Why I Ended My Costco MembershipOnce upon a time, there was a guy who wanted to save money and heard that buying in bulk would help him with that.  So he bought a Costco membership to reach that goal.

It was glorious!  He saved a ton of money, enjoyed loads of free samples, and took advantage of all the amenities it had to offer.

There were unicorns, pixies, pots of gold, and all sorts of other wonderful things that don’t really exist anywhere but here.

All this happiness was thanks to his Costco membership… thanks, Costco!!

The End

 

Ok, maybe this wasn’t the most accurate fairy tale, but there are a lot of loyal members who might build their experiences up to be pretty close this story.

I’m not anti-Costco, but I thought I’d share the good and bad I ran into with my Costco membership.  Let’s go back to the beginning…

 

Let’s join a warehouse club!

Like a lot of you out there, Mrs. R2R and I are always trying to figure out sensible ways to save money.  A few years ago, we decided that we needed to store more food for emergencies.

This could be for natural disasters like blizzards and other fun events like the Northeast blackout of 2003.  Or, it could be for other potential problems that you really can’t anticipate – hyperinflation, job loss, or even riots in the streets.

I’m not hoping for any of these and I’m not all the way out there like some of those guys from Doomsday Preppers, but I do think that it’s important to have some food stock just in case.

Why I Ended My Costco Membership - BJs Wholesale ClubSo what better way to build up your food inventory than by joining a warehouse club?!

Although Costco seems to get all the praises, we didn’t have one in our area, so we joined BJ’s Wholesale Club, which was around 25 minutes from our house.  I’ll tell you what – we loved it.  The prices seemed good, we built up our food stock by buying in bulk, and of course, who doesn’t love free food samples?!!

Ah, life was good!

We hung onto that membership for a couple years and probably went there about once a month.  Near the end, though, we realized that we weren’t shopping there as much and instead had increased our Aldi visits so, comparatively, the prices at BJ’s weren’t as impressive.

So, we let our BJ’s membership lapse – and then something interesting happened…

 

The Costco membership and the upgrade…

Why I Ended My Costco Membership - CostcoA Costco opened up near us.  In fact, it opened up much closer than BJ’s was – not even 10 minutes away.  Hurray!!

Based on how much everyone seems to love Costco and also that our food supply inventory had slowly been going down, we decided to give it a shot.

We went to the membership desk and signed up.  The guy at the desk upsold us on upgrading to their Executive Membership for an extra $55.  The idea was that, in addition to some other perks, you basically get 2% cash-back at the end of the year.

He told us that we should be able to make up for more than the cost of the upgrade over the course of the year.

But, what if we didn’t spend enough to cover the cost of the upgrade?

He said that we could come back to the membership desk at the end of the year and downgrade our membership under their “Risk-Free 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.”  He did a nice job with his sell… we upgraded.

So, we used our membership over the course of the year, but here’s the thing… I wasn’t blown away.  It seemed to be very similar to BJ’s, except there were some odd things they didn’t really carry.

For instance, they only had one choice of pasta and it wasn’t one we were interested in.  I would have thought that would be something where you might see at least a couple choices.

The other issue was that it was busy – like ridiculously busy.  I don’t like busy.  One reason you won’t ever find me living in New York City and Chicago is for that exact reason.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those areas, but that hustle-bustle lifestyle is just not my thing.  We actually tried three different Costco warehouses over the course of the year and they were all about twice as busy as BJ’s.

But, it served its purpose and was good enough for us.  Our goal was to restock our food supply and that worked well.  And, of course, each visit was a family trip where my daughter and wife could take off on a mission to find the free samples throughout the place! 🙂

 

Then came the Costco membership downgrade…

As the year progressed, I noticed that as we walked through the store, Mrs. R2R would repeatedly say:

No, let’s wait – I can get this at Aldi.  Hold up on that one – I can get that at Aldi.

Why I Ended My Costco Membership - Then came the Costco membership downgradeYou see, Aldi has now become our regular shopping location for most everything.  It’s ridiculously inexpensive, never busy, and right around the corner from our house.

