Several business websites have reported on the findings of a Consumer Reports survey on the best and worst supermarket chains in the U.S.

The survey was based on customers’ perceptions of service, food quality, price, and cleanliness. As with anything, perceptions are subjective.

When it comes to service, a customer who knows where desired items are located does not need much help from employees. And, it seems as if most supermarkets have pretty common flow. Fruits and veggies are near the front, the refrigerated cases are around the perimeter, and dry packaged goods fill the middle.

Price is a matter of how much one is willing or able to spend on what is in a supermarket. An umbrella organization for supermarkets — The Food Marketing Institute — has published hundreds of reports over the years on shopping habits and trends based on the pocketbook of the shopper. It is way too complex of a topic for me to discuss here — which is why I go back to citing the subjectivity rather than objectivity of any list.

Cleanliness is a little clearer cut. I think most customers can tell the difference between clean and less-clean stores. To me, cleanliness is extremely important, especially as to what the meat preparation area looks like after it is closed for the evening. I would hope all customers put high priority on store cleanliness and store owners do the same.

It is not the intention of this commentary to be critical of the names listed in the Consumer Reports article, mainly because I’m writing for an HVACR publication and, from what I understand, contractors who work in supermarkets don’t really factor all that much into the pluses or negatives. By that I mean there did not seem to be any feedback directly related to mechanical contractors in the survey findings.

But contractors do figure into a customer’s perception of a supermarket and sometimes with a bit more objectivity than the subjectivity. The main concern for contractors is all those refrigerated and frozen food cases that have to be kept at the proper temperature. Melting ice cream is a clear-cut example of poor food quality (as well as causing problems for the cleanliness of a store).

The air conditioning and heating systems need to be operating properly. On a hot summer day, a customer entering a supermarket and sensing absolutely no change in ambient temperature between outdoors and indoors can get a less favorable impression of the store that has nothing to do with subjectivity.

And HVACR contractors have to make sure IAQ is up to acceptable standards. A strange smell in a supermarket is not a good sign.

Maintenance and upkeep are necessary parts of operating a supermarket. An experienced, professional HVAC contractor can help transform a less-favorable shop into an area consumer’s go-to market, making the situation a win-win for all involved.

Publication date: 11/4/2013

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