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Are wholesale clubs like CostCo and Sams Club worth the money?

January 7th, 2006 Tony Leave a comment Go to comments

I was a Sam’s Club member for several years. I always felt like I was getting a deal but there are always the naysayers that claim that the deals are sporadic and you often get screwed. Today I joined CostCo not because I think its better than Sams. Actually they feel identical to me except for the fact that the CostCo checkout line seemed to move faster. I joined CostCo because my wife and I recently moved to Chapel Hill and CostCo was much closer. I spent a total of $606.48 today not including my CostCo membership of which I paid $45. $310.29 of my purchase was business (a fireproof safe for my office).

I decided to figure out how much money I saved by shopping at the wholesale club. I accomplished this by comparing prices with those listed online for my local Harris Teeter that I regularly shop at.

The bottom line was far better than I ever imagined. The only item that wasn’t a bargain was the laundry detergent.

Total savings: $292.21

Gain Detergent
0.094 per load
0.117 per load
-$2.40 savings

0.42 per 12 oz. can
0.24 per 12 oz. can
$6.48 savings

Post Raisin Bran
0.15 per ounce
0.07 per ounce
$6.48 savings

0.17 per tablet
0.09 per tablet
$9.60 savings

Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars
0.34 per oz
0.14 per oz
$14.22 savings

Red Bell Peppers
2.99 each
1.00 each
$11.94 savings

Thomas’ English Muffins – Original
0.25 per oz
0.14 per oz
$3.39 savings

Boca Meatless Burgers – Original Vegan
0.36 per oz.
0.16 per oz.
$11.20 savings

Boneless Whole Pork Tenderloin
6.99 per lb.
2.99 per lb.
$16.80 savings

New York Strip Steak
9.99 per lb.
6.89 per lb.
$8.65 savings

Cascade Automatic Dishwasher Detergent
0.07 per oz.
0.055 per oz.
$6.87 savings

Generic Pepto Bismol
0.32 per oz.
0.12 per oz.
$3.79 savings

Viactiv Multi-Vitamin Soft Chews- Chocolate Supreme
0.13 each
0.09 each
$4.80 savings

Philips Longer Life Bulb
0.62 each
0.28 each
$5.44 savings

Boneless Pork Loin Chops
4.99 per lb.
2.29 per lb.
$16.20 savings

Ocean Spray Cranberry Blend Juice
0.06 per oz.
0.03 per oz.
$6.39 savings

3.0 cubic foot Fire Safe rated at 1 hour at 1700 degrees F (http://www.safe-mart.com/fify30cuftsa1.html)
$159.96 savings

Total savings: $292.21

I did not include all items I purchased only b/c I couldn’t find them on the Harris Teeter site.

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  1. Frequentshoper
    May 27th, 2006 at 15:12 | #1

    Comparing Harris Teeter and Costco grossly inflates the money you save because Harris Teeter is a ridiculous rip off to begin with. I can save money over Harris Teeter just by choosing any nearby competing supermarket instead.

  2. Debbie in WA
    October 9th, 2006 at 17:51 | #2

    I feel your comparisons are completely misleading. You began talking about comparing Costco to Sam’s Club and ended by comparing prices from Harris Teeter. How about comparing the prices between Sam’s Club and Costco? Then compare the membership fee to join each club.

  3. Tony
    October 10th, 2006 at 08:10 | #3

    “How about comparing the prices between Sam’s Club and Costco?”

    Because I’m not interested in those numbers. I’m a member at both and as I stated above I feel they are nearly identical.

    There is nothing misleading about what I wrote Debbie.

  4. chart
    November 1st, 2006 at 12:27 | #4

    it’s not misleading just because your google search brought up this page. he claims to be comparing X and Y, and compares them. everyone complains that he doesn’t compare X and Z. settle down and make your own comparison.

  5. Risskia
    March 6th, 2007 at 08:26 | #5

    The point about comparing Costco with Harris Teeter is valid, though. I’d like to see a comparison of Costco with Food Lion…

  6. roy in nc
    May 2nd, 2007 at 22:52 | #6

    nothing wrong with comparing any of the stores. howver i find shopping at ht a much more civilized experience. i hate grocery shopping anyhow – at any store.

  7. SINGH
    October 27th, 2007 at 10:39 | #7


  8. tony
    October 27th, 2007 at 11:35 | #8


  9. tammy
    February 22nd, 2008 at 16:57 | #9

    I don’t quite know what it is that Debbie doesn’t understand. He started out commenting on other people’s statements that you don’t really save by shopping at wholesale clubs. He then proved them wrong. His comparison to his local grocer vs. Costco is legit. I could compare Sam’s to Kroger, or Von’s, and it would be a credible argument. To say that you can shop someplace cheaper than Kroger or Von’s wouldn’t validate her argument, because they are real stores, with many, many real customers. Sure, I may be able to save a little more over them by going to some of those stores with much less strict standards when it comes to cleanliness, or selection, but, no thanks. So, do your own comparison, using a Sam’s or Costco, compared to where you would shop if there were neither around. You can do it on the net. If you save, join. If you don’t, don’t. Stop bashing without reason.