And, how about this?  They’ve cut out all artificial flavors, colors, GMO’s, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils from their private label.  That’s fantastic and hopefully becomes the norm for all grocery stores.

So about 10 months in, we decided to downgrade our membership.  I will tell you this – Costco really does stand behind its “Risk-Free 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.”  I expected a little bit of a fight when I went to the customer service desk.

However, as soon as I filled the representative in on things, he checked how much we saved, agreed with me, and immediately downgraded our membership.  He then gave us back the $55 for the difference between the two membership levels.

That left us with just a couple months before the expiration of our membership.

 

Time to part ways…

Why I Ended My Costco Membership - Time to part waysSo, we only had our membership for a year, but it was time to let it go.

We just decided that we could do better on most everything by just shopping through Aldi (although we don’t get the cool bulk packaging).  Yes, they’re almost all generics, but most everything we get from there we enjoy.  And, for those few things that we don’t, we can get those items from Walmart or Giant Eagle.

We’ll definitely miss the free samples, though!!  It’s fun to watch people ask questions about the product and pretend they’re considering buying just so they don’t feel guilty for taking the samples.  🙂

Again, I’m not anti-Costco – it just seems like the warehouse clubs don’t give my family the best bang for their buck anymore.

As a side note, here’s a fun fact.  Did you know that Costco is now one of the biggest sellers of cars in the U.S.?  I didn’t even know you could buy a car through Costco until recently!  They actually also have some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in this area as well.  I’m sure this is helped by their fixed-priced strategy.

So, when we’re ready to buy another car, we might just be renewing our Costco membership to make that purchase a little more bearable! 🙂

 

Do you have a Costco or other warehouse club membership?  Love it or hate it?

If not, what’s your reason for not joining one?

 

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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Why I Ended My Costco Membership

28 thoughts on “Why I Ended My Costco Membership

  • January 17, 2017 at 7:10 am
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    We cut our membership a few years ago as well. I was hoping for better but it seemed like most the things we’d buy there only had the branded product so the bulk buy discount basically offset the discount of buying private label in the regular grocery store. But it was a good deal buying gas at their pumps. I didn’t realize you could buy cars through them! I guess that makes sense why they have a service station and everything.

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    • January 17, 2017 at 11:32 am
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      I’m already getting feedback from some people on Twitter saying that the gas savings pays for their membership. In our case, we have a regional grocery store that provides gas perks and we rarely ever pay anything out of pocket for gas because of how we use them.

      Finding out they sold cars (and are one of the largest) was a big surprise for me as well.

      — Jim

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  • January 17, 2017 at 10:32 am
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    We cut our membership maybe 3-4 years ago. Frankly they are located a good 45 minutes from our house and the deals are not that great compared to what we see at our local grocery store/online (we use Amazon subscribe and save for things like bulk paper towels). Over the years I’ve had Costco, BJS, and Sam’s Club.

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    • January 17, 2017 at 11:41 am
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      Wow, that seems like a pretty good haul just to get to the store. I’d probably be more apt to local as well just because of that.

      Interesting on the Amazon subscribe… I’m a big Amazon guy for a lot of what we buy, but I still haven’t bought any consumables like paper towels and such. I’ll have to add that to my list of things to dig into more!

      — Jim

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  • January 17, 2017 at 11:33 am
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    I’m actually about to sign up for a Costco membership, but this was so helpful! My household is doubling plus a new pet is coming into the mix in the next few months, so we finally decided it was time to try bulk shopping. I’ll have to go through and compare pricing with our local Aldi though! They are both super close to us, but we haven’t been a fan of the quality of some items at our Aldi.

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    • January 17, 2017 at 11:44 am
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      Sounds like you have all kinds of fun going on in the next few months! 🙂

      Costco definitely won’t beat the Aldi pricing, so it’s going to come down to how happy you are with what they sell. We actually now buy most of our fruits and veggies from Aldi as well now which has dramatically improved (at least by us).

      Good luck!

      — Jim

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      • January 17, 2017 at 8:30 pm
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        Yeah, the quality of food is really what it’s coming down to for me. Currently, Aldi’s produce/meat is just not cutting it, whereas our local Costco seems to have really stepped up their organic produce selection. I plan to keep some meticulous spreadsheets to see how it all works out.

