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Should I Join Costco?

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I have heard a lot of good things about Costco as a company and I would like to support ethical businesses but I am not sure that Costco would really be useful for me. I cook/shop for about five dinners and seven breakfasts for a household of three every week. I get my eggs (very good, very fresh) from a local farmer. Some vegatables and fruit I get from my local coop, some from the supermarket. I get most non-food items from the supermarket and I generally use paper good made from recycled paper. I rarely buy meat but I do buy a lot of cheese. During the growing season most vegatables come "free" from my daughter's farm. Also Costco has a liquor store but the choice is limited and, because of state laws, anyone can buy there.
The closest Costco is about 7 miles away. For those of you who are members - would you recommend that I join?

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  1. I have been a member since 1993.............
    There are months that we spend hundreds, and months that we spend nothing.

    However, TRY IT>>>The membership fee is 100% REFUNDABLE. If it doesn't work for you there is no loss.

    Aside from food, I always buy my eyesglasses there. My progressive bifocals with a basic plastic frame are $135 at Costco, Lenscrafters wanted over $300 for the cheapest.

    Tuesday, my wife got a 20" Visio HD TV for $219.99.

    Our Greyhound took human high blood pressure medicine. The generic Rx was $79 at Walgreen's, It was less than $8 at Costco. Costco also gives an additional discount to those members who do not have prescription insurance.

    Regular Gasoling this week was $2.65/gallon at my local station, and only $2.43 at Costco.

    We don't buy the super size packaging of most of their items. BUT, 1% milk is $2.05/gallon at Costco and $3,89 at Stop and Shop.

    This is not a paid advertisement, and I don't work for Costco. BUT it saves us many times the $50 annual fee.

    4 Replies
    1. re: bagelman01

      I'm always amazed how cheap generic prescription drugs are when I pick them up.

      Consumer Reports Nov. 2006, the Costco optical department was rated the best place for buying eyeglasses for most people.

      Consumer Reports April 2009, Costco ranked #7 in the National Supermarket ratings...#1 Wegmans, #2 Trader Joe's.

      1. re: monku

        Here in CT, state licensed departments are open to the public (Pharmacy, Hearing Aids, Optical and Liquor). Costco just doesn't make an effort to make it known. BUT, the extra discounts at pharmacy for uninsured are restricted to members.

        1. re: bagelman01

          You can go to all the optical depts without being a member.

          1. re: rockandroller1

            I think you will find that optical requires a state license in all states.

    2. not unless you need to buy "things" in bulk.

      7 miles, is it far or not compared to the other places you buy groceries ?

      1. It really doesn't sound like you fit their target demographic unless you are interested in their non-food items.
        I would, as bagelman01 suggested, check it out; especially since all Costcos have different buyers you never know what special items your local store might carry.

        Truth be told, once my child is out of diapers (please be soon, please be soon), I'm going to give up my membership...which won't make my hubby happy since they're his source for Mexican Coke.

        1. It really depends on what you are looking to buy, but I think it's worth it more for the non-food items with the food items as an added perk from time to time. I know our Costco has great meat and other items that are a little more interesting/different from what we find in our regular stores. As bagelman has pointed out, there are great deals on electronics and for me the value of the membership comes in the health/beauty department. Those items are typically much more expensive in other stores than they are in Costco.

          1. If you drive the 7 miles to your local Costco and tell them that you would like a trial membership, you can browse/shop the store and make an informed decision. Asking total strangers to make this decision for you will not produce the best answer.

            1. As others have pointed out, it really depends you and your needs. That includes what you buy and how much of it, how convenient the store is to you relative to others where you can get the same things, your tolerance for their quirky checkout procedures, how much you buy, or can buy, in a single trip, and so on.

              Most things there, not all, but most are sold in very large quantities. It's cheap, but foods, unless you can use it up in a reasonable time, spoil (how many households can really use, say, 7 big avocados within a few days). Non-foods just get lost over time (will you ever really use all of that 30 pack of AA batteries?, and where do you put them).

