Despite all the changes in the world of shopping over the years, one thing has remained remarkably consistent: If you want the biggest bang for your buck, Walmart is often the place to go.
The low-price leader still offers the best deal in town on many items you want and need. However, there are times when buying something at Walmart is a mistake.
The following are some examples of products where it does not pay to shop at Walmart.
If you purchase batteries at Walmart, you may get a decent deal. The problem is that you can do much better.
For example, a recent price check found that a 40-count pack of Duracell Coppertop Alkaline AA Batteries cost $34.95 at Walmart. But if I head over to my local Costco, I can get the same number of Duracell Coppertop Alkaline AA Batteries for $17.99.
Or, you can get a package with eight additional batteries for just $1 more if you buy batteries from Costco’s house brand, Kirkland Signature — which actually are made by Duracell, as we report in “11 Generic Products You Should Be Buying at Costco.”
2. Certain brand-name personal care products
Before buying a favorite name-brand product like body wash or lotion at Walmart, check to see if Target sells a generic equivalent.
Target’s store brand Up & Up carries a lot of knockoffs. For example, Money Talks News managing editor Karla Bowsher says she buys a couple of Up & Up products that are designed to be the equivalent of Aveeno products. She finds the knockoffs are good enough for her and cheaper than the brand-name versions, even at Walmart prices.
Other knockoffs she’s seen from Up & Up compare with products from brands like:
- Gold Bond
- St. Ives
You can spot Up & Up copycats by looking for the words “Compare to,” followed by the name of a brand-name product, on the front of the Up & Up product’s packaging.
3. Wood furniture
Wood furniture may be inexpensive at Walmart, but that doesn’t mean it’s a deal.
Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com, told Reader’s Digest that the lowest-priced wood furniture at Walmart tends to be made of materials such as particleboard. She said:
“Unfortunately, this often means these pieces won’t survive one move, let alone others, and they won’t be able to handle minor scuffs and scratches.”
Better choices for buying wood furniture include retailers Ikea and Amazon. Or, read our shopping tips in “10 Secrets to Finding Quality Secondhand Furniture.”
4. A pre-paid phone plan
If you are shopping for a bargain-basement cellphone plan, it’s natural to assume Walmart would be among your best bets.
But that is not so, according to the folks at Tom’s Guide. A few years ago, they reviewed the Walmart-exclusive cell service Straight Talk and pulled no punches, saying flatly: “Straight Talk is the worst phone carrier in America.”
According to Tom’s Guide:
“Straight Talk had the slowest LTE speed of any carrier we tested, and it also came in last when we tested customer support. Straight Talk performance in other areas — smartphone plans, phone selection and special features — wasn’t strong enough to close the gap between it and other carriers.”
Admittedly, a lot can change in just a few years. However, in a more recent review from 2020, Clark.com also had some negative thoughts about Straight Talk. After reviewing the service, the website concluded it is probably not great for those who want the fastest data speeds, use customer service often or require an unlimited mobile hotspot.
Trustpilot reviews also are pretty brutal. It might make sense to look elsewhere for cell service.
Surveys of shoppers have revealed that the produce sold at Walmart wilts in the face of the competition and often is not as fresh or inexpensive as you might expect. (Incidentally, Target also gets low scores.)
Before you shop for fruits and vegetables, check out “The Worst Produce for Pesticide Residue in 2022.”
Planning a getaway? Don’t rush to Walmart to get luggage.
A few years ago, a review by Consumer Reports declared that Walmart luggage — and that of other retailers such as Sears, Burlington, Target, Ross, Hudson’s Bay and Marshall’s — “land at the bottom of our ratings.”
CR said shopping at independent specialty luggage stores is a better bet for quality baggage.
Buying a laptop at Walmart probably does not compute for most folks.
Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing for DealNews.com, told GOBankingRates that “less than 1% of DealNews’ price-checked laptop deals were sold at Walmart, which means your chances of finding a good price there are very slim.”
Sakraida says you will have better luck if you look for coupons and shop at the Microsoft Store or buy directly from Lenovo, HP and Dell.
8. Nuts and seeds
Experts across the internet are united in their belief that buying nuts and seeds at Walmart is a bit squirrelly.
You can almost certainly find better deals elsewhere. As Regina Novickis of Slickdeals told GOBankingRates:
“You’ll find much better deals on nuts and seeds at stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s,” she said. “On average, Walmart is about $1.50 more per pound for whole almonds than Trader Joe’s, and mixed nuts are about $1 more per bag than at Aldi.”
While Walmart might seem like the perfect place to get a screaming deal on a bike, experts warn against purchasing your ride there.
In fact, they feel so strongly about it that veteran bike mechanic Mac Liman — who is also program director for Bikes Together in Denver — started a petition pleading with bike manufacturers and major bike retailers to “stop producing and selling bikes that fall apart after a few months of use.”
As another bike mechanic — Josh Bisker, the executive director and co-founder of Mechanical Gardens Bike Co-op in Brooklyn — explained to Vice:
“The problem with budget bikes is everything. They’re literally built to fail.”