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Price compare: BJs & Costco vs Target/other supermarkets

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Does anyone know of any article published in consumer publications (or web sites) comparing prices at BJs or Costco with those at Target or other discount suypermarkets?

The last time I was at BJs, I noticed that altho some items were priced very competitively, most were not. And then I looked around at the shoppers, and what they had in their baskets, andmost of the shoppers did not look to me like particularly savvy shoppers, and most had items that could have been obtained for less money (perhaps in a different brand, size, etc0 elsewhere. Not to mention the need to buy humongous quantities.

I no longer shop at those places. (Among other reasons, the parking lots at these places are horrendous, with shoppers apparently in such pursuit of "bargains" that they;'ve turned off their brains, and do not drive intelligently--thereby making me spend extra time in the lot.)

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  1. White I don't know of any article per se, I do agree with you. There are many products that can be obtained at better prices at the supermarket (notably many paper goods). But if you do a lot of baking, the spices and 25lb bags of flour at Costco are hard to beat.

    1. BJ's is much priceier that Costco, in fact, the company is for sale, very telling. I don't find the quantity issue a problem for the things I buy. Example; purchased a HP laptop for over $200 less than HP itself. Tires, as well, fall into the same category, no one could beat their price.

      3 Replies
      1. re: treb

        Your takeaway from why BJ's is up for sale is not correct. It's up for sale because a prominent company that invests in retail chains thinks it's undervalued and made an unsolicited offer to buy it, so the BJs management team said, "Well, since they've offered $x, let's see what others are willing to pay."

        http://www.boston.com/business/ticker...

        1. re: Bob W

          one man's junk is another man's gold! It's only a 'regional player' and can't compete with Costco. One thing I like about Costco is that when I travel, there most likely near by. I had a BJ's membership and they couldn't even compete on their gas prices. Most stations beat them by many cents per gal. Actually, it's probably unfair to compare BJ's to Costco because of the regional thing.

          1. re: treb

            We have one lonely BJ's down here (Fairfax County VA) and I wish we had more. Costco is great and it's our primary warehouse (weekly visits) but I still hit the BJs about once a month because they carry things the Costco doesn't (more cereals, canned fruits, etc).

      2. I agree that for many items you can do better at regular stores at normal quantities, especially if you're smart about sales and coupons. But there are definitely some items on my "only at Costco" list--Tillamook cheddar, San Pelligrino lemon/orange soda, A1 steak sauce, Jif--that are about half the price they'd be in a regular store.

        And I like buying paper towels and then not worrying about them for a few months! Basements rule!

        1. First of all, I don't go near a Costco or it's parking lot on weekends. If I need fuel, I know it opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 9:30 p.m. and go within 30 minutes of those times.

          I don't think there are price comparisons since prices fluctuate based on availablity and location. Especially for national stores.

          How does a shopper appear to look savvy via their purchases? The case of wine that is in every Trader Joe shopper basket makes them look 'savvy'? Or is it the once a month shopper in the regular grocery store with a file folder of coupons arranged by aisle you think is 'savvy'? Maybe buying a case of paper towels which does end up being the same price as a three pack with a coupon on sale this week at the grocer makes the one trip every two months use less fuel for that person, so it is savvy to buy in bulk at Costco.

          I happen to live 3 miles from my Costco and shop there regularly. I also shop the other food stores, Trader Joe's and Fresh and Easy. Costco sells higher end food products for less. The other items I purchase there are also less than I can get elsewhere. I do know and compare prices.

          All the Costco members worldwide are not mind numbed robots. It's a choice to join and shop at Costco. If you don't want to, you don't have to.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Cathy

            One thing I find is that Costco will sell name brands at about the price or less as store brands which are usually lacking in quality. Also if you get the Kirkland brand it usually is better quality than brand names.

            1. re: Cathy

              ****If I need fuel, I know it opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 9:30 p.m. and go within 30 minutes of those times.***

              Please know that this is the time on weekdays. The gas stations close earlier on the weekend (usually an hour after the warehouse closes).

