Monday, April 23, 2012

Why I hate Costco


Let me start by saying that I have a love/hate relationship with Costco.
But most of the time it's hate.

I have had a Costco membership on and off for the past 12 years.
I stepped into the store for the first time just weeks after moving to the Pacific Northwest.

I've had Costco membership cards gifted to me, I've been put on friends employee family cards, and I have bought into buying the $50 membership card myself.

When I don't have a membership I rarely miss shopping there.
When my membership has lapsed, my friends who find out gasp and often wonder how one can exist in this life without a Costco membership.

By today's standards, we have a large family.
A family of five.
And yet I rarely see the need for buying everything (or anything) in bulk.

Let me start by explaining why I HATE Costco.

Costco is very deceptive and often times makes you *think* you are getting a good deal, when in reality, you are loading up on very expensive impulse buys.

*I recently saw a mom appeasing her toddler son by buying him gum.  Not just one pack of gum, but a case of gum.  At any other store it would have cost her around $1, at Costco, it cost her $10.
*It happens to the best of us, we walk into Costco with a list and come out with a cart full of things that weren't on our list.

Costco typically only carries one item and one brand.  This doesn't offer you the option of comparing prices and making sure you get the best deal while you are shopping the aisles. 
You have to come to Costco knowing what you pay at other stores to make sure you are getting a better deal in bulk.

*How do you know if you are getting the best price on peanut butter (or any other item) if you don't have anything to compare it to?


This week, Costco had two different brands of peanut butter, Adams and Skippy.  The Adams natural came in an 80 oz tub for $9.99.  The Skippy came in 2-48 oz containers for $10.99.  If you ask a kid who eats peanut butter, the two brands don't compare in taste (that hydrogenated oil in Skippy sure helps the flavor!).  

I went to my local grocery store to compare the prices there with the bulk prices at Costco and found that you can't even buy that size anywhere but at a bulk foods store.  But as you stand in the aisle you aren't caring about what the price is at your local Safeway, you are caring about the time you are saving by not having to go to the grocery store AND  to Costco.

Most people walk into Costco thinking that because they are buying in bulk they must be getting a good deal...but are you?

*If you ask most Costco shoppers about what staples they typically buy at Costco, toilet paper is probably top on the list.


I thought I would do the math for you and see if toilet paper really is a better deal at Costco than at your local store.

For 30 jumbo rolls of Quilted Northern toilet paper, it will cost you $19.99 at Costco.
For each roll, you are paying around $.67 a roll
I compared the same brand at Winco.
Remember you can't buy the same quantity sizes at "normal" stores, so I calculated price per roll.
At Winco, you can buy 24 double rolls of Quilted Northern for $13.47
For each roll (of the same brand of toilet paper), you are paying $.56.
That's nearly 10 cents less per roll.

Another staple Costco shoppers say they pick up are paper towels.
Costco carries the Brawny brand so lets compare the prices.
At Costco you will find 15 mega rolls for $19.99
If you do the math, this equals around $1.33 per roll
At Winco. I found 8 mega rolls of Brawny paper towels for $6.97
Each roll at Winco ends up costing you around $.87
a difference of almost 50 cents per roll

**as a side note, Costco does occasionally have coupons on these staple items, but in my experience, it's not nearly as much or as often as you will find at your local grocery store.  Which brings me to my next point.

Most people get into the habit of having a running list of items they buy at Costco with no regard to the price that they are paying for the items they are buying.

*You know the people.  "I always buy toothpaste at Costco."

Do the math.
Is $2.60 per tube of Crest toothpaste the best deal out there?


Is it really cheaper to pay $2.70 per stick of deodorant?

I am a bargain shopper but I know that most people without coupons can pay less for most items at their local drug or grocery store.
And as an added bonus you don't have to store a years supply of toothpaste or toilet paper!

An article in Family Circle written by Scott Alexander puts it best, "Finding yourself in a situation where saving money is dependent upon spending can severely impair judgment."

Seasonal items at Costco can make you feel the need to impulse buy.
This month the focus at our Costco is on gardening.
You can find buckets of Preen and huge bags of planting soil


and rows and rows of plants.
I found myself lingering in this area at Costco much longer than I needed to because of the sheer draw of peer pressure.

This area, on a weekday I might add, had attracted more than a handful of people stopping and browsing.
I felt like if I didn't stop and browse and ultimately buy, then I was missing out on a deal (I wasn't).
Most experts will tell you that our buying decisions aren't based on logic, they are based on emotion.


Some people specifically buy a Costco membership just for the "deals" they find on electronics.
Costco is such a mega retailer that they can cut deals with other retail manufacturers.

Costco has made these deals with other manufacturers so that now you can't compare prices on an exact electronic item because Costco electronics are typically exclusive to Costco.

There is a perception that Costco prices are low, and most people want to assume that.  Many normally educated consumers don't even double check on prices before they buy, even on big ticket items like electronics.  Costco typically has comparable prices on electronics, but most people think they are getting an amazing deal, when the reality is usually it's just an average deal.

