We have been assimilated

By Mir
September 9, 2013

I post a lot of Amazon grocery deals over at Want Not, largely because we have never belonged to a warehouse club and this has always been the cheapest way for me to, say, buy enough Cheez-Its to last my children more than a week without having to take out a home equity loan. Nearly every time I post something I think is a super great deal, though, someone invariably comments, “Oh, it’s less than that at Costco.” And then I make a voodoo doll out of that commenter.

Kidding! (How could I possibly make a voodoo doll without a piece of their hair?) I respond patiently, as I always do, that some of us live in the boonies and do not have a local Costco. I DO NOT HAVE A LOCAL COSTCO. Yes, I understand that it is the Mecca of all things wonderful, but I don’t have one, so just leave me be with my cases of cereal bars from Amazon, okay?!

But… there’s a Costco in towards Atlanta, about an hour from here. And every now and then, Otto and I talk about how even if we only went out there every few months, it might be worth it…? We used to do that with Trader Joe’s, after all. We’d take coolers and go stock up a few times a year. Somehow—perhaps our recent thumbs up from the financial advisor left us feeling like we had too much money?—we decided It Was Time.

We loaded up our coolers and made the trek in, pondering all of the wonderfulness that lay ahead. Why, maybe we would buy STEAKS! Surely everything we’d heard about Costco was true, and one could procure organic, grass-fed, pampered beef deliciousness for pennies a pound, just so long as we were willing to buy ten pounds at a time, right?

Well. It turns out that Costco is kind of a zoo on the weekend. Shocking, I know. Probably we should’ve tried to go in on a weekday, but we have these pesky jobs and whatnot, so there we were with the rest of humanity, and first we had to hit the membership desk to join and get our cards.

I’m not great in large crowds to start with, and there we were trying to talk to the lady behind the desk while a steady stream of people with towering carts full of STUFF filed past. We wanted to know whether it made sense to get a regular “Gold Star” membership (as far as I can tell, that’s the base level, and the moniker is just Costco’s equivalent of “everyone gets a trophy”) or an “Executive” membership because I do own a business and can buy business stuff there and maybe take some of it as a tax deduction. We’d been unable to figure out the real difference between the two accounts from our online research, though.

So there we are, noise and people all around us, and this poor lady behind the counter is trying so hard to explain it all to us, and I sure hope Otto processed what she was saying, because in very short order all I could hear was a word here and there interspersed with Charlie Brown’s teacher. “Wah wah wah membership wah wah wah discount wah wah wah exclusive credit card wah wah wah rebate wah wah coupons wah wah wah wah extra members wah wah wah how would you like to pay for that today?”

Somehow we ended up with membership cards (complete with LOVELY photos, OMG) and a new AmEx account because… umm… reasons (it credits us back part of the membership fee? it’s the only credit card they take there? it will deliver puppies to our home? I lost track)… and it was time to go shop. One thing I do remember from the AmEx conversation was that we needed to spend some certain amount of money to get the membership fee rebate, and Otto expressed some concern about us meeting that minimum amount. HAR HAR HAR.

But Costco has a SNACK BAR with CHEAP STUFF! And that drive into Atlanta had worked up a hunger. Otto had a sandwich and I had a Warehouse Frappuccino (motto: Just Like Starbucks, But Only A Buck Fifty) and got ice cream headache. Because I’m a delicate flower like that. But THEN it was time to go shop.

We popped our Costco cherry with a case of Sun Chips for the kids, giggling about how it already took up half our cart. But there was a COUPON, taking it from cheap to OMGSOCHEAP. Shortly thereafter I discovered a twin pack of no-high-fructose-corn-syrup strawberry jam vats, which is important because SOMEONE who shall remain nameless (though she is nicknamed Frances) eats a sunbutter and strawberry jam sandwich pretty much every day, and I am a heartless monster who refuses to buy HFCS-containing jam. And then there was cheap maple syrup! And giant boxes of Raisin Bran! And cases of yogurt and flats of fruit!

I let Otto map out our route, as I was completely overwhelmed by the time we left the service desk. He’s good at that sort of thing, but it meant that we really did the ENTIRE store. That’s how we ended up deciding that sure, yes, replacing our dying cordless phone system would be a great idea. And yes, the kids had asked for a clock for their bathroom, but why not go ahead and get them a weather station, because it was only a few dollars more, anyway. And the truck needed new wiper blades! And soda is so cheap here, as long as you’re willing to buy eight frajillion cans!!

