It’s official: Costco is raising its membership fee to sixty bucks. Well…they were pushing it when they jacked up their fee the last time. IMHO, $60 is a little much.
This very afternoon I went over there to buy gas and pick up some pork and chicken to make dog food. And I found myself questioning: why am I paying to shop here?
The Visa card I got to finesse Costco’s changeover to Obnoxious Citibank doesn’t give a kickback on gasoline. The new non-Costco, no-annual-fee AMEX card does — 3 percent. But you can’t use it at Costco, obviously. So I might as well buy gas at the QT up the road, instead of driving all the way down to Spectral Mall — the AMEX kickback would cut the cost to about what Costco is charging. Maybe less, even.
I’m finding that I’m spending an enormous amount less in Costco these days. Without the frequent Costco trips — and despite shopping a lot at Whole Foods, AJ’s, and Safeway — the AMEX bill was only $396. Haven’t seen the Visa bill yet, but estimate it’ll be around $400, too. That’s a total of $800, which is $200 to $400 less than I’ve been in the habit of spending per month. That is such a huge saving that it about covers the cost of the dreadful car payment.
So…why AM I paying to shop there, and is it worth it?
- They have a great selection of electronics and a generous return policy.
- Speaking of returns, except for electronics, they’ll take almost anything back and give you a full refund.
- They carry good quality pork and chicken in bulk, at excellent prices — well below what I can get for comparable stuff in grocery stores, and in large enough quantities that a single package will make a week’s worth of dog food.
- I love their blue jeans.
- They have the cheapest propane in town.
- You can’t beat their tire shop. Discount Tire used to be competitive, but it’s not anymore.
- It’s hard to beat their price on chlorine tablets.
- They sell Campari tomatoes (the only fresh tomatoes in US markets that taste like real tomatoes, IMHO), and they sell them in large quantities.
- Their maple syrup is cheaper than anyone else’s.
- Their pecans and walnuts come in giant packages, and they’re fresher than anyone else’s.
- It’s hard to find the “Tuscan” blend of frozen mixed veggies that have no garlic or onion in them (dog food, again).
- Prices on wine, beer, and hard liquor are excellent.
Worth it? Worth it? Hmmm…
Electronics: how often do you buy electronics, really? I’ve bought one (1) printer in the past four or five years. Costco doesn’t carry Macs (though I’m exasperated enough with Wyrd for Mac just now that I probably will replace the MacBook with a PC). Moot that, then.
Dog food: that IS big. It’s virtually impossible to buy human-grade meats in bulk anywhere else in town, certainly not for the prices Costco charges. I could switch the dogs over to commercial dog food. That would relieve me of hassle and expense…and it would shorten the dogs’ lives.
Blue jeans: you can order Gloria Vanderbilts from Amazon.
Propane: it would take you the better part of your lifetime to make up one annual $60 membership on the amount you save on refilling at Costco rather than at U-Haul. And U-Haul is right around the corner, not halfway to freaking Anthem!
Chlorine: ditto. Leslie’s doesn’t charge that much more for a gigantic pail of chlorine tabs.
Tires: that’s big. Very, very big. Their warrantee is excellent, their service can’t be beat, and their costs are…within reason. I’ve gotten some excellent deals on Costco tires over the years.
Campari tomatoes: Safeway carries them. Just buy two or three containers at once.
Pecans and walnuts: big, very big. I love nuts, and I do not enjoy them stale. The only other place you can get them in quantities as large as Costco sells is at Trader Joe’s, and Trader’s bulk pecans and walnuts are usually stale.
Tuscan-style mixed veggies: available at Fry’s and Walmart.
Maple syrup: you can’t afford to buy it anywhere else. But it is, after all, a form of sugar. Although it’s one of the best sources of calcium around, one could probably do without it. Should probably do without it.
Booze: Total Wine charges the same and has a larger selection. And they have sommeliers who will steer you to the best of all possible $9 wines.
So we have the dog meat, the delicious (fresh!!) nuts in bulk, the tires, and the maple syrup. And the fact that by and large the produce they carry is superior to many grocery stores’ offerings.
I wonder if my son and I could split a membership, claiming that we occupy the same household. We do own the house downtown in tandem. That would cut our respective costs to $60 apiece.
He was on my membership when he was a young pup, but now apparently they’re charging him as much as they’re charging me. I’ll have to ask him if he’d like to cancel whatever he’s got and throw in with me to get a cheaper deal.
Otherwise…if not…well… It may be time to say good-bye to Costco.
How much are you willing to pay for the privilege of shopping at Costco?