Why I hate Costco

Let me start by saying that I have a love/hate relationship with Costco.
But most of the time it's hate.

I have had a Costco membership on and off for the past 12 years.
I stepped into the store for the first time just weeks after moving to the Pacific Northwest.

I've had Costco membership cards gifted to me, I've been put on friends employee family cards, and I have bought into buying the $50 membership card myself.

When I don't have a membership I rarely miss shopping there.
When my membership has lapsed, my friends who find out gasp and often wonder how one can exist in this life without a Costco membership.

By today's standards, we have a large family.
A family of five.
And yet I rarely see the need for buying everything (or anything) in bulk.

Let me start by explaining why I HATE Costco.

Costco is very deceptive and often times makes you *think* you are getting a good deal, when in reality, you are loading up on very expensive impulse buys.

*I recently saw a mom appeasing her toddler son by buying him gum.  Not just one pack of gum, but a case of gum.  At any other store it would have cost her around $1, at Costco, it cost her $10.
*It happens to the best of us, we walk into Costco with a list and come out with a cart full of things that weren't on our list.

Costco typically only carries one item and one brand.  This doesn't offer you the option of comparing prices and making sure you get the best deal while you are shopping the aisles. 
You have to come to Costco knowing what you pay at other stores to make sure you are getting a better deal in bulk.

*How do you know if you are getting the best price on peanut butter (or any other item) if you don't have anything to compare it to?

This week, Costco had two different brands of peanut butter, Adams and Skippy.  The Adams natural came in an 80 oz tub for $9.99.  The Skippy came in 2-48 oz containers for $10.99.  If you ask a kid who eats peanut butter, the two brands don't compare in taste (that hydrogenated oil in Skippy sure helps the flavor!).  

I went to my local grocery store to compare the prices there with the bulk prices at Costco and found that you can't even buy that size anywhere but at a bulk foods store.  But as you stand in the aisle you aren't caring about what the price is at your local Safeway, you are caring about the time you are saving by not having to go to the grocery store AND  to Costco.

Most people walk into Costco thinking that because they are buying in bulk they must be getting a good deal...but are you?

*If you ask most Costco shoppers about what staples they typically buy at Costco, toilet paper is probably top on the list.

I thought I would do the math for you and see if toilet paper really is a better deal at Costco than at your local store.

For 30 jumbo rolls of Quilted Northern toilet paper, it will cost you $19.99 at Costco.
For each roll, you are paying around $.67 a roll
I compared the same brand at Winco.
Remember you can't buy the same quantity sizes at "normal" stores, so I calculated price per roll.
At Winco, you can buy 24 double rolls of Quilted Northern for $13.47
For each roll (of the same brand of toilet paper), you are paying $.56.
That's nearly 10 cents less per roll.

Another staple Costco shoppers say they pick up are paper towels.
Costco carries the Brawny brand so lets compare the prices.
At Costco you will find 15 mega rolls for $19.99
If you do the math, this equals around $1.33 per roll
At Winco. I found 8 mega rolls of Brawny paper towels for $6.97
Each roll at Winco ends up costing you around $.87
a difference of almost 50 cents per roll

**as a side note, Costco does occasionally have coupons on these staple items, but in my experience, it's not nearly as much or as often as you will find at your local grocery store.  Which brings me to my next point.

Most people get into the habit of having a running list of items they buy at Costco with no regard to the price that they are paying for the items they are buying.

*You know the people.  "I always buy toothpaste at Costco."

Do the math.
Is $2.60 per tube of Crest toothpaste the best deal out there?

Is it really cheaper to pay $2.70 per stick of deodorant?

I am a bargain shopper but I know that most people without coupons can pay less for most items at their local drug or grocery store.
And as an added bonus you don't have to store a years supply of toothpaste or toilet paper!

An article in Family Circle written by Scott Alexander puts it best, "Finding yourself in a situation where saving money is dependent upon spending can severely impair judgment."

Seasonal items at Costco can make you feel the need to impulse buy.
This month the focus at our Costco is on gardening.
You can find buckets of Preen and huge bags of planting soil

and rows and rows of plants.
I found myself lingering in this area at Costco much longer than I needed to because of the sheer draw of peer pressure.

