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Friday, February 4, 2011

Store Review: Costco

Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST), is a wholesale discounter that sells directly to the public allowing consumers to bypass retail distributors and retail prices for household items. Costco can save families a lot of money due to its bulk pricing on goods, but does require an annual membership fee.

Online shoppers can shop at costco.com which may also have product rebates. Depending on where a Costco is located it may avoid higher municipal taxes as in some neighborhoods the food tax is 2.5% which is lower than the 5% in other neighborhoods. Some of the pros and cons of shopping at Costco may include the following and are discussed further thereafter.

Advantages of shopping at Costco


The advantages of shopping at Costco can save members money, but a particular way of shopping can enhance these benefits. For example, Costco mails out monthly coupon books to its members. These coupon books discount items that may already be cheaper to buy than elsewhere or are lower in price due to the amount purchased. By using these coupons wisely, one can maximize cost savings.

• Wholesale prices
• Additional member coupon books
• Costco Cash Back Rewards American Express card
• Lower municipal tax in some locations
• Online product rebates for some items

Some Costco shopping tips are described by the "Crazy Coupon Lady" video below:


Disadvantages of shopping at Costco


Costco is not without its disadvantages, the most striking of which are the size of the carts in comparison to the volume of shoppers and floor space with which to navigate. Parking can also be a hassle at Costco which is often not located within a mile of one's home for fast shopping. Going to Costco can take a few hours out of one's day so it may be a trip to plan for. Some disadvantages of shopping at Costco are listed below:

• Not all prices are exceptional
• In store car traffic may be dense
• Register line ups can be long
• Location may not be ideal

There are more than one way to save at Costco as per the aforementioned items. The membership fee pays itself off with a few good buys and Costco also mails members coupons on already discounted items. Some of these coupons have discounts between 10%-30%. These coupons can be helpful in achieving better value if the products are needed and used or adequately replace an existing needed product. Costco does have a cash back rewards American Express credit card, however Costco does not accept other types of credit cards.

Not all products at Costco are heavily discounted


Some items at Costco really don't seem to be priced much lower than other places. For example, Nintendo Wii's were discounted $5.00 from retailers. However, there are several items that are/were much cheaper at the time this article was written. For example, Claritin allergy medication, Feta cheese and Kirkland 135 oz dish soap. Incidentally, the Kirkland dish soap can be used for cleaning bath tubs as well.

Location and popularity can be inconvenient


Costco's location is usually located away from urban cores, so getting there might cost a few dollars depending on how far away you live away from the warehouse. On weekends, the Costco in my area is very full and makes the experience somewhat tiring. Early mornings and weekdays have better register line up times, parking spaces and store traffic. Also, the shopping carts at Costco are huge, this can really build up congestion in the main isles of the warehouse.

• Theft control keeps prices low

Costco seems vigilant at preventing theft that theoretically helps keeps prices low. Membership cards are checked at the door, purchases can't be made without a membership card and exiting customers have their receipts and products reviewed. The staff at Costco seemed pleasant and were not hesitant to provide useful assistance which is nice especially if you're looking for one item in the warehouse and don't know where it is.

• Shopping wisely helps optimize membership

Costco could end up not saving you a great deal of money if you buy products that aren't well discounted or needed. As with all shopping, comparison shopping is essential to knowing where to go to save money. Some products are cheaper at other stores as I have done a fair amount of comparison shopping. Typically I am not able to find everything I want, at the price I want, at just one store. This takes focused trips, product price memory and/or records but ends up being worthwhile it terms of cost savings. Costco is on my list of places to go to save money.

In summary, Costco Wholesalers is a discount household item warehouse. After comparison shopping, tax savings and coupons Costco membership fees can be paid off and then some. Costco may not be located at the most convenient location and the crowds, parking, register queues and in store cart traffic can be cumbersome. Nevertheless, these things can be avoided by timing shopping for when they are less likely to occur. Costco benefits bulk shoppers such as large families, and college students who house share. Not everything one wants may be provided at Costco for the price you expect so it can be a good idea to comparison shop for some items that seem they aren't priced that well.

Source: http://www.costco.com