My own observations:
I've been a member of Costco and Sam's Club for years. There are very little differences between them. However, there are some, which I talk about below.
- Most grocery type items are the same, or equivalent brands and quality.
- Costco has a better variety of furniture than Sam's, indeed, some Sam's have none at all. The furniture is seasonal at Costco, at the moment they have a very high amount of it and good selection. However, the quality is so-so on the sofas. I bought a sectional sofa there last year (the "Canby" 7 piece modular set) and I may have to return it. The springs are felt right through the foam padding and they squeak. I don't think it'll last very long. We don't have kids or pets, and we're very gentle on furniture and it doesn't seem like it'll hold up even with mild use. It's going to be a hassle to return, but it was almost $1,000 and not very well made. Some other furniture we've bought there (TV stand, shelves) are fine and a good deal. Just stay away from the sofa's!
- Sam's has lower prices overall on grocery items.
- Sam's has a lower membership fee ($40 vs. $55 at Costco)
- Price of gas is the same at both, or within a penny. Arco has the same price as both, no membership required. At least around here, there's no savings at all on gas from shopping at either store as opposed to a discount gas station like Arco.
- Rotisserie chicken is identical at both, but last time I checked, Costco's was $1 cheaper when Sam's raised their price.
- Sam's has a clearance area in the back of most stores where they mark down merchandise, and sometimes you can find really, really good deals there. Look for orange markdown stickers. I always find people prowling over this stuff every time I go there.
- Sam's also marks down meat items nearly every day, come in the morning and save 30-40% off the regular price of many cuts of meat.
- As noted by others, you don't need to be a member at either store to get the samples, or to eat at the cafe inside (some Costco's are outside, making it even easier).
- Costco will allow non-members to use a store Gift Card, Sam's absolutely will NOT. Don't try it, it won't work...I already found this out the hard way. You can be sure Costco is well aware of the non-member gift card "loophole" and may change their policy eventually to prevent this. They might require the member that bought it to accompany the non-member when using the card, or some such.
- Non-members can use the pharmacy and buy alcohol at either store without membership. This is due to laws that require it, not because they like to be generous.
- You can cut the price of membership in half by joining with a friend or relative. Costco is stricter about wanting to see proof the secondary member lives at the same address. Sam's doesn't care - at least for now. All you need to do if asked, provide a utility bill showing the same address (scan and photoshop the "needed" address and print it out, bring it in for "proof").
- You can cancel membership at any time, for any reason, and get a full refund at both stores. You can wait until day 364 and cancel, if you feel you didn't get your money's worth.
- Costco has coupons they mail out - if you're lucky enough to get them to actually DO it. I've tried for years, they just don't come. I always have to pick up a coupon book in the store, and many times they're out, or hassle me: "you should have gotten one in the mail". Yeah, right. Good luck with that.
- Sam's has coupons too, but require the member to upgrade to the Advantage Plus membership ($100/yr) to get them. Not worth it, IMHO. They sometimes have promos where they allow standard members to get the discounts. Most of the discounts aren't that hot (neither are Costco's, but they don't require a higher level of membership to use them, at least).
- IMO, neither store is worth being a member if you don't save at least enough to pay for the membership fee. It takes a lot of savings to make up for $40 or $55 out of your pocket, no matter what people think!
- Neither store takes manufacturer coupons that all other grocery stores take. This is a signifigant disadvantage, as you can save more on many items by just shopping in your local grocery store. Many things are NOT a good deal if you have to buy more than you can use, and can't save more by using a coupon.
- Both stores have the hot dog/drink combo for $1.50 and pizza for about $1.88 (w/o drink). Both stores have shrunk the size of the dogs over the past few years to keep the price the same. I wonder if others have noticed how much smaller they are. I used to have a hard time to eat all of one - I estimate they're about 30-50% smaller than they used to be. Still a pretty good deal, though, when you want something cheap to eat. BTW, Sam's has real ice cream in their cafe's, Costco only has Frozen Yogurt.
- Costco is absolutely ANAL about non-members using a member's card. If they notice this, they can (and will, if you let them) confiscate the card from you. Don't try it. If your Costco has self-check lines, you might be able to get away with it for a while. However, they have a clerk standing there and sometimes ask to see ID, if they do, just refuse. If necessary, walk out without buying anything and come back later. Sam's doesn't enforce this nearly as much, or not at all. I loan my Sam's card to a number of people and there's never been an issue with it. Just don't be obvious about it and you won't have any problems there.
