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EmseB

Costco vs. Sam's Club

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I'm taking a mental health break from the covid threads (will not look at my notifications, will not look, will not look) to ask some frivolous questions.

I've been a Costco member for about 10 years, but I'm up for renewal and Sam's Club is now offering curbside pickup at all of its locations by the end of June, so I'm thinking of switching. I can't get instacart or other delivery services where I am, so I have to do pickup if I want to avoid going in stores . Which I do.

So I can Google, just thought I'd ask what experiences people had comparing the two. I feel like I know Costco like the back of my hand, but I've never been in a Sam's ever. My closest Costco is 25mins away and Sam's is 45mins. I am feeding 7 people three times a day or maybe just 3 people 7 times a day, who knows at this point???

Anyway, thoughts?

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You might want to go look at that store and see what they have.  I have Sams and Costco.  Each store is different and doesnt always carry the same stuff. Even my Costco is a bit different from other Costco’s as it caters to the area more and I can’t find the some things it sells in other Costco’s. 

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To me, the main difference is that Costco is way more oriented towards organic foods. If your family eats mostly organic, you won’t find as much at Sams. Otherwise, they are very similar. 
 

If you feel ok with the Covid risk, they will let you come in and look around without a membership- you just tell the person at the door you are thinking of buying one.

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Just the difference in time driving would make me love Costco even more! Costco is the best for my allergies. And truth be told, 1/2 my wardrobe is from Costco! 

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I have both and find them very similar in many regards.  There are some things I get specifically from each store, and other things that I can get at either and it's pretty much the same product.   I personally prefer Sam's as my go-to, and the biggest reason for that is the app.  The Scan-N-Go is a game changer for me.  I can shop at Sam's, scan my items with my phone as I put them in the cart, and when I'm ready to leave, swipe to pay and then scan my app at the door.  No check-outs, no lines, and minimal contact with the one person scanning the app and checking the cart at the door on the way out.  

I've also used the pickup service a few times during quarantine.  It worked well and kept me out of the store.  I was thinking I might try the curbside once it's available.

Oh! Another reason I prefer Sam's is that I am a Plus member, so I get extra early hours every day.  It's always open when I want to be shopping, where Costco opens so much later.  By the time Costco opens I like to be back home and completely finished with any errand running.  Costco also really turned me off this quarantine time with their one-way shopping.  At my Costco (not sure if this was chain-wide) they placed pallets down the wider aisles so you could literally only go one way (single file) down the aisle with your cart.  This is all well and good until the item you want is in the very last cooler case on the right and you're following Grandma Ertl on the slow train to nowhere.   I haven't been there in months because I just couldn't handle the stress of being in any store any longer than I absolutely needed to.   I'm going to send DH one of these days to check it out and see if they're still doing the pallet thing. 

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I used to belong to both. Their generic meds, paper goods, and office supplies are pretty equivalent. Costco has many more organic offerings, but they come at a premium price. Sam’s Club has tended to have not as appealing clothing and soft lines stuff (sheets, towels, etc). Produce really varied by turnover. In most states it tends to be better at Costco but here (where there is no Sam’s Club either) the produce is pretty bad. There just isn’t enough turnover.

If you are buying primarily food, click and pull with curbside delivery would be worth an extra 20 min of driving for me in a pandemic if the quality of produce was good.

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6 minutes ago, Lady Marmalade said:

I have both and find them very similar in many regards.  There are some things I get specifically from each store, and other things that I can get at either and it's pretty much the same product.   I personally prefer Sam's as my go-to, and the biggest reason for that is the app.  The Scan-N-Go is a game changer for me.  I can shop at Sam's, scan my items with my phone as I put them in the cart, and when I'm ready to leave, swipe to pay and then scan my app at the door.  No check-outs, no lines, and minimal contact with the one person scanning the app and checking the cart at the door on the way out.  

I've also used the pickup service a few times during quarantine.  It worked well and kept me out of the store.  I was thinking I might try the curbside once it's available.