Did I mention that my parents are coming to visit? Because WINE.

We didn’t end up buying steak; the prices may have been good, but by the time we made it over there, our cart was nearly full and the prices made me woozy (sure, it’s ten pounds, but I don’t really need ten pounds of ribeyes). We bought a sack of chicken breasts, instead, and a more manageable multipack of organic ground beef, so that we can have hipster hamburgers. (I’m pretty sure the cows it came from listened to bands we’ve never heard of.)

Finally our cart was loaded to the gills and we made our way to checkout. Of course then we were faced with some confusion over Proper Protocol; there are conveyor belts, but people seemed to only be unloading certain items, and leaving the rest in the cart. We did the best we could (unloading the small items), and while I was digging through the cart, one of the pineapples I’d put up on the counter upended itself and landed on my foot. A nice stranger picked it up for me. It wasn’t until later, when we were driving home, that I realized a pineapple to the top of the foot HURTS. Fortunately it was my right foot and it’s my left hand that’s screwed up, so now I’m balanced. Or something.

Anyway. Remember how Otto was worried we wouldn’t spend enough? HAAAAAAAAAAA. The final total came up and for a second there I was afraid that Otto was going to throw up his cheap sandwich. Yeah, I don’t think spending money is going to be a problem with this membership. Ahem.

We came home and started unpacking and then realized we should’ve cleaned out the fridge and freezer BEFORE we went (oops). But eventually everything was squared away and despite the high price tag, we congratulated ourselves on buying enough food to last for a long time.

Pity that the kids have already eaten half the Cheez-Its, though. Maybe we should go back next weekend….


  1. Angela Arnett Stone

    Supposedly we’ll be getting one two hours away by the end of the year. The rumors are sprouting in the next year or two we’ll get one in our town. It came from a friend who has a friend who works for that department at city hall but we’ll see.

    By the way please tell me you are a good parent and have shown this to your kids by now?

    It is epic and is the reason I’ve smiled all weekend.

    • Mir

      Monkey’s response to that video: What the heck…?? No. Just NO.

      • Tenessa

        That was my response, too.

    • Jenn

      So is there a joke that I’m missing or is this just really weird?

      • Mir

        I think it’s just really weird (although, to be completely fair, I am not fond of foxes).

    • Jessica (the celt)

      Okay, you are the fifth link of this video that I’ve run into in the past two days, so I’m just watching it for once. Maybe then the link will stop following me around the internet! ;~)

      Also, if you’ve ever heard a fox scream…you don’t forget it quickly. *shivers*

    • Beth A.

      I have to admit, I laughed at the absurdity of that video.

  2. Jean

    The warehouse stores are truly designed to make you spend a bajillion dollars. But the organic milk is so much cheaper, and so are bagels and muffins and the gigantic bags of chips oh and the coffeee……

    It’s an addiction. Worst part for me is that it is right next to the giant party stores where I go to find cheap decorations for the holidays.

  3. Amanda

    We belong to the cult of Costco…welcome :)

  4. timberdawn

    I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I visited the hour-away samantha’s club recently – on someone else’s membership, and decided that there was no way I could save enough money to offset the trauma that it causes me. It didn’t help that they had recently thrown all the merchandise up into the air and allowed it to land in new and illogical places, so that even with a list (!), it was nearly impossible to shop. I’m done. Hope you keep posting those not-cheap-but-reasonable goodies for us out in the boonies, hermit leaning readers.

    • Mir

      Oh, no worries. I will still need that Amazon stuff, too… my heart can only take so many warehouse visits.

  5. Sheila

    Is there a tumblr of warehouse store membership card photos? There should be.

    • Mir

      What a horrifying thought. I look like a meth addict in my pic. A meth addict on a bad hair day.

      • Crissy

        This, the term “meth-head”.

        • Crissy

          Ugh, *thus*

  6. Jen R

    Here’s how it all works:
    AmEx: you get something like 1% back on all your purchases everywhere, 2% on restaurants, and 3% on gas & travel; the check comes (I think) annually on the anniversary of you opening the card.

