In today's Stretch Your Dollar, we have the details on Consumer Reports' just-released survey of more than 26,000 of its readers to help you zero in on the best stores around.
Shopping these days means searching for great deals. Whether you're looking for clothes, kitchen supplies, electronics or even jewelry, Consumer Reports can tell you where to buy almost anything.
"We asked readers to rate their experiences at major chains, both in-store and online. We asked them about quality, selection, value, customer service and how easy it was to check out," Kim Kleman with Consumer Reports said.
The Consumer Reports National Research Center rated all kinds of stores, including big-box giants Walmart, Target, and Kmart, department stores Macy's, JCPenney, Sears and Kohl's and two super-sized warehouse clubs -- Costco and Sam's Club.
"The biggest complaints we got about walk-in stores were long lines, lack of sales help and out-of-stock items," Kleman said.
Walmart got the lowest rating for customer service.
And when it comes to finding a bargain, Kmart -- a store known for its low prices -- came up short. Shoppers said they got better value at Costco and Kohl's.
Overall, Costco turned out to be the real standout.
"It was the only chain to get an outstanding grade for the overall quality for its merchandise, be it in stores or online," Kleman said.
Costco's website also got kudos for value and how easy it is to navigate, which is another plus.
"The Costco website isn't just for members. Nonmembers can shop there if they pay an extra 5 percent of the purchase price," Kleman said.
And checkout is a "virtual breeze" online, unlike the lines people complained about in Costco stores.
Consumer Reports says shoppers particularly praised the quality of Costco's merchandise -- everything from personal care items like cosmetics, toothpaste and shampoo to kitchenware, electronics and even watches and jewelry.