              They are always cheap on some things, such as paper goods, but you may have a store near you that has comparable prices occasionally--I found while I was a member that I could get comparable prices at normal stores when things were on sale--you just have to wait until they are and then pounce. It depends on how you shop.

              Unless you consistently use really big quantities of things they have, then the savings you achieve are going to be attenuated by the membership cost itself, the tendency to buy more stuff that you really didn't need just because it seemed a deal at the time, spoilage and losses, the inconvenience of having to shop in a mammoth store, the inconvenience of the self-load checkout process, the typical long checkout lines, and so on. For many it's a great thing. For others, not so much.

              1. For me, it's worth it just for the Coffee, Vanilla Beans, Better than Bouillion (low sodium & organic) Hunks of Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese or the Point Reyes Blue Cheese (I'm in Oakland, CA). And their prices on electronics and cookware are pretty amazing. Worth the membership price to at least check it out for a year. not to mention the "sampling buffet" @ most stores and their prime meats (see other threads...) and their very fresh seafood. No, I don't work for Costco... adam

                1 Reply
                1. re: adamshoe

                  I'm in San Francisco and we definitely make out on the cheese options here in the Bay Area. The Pt Reyes Blue, the Rouge et Noir Camemberts, etc. I think it's all about your local store. We also stock up on booze there but that's a non-issue for you... Cookbooks?

                  Folks above have made great suggestions for checking it out, sans membership. Worth a try. Don't go hungry.

                2. I have bought 3 sets of tires at Costco this year. Saved enough for many years of membership fees.

                  1. No need to say it again, but it depends on what you use. There are certain things that I buy there over and over again and the prices are great:

                    Honey Nut Cheerios and Frosted Mini Wheats (my husband eats cereal every day)
                    Paper towels (Bounty)
                    toilet paper (Charmin)
                    Corn Muffins (comes in pack of 12 and they freeze beautifully)
                    Grated parmesan cheese
                    Tyson chicken tenderloins (for some reason these are only available at Costco, not regular supermarkets)

                    Sometimes I go there for 1 or 2 things and walk out spending $200. Other times I just run over there for their roast chickens ($4.99 and the best roast chicken anywhere).

                    I don't buy a ton of fresh fruit (other than grapes) or vegetables, mostly because we don't go through it fast enough. We entertain a lot, though, and I will buy meat there. The quality is excellent and so are the prices.

                    Oh, and to johnb regarding the batteries...I have 2 small kids and those 2 kids have lots of toys that require batteries, so we do go through LOTS of batteries in this household! We keep them in the extra refrigerator in the laundry room.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: valerie

                      Bless your heart Valerie. I was tickled by your response (as my dad would have said). And if you have 2 small kids, you are certainly a prime Costco customer.

                    2. It's basically a no risk membership. You don't think you like it they'll refund your membership no questions asked. On that note they have one of the most liberal return policies on almost anything you buy. You may have bought an appliance or something a year or so ago and return it because it broke or something, you don't need a receipt, they have a record of all your purchases and will refund your money.

                      You're obviously happy with your food situation. Food may not be your primary reason for being a member. They make sure their in-house brand Kirkland meets or exceeds the quality of the name brand items.

                      There are many non-food items and benefits of being a Costco member that outweigh the cost of membership and will pay for itself in the savings. Not everything at Costco is about buying large quantities like everyone thinks. Gasoline, tires and service, no fee American Express card, prescription drugs, photo department, optical department, clothing, to name a few that will more than pay for your annual membership in savings.

                      Costco's a way of life for our family. Wherever we travel we have to stop in and check out the local Costco to see what they have to offer. We're even shareholders.

                      So take advantage of the no risk membership guarantee....you have nothing to lose and all to gain. There's more to Costco than buying food.

                      1. The short answer is YES.
                        My suggestion is go ahead and get a membership and give it a go. As others have stated, you can always opt out. I love the place. I don't mind buying in bulk though.

                        You mentioned buying recycled paper products. Not sure about your Costco but ours sells TP and PT made from recycled materials. They also have bio friendly softener and washing machine soap.

                        Cheese is cheap. Spices are a good deal buy you have to buy the large containers.


