, I wasn’t sure of the proper use of c’s and k’s).

  3. Wow. They don’t take credit cards? That must be another way of keeping down costs.

    But the warehouse thing–I just can’t do it. Even walking through Home Depot sometimes gives me the heebie-jeebies. Cheap Cheetoes just aren’t worth it.

  4. Yup, Heather, agreed- cheap Cheetos are just not worth it. It cost me more in agrivation, stress, gas and pissyness than those “cheap” snacks were ever worth.

  5. I found that store last fall when I was in Portland. I was surprised how cheap everything was, though I agree, the no cards thing really sucked. I was happy to find some Christmas ribbon candy in their bulk foods, though, after not finding it anywhere else for years. Sorry you wasted so much time for nothing. I’d be pissed, too.

  6. I had a bad experience with my first WinCo trip, and I never went back for like, two years. Then the lure of cheap groceries was just too much, and I went with my checkbook (this was before they took debit cards) and I just swallowed my pride and shopped there, hating every minute of it because I hate warehouse-like stores. (Why I don’t shop at Costco.) Then my husband started doing all the grocery shopping and it was a non-issue. I’ve only just begun doing grocery shopping again, and I find I’ve made my peace with WinCo. It only took me eight years.

  7. I can’t believe they don’t take credit cards! Those kinds of stores have always been hard for me to shop at. I like Costco, but can’t set foot inside a Food 4 Less for much of the reasons you have described. I’ll just take my grocery store 5 minutes away and pay a tiny bit more for less stress and aggravation. Sorry you had such a rough experience.

  8. What an aggravating experience!! Paying a little more at your regular store is worth not having this type of stress. Yikes! After all you went through, I wouldn’t return to WinCo either.

  9. Aargh! I had a humiliating moment a few weeks ago when the girl at Safeway flat out refused to do my WIC items because she “didn’t know how”. And no, she wouldn’t get someone to help her come do it. I was in a hurry to pick up my daughter at school and it was just cereal (not milk, or I would have complained) so I just left. I was so embarrassed I went home and cried. And I’m too much of a chicken to complain to the manager. I think it’s lame that they don’t take credit cards. THat’s also why I don’t shop at Costco much because the only way I can afford my groceries is putting them on the card…

  10. Wow, sorry you had such a bad experience. That sux. It’s really not a bad store and they have a good concept. A friend of mine is a manager at one in California, he really likes the company as a whole. I always shop at Winco when I visit family in McMinnville. The first couple times I went, it threw me off that they didn’t take credit cards and I NEVER carry checks. After a while I got used to it. I like Winco, I always find great deals there on everything. Once I bought a nice size cast iron dutch oven for 8 bucks!

  11. No other place on earth takes checks and they do? Crazy. And seriously, you need to learn your PIN, I don’t think I know anybody who doesn’t know theirs. That’s Tracy, always gotta be different…
    A lot of stores won’t run debit as credit. Our WalMart doesn’t, for example, because they lose a higher percent to processing fees. Which sucks, because I try to run it as credit as much as possible so I can get a rebate from my bank.
    I was running late for enrichment the other night and had to swing by the grocery store. We finally got what we needed and my debit card wasn’t in my wallet. So the lady puts my transaction on hold, I drag everyone to the car, rummage around a bit, find a card and get back in line. Then the transaction won’t go through. I left all flustered and irritated. Turns out that I had found my EXPIRED debit card, not the current one. The best part is that when I went through again yesterday, antsy boys and pukey baby in tow, she remembered me. Stupid pink hair….
    Oh, and uh sorry for your pain. And for hijacking the comments. And for making fun of you. Okay, that was a lie.

  12. I absolutely LOATHE Winco. Two times was my total as well. If you think you want to go again, give me a call and I will promise to talk you out of it.

    …but, really … you should learn your pin 😉

  13. I love Winco. Moving to MT, I left my Winco behind- I was so sad. It’s a nice place, I promise. But maybe just not where you are. 🙂

  14. I got to play the role of “David” today in a similar story about WinCo where my Fiancee is shopping and discovers they don’t take credit cards.

