Poll Reveals Consumers’ Perceptions of Pests in Grocery Stores

Shoppers Most Likely to Complain to Manager if Spotting a Pest; Sighting May Impact Feelings about the Rest of the Chain

ATLANTA, Jan. 31, 2007 – It creeps; it crawls…unless it’s a lobster, not in my grocery store! According to a recent independent consumer poll from Atlanta-based pest control company Orkin, Inc., grocery store shoppers will not tolerate a store that is home to crawling pests.

The poll found that shoppers are more likely to react to rodents in a grocery store than cockroaches, stored-product pests (meal moths, beetles, etc.) or flies. According to Orkin’s Director of Quality Assurance Zia Siddiqi, rodents are known carriers of a host of diseases including salmonella, plague and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Of those shoppers spotting a rodent, 70 percent would complain to a manager, while half would leave the store without their groceries. Forty-five percent wouldn’t shop in that store again.

Cockroaches are not far behind rodents in their ability to turn off shoppers. The majority (60 percent) would complain to the manager, and 41 percent would tell friends and family about the roach. Shoppers spying a stored-product pest such as a moth or beetle are most likely to speak to the manager (52 percent) or tell the cashier what they found (35 percent).

The poll found that flies cause the least reaction from shoppers – 37 percent reported they would “do nothing” if they saw a fly while shopping. But, added Siddiqi, they should.

“Flies are one of the filthiest pests around, carrying up to a half billion bacteria on the outside of their bodies, including common sources of food-borne illness,” said Siddiqi. “People don’t react as strongly to flies since they are accustomed to seeing them near food. In general, pests are a turnoff for shoppers, but what people may not realize is that pests can carry and spread bacteria that can threaten customers’ and employees’ health. The health issue is what can jeopardize a grocery store’s inventory and, in some cases, its ability to do business.”

Of even more concern to national retailers, a pest sighting at one location can affect consumers’ perceptions of the entire chain – for 43 percent, finding a pest in a grocery store “would have a negative effect.”

Younger shoppers seem to be more sensitive to pest issues in grocery stores. The survey found that compared to people 35 and over, younger adults age 18 to 34 are more likely to:

  • Tell friends and relatives about a pest

  • Leave the store without checking out

  • Never go back to the store, and/or

  • Draw other shoppers’ attention to the pest.

In addition, women react more strongly to seeing pests than men. Typically the predominant shoppers in the family, women are critical to the food retail industry*. For instance, after spotting a rodent,

  • 73 percent of women (versus 66 percent of men) would complain to the manager

  • 55 percent of women (versus 46 percent of men) would leave the store without checking out, and

  • 53 percent of women (versus 47 percent of men) would tell five or more friends or relatives about the occurrence.

According to Siddiqi, the food retail industry is challenging for pest control providers, with several store environments packed into one – from delicatessens to meat and flower shops. Storage areas, if not maintained properly, can also be breeding grounds for pests.

“Grocery stores must be vigilant about pest control and make sure their programs are effective,” noted Siddiqi. “And, if a store is part of a chain, consistency is key. These results show that pests can have a negative impact on grocery stores – one too important to ignore.”

Poll Methodology

The Orkin survey was conducted by Acromatics using Synovate’s eNation service from Nov. 30 – Dec. 4, 2006. The online survey polled 1,000 adults (aged 18 and over) in the contiguous United States. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3 percentage points.

*85 percent of women surveyed by Vertis Inc. in 2004 reported doing at least 60 percent of the grocery shopping.

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