                        1. /thanks everyone for your advise. I appreciate the time you all took to tell me about your experience in some detail. I will go over to Costco, along with a list of things I buy frequently or expect to buy soon, and wander through to see what they have. I didn't know that the membership is refundable - that is kind of a clincher for me.
                          Thanks again and Sebetti - your child WILL eventually be out of diapers!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Fiona

                            Also, one more thing. We are in between two Costco stores and I've noticed that the close-in urban one sells things in smaller sizes for all of the apartment dwellers who live adjacent. The suburban one....bigger containers. For example, the urban store sold a two or three pack of small Hellman's mayo whereas the suburban store sold a single HUGE Hellman's containers. So location may affect what you see in your location.

                            We are huge Costco fans and spend enough to more than double our membership fee. Like the others, we buy food and non-food items. Definitely check it out and see if it works for you.

                          2. Great optical department, but as someone said some states require certain things to be oen to the public - In VA I have to be a member for optical but can get Rx without a membership.
                            They really seem to have a little something for everyone. I would recommend going with a notepad (they check cards, but just let them know you are considering joining and want to have a look) and jot down what you would be interested in buying. If you can't tell whether it is a good deal, put down quantity and price and do a comparison next time you are at the grocrey. I was surprised to find that the toilet paper price wasn't any better than the local Walmart, but I found enough "pros" for me to shell out the $50.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: aryqalyn

                              " I was surprised to find that the toilet paper price wasn't any better than the local Walmart"

                              How could that be? Toilet paper isn't always about price.
                              Kirkland Toilet Paper is Costco's #1 selling item.

                              1. re: monku

                                It was a while back, but I believe I compared name brand to the same name brand. Toilet paper is definitely about more than the price and the quality of the Kirkland's TP was an unknown factor at the time.

                            2. My membership is paid for in the cash back I get from the Costco Membership and Amex cards and we're a family of 2. Also, I purchased a Dell Lap Top Computer for less than Dell was selling the same model. I use Costco for over the counter non-perscription drugs, eyeware, tires and gasoline. Most Kirkland brand (Costco's own label) products are better than national brands and cheaper. A friend of mine returned a set of pots & pans after 7 years (they were warranteed for life) with no questions asked. Try it, if you don't feel it works for you they'll gladly refund your membership.

                              1. Disclaimer: I worked at the Costco buying office for most of the 90s.

                                That said, I've been a member for over twenty years, including my original Price Club membership.

                                we're a two person household. we don't buy much food at Costco. I buy the Valbreso feta there regularly and the hummus as well. Beyond that, I'll occasionally pick up other items(last week I grabbed some cherries and peaches for instance) but don't regulaly do any of my food shopping there. The quantities are too large for us and we're not big meat eaters so it doesn't make sense for us to buy large amounts of meat and freeze it. It would take us two years to get through a pack of steaks! When I make ribs for my family though I always get them there.

                                The other staple item we always buy there is paper towels and toilet paper. Price and quality wise theirs can't be beat. I store in a garage cabinet so don't mind buying so much at a time. Other things like laundry detergent I won't buy there despite the value because I hate handlign the huge bottles.

                                We still however get our money's worth from our membership. We live close to one warehouse and my hubsand works close to another so we always gas teh cars there. As mentioned, all our eyeglasses come from there. As mentioned, the eyeglasses are a great value and we always get ours there. Books are a great item to pick up. I often pick up dress shirts for my husband. The car rentals through the travel arm seem to be a great deal, at least we haven't found a cheaper option many times when we've been traveling.

                                Our purchases vary year to year. Some years we make bigger purchases(for instance a patio set and two leather club chairs we've bought in past years) and the membership pays off more. this year we haven't bought many big things but the gas still makes it worth it.