    She had to leave, there was no way to pay, and as she was going the checker yells out to her “Yeah, I’LL JUST TAKE CARE OF THAT FOOD FOR YOU” because she left a cart with 7 items in it.

    That’s extremely rude. You’d get fired where I work if you even thought to yell at a customer in front of a crowd or at all.

    WinCo can just die the same slow death most companies are because of the larger chains moving in.

  15. OMG, almost a year and a half since this was posted, I had the EXACT same experience as Tracy M. But my Winco is in the fabulous Orangevale CA (Sacto Co).

    Pickup the dirty cart (no sanitizer), wade through the people and the confusing aisles. Try not to step on the food on the floor. Spend more than an hour picking out groceries ($170 worth of groceries). And then you approach the dreaded checkout lines.

    I did NOT have my PIN with me and I had no checkbook either. I don’t carry a pin around in my wallet – duh. And no, I don’t try to remember the pin either — as use the fricking thing as a credit card! So I had to drive home to retrieve my pin because I couldn’t get hold of my husband to help out.

    Then I go back to the store and pay for the items and take my groceries outside and they have unbagged my groceries! Granted, not all of them were bagged yet, but why on Earth would you removed the bags already there? Oh, then my favorite part. As I a walked up behind the so-called night manager, she was gaffawing with a group of slacker employees about how I had walked out without my bags.

    They lost $1200-1800 per month tonight.

    Dirty, surly, lazy — that’s what you get with this employee owned company. The only sign that warns you that Winco takes no credit cards is in with the carts. How often do you look at the walls of the cart garage looking for pertinent information regarding payment methods? Not ever. I guarantee you that no other grocery store does this.

    Frankly, this signage belongs at the checkout (I will be checking the regs for this).

    Hubbie loves Winco. Too bad for him.

  16. who doesn’t know their own pin, ? glad you’re paying for it out of your pocket and not using ebt though : )

  17. Totally had this happen to me too. I had to get a new debt card recently so I couldn’t remember my new pin. I just could only remember the old one. I left to go grab my credit card that i forgot in my car only to be told they don’t accept it. Also couldn’t get a hold of anybody so I could get my pin but thank goodness i had some cash. I’m never going to Winco again because the whole experience of shopping there was awful. The baskets are disgusting and halfway broken and finding stuff in that store sucks. But I told myself I would try it once and I did. I would pay extra not to be so stressed while shopping.

  18. Amazing! Not one person that commented on this article knew that the store pays not fee for a debit transaction but probably 2.5% of the total transaction for credit. This is one of the cost saving practices that allow Winco to offer low prices. If you hadn’t noticed it’s the same at Costco other than their special Amex deal, which is ending this year because of disagreement over those very costs. Lack of basic financial knowledge may explain why most Americans are in debt and can’t save money.

    • Don’t inject logic into this post and commentary. You’re making too much sense now, seriously, just stop!

      WinCo saves money by not taking credit cards. Yes, I’d like to use my Amex Blue Cash Preferred card to get 6% back, but I’d much rather save money than pay more and get a portion back through cashback.

  19. That only happens the first two weeks. Winco purposely controls the number of carts available for the grand opening. If they didn’t there would be an unsafe number of people in the building. Credit transactions cost money per transaction and so much per dollar amount. They save lots of headache by not allowing them. Most Winco’s generate around $300,000 in sales every day. The average Safeway will do that in a week… maybe. That adds up to a huge cost with the use of credit cards. All that being said, if you like your local friendly Kroger or Pavillions then Winco might not be for you. It’s not a friendly place. It is a bulk “shop for the corner market you own” type of place. Also you’ll want to get there (and be gone) before 10am.

  20. I was on food stamps for years. It’s best not to make drive-by comments on a years-old blog post when you know nothing of the author or of the overarching narrative being told.

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