This area, on a weekday I might add, had attracted more than a handful of people stopping and browsing.
I felt like if I didn't stop and browse and ultimately buy, then I was missing out on a deal (I wasn't).
Most experts will tell you that our buying decisions aren't based on logic, they are based on emotion.

Some people specifically buy a Costco membership just for the "deals" they find on electronics.
Costco is such a mega retailer that they can cut deals with other retail manufacturers.

Costco has made these deals with other manufacturers so that now you can't compare prices on an exact electronic item because Costco electronics are typically exclusive to Costco.

There is a perception that Costco prices are low, and most people want to assume that.  Many normally educated consumers don't even double check on prices before they buy, even on big ticket items like electronics.  Costco typically has comparable prices on electronics, but most people think they are getting an amazing deal, when the reality is usually it's just an average deal.

For the complete list of what I do think is a good deal at Costco check here.
For the "deals" I think you should NOT buy at Costco check here


Mrs. S. said...

I feel the same way about Sam's Club! So far the two things I know are a good deal is fresh chicken (hormone free) $1.97 a pound, Hummus, Banana's $1 for a 3 lb bunch & Milk. We call it the $100 store because you can't leave without spending at least $100! (My sister has Costco & we do use both. Double trouble right there!!)

Cindy @ Cinsarah said...

I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with Costco too! lol
I can't wait to see what you buy! :)
I buy organic sugar because the huge bag is $9.99 at Costco and the same brand is in a very small bag is $5.99 so for three more bucks I get a TON of sugar and we use sugar a lot for lemonade. We also buy olive oil, diapers (last us a month of more), toilet paper (costco brand) and laundry detergent which is A TON cheaper than the grocery store and It lasts me at least 3 months. That's pretty much it! We will sometimes buy clothes like my hubby got Levi's jeans for $17.99 and at the Levi's outlet here they are $29.99.

Nicole said...

And in your price comparisons, you did not even take into consideration that you had to pay for a year's membership, which adds a few pennies to every item you buy. I find that I spend way too much money when I have a costco membership, on things I really probably don't need. We have a joke in our house about costco in that if you don't spend at least 100.00 a trip, the costco police will come after you. So, right now, we do not have a membership (although others in my family would probably like one) and instead, do the majority of our shopping at Winco.

Carolyn said...

I feel the same about Costco! I do like to get my Spa Finder gift certificates there, it is $80 for a $100 certificate. But you are right about many of the products being more than the regular grocery store.

Gina @ MoneywiseMoms said...

When I teach my grocery savings classes, I'm always asked about the big club stores. I am NOT a fan, for all the reasons you say! But most people think it's saving them time and money to do a "big shopping trip" at Costco, no matter how many kids they have.

The one thing friends always tell me is that the diapers/wipes/formula prices are better. I know no one wants to deal with coupons during the busy baby stage, but it's worth figuring out the math--how much are you paying per diaper. You may do better ordering online than going to Costco!

lisa i said...

I call it "my bottom line price". I know what my a good price is for toothpaste (sale less coupon less cvs bucks = free)so I would never even think of actually buying it at costco. their milk is $1.71 by me whereas milk at the local grocers is never under $2.99. that's a noticeable difference, one just can't get sucked into buying other items while one is at costco. and if one can bear going on a saturday one can always get a free lunch haha!

Lifein1000sqft said...

Amen Sister ! I feel the same way
I go to Sam's Club and I
only buy certain things
cause they are a better deal,
like sour cream and cheese to
name a few. but when my
membership is up that
it for me.

Michelle@ourwonderfilledlife.com said...

Great post!!! You know how I feel! Agree, Agree although we may or may not have been there this weekend ;) For us it makes sense SOMETIMES, just like you're saying! Can't wait to hear your buys!!!

I have to say I did just pick up Carters pjs for $6.99 {3 piece set}, that was a good buy.

Love the series that you are doing!!!!

Michelle@ourwonderfilledlife.com said...

Diapers...Costco brand are definitely less expensive than any brand we used with BOYS...Huggies have always leaked on every single one of my boys. So compared to Pampers, which is pretty much the only brand that didn't leak and buying them x4, definitely a good buy ;)

Pamela R said...