                                Give it a try. You really have nothing to risk if it doesn't work for you.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: ziggylu

                                  I don't want this thread to evolve into what are the best things to buy at Costco; there are plenty of those already. However, paper towels and toilet paper save us a ton of money. Canned sodas and V-8 likewise. King Crab legs are far cheaper than at any other fish market around. When we do big parties the booze, chips, etc., save us a bunch of dough. The big thing, though, is the AMEX card with the cash rebate. We get about $2,000 a year in cash back because you can use the card not only at Costco but anywhere. We get more than our membership fee back in savings. However, there is what we call the "Rule Of $100." It seems that we never can go there and get out for less than $100. Considering the lines at checkout, it doesn't make sense to spend less. BTW, you can't beat the pizza slice and drink, or the dog and drink (reference the threads on whether and when Costcos will abandon Hebrew National dogs and go to Kirkland). For sure go and get a guest pass and decide for yourself.

                                  1. re: TomSwift

                                    It's why my friend calls it "The Hundred Dollar Club"


                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      Jim Cramer of Mad Money CNBC says rich people shop there.

                                      1. re: monku

                                        I think it's supposed to be a trendy thing to do in Hollywood or something like that.


                                        1. re: monku

                                          It's more like smart people shop there.

                                    2. re: ziggylu

                                      Not to stray from topic, but would you know where/how I could obtain a complete list of all "Kirkland" food items? This would be for ziggylu please.

                                      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                                        Your best bet is to contact customer service and see if they'll send you one. They are typically very prompt in replying: http://www.costco.com/Service/Feature...

                                      1. I just mooch off other peoples' memberships. I'm single, I live alone, I have a little pantry but not a lot of storage space. I go on an ANNUAL trip to buy one package of toilet paper and one package of paper towel (one package of toilet paper actually lasts me thirteen or fourteen months), and then at the start of the school year I go with a colleague to stock up on miniature chocolate bars (Halloween sized) for my students. Sometimes I'm out with a friend and they decide to go to Costco after we have lunch; I just ask if I can tag along.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Jetgirly

                                          Also, I'm twenty-five and a pretty decent dresser. I might slop around in sweatpants and tank tops on "off" days, but I've got a lot of really nice clothes. Amazingly, some of my old favorite basics come from Costco. For layering pieces Costco is pretty good. Also, socks! I buy lots of socks there!

                                        2. I have many "I can't believe the customer service at Costco" stories, but my favorite is my kid was learning to drive, and damaged one of our relatively new Costco tires. I took the car into the auto shop to have the tire either repaired or replaced. They gave me 90% credit on the tire, and replaced it for 10% of the original cost. Amazing!

                                          The return policy is astonishing. And, there are many benefits to belonging beyond food alone.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: smtucker

                                            I once took a DVD burner that stopped working back 6 months later with no bill and no packaging. No problem.


                                            1. re: Davwud

                                              I brought back an HP DVD burner that stopped working that was 2 years old with the box and receipt and they gave me my money back.
                                              They tightened the rules on computers and certain electronics to 90 days, but still better than most places like Best Buy which are only 14 days.

                                          2. Absolutely you should join and get an executive membership. You have nothing to loose. If you don't save enough to pay for it they will refund the difference.
                                            I save a bundle on gas.
                                            Car rentals are a bargain through Costco.
                                            I received a $90 account bonus from a single Co. this year.
                                            I just used a $70 coupon for tires.
                                            Alcohol is the lowest price that any one can sell for in my state and they often have steals on wine.
                                            There really are a ton of great buys but as much as I appreciate the great prices It's nice to buy TP, paper towels, batteries etc and not think about it again for a few months. Not only does it save money but a lot of wasted time shopping in other stores.
                                            The return policy is fantastic and zero hassles from my experience.
                                            The other thing you might want to consider is the Costco shopping on line. Order on line and if you do not want the item they refund 100% of the cost including freight. They often have prime meats and other items on line you will never see in the store.

                                            1. I belong to CostCo for the prescription disounts, which make my meds affordable. I buy a few non food items and sometimes a book. As to buying fresh food from them, talk about stepping into the mega agribusiness cycle... I can't claim to be very rigorous about the ethics/economics of my shopping but CostCo never fails to remind me how expensive cheap food/things are - I spend as little as I can with them.
                                              I'd say join just don't forget about your farmer's mkt and independant businesses.

