Dollars and Sense: Grocery shopping like a winner, where smiles are free - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Dollars and Sense: Grocery shopping like a winner, where smiles are free

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Linda Hutchings is a Gilbert resident and a life-long frugal consumer—uh, cheap skate. Please reach her at: uberfrugal@outlook.com. Send her your penny-pinching ideas.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 2:17 pm | Updated: 12:43 pm, Thu Aug 29, 2013.

Put on a smile. You know, that facial expression in which the eyes brighten and the corners of the mouth curve upward. Why? WinCo Foods is spreading its money-saving grocery stores across the Phoenix metropolis. WinCo expects to double in size every five to seven years and also plans an expansion soon into the Tucson market.

Calling itself “the supermarket low-price leader,” WinCo is a successful and fast-growing discount-supermarket chain born in the western United States in 1967.

There are three WinCo stores already in the Valley: in Mesa at 1235 S. Power Road, in Phoenix at 330 W. Bell Road, and in Glendale at 5850 W. Bell Road.

Everyone saves. No membership is required and no loyalty card is needed. And WinCo is open 24 hours a day.

Opened last fall, the Mesa store is on the east side of Power Road, south of Southern, where a Costco used to be.

Gilbert will soon have its own WinCo on Pecos Road between E. Market Street and where Pecos crosses over the 202. Directly south of the National Bank of Arizona, the new WinCo will be as large as its sister stores.

Entering the WinCo in Mesa, you are greeted by the “Wall of Values.” Here you’ll find a wide variety of popular items.

Hand-printed signs point out special deals with the WinCo low prices on top and with the higher prices from other stores listed below.

The Mesa store has wide aisles, high ceilings, and endless rows. Sporting 94,000 square feet, WinCo in Mesa could hold 45 average-size houses inside.

The fresh-produce department is a huge. The bulk foods department, a self-serve bazaar, displays over 700 items: spices, natural foods, snacks, candies and more. The row of packaged snack foods looks like a train stretching to the horizon.

All clerks are smiling tour guides, full of information. They have reason to grin as WinCo is employee owned. With over 13,000 employee owners — all sharing in the success of the company — WinCo Foods workers are happy stocking the shelves, arranging the produce. And grinning around in the deli and bakery departments.

Many non-executive workers now have pensions worth more than one million dollars each. The cashiers smile so big that they look like contestants in a beauty pageant using an old trick: a little Vaseline on the teeth to rest their smile muscles.

Shopper Phil Jones and his Mrs. spoke to me at the checkout: “We shop here once a week and always save around $50.”

The two of them, with a savings of $200 a month, could go to Disneyland. Or make the monthly payment on a leased Hyundai Elantra complete with a tank full of gas. Or save up for retirement, so they don’t end up barbecuing a javelina under a Tempe bridge.

WinCo isn’t known to advertise heavily, so when it came unexpected in the mail, the WinCo flyer for the Mesa grand-opening caught my frugal eye.

Their opening specials were great. Avocados for 28 cents each; apples at 78 cents a pound. Coupons for Shasta Soda for 98 cents a twelve pack; Prego at 98 cents for 24 ounces; Ocean Spray juice cocktail in a three-liter bottle for $1.98.

How does WinCo save you money? WinCo buys directly from farms and factories and does not accept credit cards, a practice which lowers the cost of your groceries.

You pay with cash, checks, EBT and debit cards. WinCo is a large enough company to buy huge quantities of a given item thus lowering the individual price. All books and magazines are discounted 10 percent. You will bag your own groceries — a small effort for big savings — and WinCo does extensive price checking of competitors and always strives to be the low-cost leader. Coupons are also available online at wincofoods.com/extra-savings/coupons/.

The new Gilbert store is scheduled to open in early December. Look out for their grand-opening flyer, and if you are looking for a job, the Gilbert location will likely be hiring in October.

WinCo will be looking to hire 180 to 190 people for their Gilbert store, and the company is known to offer great health benefits with low co-pays and deductibles.

And check this out: WinCo contributes to employee pensions at 20 percent of their total annual income.

The name WinCo is an acronym for “Winning Company.” Can you see why so many clerks smile?

And, yes, the smiles are free.

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