So much for the "Americans love to shop" theory: The latest rankings from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) show that actually, we don't. The index has taken its biggest slump since 2008, driven primarily by our dissatisfaction with buying gas (really, who likes these prices?) and government services.
Certain e-tailers hung on to their high ratings, including strong showings from Amazon, Netflix, and Newegg. And such brick-and-mortar brands as Publix, Nordstrom, and Kohl's continue to shine. Brands that took a dive include CVS and Priceline.
Overall, the ACSI index dropped 0.5% to 75.3 on its 0-100 scale, the biggest fall in two years. And the index hasn't risen since mid-2009.
"Even though the economic recovery has gained a bit more momentum as of late, it remains sluggish," writes Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of "The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference," in its release, "with low job creation and deteriorating customer satisfaction, as tracked by the ACSI, the uncertainty of what will happen to consumer demand is not going away."
In the retail sector, satisfaction slid 1.6% to 75, dragged down by gas stations, where satisfaction dropped 7.9% to 70. (Not surprising, it notes, since prices have risen 20% in the last year.) Supermarket satisfaction also fell -- down 1.3% -- as did health and personal care stores, also declining 1.3%.
Winners include Publix, which despite a 2% decline, continues to lead the category. Whole Foods' score improved, pushing it into second place, while third-ranked Kroger's index score was unchanged. Walmart remains at the bottom of the category, with an unchanged rating of 71. "While supermarket chains like Publix thrive on the strength of their customer service, Walmart continues to be a place where people shop because of price," Fornell writes. "Service has a strong impact on customer satisfaction, but low prices coupled with low quality do not."
Among department and discount stores, Nordstrom still ranks first with an 82, Kohl's an 81, and both J.C. Penney and Dollar General rank at 80, while Target falls to 78 -- all above category average. At Macy's, the index score jumped 7% to 76.
And while some e-tailers continue to hang on to their star status in customer satisfaction -- especially Amazon, which ranks an 87m and Netflix, an 86 -- consumers aren't as happy with online shopping as they used to be. (They still like it better than conventional shopping, however.) The total ACSI score for e-commerce fell to its lowest level since 2004.
The ACSI, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., evaluates 225 companies in 45 industries and government agencies.