    Costco membership: $55 for Gold, $105 for Executive. Gold does not get any rebate on purchases; Executive gets 2% back, checks mailed annually. You can use it to pay for Costco purchases or cash it at the service desk AND if you do not get at least the difference between the two member ships ($50), they will give you that much anyway if you take it to the service desk.

    As far as I know, the two rebates are in no way tied to each other. They come in different months and are calculated differently.

    • Lucinda

      Additionally, with the Executive and Business memberships, you can get in a little earlier than the Gold card members. At least that’s the way it used to be which is sorta handy.

    • Katie in CA

      That is correct. We have the executive one, and the amex rebate pays for the membership, and then the costco rebate pays for the two boxes of cheez its,

  7. Kim

    Oh, I heart me my Costco. It helps that I live in a small county and my store is rarely crowded to the point of mayhem. We buy so much stuff there: produce, almost all our processed groceries, clothes, batteries, not to mention birthday cakes and pumpkin pies. we definitely get a healthy rebate at the end. Costco is awesome.

  8. The Other Leanne

    Our way-too-small-to-have-a-Costco town got one many years ago, and the first time I went in I spent 3 hours and $300. I’m proud to say it only takes me 1/3 of that time to spend that much now! And apparently everyone else does the same thing, because a few years ago they built an even bigger store…er “warehouse.” The busiest time as near as I can tell is Friday afternoons, when it’s not only a stocking-up for the weekend thing, but a “fill up on samples so you don’t have to cook dinner” event.

  9. Katie K.

    I don’t think the Gold membership gets the coupons either. Not positive, but the coupons are generally really good. The big tub or organic baby greens is awesome. They stay fresh for at least a week, usually longer. The organic milk and egg prices can’t be beat. Also, if you eat a lot of salsa, look for the Jack’s brand. So tasty and no preservatives! The take and bake pizzas are pretty good and the Kirkland brand toilet paper and tissues are really nice. Happy shopping!

  10. el-e-e

    Enjoy. It’s love-hate for me with Costco. And inevitably I get home and realize they didn’t have X, whichwe neeeeeeeed it to survive the week, so I then go right to Publix and spend 5 MORE dollars. Makes me want to cry every time.

  11. Sarah B.

    *sigh* There’s no Costco in my state. At all. Or Trader Joe’s. It’s probably better for my wallet, but then I read posts like these and feel all neglected. Ah, well… life could be worse! I could have a pineapple drop on my foot ;) (Hope the foot didn’t sustain permanent damage!)

  12. Summer

    I have to do a lot of mental math at Costco, drawing on my internal database of grocery prices so I can figure out that YES the 4 pound bag of organic quinoa is a good deal but NO I won’t buy cereal because I can get it for much less at Publix when it goes BOGO and I have coupons.

    I shop at Costco almost every week because our local one is on my route to my weekly dance class, and in the evenings ours is deserted, so it’s easy for me to pop in and pick up some produce and eggs and a few other random items. And then I check out and discover that I’ve spent $75 on 7 items and my heart breaks a little bit.

    FWIW, in addition to the quinoa, I’ve also decided that the following items are Very Good Deals at Costco: coconut oil, chocolate chips, avocados, allergy medicine, mahi mahi burgers (delicious!), and organic spinach/spring mix.

    • Sarah

      Yeah, it is easy to feel like you are saving when really the prices on many things have good competition elsewhere. When I lived a 40min drive from a Costco and was a two-person family, the savings just didn’t add up against the membership fee plus gas for driving all the way there and back. But it can be really worthwhile if the stuff your family uses loads of is also the stuff that’s a good deal. Have fun!

    • Karen R

      Does your Costco still have quinoa? I had a friend pick it up for me pre-membership, but only saw it once in the stores (I have 3 within 12 miles — try not to be jealous, Mir…) since we joined last spring.

  13. Megan

    – putting on my newly polished horns, swooping my tail over my arm in a jaunty fashion and picking up my very BEST pointy trident –

    Have you perused Costco online yet? Because all SORTS of lovely items are there, plus it’s free delivery, plus they have a fantastic return policy.

    I have no Costo here (NOR DO I HAVE IKEA – which is totally unfair!) and I really do miss it.

    Also (is this blasphemy?) I am starting to be rather irritated with Amazon. Their prices are no longer quite so good (recently TWICE what I was finding elsewhere on several different items), their recent borking up of the back button really makes me cross, and it seems that more and more things are sold through affiliates which gets my anxiety going. Maybe that’s just Amazon.co.uk though? Perhaps the USA one is still All That Is Good and Righteous?