Oh! Another reason I prefer Sam's is that I am a Plus member, so I get extra early hours every day.  It's always open when I want to be shopping, where Costco opens so much later.  By the time Costco opens I like to be back home and completely finished with any errand running.  Costco also really turned me off this quarantine time with their one-way shopping.  At my Costco (not sure if this was chain-wide) they placed pallets down the wider aisles so you could literally only go one way (single file) down the aisle with your cart.  This is all well and good until the item you want is in the very last cooler case on the right and you're following Grandma Ertl on the slow train to nowhere.   I haven't been there in months because I just couldn't handle the stress of being in any store any longer than I absolutely needed to.   I'm going to send DH one of these days to check it out and see if they're still doing the pallet thing. 

Yes to all this!  We are members of both.  Honestly, with a big family, I feel like we get our money's worth out of both of them.  I do like the clothes at Costco, and like someone else said, most of my wardrobe is from Costco.  But I get most of my groceries at Sams, and the curbside pickup as well as the scan and go are really, really nice.

I personally think Costco is more for little families who like to buy a bunch of little packages of stuff, whereas Sams has more stuff in big quantities.  But not as much trendy little stuff.

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If you haven't been to both in your area, make sure to visit both. In my  daughter's town the Costco is in a nice area and reflects that. The Sam's Club is in a different area and the store isn't kept up. I buy things online at Sam's Club and have them shipped to my daughter, it is the only reason for my membership. She visited one time, walked the store, left and said she was afraid of going there again.  She goes to Costco quite often, and feels safe shopping there. 

 

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Unless it's changed since I was there last, Sam's has Angus beef, while Costco doesn't.  Costco has a lot of organic produce and Sam's doesn't.  Costco is generally nicer, IMHO.

 

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When Costco came to our area, I did a lot of comparison shopping.  Price was within pennies of each other on most basic supplies, I would buy but Costco had fewer of the basics that I wanted.  For instance Costco only carried small cans of tomatoes.  But at Sam's they have 3 sizes of canned tomatoes. Costco does also skew heavily to organics.  For instance, they used to carry regular raisins and organic raisins but have discontinued the regular ones.  I don't doubt they have a good price for the organic ones, but I'm not willing to pay a premium for organic and I can get regular cheaper (although in much smaller packages) at the grocery store.  Thirdly, Sm's actually marks things on clearance.  Costco, just makes it disappear.  So you can get seasonal candy or Christmas decorations marked down at Sam's, but at Costco, it's just all gone the day after.  Sam's marks other things down as well.  I once got Specilous Cookie butter for 99 cents a jar (normally 5.99), and our favorite salad dressing that normally sells for 5.99, I got for $1.97.  It's really rare to find great food markdowns at Costco.  Some things just cost way more at Costco like block parmesan sells for 5.99 at Sam's but 10.99 at Costco and Asiago I can get at Sam's year round but Costco only has it has Christmas time.  So for me Sam's wins hands down. However, our Sam's closed so my only option is Costco.  But anytime I'm visiting friends who have Sam's membership, I try to coordinate a trip and stock up on things that Costco either doesn't have or are just too expensive.

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I have never been impressed with Sam’s.  Costco has higher quality brands and more organic for a good price, plus the cash back we get with our Costco visa is significant.  I’d rather shop occasionally at Aldi and keep my Costco membership than jump ship to Sam’s, personally.

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The last time I went to Sams club (which was admittedly a long time ago,) it just seemed to me that there was nothing at Sams that I couldn't get at Walmart at an equal price per unit.  

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2 hours ago, EmseB said:

I'm taking a mental health break from the covid threads (will not look at my notifications, will not look, will not look) to ask some frivolous questions.

I've been a Costco member for about 10 years, but I'm up for renewal and Sam's Club is now offering curbside pickup at all of its locations by the end of June, so I'm thinking of switching. I can't get instacart or other delivery services where I am, so I have to do pickup if I want to avoid going in stores . Which I do.

So I can Google, just thought I'd ask what experiences people had comparing the two. I feel like I know Costco like the back of my hand, but I've never been in a Sam's ever. My closest Costco is 25mins away and Sam's is 45mins. I am feeding 7 people three times a day or maybe just 3 people 7 times a day, who knows at this point???

Anyway, thoughts?

