Once 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!!
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.
So 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…
A 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.
You 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…
So, 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!!