            2. "most had items that could have been obtained for less money (perhaps in a different brand, size, etc0 elsewhere."

              So basically, apples and oranges. Not much of an analysis, I have to say.

              1. I price compare all the chains with their sale ads, and when I go into Costco, can easily look at the unit price and know if it's a better deal than the other stores. But price isn't the only reason I shop there. The quality of the Kirkland brand, the good meats and several other things keep me a loyal customer. We more than pay for our membership every year with the rebate. But others are right, it doesn't always work for everyone.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mtngirlnv

                  That's exactly what I look at, the unit cost, in fact, it actually shows how much the chain mega marts are robbing us. I also agree my membership is free with their cash back.

                  1. re: mtngirlnv

                    Somethings at Costco are still too big for my family! Sometimes we buy a big package of pork chops or something like that, use half, and find the other half buried in the freezer many months later. LOL

                    1. re: Bob W

                      Mr. Pine is still rueing his decision to buy a huge package of salmon steaks. He knows full well that I detest salmon, but was sure he'd happily eat it all. Riiiight--still taking up way too much space in the freezer, and he's sick of salmon.

                  2. I shop occasionally at Costco and have noticed some items are much cheaper at Publix such as Folger's coffee which was $3 cheaper at Publix, but milk for example is cheaper at Costco. I try to go with a friend and we split large packages which makes the shop worthwhile.

                    You can drive yourself crazy checking unit prices of everything at every store!

                    1. I don't go often since I don't have a membership and live by myself, but every time I go, I check out the produce. Red peppers are ALWAYS super cheap at Costco, and they always seem to be fresher than the ones at the regular supermarkets/Whole Foods around me.

                      Too bad I don't have a car and won't go enough times to justify the $50 membership cost!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: yfunk3

                        I shop once a month there. Many folks shop once every 6 months (1.5 hr drive at least, they're coming from another STATE -- and in PA , that's saying somethin).

                        1. re: Chowrin

                          Okay, and...?

                      2. I am a regular member of Costco, and, for about 3 months, had a trial membership to BJs. There just aren't any of the latter that are convenient. Having said that, there are a number of reasons I would not give up my Costco membership:

                        1. Labor policy. Of all the big box stores, only Costco is generally unionized, providing a full package of benefits. In fact, any chain that that gets criticized by shareholders as "too generous" to its workers gets my support. (To be fair, unlike Sam's Club, I really don't know much about BJ's labor and employment policies.)

                        2. Overall pricing. Although supermarket sale prices are usually cheaper, in an apples-to-apples comparison of brand name items, Costco comes out cheaper than the supermarket. When you factor in the (usually) cheaper and (pretty much always) superior quality of the Kirkland brand items, it becomes a no-brainer--but that doesn't really answer your question. For better or worse, I really didn't notice much of a difference between BJs and Costco on pricing, and I didn't really get a chance to try to many of the store brand items (Bartles and James? Biff and Jim? Beelzebub and Jesus? I forget what they call them). Prices seemed comparable.

                        3. Customer Service. Costco honors its warranties. It really, really does. When my super-tanker-sized gas grill caught fire more than a year after I bought it (broken gas line maybe? I'm still not sure what happened), Costco gave me a full refund (which I spent on their redesigned replacement). Again, I never really had a comparable experience at BJs, so it's hard to say.

                        4. Efficient line management. Now here's where the rubber meets the road. The Costco nearest me is a somewhat smaller, older one--an old Price Club--and very busy. It is full of shoppers who really seem to have no concept that they and their carts take up space in the universe. Hence, shopping on a Saturday or Sunday is an exercise in frustration, raising my blood pressure by a good 10 points. Nevertheless, despite the mob of people, the redesigned checkout lines pretty much ensure that I rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to checkout. On the other hand, I can go into a mostly empty BJ's and take twice as long to checkout.