I have no thoughts whatsoever about Costco vs Sam's since there's only one of the two in our area, and I haven't been in a grocery store since . . . Well sometime in 2019.  But I really really really want to know, as the parent of 9, 10 and 12 year old boys how you get away with feeding your two oldest 3 times a day.  We're also a family of 7, but I feel like I'm feeding 7 people 7 times a day.  

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Thank you all for the input! My Costco membership is really going to waste right now because I just don't like going in stores while cases keep rising here. I know the relative risk is low especially since they require masks, I'm just a weenie I guess. But I know all my Costco staples, so it's hard to want to switch. Looking at the Sam's app they seem to have a lot of the same stuff. As for the actual store, it won't matter too much because we're moving soon. I just need to buy bigger quantities of stuff at one time, mainly.

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23 minutes ago, CuriousMomof3 said:

I have no thoughts whatsoever about Costco vs Sam's since there's only one of the two in our area, and I haven't been in a grocery store since . . . Well sometime in 2019.  But I really really really want to know, as the parent of 9, 10 and 12 year old boys how you get away with feeding your two oldest 3 times a day.  We're also a family of 7, but I feel like I'm feeding 7 people 7 times a day.  

It might be closer to your estimate. Food kind of randomly disappears! Sometimes I am just thankful if they aren't eating ingredients for a meal I actually planned.

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3 minutes ago, EmseB said:

Thank you all for the input! My Costco membership is really going to waste right now because I just don't like going in stores while cases keep rising here. I know the relative risk is low especially since they require masks, I'm just a weenie I guess. But I know all my Costco staples, so it's hard to want to switch. Looking at the Sam's app they seem to have a lot of the same stuff. As for the actual store, it won't matter too much because we're moving soon. I just need to buy bigger quantities of stuff at one time, mainly.

I do utilize costco for specific things, but honestly, the thing I use costco the most for is gas.  When we moved here and I realized I was around the corner from Costco, I ran some numbers.  I had previously used Speedway for gas primarily.  I had the rewards card and bought nearly all my gas there because it was so close.  I was regularly getting free gas cards with the points.  And I studied the prices of gas at costco, and calculated it out, and switching to getting gas nearly exclusively at Costco was still cheaper for me, even after paying for a costco membership.  Even if I buy nothing there but gas, having the membership saves me money

(well, it does when I have more driving to do.....so far I think I have filled up my gas tank twice since the first of the year lol.)  

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44 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

The last time I went to Sams club (which was admittedly a long time ago,) it just seemed to me that there was nothing at Sams that I couldn't get at Walmart at an equal price per unit.  

That was exactly my experience as well. I had a Sam's membership for one year and the only thing I ever bought there that I couldn't have gotten just as easily at WalMart was a trampoline. I think Costco's store brand (Kirkland) is much higher quality than Sam's, the gas is cheap, and they just have a lot more stuff that I like vs Sam's. Plus Costco treats their employees vastly better than WalMart/Sam's, so I feel better about shopping there.

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For most of the things we buy at such stores, Costco wins for us. We have memberships at both, because Sam's is closer and has great gas prices. (I should say that we got the Sam's membership when I was driving a Suburban and gas was $3+/gallon.)  As others have said, the basics are the same price anyway. In my experience, the meat prices are about the same, though I dislike the way Costco packages their chicken parts and prefer to get those at Sam's. We don't buy vast quantities of produce at either place.  

For shopping itself, I much prefer Costco. The workers at Sam's are rude, and before they installed self-check the line were horrible. So far my Costco does not have self-check, but they are fast and efficient. And while friendliness is not a big concern to me, the workers at Sam's are borderline surly and act as though they are doing me a favor by helping me. At Costco people are at least good at pretending they don't hate their job and customers.  

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15 hours ago, TrulySusan said:

To me, the main difference is that Costco is way more oriented towards organic foods. If your family eats mostly organic, you won’t find as much at Sams. Otherwise, they are very similar. 
 

If you feel ok with the Covid risk, they will let you come in and look around without a membership- you just tell the person at the door you are thinking of buying one.

I definitely agree.

15 hours ago, lmrich said:

Just the difference in time driving would make me love Costco even more! Costco is the best for my allergies. And truth be told, 1/2 my wardrobe is from Costco! 


