Am I still in love with Costco? (Part I)

My sister-in-law doesn’t get Costco. In other words, she’s not a wee bit crazy about Costco. We’ll refer to her as Kathy. Our family sees Kathy and her family once or twice a year and during each visit, the idea of Costco arises. For example, a year ago, she asked us about our new windows, and I said, “we got them at Costco.” During another visits, she asked about the organic chips or Dutch cheese and we said, “We got them at Costco.” After tasting my organic broccoli seasoned with extra virgin organic olive oil and parmesan, she said the broccoli was delicious and I said, “Costco, Costco and Costco.” As times progressed, she’s much more hesitant to ask us about some of our yard and household items. Perhaps we’re being annoying about Costco? Being a Sam’s Club member for many years and not living close to Costco, she doesn’t understand the overall Costco craze and doesn’t understand our loyalty to Costco Wholesale.

store aisleIt got me thinking…maybe I’m brainwashed, maybe Costco is overrated. Maybe you spend too much money there? Maybe you wait in line too long? Maybe the membership is too expensive? To help set the record straight, I decided to take an honest look at the store to see if she may be right….how well does Costco really stack up?

Costco Late January 001Costco Gas…Gas, their gas is among the lowest you’ll find. If you visit the store every 7 to 10 days after normal driving,, that’s an ideal place to add petro to your tank. In addition, by using my Amex card, I get 3% back on all gas purchases.

One more comment about their gas service. If you visit Costco during the weekends, it’s quite busy. That’s how it is now and I suspect that won’t change. If you arrive early or late, you could mitigate your wait. Another option is to fill-up your gas from the opposite side of the car. In other words, their gas pump hoses are extraordinary long. So as many other customers directly align the gas stations to the pump, I have the option to choose either side.

Is it True that Costco Does Not Formally Advertise? Not sure if Kathy is aware of their business model. When I first read that Costco does not have a marketing department, I was flabbergasted. By sending out their Costco Connection Magazine and regular sales’ flyers every 5-6 weeks and word of mouth, Costco doesn’t see the need for traditional advertising. On those gloomy December Sundays in the Midwest when it’s dark by 4:30 pm and I’m watching the NFL, I don’t have to worry about seeing any add for Costco Wholesale. I may see a half dozen of Cialis commercials of those silly Geico commercials at least one per hour but no Costco. Wouldn’t Geico, State Farm or Allstate love to run a successful business without advertising?

Hyatt Place Dublin 001Costco’s Store Brand…Some retail stores have their own brand they market, however, the store brand may or may not always be a good deal. As Costco regulars know, their brand is Kirkland, and this brand has been associated with Costco for well over 10 years. For some who may hesitate at other retailers buying the store brand, no need to worry about Kirkland. Doesn’t matter if you’re buying a spring jacket, almonds, costco newwhole wheat bread or peanut butter, the Kirkland brand is not only typically cheaper than other brands, the value is quite good. Some have tried although it would be quite challenging for someone to steer me away from such a good value. To me, Kirkland conveys good value.

Some Items Permanently Moved off the Shelf…Almost every visit to Costco brings me to an item in the store that I hadn’t seen before. Some may notice a nice towel set available one week and then unavailable again. They sometimes have spring landscaping merchandise that is sold out in one weekend and they may or may not get some of the same merchandise back in the store. I’ve learned as a regular customer that if I’m in need of something that’s temporarily displayed at Costco, I need to take a long and hard look at that item as it may not be available during my next visit.

IMG_0554That can be frustrating and it’s just their way of doing business on certain items but there’s a flipside. One of the most interesting things to do is browsing — especially if you have the time and stamina. Their buyers are quite good and there are always interesting things to buy. This applies to toys, technology, clothes, household items, etc.. You never know what you’ll find but you can be assured it’s a good deal. Often, you have items on sale, so not only do you see the newest wireless headphones or newest coats on display, they may be discounted too. There may be a chance if it’s not available at the store, it may be available online.

I’ve been conditioned at Costco to not have expectations about finding everything on my list. It just won’t happen as an average store has about 4,000 items. Regardless, if you’re flexible and open, you can find some really interested things that typically are a good buy.