There’s no doubt that warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club offer great deals for savvy shoppers. Savings that can easily pay for the annual fee if you shop smart. But as with any store, there are going to be things NOT worth the money. So I set out and chatted with over a dozen employees at Sam’s and Costco and got their opinion on the worst buys in the warehouse. I think you’ll find what they had to tell me very interesting.
I was actually surprised with the large number of products that employees told me steer clear from at Sam’s and Costco.
Here are the items that I found the most interesting…
The WORST buys at Costco:
I had a Costco employee tell me that the books they sell are “like literally .001% of what Barnes & Noble carries. If you’re looking for the current top 10 bestseller books, Costco is fine, but that’s about it.”
I hate to say it, but she’s kind of right, Costco has the current popular books that you’ll buy on an impulse, but you’d never go to Costco looking for an obscure title or something that was popular last year.
2. Canned Goods
Jared, a Costco employee I found doing inventory checks in the dry goods section, said the canned veggies are a hard pass for many Costco shoppers.
He went on to explain, “Who has room for 12 cans of beans or corn? Unless your shopping for a Thanksgiving feast it’s just not a great idea”.
I did some price comparisons with my local grocery store and the per unit price on canned veggies was very similar, especially when bought on sale.
The takeaway: Buy canned goods from your local grocery store when you see them on sale and avoid having to find space for them in your pantry.
3. Name Brand Cereal
A had an employee loading my cart at checkout tell me his wife often gets better deals on cereal at Grocery Outlet – Bargain Market.
He also said the Costco selection is very limited and “you better like it cuz you’re getting a bunch of it”.
My Take: It really depends on what cereals you like. For example, I love me some Honey Bunches of Oats and the Costco price is the cheapest I’ve found anywhere.
This one was interesting and came from a new Mom who also works at Costco.
She was surprised that the price of Kirkland diapers wasn’t nearly as cheap as she thought it might be.
She said for size 1 diapers, the Kirkland brand comes out to $0.18 per diaper, BUT she can get the Parent’s Choice diaper at Walmart for $0.10/each.
She said she actually finds the Parent’s Choice brand to be a much better diaper and is her current go-to.
5. Fruit and Veggies
The fruit at Costco looks so beautiful, the peaches almost look fake they’re so perfect.
And shoppers tend to think that the large packaging must mean a good deal. Wrong.
The problem is the fruit tends to go from under ripe to over ripe with no in-between.
In actuality, the only produce at Costco that is a good deal, price wise, is bananas and apples.
For everything else, you’ll find better prices at Aldi, Grocery Outlet, and even Trader Joe’s.
This one I actually didn’t need an employee to tell me.
Grocery stores like Safeway and Walmart often give away Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Dr. Pepper with a buy 2, get 1 free promotion.
This promotion is usually the 12 can boxes, so you get 36 cans for the price of 24 which is always cheaper than what Costco sells soda for.
7. Some Electronics
Surprisingly, I had an employee working the returns desk tell me to beware of some HDTVs and portable speakers.
She said to always check the specs as some items have specs that aren’t as good as you’ll find at Best Buy, for example.
Things to check include how many HDMI ports are on the TV, proper resolution, and the battery life of portable speakers.
Also, keep in mind that Best Buy will price match Costco, so you can get the Costco price without even having a membership.
The WORST buys at Sam’s:
According to a friendly Sam’s employee that I talked with in the parking lot, Vitamins are typically not a good buy at warehouse club.
While the unit price is typically low compared to the competition, he said to make sure and determine if you’ll actually use them all before they expire.
While the FDA does not require vitamin manufactures to put an expiration date on the product, but most still do.
Depending on the supplement, many have an expiration date within 12 months of manufacture.
It’s NOT a great deal if you end up throwing some away or take an expired vitamin that’s loss its potency.
2. Snacky Foods
This one really surprised me as my wife and I have been snack foods from warehouse clubs for years and always thought it was a good deal.
When it comes to chips, granola bars, and crackers I had a Sam’s employee tell me that she always get a better deal at Aldi’s and Grocery Outlet.
She explained it this way, “similar to Sam’s, the selection can change, but I always get stuff for my kid’s lunch 20-40% cheaper compared to here”.
Lands’ End, DKNY, Nine West, Eddie Bauer – these are just some of the clothing brands you’ll find at Sam’s Club.
But I had a Sam’s employee anonymously tell me that while the brands seem good, the quality is 2nd rate.
He actually told me to think of Sam’s as an outlet store where name-brands sell cheaper quality stuff, but they know many shoppers will still buy it because of the brand recognition.
Just something to keep in mind the next time you’re shopping for apparel at Sam’s.
Unless you’re brewing coffee for an entire office, I had an employee warn me against buying bulk coffee at Sam’s.
Beans or ground coffee typically goes stale in less than 2 weeks, especially if you’re not storing it in an air-tight container.
Plus you have to buy so much of it that you don’t get the variety that many coffee connoisseurs crave.
For the freshest coffee possible, you’re better off buying smaller portions from your grocery store or better yet, your local roaster.
I had an employee at Sam’s also tell me that buying cheese just ain’t cutting it any more.
The price keeps going up and is now on par or above your local grocery stores.
He actually told me that the only place he buys cheese now, especially specialty cheeses, is it at Trader Joe’s.
And finally, on a whim, I asked a parking lot attendant what item at Sam’s is a terrible buy….he immediately said, “ketchup, mayo, and mustard…unless you’re eating hot dogs three times a week you’ll never use it all.”
So beware of anything that comes in large vats or containers as there’s a good chance you’ll end up throwing it away before you use it all.
While Sam’s and Costco has gotten better at selling more reasonably sized containers, this is still some pretty sage advice if I don’t say so myself.
Ask the Reader: Do you agree or disagree with these bad buys at Costco and Sam’s? Let me know.