Well, there are some other differences, but this is some of the main things I can relate. I like and dislike both stores for different reasons, so that's why I have membership at both Overall, I prefer Sam's for lower prices, and Costco for unusual items not found elsewhere.
Edit: one more thing, don't buy Kirkland TP. It used to be a great deal and really high quality. They changed their supplier and the quality is TERRIBLE. We returned an entire package because it's such poor quality now. We're sticking with Charmin Ultra Strong, it doesn't fall apart on you (or in you, ugh!). More information here, read about it: http://www.ilovecostco.com/toilet-papers
Last edited by Roundabout; 01-08-2013 at 03:03 PM..
Reason: Added info about Kirkland TP
True Facts: The chances of you dying on the way to get your lottery tickets is greater than your chances of winning
I have read that Kirkland vodka IS Grey Goose, they bought the factory that originally made Grey Goose.
Costco doesn't buy any factories... they private label the brands. I have a friend at a local distributor who works deals with them and other clubs, stores. Buying the factory would kill their model.
Basically some premium brands with high markup (100-200% or more in Liquor is common) Don't want to "cheapen" the brand by selling it cut-price. Costco (and Sams, and places like Trader Joes) Pay Cash (not net 30/60/90 like most retailers). Cash pays bills... so they work a deal. We'll slap your label on OUR product and sell it to you for much less. Costco/Walmart/Sams/BJ's type guys love to find a manufacture in money trouble or wanting to raise cash to purchase another company or buy back stock... they will offer a low-ball (but profitable) cash payment and get killer deals on items... trust me they all scan the business pages looking for possibilities like these.
Stores like it because it helps their brand, and 9 times out of 10, they're making more profit on the store brand still...
I have a friend in the business... you'll be shocked how low they pay (and how much they mark up) with these deals... you'll also be amazed how much Grocery stores get reamed by putting people on Net terms....
I've always wondered whether a Costco membership is worth it for a single, young grad student. Thoughts?
As a recent graduate, I'll tell you it's definitely worth it.
Drive a car? Cheap gas.
Drink bottled water? Cheap bottled water.
Party? CHEAPPPPPP alcohol.
Lazy college student? Uhhh rotisserie chicken + tortillas are both dirt cheap. Grab some other canned things to spice it up.
Good cook? Cheap, high quality meats, seafood.
Also, their wholesale sized snacks are cheap. Nuts, candy, granola bars, great things for a "breakfast" when you're on the run and have an exam that day.
I had Costco AMEX credit card (Costco AE true earing credit card). but I didn't get Free Costco membership each year.
Can u advise what should I do to get free membership w/o paying to Costco annual membership fees?
I think they meant AMEX credit card is free. They normally have an annual fee, but as long as you are an Executive Costco Member, it will stay free. I have both, and signed up for AMEX because of Costco.
Ok. I read further on this thread and now understand Costco let people shop with Costco gift cards? I have never been to Costco but have heard good things about them. Just can not the point of us spending $55 for membership fee + 1 hour of driving to save money.
I really like Costco, but personally, I would not join if the closest Costco was + 1 hour of driving away unless it was a free membership.
So new members need to pay 55$ up upfront? Is it worth it?
If you live near a costco so it's easy to go often, they are absolutely worth the money. We get the executive membership which costs you $110 per year, but you get a 2% reward back. It more than pays for itself, but then again there are 3 costcos near us and we have a family of 4. We find that the meat is by far better quality than the grocery stores....for that alone it would be worth it for us. My parents on the other hand live about an hour and a half away from their costco, so they don't go as often and it seems that it's not all that valuable to them...they therefor have my brother pick up stuff there for them and pay him back.
I am curious as to what qualifies as a new member too - I have a free membership (for new members only) certificate and would love to take advantage of that and this offer, but I don't know if I would qualify as my membership lapsed only a few months ago.
Just the savings on a gallon of milk could pay for the membership. Milk is usually more than $1 less than the supermarket. One gallon a week will save you the cost of the membership...
In DFW TX area it's typically around 20 to 30 cents less at Costco compare to Walmart SuperCenter store. but their coupon items make you save lot of money to buy things in chunk and also save price on gas. I have both Sams and Costco cards, but I must say Costco helps me to save a lot more compare to Sams Club every year.
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