In the beginning, there was barter trade, and then came kiosks, later on-retail shops, and now, supermarkets.
They are deemed to be the most convenient form of shopping for they not only offer a hassle free shopping experience but also give one a chance to window shop, save money, accumulate reward points and at times, fill time.
But, everything that's good has its weak points. Generally, one of the strongest weak points is the fact that cashiers have become too lazy to look for change hence opt to give shoppers change in form of sweets and PK chewing gums.
So let's analyze which of the top five Kenyan supermarkets---Nakumatt, Tuskys, Uchumi, Naivas and Ukwala are the best to shop at.
With roughly 46 chains in and out of the country, Nakumatt is the largest store in the region. What I love the most about Nakumatt is the variety of goods made available and of course the space; no one wants to spend the whole day squeezing their and the trolleys way while shopping.
Also, you may have noted, Nakumatt never invades its way into your neighbourhood all by itself. It always likes dragging along a number of cafés, restaurants, antique shops, banks and other not so important but a bit essential businesses.
If you like reward points, Nakumatt is a lot faster as it doesn't ask that you bring a photocopy of your ID and other bullcrap. Instead, all you need is an ID and in case you lose the smart card, you only pay KSh. 200 to have it renewed and get all the points intact. Shopping with Visa and MasterCard too is quite effective as it doesn't take the cashier forever to swipe it and refer you to the customer care as is the case with Uchumi and Naivas.
The one similarity between Tuskys and Zeneth College is that, they both are all over the place (the supermarket has a chain of 52 stores). In town alone, there are over 6 Tuskys supermarkets.
What I detest the most about Tuskys is the stuffiness---no matter how cold the weather is, so long as you're inside Tuskys, it's always hot; not mentioning the heavy smell of baked goods that welcome you at the entrance.
On the bright side, it's one of the few supermarkets that is handicapped-friendly.
It's believed to be the supermarket for the common mwananchi. Goods sold are quite affordable, it's a bit spacious and, it can be found in almost every small town in Kenya.
Despite these minute niceties, Naivas is definitely the one supermarket in Kenya with the poorest customer service. I have had lots of people complain, and personally, I've had my own share of nasty experience.
First, if you're thinking of shopping with your Visa Card, especially from the 25th to the 5th, please don't. I've lost my money enough times for they usually tend to charge you double and to get the money refunded, you'll have to make endless phone calls and bank queues for days, or weeks.
Second, if you lose your Shopping 'reward' Card, you'll be asked to register for a new one…meaning that all of your previous points will be lost.
Thirdly, make sure that you check the dates on everything you buy. I once bought cookies from there and it's after I started having stomach pains that I realized that they had been expired for days.
Fourthly, always carry your own paper---bag. It so happens that there are some items within the supermarket that can't be packaged in that ugly Naivas paper bag.
Lastly, I've noted that there are quite a large number of Naivas employees who work as stalkers. They follow your every step, occasionally asking if they can help. Do they assume that we are visually impaired?
Lots of people I've talked to allege that 'Ukwala sells expired goods'. When asked if they have ever bought an expired commodity, they claim that they can't afford to waste their money on an already concluded experiment. As far as I know, this is nothing than just a rumour.
One thing for sure though about Ukwala is that, you can spend hours walking up and down, looking for something, and when you finally give up and ask one of the employees to help, s/he will be like,
"We've run out of that."
The staff is also kinda lazy to say the least and, this is the one place where they are always out of coins, ALWAYS.
In my view, Uchumi is the best---though not the perfect supermarket, to shop at. It may have fallen victim of bankruptcy in the past, but isn't bankruptcy a lot better than fires and terrorist attacks (in the cases of Ukwala and Nakumatt)?
In the case of security, Nakumatt is a lot better. Despite it having fallen victim of terrorist attacks (Westgate) and fires (Downtown) in the past, I can assure you that had Tuskys been the target, or Naivas, the number of deaths and casualties would've been a lot higher.
Nakumatt too tends to have different entry and exit points unlike in the case of Tuskys or Naivas where both are on one side, and just a few metres apart.
The greatest ill point that befalls 99% of all these supermarkets is the lack of fire exits cum emergency exits and, bathrooms.