There are only a few things that we purchase at costco that are in fact cheaper. Their 3 packs of tortellini, quinoa, olive oil, and diapers! Diapers are sooo much cheaper at Costco than anywhere else! Meat can also occasionally be cheaper but you do have to watch. We can often pick up ribs there for cheaper!

Ang said...

ahh, Costco, I used to love the store, now I find it a waste of time. My $100 I spend there will last me a ton on couponing shopping trips and can probably get a lot more too, DIAPERS are not a great deal...you can go on amazon or babies r us and with rebates and specials, always get diapers cheaper...I love walgreens and Rite aid for diaper deals...rolling rewards is awesome and I can get a pkg for about $4...never seen it cheaper at costco..I used to love their gasoline but lately have noticed it is the same price as maverick or our local truck stop so no saving there...definately will not renew this year :)

Melanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melanie said...

Totally agree with EVERYTHING you hate about Costco! The only things we buy there are Fruit Snacks, dog food, and Canola Oil...AND the 50 other things I suck myself into getting when I go for my three things! We also use it for the gas, but I have to drive 4 extra miles to get to that gas station and most of the time I'm almost on empty schmempty and can't make it that far so I end up at Circle K! I hate Costco! {but yet we still have a membership, thank you to the mister!}

Tuesday Time Out Linky Party


Reasons To Skip The Housework {The Blog}
Tinker B Boutique {The Shop}

Jenny said...

We have both a Sam's Club and Costco card. I agree with what you are saying. I've found the toilet paper and paper towels to never be a good deal at the bulk stores. Using a Target coupon with a manufacture's coupon is a much better deal at Target.

We do buy canned tomatoes at Costco. They can be $1 or more at the grocery store. Each can at Costco comes to 65 cents.

We buy individually wrapped, frozen chicken breasts there too. We like the taste better than others we've had.

We love Sam's Club Jenson's frozen hamburger patties.

Janet said...

We got a membership when COSTCO first came to our town, but never renewed it. I used to take my grocery receipts in with me to compare the prices and for what we were buying I rarely saved any money. Great post!

Unknown said...

I feel the EXACT SAME WAY about Costco and Sam's. I quit buying a lot of the items there when I did the math. That, and I don't want that HUGE package of Brawny taking up precious space. I do still buy the toilet paper at Sam's (I think it's $14.00) because I like the quality of their Member's Mark brand. But, yes, I totally feel ya, and will be interested to see what items you do buy there. (Prob the same ones I do-- not much anymore, actually!)

Rhiannon said...

you are sure right about electronics the SAME exact tv i was looking at was almost $200 cheaper at walmart. I always think do i need that much or will i ever use that much of anyhing. I keep to my staples, beer, wine, bread, juice and milk and those are definately cheaper there. Oh and the rotisserie chix can't beat that deal! lol

Tracy said...

I agree. I also don't like Costco. We have a membership and I told my husband that I'm not renewing it when it comes due. It's just not worth it to me.

I hate going there because it's just a circus. Then, you wait in line for 30 mins. to pay for all of the stuff that you don't need. And...the stuff is expensive. I think the prices were better years ago, but it's become so popular that it's not a bargain anymore.

I also find it a little depressing there. You see all of those people spending money that they most likely don't have. Yeah..I'm with you on your Costco assessment.

Jill said...

I stopped shopping at Costco years ago. I not only hate the impulse purchases of items in bulk, but all the extra packaging materials they use for the bulk items. I thought I've been missing out on some bargains, so thanks for clearing that up. Now I can have no ambivalence about avoiding the Costco. :-)


Carol, The Answer Is Chocolate said...

We have really cut down on our COSTCO shopping. I only go when there are a couple of very specific items I need and have limited the impulse buys.

Unknown said...

We have not renewed our card in the last 5 years. Just spent too much money on too much food for just the 2 of us. The seasonal items are fun, but I do not need 1000's of feet of wrapping paper, or 10lbs of chocolate covered cherries. I do miss 'window shopping' in Costco, but its free at the mall.

Jessica said...