    • Jacqueline

      Aagh, the back button thing is making me crazy as well! What is UP with that?

    • Erin

      For the Amazon price issue(s), there is an add-on you can put on your browser (I have it on Chrome, no earthly idea if it’s on FF) called Invisible Hand. Supposedly, it’s supposed to override whatever algorythms Amazon has in place to get you your “Special” price based on your browsing history, but more importantly, it does a quick search of prices when you’re on the product page and will come up and tell you if the Amazon price is the lowest and if it’s not, where the lowest price is. Handy as heck, I tell ya.

      Mir, for ages and ages, Rochester (NY) was as uncool as your home city – we had no Costco OR Whole Foods OR Trader Joe’s. Now we have a TJs *AND* it seems that Costco is coming to a … slightly nearby city to us. YAY! I’m a little afraid to go because I don’t think I can handle shopping-totals-that-make-you-want-to-vomit.

  14. Jamie

    Yep, Costco goer here. Went yesterday. I typically go first thing when it opens on Saturday or Sunday, but I needed wine yesterday, so I had to go a bit later so it was at least noon when I checked out (stupid Texas liquor laws). It was pretty crazy, but I survived. With two good sized dogs, dog food and wine were the main reasons to go yesterday.

    • Arnebya

      Jamie, what’re the liquor laws in Texas? I’m assuming it’s a can’t buy until this hour kind of thing?

      • Shelly in Austin

        Can’t buy beer or wine until after 12:00 on Sunday. Can’t buy liquor at all on Sunday.

  15. Arnebya

    Until last year (or the year before, I forget, because Benadryl), we had to drive to VA (still just across a bridge, down some roads, there in 20 minutes). Now, we have a Costco in DC proper (I tend to like to spend my money here rather than in neighboring states. Because we aren’t a state. And we should be. And taxation without representation and…yeah). ANYWAY, we went recently and had to really scale down our usual purchases. We stuck to meats, fruits, and things that we usually find ourselves running to the regular grocery store twice a week for: popcorn, granola bars, Cheez Its. Some things, for us, make no sense. Like 4 jars of pasta sauce. No. But a big ass bag o’ grits? Yes, please. Also, lots and lots of toilet paper. Ain’t bought toilet paper since June (and no, we don’t need to yet. That’s just nasty and I am so not using my 27 boxes of Puffs plus lotion for that).

  16. Chuck

    If they had a Costco Express (or a Costco for people without large families) I would be more tempted. As it is, every time I try going I do get some products I like, but way too much of them. I do hear that their pharmacies have very good prices so you might consider that in your monthly trips as well.

  17. Anne

    I live in the congested north east and have three Costcos in easy traveling distance. What I find interesting is that while the bulk of the merchandise is the same they do carry different things. Only one carries the quinoa, one the super cheap large Fage and two carry the goat cheese. Of course I cannot get all of those at one and find myself going to more than one Costco equalling out to about once a week trips. I figure that I save enough on the dog food and Fage to pay for the membership, tho with the 2% yearly return the fee is already covered. You do have to be an educated consumer, not everything is a saving.
    Don’t forget the special services like photo printing and my favorite, Optical. We get our eyes checked there ($70.00), our glasses made there ( cheap and nice choices. My progressives only $200.) and contacts there.

  18. Mary K

    We live in the Seattle area, within an hour of at least 5-10 Costco warehouses and 15 minutes from the “home office,” so we can choose our chaos level. Good news/bad news!

    Great deals on big ticket items abound, and the quality of meat and produce is pretty amazing, especially considering the volume they do. $5 roasted chickens are awesome.

    Best value, though, here is gas — at least 10-15 cents cheaper per gallon. That alone makes the trip to a Costco with a gas station worth it.

