Are Warehouse Clubs like Costco & Sam’s Worth the Cost?

July 17, 2012

Shopping at one of the big warehouse club chains, like Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s, can be an afternoon adventure for some.  Lots of good deals and super-sized products can lure you in to a purchasing frenzy.  But is it worth the cost? Don’t look now, but you might not be saving as much as you thought.

CNBC reports that customers may believe they’re paying for a chance to save money, but some experts think membership fees actually cause consumers to spend more.  Membership in these club stores does not come free; each requires you to pay before you purchase a single item. Sam’s Club charges $40 for basic membership, BJ’s $50, and Costco $55.

Saving Money

Part of the twist with warehouse clubs is you have to make up that initial investment, before you start saving money.  Certainly, you can save money, but you may end up buying more than you need in the long run.  There are good deals, though. According to a Consumers’ Checkbook survey published by the not-for-profit Center for the Study of Services, BJ’s prices were on average 29 percent lower, Costco’s 30 percent lower, and Sam’s 33 percent lower than the largest supermarket chains.

Lack of Selection

The trade-off is often a lack of selection. Warehouse clubs carry a relatively small array of items in a limited range of sizes. The Consumers’ Checkbook survey found that warehouse club shoppers would only be able to find about half of the products they buy at their regular supermarket. BJ’s carries roughly 7,200 individual items, Sam’s club about 4,900 items, and Costco around 4,000.

Click here to read more in the full report from CNBC.