                                              1. We are a two member household. When we built our house the architect asked me if I wanted a "Costco closet" aka pantry. DH goes to Costco for steak, paper goods, wine, fresh roses, etc. Don't even get me started on the hotdogs lol!!!

                                                1. Yes. There's no risk to you. Quality food products, 14% markup only above wholesale.

                                                  1. I shop for my food pretty much like you do. What I get at Costco is well worth the membership, though. Recent purchases include recycled paper for my small business; dirt cheap shorts and hawaiian shirts that cost twice as much at the mall; DVDs that beat Amazon prices; healthy dog chews (can't beat the price in my county); respectable olive oil; organic less-processed sugar; no-phosphate dishwashing detergent, and of course, toilet paper!

                                                    Our local costco carries so many more environmentally friendly products than they used to. Hell, we have organic quinoa!

                                                    If you know someone with a membership, they can add you to theirs for 40 bucks. I'd be happy to do that for a friend.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Vetter

                                                      Business members rec' 2nd card free and add'l cards at 45.00 each. We've been buying add'l cards as employee gifts for years.

                                                    2. Where I live (now) , Costco has the best seafood, both fresh and frozen, in town, period. no contest. Before I moved here, I could never have imagined what a fan I'd become. (I was NOT a member in SF).

                                                      1. I also shop much as you do. We are a 2 person household. And we love Costco!
                                                        We don't purchase a wide variety of food items, but the price and quality is fantastic for the ones we do buy. I have some $$$ prescriptions and have priced them out at over a dozen places. I save a minimum of 20% and they deal with the insurance company!

                                                        They have a fair amount of organic and some fair trade items. The service is wonderful.

                                                        I have belonged to Sam's and BJ's and feel Costco is far superior. I do like the smaller sizes, greeting cards and deli at BJ's, but their customer service varies greatly from location to location.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                          I avoid going to Costco because I am too tempted to buy extra goodies, books, candles,
                                                          etc.... I am not a disciplined shopper and their low prices just sway me.
                                                          I renew my membership every year though.

                                                        2. Do you have pets? Kirkland's 40# dog kibble and 20# cat kibble both cost around $20 and are of comparable quality to Iams and Science Diet at roughly half the price. They have canned as well but I never bought that. Excellent prices on the large dog beds and dog blankets that are sporadically stocked.

                                                          I have only a few food items that I regularly buy there - roasted garlic loaf, chicken, cheese, croutons. But between the vitamins, dog items, books, and household items it's well worth it even though I'm a single-person household.

                                                          1. We had a Costco membership for a year... we let it lapse because the store was WAY too far away from our house to just drop in (about 10 miles), and because the place was an utter madhouse every time we went there. You couldn't even find any place to park... so we didn't use our membership nearly enough for it to be worth it. Last year they opened a BJs much closer to us (about 2 miles away) and we got a membership because DH needed new tires... we go there much more often because it's so much more convenient.

                                                            1. I have a Costco membership and a Sam's Club membership.

                                                              The savings from medication alone easily cover the cost of the Costco membership.

                                                              In terms of the food, though, although Sam's Club's baked goods choices are much better than Costco's, I prefer the fruit at Costco. The peaches and nectarines at Costco are soooo good that for me they are worth the cost of membership.

                                                              1. If the membership price is an issue you can split the membership since they give you two cards. Food wise, there's obviously stuff. There's a thread in the SF board about prime beef, steaks at Costco for $8.99 - $9.99. They're excellent and they're priced incredibly.


                                                                1. Really depends if you can find "goods" to shop at in Costco. I always think about my drive to Costco (8 miles) - is it worth the gas money? How much food do I need? Can I shop only at Costco or do I have to go to other stores to complete my shopping list? For me, I do just fine with 80% of my grocery/general shopping only at Costco

                                                                  I've been a Costco member since the early 90's and feed a party of 4 - my wife and kids. I do my shopping once a week or every other week since the quantity are in bulk.

                                                                  Their service are fantastic. It's already been said, if you're unhappy with being a member, it's 100% refundable.