For the complete list of what I do think is a good deal at Costco check here.
For the "deals" I think you should NOT buy at Costco check here



26 comments:

Miss S. said...

I feel the same way about Sam's Club! So far the two things I know are a good deal is fresh chicken (hormone free) $1.97 a pound, Hummus, Banana's $1 for a 3 lb bunch & Milk. We call it the $100 store because you can't leave without spending at least $100! (My sister has Costco & we do use both. Double trouble right there!!)

Cindy @ Cinsarah said...

I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with Costco too! lol
I can't wait to see what you buy! :)
I buy organic sugar because the huge bag is $9.99 at Costco and the same brand is in a very small bag is $5.99 so for three more bucks I get a TON of sugar and we use sugar a lot for lemonade. We also buy olive oil, diapers (last us a month of more), toilet paper (costco brand) and laundry detergent which is A TON cheaper than the grocery store and It lasts me at least 3 months. That's pretty much it! We will sometimes buy clothes like my hubby got Levi's jeans for $17.99 and at the Levi's outlet here they are $29.99.

Nicole said...

And in your price comparisons, you did not even take into consideration that you had to pay for a year's membership, which adds a few pennies to every item you buy. I find that I spend way too much money when I have a costco membership, on things I really probably don't need. We have a joke in our house about costco in that if you don't spend at least 100.00 a trip, the costco police will come after you. So, right now, we do not have a membership (although others in my family would probably like one) and instead, do the majority of our shopping at Winco.

Carolyn said...

I feel the same about Costco! I do like to get my Spa Finder gift certificates there, it is $80 for a $100 certificate. But you are right about many of the products being more than the regular grocery store.

Gina @ MoneywiseMoms said...

When I teach my grocery savings classes, I'm always asked about the big club stores. I am NOT a fan, for all the reasons you say! But most people think it's saving them time and money to do a "big shopping trip" at Costco, no matter how many kids they have.

The one thing friends always tell me is that the diapers/wipes/formula prices are better. I know no one wants to deal with coupons during the busy baby stage, but it's worth figuring out the math--how much are you paying per diaper. You may do better ordering online than going to Costco!

lisa i said...

I call it "my bottom line price". I know what my a good price is for toothpaste (sale less coupon less cvs bucks = free)so I would never even think of actually buying it at costco. their milk is $1.71 by me whereas milk at the local grocers is never under $2.99. that's a noticeable difference, one just can't get sucked into buying other items while one is at costco. and if one can bear going on a saturday one can always get a free lunch haha!

Lifein1000sqft said...

Amen Sister ! I feel the same way
I go to Sam's Club and I
only buy certain things
cause they are a better deal,
like sour cream and cheese to
name a few. but when my
membership is up that
it for me.

Michelle@ourwonderfilledlife.com said...

Great post!!! You know how I feel! Agree, Agree although we may or may not have been there this weekend ;) For us it makes sense SOMETIMES, just like you're saying! Can't wait to hear your buys!!!

I have to say I did just pick up Carters pjs for $6.99 {3 piece set}, that was a good buy.

Love the series that you are doing!!!!

Michelle@ourwonderfilledlife.com said...

Diapers...Costco brand are definitely less expensive than any brand we used with BOYS...Huggies have always leaked on every single one of my boys. So compared to Pampers, which is pretty much the only brand that didn't leak and buying them x4, definitely a good buy ;)

Pamela R said...

There are only a few things that we purchase at costco that are in fact cheaper. Their 3 packs of tortellini, quinoa, olive oil, and diapers! Diapers are sooo much cheaper at Costco than anywhere else! Meat can also occasionally be cheaper but you do have to watch. We can often pick up ribs there for cheaper!

Ang said...

ahh, Costco, I used to love the store, now I find it a waste of time. My $100 I spend there will last me a ton on couponing shopping trips and can probably get a lot more too, DIAPERS are not a great deal...you can go on amazon or babies r us and with rebates and specials, always get diapers cheaper...I love walgreens and Rite aid for diaper deals...rolling rewards is awesome and I can get a pkg for about $4...never seen it cheaper at costco..I used to love their gasoline but lately have noticed it is the same price as maverick or our local truck stop so no saving there...definately will not renew this year :)

Melanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melanie said...

Totally agree with EVERYTHING you hate about Costco! The only things we buy there are Fruit Snacks, dog food, and Canola Oil...AND the 50 other things I suck myself into getting when I go for my three things! We also use it for the gas, but I have to drive 4 extra miles to get to that gas station and most of the time I'm almost on empty schmempty and can't make it that far so I end up at Circle K! I hate Costco! {but yet we still have a membership, thank you to the mister!}


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Jenny said...

We have both a Sam's Club and Costco card. I agree with what you are saying. I've found the toilet paper and paper towels to never be a good deal at the bulk stores. Using a Target coupon with a manufacture's coupon is a much better deal at Target.

We do buy canned tomatoes at Costco. They can be $1 or more at the grocery store. Each can at Costco comes to 65 cents.

We buy individually wrapped, frozen chicken breasts there too. We like the taste better than others we've had.

We love Sam's Club Jenson's frozen hamburger patties.