    Oh, and liquor. Except we now have Total Wine and More, with a greater selection, so that gets more of our business…

  19. Niki

    We did the exact same thing this weekend – we haven’t had a Costco membership since the free one they gave us 8 or 9 years ago when they came to town. I signed up for a membership (and of course the Amex) at a health fair several weeks ago, and the cards had come in the mail and sat forgotten on the desk. This weekend I had some time between errands, and hubby suggested we go somewhere. I was thinking “the mountains or the movies”, but apparently he was thinking Costco. Of course, I hadn’t showered, my hair was a mess, my clothes were barely acceptable for public consumption – and we had to have our pictures taken. Then there were 8,367 people in Costco – holy buckets, I will NEVER go back on a Saturday. There was so much to look at, but I just couldn’t handle the crowds (who brings all four of their kids to Costco on a Saturday?) and we ended up spending less than $100. We will definitely go back, but weekends are now verboten.

  20. Mary K

    One more thing: paperback books! I learned a great trick — take a picture of my bookshelf just before we head to the warehouse. Then, when we get to the book table, I can pull up my phone and check to see what we already have. Purchase accordingly!

    Although Costco’s return policy is awesome, the lines are sometimes long, and for an $8 paperback… oy.

  21. Susan

    Please remember’s that Sam’s Club is owned by Walmart.
    Costco on the other hand, not only pays a livable wage, hires many full-time employees, they offer HEALTH insurance to their employees. It does feel better to shop at a large crazy store that values it’s employees.

    Welcome to the Club, Mir!

    • Beth A.

      Just pointing out (since my mom is employed by Walmart) that Walmart (at least here) hires full time people and offers Health insurance. And her coverage is better than mine — and I work a government job.

  22. suburbancorrespondent

    Maple syrup is an awesome buy at Costco – sometimes I beg my friends to get me some. We have commissary privileges, or I could EASILY justify that Costco membership.

  23. Sharon

    No Costcos in Maine:( I am encouraged by what I hear about employee wages and positive working environment. I will join the minute they put one in or around Portland, which is 45 miles away but that’s where the Trader Joe’s is located so I make the trip.

  24. Kim in Minnesota

    Wait until you find yourself wearing an outfit coordinated entirely from Costco purchases… But wait. Did you say warehouse frappuccino? I am going to have to make that request. Pretty sure I’ve never seen that at our Costco snack bar. Sounds wonderful!

  25. Anne

    We live about 3 miles away from our local Costco – the 3rd one built in a 15 mile radius of us. (Yes, that’s one of the joys of living in So Cal, along with all the smelly smog.) Since it’s so close (and so cheap) we end up using it as our local “grocery store”, modifying our diet to what’s on sale there instead of the expensive store (the most expensive chain store in the area) down the street.

    So, between the dairy and eggs and chicken from Costco and the super cheap fresh fruit / veggies / mystery beef sales from the hispanic store in our little “downtown”, we eat a pretty good “Gluten-free-Paleo-style-with-yummy-cheese-and-yogurt” diet without emptying our wallet too quickly.

    But yeah, those weekly runs to Costco add up fast! We nicknamed Costco the “$100 store”, since you can’t leave that store without spending at least $100!

  26. katspeakz

    We joined ages ago for the cheap diapers and wipes and we’ve stayed for everything else. Besides all the food and paper products, my bedroom set, dining room table, leather sofa, bookshelves, flat screen tvs and lots of other stuff have come from Costco.

    We also use our AmEx card for literally everything and my husband, who flies for work usually weekly, puts his travel expenses on the card (which he is reimbursed for) and our rewards check this last year from AmEx was in the mid- four figures.

    The family usually hits up Costco once a week. And the birthday cakes are the best.

  27. JennyA

    I have a membership through the office and go every couple of weeks. It’s crazy to shop there regularly for one person. For instance, I bought an enormous vat of laundry detergent there two years ago that’s still going strong, so I’m fairly certain I’m not their target demographic. But I do have a few things on my usual list that make a periodic stop there worth it for me: La Croix fizzy water, coffee pods, multipacks of canned tomatoes (for the Magic Tomato Sauce), wine and gas.

    Did you ever see the Jack-In-the-Box commercial from a few years ago where Jack is in a Costco-type warehouse store for the first time and overjoyed at all the deals? At one point he looks up and says, gleefully and disbelievingly: “FLAT-SCREEN TWO PACK???” So now that’s what I always say when we walk in.

  28. Frank

    While there are some deals for food and perishables, both good and bad, I have to say that its the non food and non perishable stuff that makes the place. Gas, headache and allergy meds (dailies around our house), paper towels, TP, pet food, soap and cleaning supplies, etc. Now sometimes we can catch stuff on sale at other places making it cheaper, but when we need the stuff it is a good enough deal that I dont feel guilty buying it. Plus, any way to give my money to someone other than WallyWorld and its minions is agreeable to me.