Yes - my Costco is 45-50 minutes away and my Sam's is 15ish.  The last time I was there and handed my membership card to a manager and said, "I will never need this again." Not ever.  The lines are a fiasco and I think the attitude of the store overall stinks.  I did think their produce was excellent at my location, but I can get more organic at Costco.  I drive for Costco.  I wish they had pick up and I wish it wasn't so far, but there is no comparison for me because of how we eat.  

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4 minutes ago, BlsdMama said:

I definitely agree.


Yes - my Costco is 45-50 minutes away and my Sam's is 15ish.  The last time I was there and handed my membership card to a manager and said, "I will never need this again." Not ever.  The lines are a fiasco and I think the attitude of the store overall stinks.  I did think their produce was excellent at my location, but I can get more organic at Costco.  I drive for Costco.  I wish they had pick up and I wish it wasn't so far, but there is no comparison for me because of how we eat.  

Weird. I have had the exact opposite experience. My Costco and Sams are both about 15 minutes away but I find myself at Sams much more. I have Plus and was able to get in at 7am. I would get a couple hundred in cash from my plus membership. My Sams was always so much less crowded and they have scan and pay, which is huge these days. I’m friendly with all of the staff there. I’ve gotten to know the cashier, she even asked me about homeschooling her dd who is on an IEP and the lady that checks our receipt. 
Even after they built the new Costco near me, it’s still a madhouse. I get some anxiety going there. Always lines. Always crowded. I keep the basic membership for oldest who gets gas and lunch there sometimes. I like the frozen veggies and a few of the frozen foods. Everything is more expensive there. They also open so much later. 
Given the choice I prefer Sams. 

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14 hours ago, Arctic Mama said:

I have never been impressed with Sam’s.  Costco has higher quality brands and more organic for a good price, plus the cash back we get with our Costco visa is significant.  I’d rather shop occasionally at Aldi and keep my Costco membership than jump ship to Sam’s, personally.

I can park my car in one spot and hit both Aldis and Costco. 😬

I have to pay better attention because I read through MOST of this thread thinking we were comparing Costco and BJs

ETA: I’m not even paying attention to myself because I accidentally typed “Sam’s and BJ’s” which was not what I meant.  Oh boy. 

Edited by KungFuPanda
Not paying attention again
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Why can't Costco just offer curbside pickup??? Would make this issue so much easier for me personally, which is what every business should be catering to, right??

/whine

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We have used Instacart for a few Costco orders - delivery only, not the same as curbside, I know. Some things can be ordered from  Costco.com and shipped. 

Not to be the Costco cheerleader, but something else I thought of. At the Sam's near me, people do not try to distance, and more people don't wear masks, or they wear it to get in the door, then drop it below their chin. I don't feel particularly "unsafe" there, but there's definitely a different vibe. Costco feels much cleaner and the people (employees and customers) more... bought-into? ... the idea of masking, distancing, not handling every dang item 50 times, etc.  Obviously this will differ in different areas. 

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57 minutes ago, marbel said:

We have used Instacart for a few Costco orders - delivery only, not the same as curbside, I know. Some things can be ordered from  Costco.com and shipped. 

Not to be the Costco cheerleader, but something else I thought of. At the Sam's near me, people do not try to distance, and more people don't wear masks, or they wear it to get in the door, then drop it below their chin. I don't feel particularly "unsafe" there, but there's definitely a different vibe. Costco feels much cleaner and the people (employees and customers) more... bought-into? ... the idea of masking, distancing, not handling every dang item 50 times, etc.  Obviously this will differ in different areas. 

I can't get instacart where I am. 😕

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We're members of both.  I really think you need to visit both stores a couple of times in order to decide.  It's pretty location-dependent.  When we lived in Iowa I preferred Sam's because I couldn't count on anything in the Iowa City Costco to be in stock, ever.  Costco might be cheaper and the stuff organic, but what difference does that make if I can't plan a menu because they never have chicken in stock?  They've opened more stores in Iowa since then so it might be different now, but at the time it was maddening.

In other places we've lived Sam's has been in questionable neighborhoods or a much further drive.  Their inventory is more predictable though, even in a pandemic.

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