        And thanks for the luck! I’m super excited for a new puppy (the boyfriend moving in is nice too though).

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        • January 18, 2017 at 8:54 am
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          Cool – would love to hear what you find out on the price differences. I actually had a co-worker tell me yesterday that the steaks at Aldi are excellent (and he’s pretty picky). That surprised me a little bit
          to hear, but maybe it’s a geographical thing with Aldi.

          — Jim

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  • January 17, 2017 at 12:49 pm
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    I’ve been a Costco member for years, but lately I’ve been considering canceling too.

    They used to have good deals. The membership fee *used* to be worth it for the savings, but now I’m not so sure. Just like you did Jim, I’ve started noticing that regular grocery stores frequently have better prices than Costco. The discount for buying in bulk no longer seems to be there.

    Instead, I feel like the store has become a luxury goods retailer. Yes, they sell a lot of nice high-end stuff, and occasionally it’s an OK deal, but most of that stuff I don’t want or need.

    There’s rumour of a fee increase coming this year too. I’m going to have to think long and hard about that membership.

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    • January 17, 2017 at 2:33 pm
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      We always struggled a little bit with the cost of items – not because it was more expensive, but because it’s harder to determine if you’re getting a good deal. Just because it’s in bulk, doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. A lot of times, we would kind of shrug and assume an item was cheaper, but never really know.

      And ouch, a fee increase might be a tough sell for a lot of on-the-fence shoppers like yourself.

      — Jim

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  • January 18, 2017 at 6:54 pm
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    We lived in Seoul for 3 years and became serious Costco fans while living there. And apparently every Korean person was as well, since it took an hour just to wait in line to park in their 5 story parking garage. It was worth it to get those American items we just couldn’t find for a reasonable price anywhere else (like cheese).
    So, coming back to the US we were pretty excited to have our great Costco membership without the crazy crowds. And it is better here, but I’ve been underwhelmed as well by the selection and prices. Our membership has probably been worth it for the last year because we’ve purchased some larger items that were a lot cheaper (like rugs), but I doubt we’ll be renewing the membership.

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    • January 18, 2017 at 9:31 pm
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      Wow, that sounds insane!! But I can definitely see how it would be worth it for some of the things you miss. My rant about how busy it always seems to be here sounds pretty petty now after hearing about what you went through! 🙂

      I’m actually surprised that a lot of people are saying they’ve ended their membership or likely will soon. I really thought I’d be in the minority on that one!

      — Jim

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  • January 21, 2017 at 7:24 am
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    We used to have a BJs membership until I decided it wasn’t worth the membership fee. I always felt like we bought more than we should’ve because you’re “supposed to” buy in bulk to get your money’s worth. The bill was always in the hundreds, they didn’t always carry the things I wanted and we were “stuck” shopping there if we wanted to make it worth it. I still think it’s more trouble than it’s worth and people spend way more than they need to because they’re supposed to. I never really analyzed it (it was a long time ago) but I always felt we never made up for what we spent to be a member. *Insert eye roll here”. Kudos to you guys for seeing through the charade, too.

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

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    • January 21, 2017 at 8:00 am
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      That’s a good point – we never had a problem with overbuying, but I can see how that could be a problem for people. But our total always seemed high as well (even though I never did figure out if we were really getting a good deal on our purchases!).

      — Jim

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  • January 21, 2017 at 8:55 am
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    From what I read, BJs and Costco are really geared for people with higher incomes so their price targets arent really to be the absolute lowest. Their prices can be competitive and there are a few good deals in there, but in many cases items can be found elsewhere for less (and you dont have to pay a membership fee.) I believe many of their products are custom sized just for them, so you have to do the math on the qyt/ oz in the package versus the grocery store, Walmart etc. Also, Aldi is hard to beat for many products. …One thing I do, is Bj’s has a 3 month free membership promo they offer sometimes. I sign up for that for fun and to maybe pick up a few items. Supposedly you can only do it if you have never had a membership there before, but after over a year or 2 I guess I dropped out of the system so I was able to sign up. (I’ve doen this twice so far) Also I believe these warehouse clubs will give you a free 1-day pass if you ask. Its a way to avoid the membership fee while still getting your shopping fix there if they have some items you want.