  29. Karen R

    The nuts! I think my membership fee will be covered by cashew savings alone.

    • Karen R

      And if you haven’t sprung for the coconut cashews yet, beware. Totally addictive.

  30. Jeanie

    Also? Costco has really nice dog beds.

  31. Tiffany

    We shop costco quite a bit…. I do know that if you don’t like the obscene crowds then avoid the first and last weekends of the coupon book sales. Those are a,ways the busiest. We also avoid the times that they sample, because its just not worth your kids being trampled over getting a tiny bit of something to taste.

  32. Lynda M O

    three words to describe our local Costco: Key Lime Pie.

  33. chrissie

    uh oh. sounds like you had a Costco Incident.

    what my sister calls it when you go in to costco for a couple things and come out having spent oops $400+

  34. meeshie

    I have a Costco membership. The last time I went there to pick up their artisan rolls (and just the rolls damnit because they’re really really good and addictive) I somehow left spending $275 on stuff I suddenly REALLY REALLY needed.

    That place is the devil.

  35. Lucinda

    Before Amazon had groceries, the only Costco was an hour away because we lived in a turn on the road size town. It was totally worth the membership even though we only went 3-4 times a year. You will learn over time what is a deal and what isn’t. One thing about Costco is that they don’t always have the cheapest items, but they have good quality at a great price. This is true for both groceries and non-food items. Somebody mentioned cereal is not a deal. I agree. Don’t buy cereal.

    Be aware it is a warehouse and while it’s better than it used to be, don’t ever go planning to buy a specific item because their inventory does change somewhat. They generally carry Kirkland stuff consistently but other brands change. For example, the used to carry Scope (which we love) but now they carry Listerine instead (which we hate). Tabasco sauce (ick) instead of Cholula but last week they had Cholula the day I went in. I’m sure it will be gone again next time.

    Finally, the American Express card combined with an Executive Membership really is a good deal. As someone mentioned, they guarantee you your Costco rebate will at least enough to cover the difference between the regular and exec membership. The AMEX rebate is just gravy. We generally get back at least $250 in rebates between the two and I go about once every other month.

  36. Little Bird

    On my CostCo ID I looked like a cross between a frog and my aunt (who I’d rather not look like). I favored the enormous jars of sun dried tomatoes, the wine, and the multipacks of toiletry items. Also, my TV came from there, and it’s a pretty pretty flat screened jobber that is big enough for me to read the subtitles from as far as four feet away! Whut? I’m nearsighted!

  37. Nani Jojo

    Love the column and the comments! Everbody goes crazy on their first Costco trip — spending a gazillion $ on bargains you can’t resist is, well, irresistible. Over time, though, you get into a groove and figure out what the best things are for the best prices, and make a beeline for those items. For us (yes “just” two of us) it’s the amazing coffee, Kirkland Greek yogurt, Virginia peanuts, fruit, veggies, and that fabulous rotissere chicken for $4.99. Meats, fish, and staples get filled in as they get used up, like paper and cleaning products. You also figure out that some items are very seasonal. Landscape plants (amazing quality and price) in spring, furniture in fall and post-Christmas, toys and CHEAP great gifts, paper, ribbon and decor pre-Christmas (as in starting now…). And the roses! And the online flowers! Did our son’s entire wedding including bridal bouquet for $250! And the gas prices! Exec membership, clearly, works for us.

  38. Heidi

    I looooove Costco. Their return policy is outstanding. Once you know what’s available it’s easy to make a list and stick to it next time you go in; that’ll keep the total down. By the way, I’ve done very well on big ticket items – mattresses, winter tires. But they were on my list.

  39. musingsfromme/jill

    I’m so glad you are drinking the Costco Koolaid! My husband and I have been members of a warehouse club since 1991 when we were newlyweds (we joined Pace Membership Warehouse that became Sam’s Club). In fact when we joined Costco in the 93/94 it was called Price Club…in fact we still call it Price Club!

    Not only does Costco have great deals on food and other items, but the Costco Auto program is very good. We have purchased the last 5 new cars thru the program. We literally walked in to a local dealership affiliated with Costco and got the lowest price on the car we wanted. No haggle and no hassle. We even re-financed our home through Costco’s mortgage services. It’s a true one-stop shopping experience.