                        Overall, I know people who swear by BJs (and maybe its because they have more and better stores than the one closest to me), but I will stick to Costco.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: pgreen

                          LOL BJs brand = Berkeley and Jensen.

                          1. re: pgreen

                            "1. Labor policy. Of all the big box stores, only Costco is generally unionized, providing a full package of benefits. In fact, any chain that that gets criticized by shareholders as "too generous" to its workers gets my support. (To be fair, unlike Sam's Club, I really don't know much about BJ's labor and employment policies.)"

                            Well that is as good a reason as any not to join, unions are becoming far to powerful and driving costs through the roof, i for one will never work union again. (thank goodness I got smart and decided to start my own bussiness and do not have worry about ever working unions again)
                            I believe in the free market, no one forces someone to work someplace, times have changed in the last 50 years, and in the last 20 even more. there WAS a time when unions had fairly good intentions, now it is all about power period.

                            "2. Overall pricing. Although supermarket sale prices are usually cheaper, in an apples-to-apples comparison of brand name items, Costco comes out cheaper than the supermarket. When you factor in the (usually) cheaper and (pretty much always) superior quality of the Kirkland brand items"

                            This sounds like it would be good for bulk staple purchases, thing that last 3-6 month;s or longer, and I correct to assume this?

                            "3. Customer Service. Costco honors its warranties. It really, really does. "

                            This also sounds like a big plus, assuming you can purchase one for less at Costco, I knows years ago Sams was not so good at this, Adding question here, do they carry any amount of Made in U.S.A. products?

                            "4. Efficient line management. Now here's where the rubber meets the road.Nevertheless, despite the mob of people, the redesigned checkout lines pretty much ensure that I rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to checkout"
                            This is also of importance to me, we have about a 50 miles drive back from the closest costco, Bj's is about 30, both a fair amount of traffic until you get within 15 miles of home, so our trips to these places would be after work on the way home, taking the truck in about once a month's possibly trying to make it every other month or so

                            Although I disagree with one aspect of you joining, I do respect your decision to do so ,and thank you for your post

                            1. re: tmks12

                              While I appreciate tone of your post (these sorts of discussions can get pretty shrill), I strongly disagree with your characterization of labor unions. Like any other institution, unions are run by people, so some are governed better than others. At their heart, however, they are democratic institutions formed for the sole purpose of supporting the rights of workers. It is precisely because I do believe in the free market that I believe that a strong labor movement that gives a collective voice to workers is necessary to offset the overwhelming bargaining advantage of employers. Is it simply coincidence that the decline of the labor movement in the U.S. happens to coincide with the increasing economic stratification of our society? I don't think so. And the people who work at Wal-Mart have as much right to buy stuff as anyone else. And if we are to remain a free, prosperous and democratic society, those folks at Wal-Mart need to be able to buy the goods and services that the rest of us produce.

                              Enough of my rant--turning back to the matter at hand, what's impressive about Costco is that they can remain price competitive with Sam's Club (i.e., Wal-Mart club) while still treating their employees like human beings. Pretty remarkable.

                              I do want to correct one misapprehension. When I was talking about warranties, I wasn't referring to extended warranties that you buy. I was talking about the warranty Costco adds on its own. When I bought my television, it came with a two year manufacturer warranty plus an additional one-year Costco warranty at no extra cost.

                              I have really tried to mirror the civil and respectful tone of your post. If I have failed, please accept my apology.

                              1. re: pgreen

                                One of the reasons why Costco can be fairly generous with their return policy is that they aren't eating the full price of the return. There are discounters around the country who buy up overstocks, customer returns, and damaged goods from Costco, then sell them in shops in low-cost strip malls.

                                One near me is: http://www.eaglebargainoutlet.com/

                                The other day I found a fairly nice Le Crueset dutch oven there that was simply missing the knob on top. They'd put one from a Kirkland item on it in order to get it sold. The savings weren't that spectacular, but that store moves a lot of merchandise through it.