Costco is just like any other store. They have good deals on some things and not so great deals on others. For example, they have good deals on designer/high-end clothes, books, some DVDs, some video games and some CDs. Plus, their food stand is awesome and you don't need a membership. You can get a decent amount of really good food for a decent price.
With all due respect, I think people have to be responsible when shopping. If they impulsively buy $100 worth of stuff at Costco, it's their fault, not Costco's.
Also, I'm pretty sure every store that sells electronics/appliances carries at least some models that are exclusive to that store. It's business.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the concrete examples. I have been telling people these points for years to no avail. They will stubbornly defend Costco, the paid memberships, food samples, pizza, etc. I want to add that many of my bulk purchases spoiled real fast. Lotions, sundries, candies, and fruit-snacks. After I purchased a Nikon waterproof camera and HP PC, I saw Best Buy's price $100 and $260 less two months later. My family had to keep four horrible Nokia phones for two years (slow and bulky 5230 Nuron). The same time, Best Buy offered free, flat HTC phones. Very irritating.

Anonymous said...

Costco is not the cheapest, if you want to save every penny you can eat GMO's, Mcdonalds, clip coupons & shop at the evil Walmart. You would sacrifice your family's health.

Price is possibly the last reasons I shop at Costco. I value their commitment to healthy foods, their small collection of high quality products, clean organized store, the amazing Kirkland house brand, and most importantly their staff of happy well-paid, health insurance covered employees who I have seen and know my 7 year old son's name for over 10 years. Honestly, what big box store has a staff that last that long. I have never see the same employee 2x at Walmart, Target or the supermarket. Costco is a community. We realize it's not dirt-cheap, the happiness & high stock price comes from loyal commitment to placing their members first.

Also I receive 2% back I get with their $100 executive membership (I got $145 back this year, free membership plus $45!) If you want to save every penny and buy cheap, you can definitely save more by clipping coupons, shopping at minimum wage/horrible health insurance Walmart and eating Mcdonalds. There are times when it pays to buy QUALITY, and that's when you are feeding your family. Agreed that many of the health products & paper towels are cheaper elsewhere, however, for 10 cents a roll I will save myself the trip, miserable employee & long line of another store.

For more facts;

Member of Hackensack, NJ location

John of VP said...

Consumer's Report recently rated Kirkland powder laundry detergent ($.09/load) as second only to Tide ($.23/load). They shouldn't have bothered because Costco just dropped this product. We like to add a small quantity of Oxi-Clean to the powder and so the liquid detergents don't work for us. Although a lot of people are using liquids, I bet a lot still prefer powder.
Could it be that Tide struck a deal with Costco that if they dropped their product that Tide would give them a better price? In any event, we as consumers are the losers!

John of VP

Lulu said...

Time is also an issue as well though. There are some things that are always cheaper at costco, and I buy those regularly. There are some things that are cheaper there when they are on sale, so I only buy them when they are on sale. But some things there are about the same price or slightly more than on sale at the grocery store, but I'll buy them at costco because it doesn't require me driving to several stores I don't normally shop at to save a marginal amount of money on xyz product. In the end it's about paying the least for everything with a minimal amount of time and effort. Seeing as I have a job where I'm only paid as much as I work, I am not going to give up an hour of my time for save 10 cents on toothpaste, but I will go out my way to save $40 for a sale on meat or some other expensive item (because meat is expensive, and Costco meat prices aren't a good deal, even on sale).

Anonymous said...

Regarding toilet paper. Costco is one of the only places you can still get 4.5" wide rolls. Charmin and Northern both downgraded their TP to 4" wide rolls a few years ago (Northern proudly proclaiming that each sheet had as many fibers as before); the quality of the paper took a noticeable dive along with the size.

Our home came with built in holders that can't properly hold the 4" rolls. Costco kept the 4.5" width in its own brand, but apparently also got both Northern and Charmin to continue making the standard 4.5" width rolls for sale at their warehouses, and the Northern at Costco in particular is 'better' than the narrow Northern available everywhere else; its close in quality to the paper they sold prior to the downgrades.

So for that I love Costco. And my coworkers like that I'll pick up the large packs of Northern for them also.

We also got a Champion generator at a very good price, and while meat at Costco isn't a bargain, they tend to have a good selection of very nice quality beef, plus I can get the buffalo and organic ground beef my wife wants.

