I’ve shopped at Costco stores in Santa Cruz, San Diego, LA, and Santa Barbara (all in CA), and at the one in Medford, OR. I used to think having a Costco membership was essential, but now I’ve let my membership lapse. Why? Well, even though there are some great benefits to being a member, I’ve found that:
- What good are the bennies if I don’t want or need them?
- All Costco stores are not the same, and some are better than others.
- Many of the prices are just as good at other places, without the quantity requirement per item.
A Closer Look at Costco’s Offerings: Gas, TP, Coffee
Sure, you can get the benefit of cheaper cost per gallon on gas. But how many miles away from your home is your nearest Costco? And do you really want to take the time to wait in those long lines at the pump? Maybe there’s a place closer to you that offers similar gas deals, where you don’t have to wait in such a long line (during which your car is idling, I might add). And what do you save on gas? $1.00? Think about it.
In California, I was sold on the Kirkland brand paper products. For example, the toilet paper – which comes in packages of 36 rolls – was great quality. But when I bought the same product at the Costco in Oregon, I got it home and realized it was that cheapie, thin kind of t.p. – what a blow! So their suppliers for Kirkland brand products evidently vary.
And then the coffee (which I’m totally sold on as one of Costco’s great values). In Santa Barbara, after I’d make my purchase, I’d steer my cart over to the big coffer grinders and dump in my 2-3 pound bag of beans and grind it all to my specifications in a couple of minutes. In the Medford store, I discovered they didn’t have coffee grinders for customers to use, so that meant I had to go buy a coffee grinder. Which I did, at Wal-Mart, because that Costco didn’t sell them.
TVs and Furnishings
You can’t help but be wowed by the dazzling array of flat panel TVs when you first enter the store. In all the Costcos I’ve been in, the TVs are there to greet you, in all their tempting sizes and styles. It’s no wonder Costco is so well-known for its electronics — TVs, cameras, phones, computers. If you’re planning to splurge on electronics, then a Costco membership might well pay for itself quickly. The range of stock is impressive, and the prices are, too.
I’ve come across special offer displays of home furnishings from time to time. These are temporary features of items such as leather sofas and easy chairs or dining sets. The prices aren’t that great for the experienced shopper of such items, in my opinion anyway.
Doing Your Own Research
There’s an article by Jim at Bargaineering.com that points out some perks that he cites as valuable for Costco members, including some savings opportunities with financial institutions, the Costco car-buying service, and photo printing. If you’re interested in seeing what he has to say, his comments are at. Or you can always go directly to Costco’s website and see their “whole enchilada” of offerings at www.costco.com.
If you have a large family or a huge freezer and pantry, the food section at Costco is sure to please. But for singles or couples, you might find that the requisite quantities are over the top for what you want or need; and that big roast might have saved you a bit per pound over your local market’s prices, but you sure did get tired of eating it before it was gone. And sometimes the deals look so good when you’re cruising the warehouse aisles with that big, big shopping cart that you end up spending more than you intended – not saving money at all, when all was said and done, because you bought stuff you didn’t need.
Don’t get me wrong – I still think Costco is great. But I think it’s important to consider whether or not it will really serve you. If you’ve been factoring in the cost of membership as a necessary annual expense, take a moment to see if you are getting the benefits you anticipated. A basic membership is $50 a year, and that’s definitely worth it, if it’s… well, worth it to YOU.
Costco’s Bestselling Product
Oh, and a fun tidbit: You know those amazing rotisserie chickens? I was standing in that section once, watching what looked like over 100 chickens going round and round on that giant rotisserie, and I asked the clerk how many of them sold on an average day. He said some huge number I don’t recall, but he added that that one item was the single largest selling thing across all the stores – millions and millions of those aromatic, plump, juicy chickens. I haven’t done a fact-check on that bit of info, but I found it fascinating. And yes, I did walk out with a chicken that day!