  40. Cran

    Hmmm. Went to Costco to gift my daughter with a membership but was totally turned off because you can’t do that unless you are already a member yourself. Really? I’m offering a company $50 and they say (essentially) $100 or nothing? Forget it. I used to go there (years ago) with my dad but I find BJ’s Warehouse Club to be closer to home and just as accommodating for my needs. Plus, pretty sure there is no Am-Ex hard sell at BJ’s.

  41. lizneust

    I am jumping on the pro-Costco bandwagon. My husband and I have been members since 1998, before we were married. In fact, we did our own rehearsal dinner (BBQ) from there because where else are you going to get steaks, salmon, asparagus and pie for 50 people? Okay, here’s my thoughts. (I just read this over – I didn’t mean to write a treatise. Sorry)

    1) The Amex they make you get *does* pay for itself. First, Amex requires that you pay it off every month. There is no carry forward on the balance. It means that you treat it like cash or a debit card – no debt. As you use it, you accrue points with Costco and that rebate check once a year will probably fund an entire trip and still cover the cost of membership. Seriously.

    2) You can’t necessarily predict what they will have re: a specific brand, but they always have set categories. They might not have Cheezits every time you go (although they do whenever I go to mine), but they will have a snack thing that your kids will like. They will have seasonal fruit and vegetables plus some of the exotics, standard cuts of meat and chicken, and all of your pantry staples. And they are dead reliable on brands of soda, condiments, paper towel / toilet paper / kleenex, and cleaning products.

    3) You MUST go with a list. You can impulse buy like crazy in there, so a list helps keep it under control. I have a friend who takes a calculator to make sure she stays under a specific total, and another who gives herself a $25-50 budget for the impulse buy. My husband keeps track of the prices on the stuff we buy every time, just to make sure they haven’t shifted too much, which also helps us predict how much we’ll spend.

    4) Most of the stores have cell service. Which means you can price compare with Amazon, Best Buy, your local grocery store as you stand there and try and figure out if $8 for two enormous jars of peanut butter is a good deal. I do that ALL the time, and it kept me from buying what looked like an awesome deal on Nutella but was slightly more expensive than what I would have paid for at the local grocery store for a less ridiculously huge jar.

    5) Costco online is awesome, as are the OTC medicines (house brand is super cheap), electronics (see earlier comment about price comparing in the store with Amazon and Best Buy), eye glasses and the various car programs. I’ve never used them for vacation packages or flooring or my mortgage, but I know people who have and love it.

    6) The house brand – Kirkland – is excellent. Those products are purchased so commonly now that they are included in any evaluation that Consumer Reports does. The laundry detergent, dog food, and cereal are some of my favorites. (Although their baby wipes were NOT so good.)

    You only need to make the trip 4 times a year. My big trigger point is when we run out of paper towel or toilet paper OR if we are shopping for a new computer or some big ticket item. The first visit is always the most expensive, just because it is SO overwhelming. Lastly (and I mean it), you will have a much better experience if you are there when the doors open on the weekend or around dinner time. Lunch time on a Saturday or Sunday is stupid crowded. Good luck.

  42. kimmie

    Awwwwwww…..I luv luv luv Frances!!!!!!!

    We have Sam’s Club. It’s about 45 minutes away. Dh gets a membership through his company. You’d think that would mean a discount. Nope. I think I CAN shop from 7am-10:30am during the company account hours, though. LOL

    It’s soccer and golf season so I bought bottles and bottles and bottles of Gatorade the last time I was in The Big City.

  43. Mother Chaos

    LOL – welcome to the cult. Er, club. I’m with you on the crowds, I *hate it* when I have to go on a weekend.

    I’m one of the crazed lunatics getting the 5-dozen eggs, 50# sacks of flour and sugar, #10 cans of tomatoes and green beans and corn, OH MY. (Um. Don’t get behind me at the checkout. Just…don’t…)

    By the way, maple syrup: I got mine from Emerick’s in PA this year (http://www.puremaplesyruponline.com/products.htm). My total with shipping from PA to CA was $48 a gallon ($40 for the syrup, $8 for the shipping per gallon); our Costco has maple syrup at $16 per liter, which works out to about $60 a gallon sooooo…bargain! :p

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