                                                                  I'm a die-hard geek, which, I purchase most of my electronics from Costco. Now, I'm not sure if all Costco are the same, but generally they'll add 2 years on top of the manufacturer warranty. Some electronics even have a longer return policy (90 days) than other electronic stores like Bestbuy for instance. Costco is my first-stop to anything from getting my tires done to getting my gas and purchasing DVD movies. One of my co-worker's wife works for Disney and she said they have a contract with Disney - it's why Costco is able to sell DVDs at a lower cost than any other DVD sellers. I'm a carnivore, therefore I buy steaks a lot. As a matter of fact, I just stopped by this afternoon to fill up gas for my car, lunch - polish dog and a drink for less than $2, and my favorite snack - Babybel cheese!

                                                                  Try it!

                                                                  Costco Connection:

                                                                  1. We go to Costco every weekend to purchase 7 52 lb. bags of kibble for our greyhound adoption kennel, along with bleach and Lysol. We buy the Kirkland brand dog food for our house dogs. Their dog chews/biscuits/beds are awesome.

                                                                    In addition to all the doggie stuff, we regularly buy olive oil (Toscano), coffee (Don Pablo), laundry detergent, dishwasher soap (with a coupon I got enough to last us at least a year!), potstickers, Marcona almonds, OTC meds, toilet paper, steaks, chicken soup. Every now and then we purchase clothing items, electronics, etc.

                                                                    The "rebate" we get more than pays for the membership fee. Customer service is awesome!

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: onrushpam

                                                                      Pam - It looks like you are in FL and I don't know if you have BJ's there, but their big box of Berkley&Jensen (house brand) large dog biscuits (which contain chicken) are a huge favorite of my 3 Greymates. A nutritional analysis referenced on one of the GH chat sites a year or so ago rated the chicken&rice Kirkland kibble very highly, more so than the lamb&rice.

                                                                      1. re: onrushpam

                                                                        We adore those Ling Ling Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers. It is one of my favorite lunches. One of the great benefits of freelancing from home is that I can make them and sit and enjoy them all by myself .



                                                                        1. re: BostonZest

                                                                          I'm surprised nobody mentioned the Kirkland brand tuna. It's worth the membership just to be able to buy the tuna which I find to be superior to all the other name brands and much cheaper. Also, any time you're entertaining or having a party, the cheeses are so reasonably and such a great selection. And my "house wine" is typically $2 to $3 cheaper than anywhere else.

                                                                      2. I was out of town this weekend, and got home to find DH already left on a job ...but the good news was he had gone shopping. There was a flat of peaches on the counter....best peaches I've had this summer. I called DH, asked him where they had come from, and he told me "Costco." wow...they really WERE good peaches.


                                                                        1. So Fiona.

                                                                          Did you do it and what do you think??


                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                                            Davwud and all others who were kind enough to reply -
                                                                            I plan to go tomorrow, armed with a price list of things I buy a lot, to check it out. Due to a sudden influx of work (ack! but a good thing) I have been chained to my computer for the past couple of weeks.
                                                                            I will report back.

                                                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                                                Davwud -
                                                                                Thank you, Master
                                                                                I wnet, I saw, I compared and finally decided that I wasn't a good idea for me right now. Many of the things I thought I might save money on were not available. Some of the things that seem much cheaper were items I would buy pretty frequently (like bread) and so would not be economical because of the distance. I was VERY impressed with cheese prices but again I buy cheeses so often that the drive would be too much. I have decided that the next time I have a big purchase to make (TV, notebook computer, tires, eyeglasses) I will join. The amount I can save on something like that will make it worthwhile.
                                                                                Thanks for everyone's advice - it was very helpful in my decision. I am slo thinking about buying some stock.

                                                                                1. re: Fiona

                                                                                  Thanks, everyone~ As a result of this thread, I went online and realized I can get my cat's medications cheaper than Target! I'm about to join, although in NJ apparently one doesn't have to be a member to take advantage of the optical and pharmacy sections.

                                                                                  1. re: knitterbetty

                                                                                    knittery, that is a federal law. All states have to allow you to use the optical and pharmacy departments. Nice to know if you pay for your own RX.