  10. John B.
    February 24th, 2008 at 23:06 | #10

    Costco and Sams are pretty much the same on items that they both carry — by brand. Where the differ is that Costco carries higher end goods than Sams. If you are looking to save a couple of cents on a big box of Cheerios, don’t bother — unless you eat a lot of Cheerios. If you want first quality meats and high quality dry goods, join. Costco if there is one where you live, Sams if that is the only option. Between the two, I’d pick Costco. Better goods, service, and attitude all around.

  11. Austin
    March 7th, 2008 at 14:29 | #11

    The problem is that Debbie didn’t read the entire intro. I made the same mistake. But, I think we should still make fun of her.

  12. March 11th, 2008 at 19:18 | #12

    I think you missed the point, you should of compared to wal-mart. Pretty much only people that want to throw money away shop at H.T.

  13. Brian
    March 14th, 2008 at 14:36 | #13

    I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I shop at Pathmark and Acme (I live in Newark, DE) and other regular grocery stores, so this comparison was quite valuable to me. It also makes me feel better about the Costco membership I purchased last night :0)

  14. Josh
    April 21st, 2008 at 11:30 | #14

    Everyone keeps talking about whether or not this makes sense, whether or not it is valuable to THEM?

    All this is useless, what ever happened to the good ol’ Debbie bashing? I am with Austin on that one.

  15. Dee
    May 3rd, 2008 at 20:00 | #15

    He did just that, compare the prices of two different lcoal he markets. I buy from Costco, and I get my bargain, but being a student, some time buying in bulk is unecessay because certain items can be wasted. How ever laundry detergent, and veggie, are vaulable to me, and EVERYone ignore JOSH he is a FOOL!

  16. francisco
    May 19th, 2008 at 01:45 | #16

    Hei guys I am going to get ether sam’s club or costco membership I have no idea wish one to get can you guys give me an idea wish one is more convenient for me or does’t matter leave opinion I buy like toilet papar,kitchen towels,cleaning staff,laundry soap tank you

  17. Kassie
    June 11th, 2008 at 14:19 | #17

    Sam’s vs. Costco. If you can stand (or like) shopping at Wal-Mart and dealing with the unfriendly service, unclean store, long lines, rude customers, then select Sam’s. If you’re looking for a much more positive experience like helpful staff, shorter lines, more courteous guests, then select Costco.

    For commodity items, they’re both comparable. Costco seems to have better deals on non-commodity items like furniture, seasonal plants, etc. For example, I just ordered a pair of earbuds from Costco.com (need a membership) for $25 and the cheapest I could find the same pair on line was for $69.

  18. Larry
    August 27th, 2008 at 00:23 | #18

    It’s not even close…Sam’s. Costco’s basic memebership is 20% more and the cost of comparible goods can be as high as 10% more. Costco is struggling to keep their prices from going up farther, which is due to take a big chunk out of future profits. Sam’s can affort to offset inflationary pressures because its part of Walmart. It can play the game of keeping and obtaining members longer than Costco on price alone. I’ve been to both places(through memberships and friend’s membership)and, outside of the recent rice insanity, Sam’s has kept prices in check while Costco has not. Inflation is gonna kill all them eventually, but you have to think who has reserves to win what there calling the ‘infationary food cost wars.’ Its Sam’s because its got the biggest checkbook since its part of the retail bully that is Walmart. I don’t care about the nonsense Costco’s PR says about Walmart, its about my wallet and my family. And understand I don’t like either Sam’s or Costco, I like BJ’s Wholesale (better service and selection than the big two), but they aren’t going due too hot at controlling prices if things get as bad as there predicting (6% inflation on food for 2009, yikes).

  19. zagnut
    November 2nd, 2008 at 07:52 | #19

    You all are a bunch of losers, fighting about sams club online….GET A LIFE!!!!

  20. sara
    November 4th, 2008 at 10:14 | #20

    I would like to see a comparison of sales prices on all of the items you list at places like Target, local grocer, Meijer, Walmart and what they cost at CostCo and Sam’s Club. I am would venture a guess that between the cost of gas to get there and membership fees, you would break about even.

  21. tony
    November 4th, 2008 at 16:58 | #21

    No way. You might save a dollar on a sale item at the local Target or grocer but no way you’ll save as much as you do at the wholesale clubs.

    In my area, getting to Costco is about another $2 in gas compared to the closest Target or grocery. Thats the point of this post. I felt the same way you did until I did the math. The key is to be conservative when you are at the wholesale club. Only buy what you know you will use and only buy non-perishable stuff or food that you can freeze.

    Also look again at my total savings of nearly $300. Thats more than 10 times my membership fee in just 1 trip.

  22. rob
    November 8th, 2008 at 16:27 | #22

    um, if you paid $45 and saved $300, then you only saved about 6.5x your membership. not ‘more than 10′. still a good savings though. and completely justifies the cost.

  23. Jay
    November 11th, 2008 at 14:31 | #23

    Grr.. I hate Debbie soo much.

  24. popeye
    November 21st, 2008 at 10:20 | #24

    Good topic. Since I do not have a membership and have no idea on what products are there, I have a question to all of the Costco shoppers if they have these items (which I purchase frequently), plus the cost.

    -Post Great Grains Raisins, Dates, & Pecans cereal
    -Tide Liquid detergent (64oz)
    -Kellogg’s Special K red berries (16.4 oz)
    -Charmin Ultra soft toilet paper (24 rolls)
    -Bounty paper towel (white)(56 sheets a roll, 15 rolls per case)
    -Archer Farm Grape Juice (64oz)