Janet said...

We got a membership when COSTCO first came to our town, but never renewed it. I used to take my grocery receipts in with me to compare the prices and for what we were buying I rarely saved any money. Great post!

Ann said...

I feel the EXACT SAME WAY about Costco and Sam's. I quit buying a lot of the items there when I did the math. That, and I don't want that HUGE package of Brawny taking up precious space. I do still buy the toilet paper at Sam's (I think it's $14.00) because I like the quality of their Member's Mark brand. But, yes, I totally feel ya, and will be interested to see what items you do buy there. (Prob the same ones I do-- not much anymore, actually!)

Rhiannon said...

you are sure right about electronics the SAME exact tv i was looking at was almost $200 cheaper at walmart. I always think do i need that much or will i ever use that much of anyhing. I keep to my staples, beer, wine, bread, juice and milk and those are definately cheaper there. Oh and the rotisserie chix can't beat that deal! lol

Tracy Marie said...

I agree. I also don't like Costco. We have a membership and I told my husband that I'm not renewing it when it comes due. It's just not worth it to me.

I hate going there because it's just a circus. Then, you wait in line for 30 mins. to pay for all of the stuff that you don't need. And...the stuff is expensive. I think the prices were better years ago, but it's become so popular that it's not a bargain anymore.

I also find it a little depressing there. You see all of those people spending money that they most likely don't have. Yeah..I'm with you on your Costco assessment.

Jill said...

I stopped shopping at Costco years ago. I not only hate the impulse purchases of items in bulk, but all the extra packaging materials they use for the bulk items. I thought I've been missing out on some bargains, so thanks for clearing that up. Now I can have no ambivalence about avoiding the Costco. :-)

Jill
www.zazzypeacockstudios.blogspot.com

Carol, The Answer Is Chocolate said...

We have really cut down on our COSTCO shopping. I only go when there are a couple of very specific items I need and have limited the impulse buys.

Melissa said...

We have not renewed our card in the last 5 years. Just spent too much money on too much food for just the 2 of us. The seasonal items are fun, but I do not need 1000's of feet of wrapping paper, or 10lbs of chocolate covered cherries. I do miss 'window shopping' in Costco, but its free at the mall.

city said...

nice idea.. thanks for posting..

Jessica said...

Costco is just like any other store. They have good deals on some things and not so great deals on others. For example, they have good deals on designer/high-end clothes, books, some DVDs, some video games and some CDs. Plus, their food stand is awesome and you don't need a membership. You can get a decent amount of really good food for a decent price.
With all due respect, I think people have to be responsible when shopping. If they impulsively buy $100 worth of stuff at Costco, it's their fault, not Costco's.
Also, I'm pretty sure every store that sells electronics/appliances carries at least some models that are exclusive to that store. It's business.

wazzic said...

Thank you for the concrete examples. I have been telling people these points for years to no avail. They will stubbornly defend Costco, the paid memberships, food samples, pizza, etc. I want to add that many of my bulk purchases spoiled real fast. Lotions, sundries, candies, and fruit-snacks. After I purchased a Nikon waterproof camera and HP PC, I saw Best Buy's price $100 and $260 less two months later. My family had to keep four horrible Nokia phones for two years (slow and bulky 5230 Nuron). The same time, Best Buy offered free, flat HTC phones. Very irritating.

Chris said...

Costco is not the cheapest, if you want to save every penny you can eat GMO's, Mcdonalds, clip coupons & shop at the evil Walmart. You would sacrifice your family's health.

Price is possibly the last reasons I shop at Costco. I value their commitment to healthy foods, their small collection of high quality products, clean organized store, the amazing Kirkland house brand, and most importantly their staff of happy well-paid, health insurance covered employees who I have seen and know my 7 year old son's name for over 10 years. Honestly, what big box store has a staff that last that long. I have never see the same employee 2x at Walmart, Target or the supermarket. Costco is a community. We realize it's not dirt-cheap, the happiness & high stock price comes from loyal commitment to placing their members first.

Also I receive 2% back I get with their $100 executive membership (I got $145 back this year, free membership plus $45!) If you want to save every penny and buy cheap, you can definitely save more by clipping coupons, shopping at minimum wage/horrible health insurance Walmart and eating Mcdonalds. There are times when it pays to buy QUALITY, and that's when you are feeding your family. Agreed that many of the health products & paper towels are cheaper elsewhere, however, for 10 cents a roll I will save myself the trip, miserable employee & long line of another store.

For more facts;
http://www.businessinsider.com/costcos-unorthodox-business-strategy-2013-3

Member of Hackensack, NJ location

John of VP said...

Consumer's Report recently rated Kirkland powder laundry detergent ($.09/load) as second only to Tide ($.23/load). They shouldn't have bothered because Costco just dropped this product. We like to add a small quantity of Oxi-Clean to the powder and so the liquid detergents don't work for us. Although a lot of people are using liquids, I bet a lot still prefer powder.
Could it be that Tide struck a deal with Costco that if they dropped their product that Tide would give them a better price? In any event, we as consumers are the losers!

John of VP