With many other items I agree with you. When I had a card from my company (no cost to me) it was great. Now that I pay my own I'm much more particular about what I buy so the overall value of the membership has dropped.

Anonymous said...

Our family doesn't buy toothpaste from Costco either. They don't have the kind we like, and you are right - $2.60 per tube of Crest toothpaste is NOT the best deal out there. Just last weekend, we paid $3.72 for a twin pack of the Crest brand of it at Target, which comes out to just $1.86 per tube.

Anonymous said...

Be careful when you shop at Costco I have found a lot of there lotions are expired. I found one the other day it stated 2013. Lotions go bad. I opened it and it had a smell to it. And I've found other products that were expired. I found bugs in my fruit. And every time I purchase bananas they have bruises. I guess the workers just throw them on top of each other. I purchased kiwi the other day and they were bad. They need to place there fruit in the cooler. I purchased and office chair online and the first one was broken and missing pieces. And it was obvious the box had already been opened. The second one broke in a week. I purchased and outdoor water fountain that you charge the battery then place it in the fountain. It lasted and hour after full charge. And yes you can purchase a TV cheaper at other stores. And I have not found but a few items cheaper. But when your buying for a small family it's not worth storing the items. If your a coupon shopper you can find cheaper deals at regular stores. I think my biggest issue with Costco is I'm handicap and I had asked several workers to help me get a chair to my car. They rushed off and did not want to help. I got a Manager and he acted like it was a problem helping. He made me sign a waiver to place it in my car. I waited 30 minutes to get a Manager to even come to the front. But the crazy thing is there is so many employees all over the place. But no one wants to take the time to help someone who has a brace on there leg. My son stated the other day. "I watched these cashiers and they never smile every time we shop at Costco. And he stated everyone rides there carts all over the place. I can't tell you how many cart accidents we have almost had. When I push a buggy I think in terms of driving a car. You drive on your right side and then you drive on the left side. And if you have a return they are rude for the most part. I look at that like don't get upset with me about a return if your placing old lotion on the floor or food with bugs. I just can't understand how Costco is such a big company. I joined Costco to get a hearing aid and its been replaced four times. The first one stopped working. And the other three times the hearing aid would not stay in my ear. And I'm still having issues and it has not even been a year. They told me if I terminate my membership I won't be able to have it serviced. And because it had to be replaced four times they treat me bad every time I go in the store. I was reading employee reviews that talked about how hard management was on the employees. And how hard it is to work for Costco. And how bad the Management gossips about each other and there customers. I'm going to have to make a decision is the hearing aid worth being a member. I also like getting gas but I have found gas at Kroger and Wal Mart cheaper sometimes for the most part. The only thing keeping me there is the hearing aid. What do you think should I stay or terminate my membership. I have one month left. I think they have the rudest employees I have ever had to deal with in every department and I trained customer service.

Anonymous said...

I too have a very, very love hate with Costco. Yet, your comparisons aren't fair on pricing. Yes, the bulk purchase there on staples like paper items can be pricier.

Until you point out you don't care about the price at Safeway (an extremely expensive store that's everywhere) yet your comparison goes to Winco, a food/warehouse store that's incredibly rare. I live in Phoenix, AZ and we have I think 2 Winco and only 1 I know that's even remotely close (I live in the middle of the city). Phoenix is the LARGEST capital city in the country and I know of only 1 Winco and it's incredibly not convenient. Yes, Safeway is expensive - but I don't drive 15 miles to one.

The issue with Costco is so un-American. Why do I have to PAY you to PAY you for items? No thanks, I'll go somewhere that doesn't require an upfront charge to even see the wares.

momma24 said...

I am surprised by how many Costco haters there are out there! I do agree that paper and hygiene products are not the best deal to be found so I've stopped buying these items, but I do find that so many of their foods are quite a bit cheaper than other stores. However, I have 5 kids (2 teens) and so shopping for the bulk goods at Costco makes a lot of sense for our family. I guess at this point, I've got our shopping list memorized to where I don't often go down other aisles or browse products. My time is super precious and I don't have time to get caught looking around the store. Thank goodness for that! Target is the store that gets me every time. :)

Powered by Blogger.