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    • January 22, 2017 at 9:08 am
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      Interesting – I knew the clubs were aimed at businesses way back when, but didn’t know about the higher incomes. I like the idea of going there on a periodic basis to “re-stock”. We get those offers from BJ’s periodically. I think I might have to go with your plan of using those!

      — Jim

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  • January 21, 2017 at 9:36 pm
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    My family in England is team ALDI for sure. They do taste tests regularly between the generics and brand name.

    I just had an ALDI move it close to my house. I’ll be checking it out for sure, but I don’t think it will beat WinCo prices.

    Costco has its benefits depending on what you want. If you are like me and “spend” some of your money, costco is my go to for televisions. Gas too. In my experience you don’t need the membership to get gas. The attendant will just swipe his card.

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    • January 22, 2017 at 9:21 am
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      I haven’t heard of WinCo, but a little Googling shows that it might be a regional store. I’d love to know if they beat the Aldi prices – that would be fantastic!!

      I didn’t know about Costco being a good deal on TVs either. I’ll have to remember that the next time one of mine dies! 🙂

      — Jim

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  • January 28, 2017 at 8:29 am
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    Great post! As DINKS, paying for a membership ourselves wouldn’t be worth it. Luckily, immediate family members can share an account, so we just piggy-back off of my mom’s membership.

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  • February 22, 2017 at 5:40 pm
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    My father had a Costco membership for years. I never liked it. On weekends, we would have to circle the parking lot to find a parking space. My father beat that by going primarily on the weekdays after he retired.

    You hit on all the highlights.

    1) When I bought my car, I signed up for Costco membership and used their car buying service. I never shopped in the store and let the membership lapse when it expired.

    2) After my mother died, one of my father’s hobbies was to drive to Costco and sample the free food. He was on a first name basis with some of the vendors that prepared the food. I would say he “ate lunch” at Costco in this manner 1.5 time per week on average.

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    • February 22, 2017 at 8:57 pm
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      Good point on the parking, Dan – that’s something that always seems like an adventure in itself with each visit! 🙂

      For as big as Costco’s car sales are supposed to be, you’re the first person I’ve talked to that has bought one through them. How was the experience for that? Would you buy through them again for that?

      — Jim

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  • March 26, 2017 at 7:09 pm
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    We are definitely team Costco 🙂 For the gas, lower price in bulks, and their $5 rotisserie chicken! Though we almost only buy things that are “on sale” at Costco, and we stock up when they’re on sale. Haven’t found other places beating the sale prices yet for the quality. Though maybe it’s because we don’t have ALDI here in Seattle…

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    • March 26, 2017 at 8:53 pm
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      I love me some Aldi! 🙂 That’s great that you’re able to work it the right way at Costco and stock up when things are on sale – that’s definitely the way to save a ton of dough!

      — Jim

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  • April 25, 2017 at 9:10 pm
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    My local Costco has the best prices on gas in the area! By 20-30 cents a gallon. Also, as an RV driver, the Costco gas station has a few advantages – the high canopy that the RV can get under and easy access with wide turns. And when you are putting $150 or more in the tank, well, that savings adds up fast. Also, the Kirkland brand toilet paper is generally safe for RV black water tanks! The steaks are generally of good quality for tailgating too. Beer and liquor discounts are also great for tailgating season. All in all, I’ve found that the Costco membership is worth it (just on basic though).

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    • April 25, 2017 at 9:25 pm
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      That’s interesting about the layout of the gas stations… I never thought about how important that could be an RV driver. Makes perfect sense!

      I don’t do a lot of driving and usually put only about $10-15 a week into my car so it doesn’t make a big difference for me, but that would be a big savings on an RV tank!

      — Jim

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  • May 11, 2017 at 2:15 am
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    I happened to get my car quotes from Costco!! You’re right! Haha nice one.

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    • May 11, 2017 at 9:07 pm
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      That’s cool to hear, David – was the car experience good with them?

      — Jim

      Reply

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