                          2. I stock up when my local supermarket has a sale...sale prices at suprmarket are definitely cheaper than Costco. I buy milk Stop and Shop as they have better price than Costco.
                            Because shopping experience at Costco can be frustrating due to the long lines at check outs, I usually go there right before the closing time on weekdays. I usually buy organic carrot juice, meat(chicken especially), coffee, honey, spices, maple syrup, organic eggs, canned fish, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I usually don't buy produces from Costco as I can buy them cheaper at my local fruit market.
                            What's funny about Target is that prices differ depending on which location you go.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Monica

                              Here in California, I think Costco beats the supermarkets on price, quality and freshness most times. Luckily I live a few miles from a Costco so it's not a big deal to go in the evenings or within a hour of closing on weekends so crowds are not really an issue.

                              I find that, hands down, Costco beats the local supermarkets on price and quality fo many items. My regular purchases include: paper towels, english cucumbers, canned tuna and salmon, ground turkey, cereal, Fage yogurt, avocados, fresh bread, hearts of romaine, berries, almond milk, quality cheeses (parmesano reggiano, costal cheddar, gruyere, brie), grape tomatoes... It drives me crazy to have to buy any of these in a regular supermarket any more.

                              1. re: Divamac

                                You just named two things I buy regularly at Costco: Fage yogurt and parmagiano reggiano. I probably save the value of my membership fee on those two items alone. On the other hand, I usually find that paper goods (paper towels, TP) are cheaper on sale at the supermarket or places like Target. There are some other things that I'm picky about the brand I buy, and Costco doesn't carry them.

                                I think most things you buy at Costco you could buy cheaper at other places if you're willing to wait until they go on sale and/or are really good with coupons. But if you shop at Costco you can just walk into the store any time and buy good products at good prices. And the customer service is great -- one Sunday I broke my back-up glasses, so I took two pairs (regular and back-up) of glasses into Costco to be repaired and they didn't charge for it, even though I had bought them somewhere else.

                                1. re: Divamac

                                  and buying that stuff at a regular super market will quickly empty your wallet.

                              2. Yes. google for it. personal websites mainly.

                                Costco generally cheaper than sale-price in Gegal, except when using coupons. And they hate my Save 85% Off buying sprees. Costco thinks I'm a Good Customer.

                                Costco cheap enough visavis supermarkets that people drive 150 miles to the store. Savvy farmers shop once a quarter. Why else do you think they posted signs saying "no more than 10 bags of flour per customer" when flour prices were headed up? Those are 50 lb. bags, for christ's sake!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Chowrin

                                  That's a lot of muffins!

                                2. I used to be a Costco member and am currently a BJs member and I absolutely save money. On gasoline purchases alone, I make my BJs membership fee back three-fold annually.

                                  I also check unit prices. Sometimes grocery store sales beat BJs price and when it does I will buy at the grocery store. I have never found boneless/skinless chicken thighs cheaper than I can at BJs. Same goes for replacement heads for my Sonicare toothbrush, bananas, contact lens solution, vitamins, Parm-Reggianao cheese, Stretch-Tite plastic wrap (love that stuff), a 10 lb. bag of King Arthur flour at BJs costs the same a 5 lb bag would at the grocery store...and the list goes on.

                                  Like every other shop on earth, you will have savvy shoppers as well as shoppers who just assume they are getting a deal and going for it. The warehouse model works for some, not for others. To each their own!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mels

                                    Funny, I just quit BJ's because most gas stations around BJ's undersell them by several cents per gallon and I couldn't re-coup my membership cost on gas.

                                  2. Today I stopped at Target for the first time to food shop. I was truly surprised by the brand name bargains. Fage 0% for 3.00; D&D coffee (whole bean) for $6.49, Swanson chicken broth for .59/can; a bag of (soft) dried apples $2.49; Heath bits $2.00; Kraft caramel bits .94!

                                    This beats nearly all of the markets I shop and places Aldi's second for bargain prices. The eggs @ Target were .49 a dozen (holiday special, which is why I ran over) and they were already sold out. Amazing. I'll be back!