Costco vs. Sam’s Club- Which is Better?

Comparing Sam’s Club to Wal-Mart to Target. Often, the choice between the two warehouse clubs comes down to price vs. brand selection (and also location). We examine which one is best.

Costco vs. Sam’s Club

Sam’s clubs tend to be  located in areas where customers have to budget shop, while Costcos tend to be located in wealthier suburbs, where customers have the luxury of choosing to budget shop. One (Costco) offers less selection and better quality, while the other (Sam’s club) offers more selection and a little less quality. One (Costco) is the biggest seller of fine wines and the other (Sam’s Club) is part of the company that is the biggest seller of well, everything.

From a budget fashion perspective, Costco is obviously the better choice for those looking for brand names like Calvin Klein Jeans for $22.99 and the store has a great “no-questions-asked-return-policy“. It’s private label brand, Kirkland,  has men’s dress shirts that are comparable in quality to the private label brands of  major department store like Nordstrom and cost 50% less.  However, what attracts budget shoppers like myself to the store is that Costco caps their markups at 14% over the price they paid for an item—significantly less than department stores (up to 50%) and yep, even less than Sam’s Club/Wal-Mart. Plus, there’s evidence that Costco employees are better compensated than their Sam’s Club counterparts– but as one person pointed out Costco employees often make more money because they live and work in wealthy suburbs where it costs more money to live.

Another “plus” for Costco is the amazing deals on necessities like Gas for your car and eyewear- both of which can be purchased at Costco (and at some Sam’s Clubs, albeit with limited selection on the eyeglasses) at a significant discount from other retail outlets. For example, you can often save up to $.10 per gallon (and more) on gas at Costco stations. You can also purchase wedding rings and designer handbags at both stores (although recent lawsuits suggest that the designer handbags may not be, well, designer).

Now, don’t go and cut up your Sam’s club card. Sam’s club has more locations and I think better deals on bulk items like toilet paper, bottle water, where brand name really doesn’t matter. Plus, Sam’s Club shares exclusive deals, like a limited edition Garth Brooks cd box set, with it’s sister store, Wal-Mart and the membership is about $15 cheaper than Costco.

Despite their great deals and bulk groceries (do you really need a 7 pound chocolate cake?), I still think something is missing from these stores. Fashionistas will not want to head to the local Sam’s club en mass. With the exception of mass market  Calvin Klein jeans and nice dress shirts, the rest of the clothing selection leaves much to be desired. One area that they could improve would be the sizing (or lack of) their clothing. I would estimate over 75% of the women I’ve seen shopping at my local Costco would be considered plus size, yet a majority of the clothing are in size 16/XL or below.

The physical design of the stores can be quite confusing. There are little to no signage on the aisles, so you often spend 30 minutes looking for peanut butter. Once you find the peanut butter, there’s a limited selection in terms of brands (buyers for the warehouse buy whatever brand they can get the cheapest for the week). Once you decide on a brand, then you have to wait 30 minutes in a check out line. However, I can see the appeal of the store, especially for families, with large grocery needs. For them, I say score a card, it’s worth it.

The Verdict: Sam’s Club is a great for staples like toilet paper, while Costco is better for the “extras” like eye glasses, smoked salmon etc.

 

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Comments

  1. Marissa says

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    Until 6 years ago, I didn’t have the choice of warehouses to shop from. A native Texan, I grew up with Sams. Amazing how competition can motivate a company to change. Before Costco arrived in Texas, I found all Sams Wholesale clubs that I shopped at to be dirty, and the customer service lacking. And this is the first year I decided not to renew my Sams membership. I find that overall, the price difference between the memberships means little to me when I look at the big picture. “Sometimes, you get what you pay for.”

  2. Kelly says

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    I worked at Costco for over 4 years and I decided to finally quit because the management was lacking common sense and promoted people who had looks not brains.  I applied for a job at Sams Club and I am glad I did.  I have been working for the Club for over a year now and I haven’t been happier. My co-workers are so much more plesent.  It is a team enviroment at Sams and I am glad to say I work for Sams.

    • Jerry says

      There is no way you would have quit Costco to go to Sam’s and been happy.  The pay difference is such a big difference.  I work at Costco and make 21.50, whereas my wife works at Sam’s b/c she hasn’t been able to get hired at Costco.  She makes 9.15 an hour and works much later hours as well.

      • Randi says

        I currently work at Sam’s. I hit my two year mark in November and lets just say I have my application in at the Costco that opens up in a couple months. Let’s just say there is no team work, respect for the individual at all at my club. I am hoping I get a call from Costco. The pay and hours at Sam’s is ridiculous. I work my butt off every day to only bring home 460.00 paycheck every two weeks. I can not support my 7 month old son on that.

  3. manasvi says

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    actually where I live, most of the women who shop costcoare below size 10, so it kind of works for them to have sizes to choose from. My family enjoys the fact that organic food is so inexpensive, and that we get insanely good prices on calvin klein, kenneth cole both reaction and unlisted, and miss sixty. My friend got dior sunglasses for the ungodly price of 90 dollars as compared to i dunno 300 dollars. That more than paid for her family’s membership. With the coupons that come in the mail, luxury products are even more affordable. Contact lenses are inexpensive. I got a pair of glasses a couple years ago that had all the bells and whstles, including scratch resistant lenses, transitions and whole bunch of hoopla and they were givenchy. All told 400… Compared to the place we usually shop, they sold just the glasses – forget the lenses and transitions and scratch resistance for 500 bucks. We got a much better deal. I also am proud to know that I support a corporation that actually seems to give about its employees in terms of wage. Kelly, it could also be that specific costco.

    We get great deals on everything there, and I couldn’t ask for more.

  4. Monica says

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    I have a Costco membership,and although we are a family of 6, I usually don’t buy many groceries there because we can’t posibly eat them before they expire.So I found that I waste more than I save.I used to have my freezer full of stuff. But in the end I save more money budget shopping at my local Food Mart. I hate wasting food. I feel guilty.
    And clothe shopping there, forget it! They had Calvin Klein shirts that were extremely thin and plain for $20. You basically are paying for the name. Most of their clothes are just ugly. IMO.

  5. jpaplin says

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    Here in CA Sam’s are few and far between, but Costco is worth the membership for the savings on gasoline alone if the one near you happens to have a gas station!

  6. mygianni says

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    I grew up on Costco. I remember when I was 6yrs. old, thats all my aunt and uncle would ever shop at for bulk items because coming from a tongan family (Polynesian Islands) we have a very large family so a warehouse store like Costco fit our needs. Plus, we never had to worry about breaking our budget and whatnot we always have enough food to go around. My husband now works at Costco in Torrance, CA and he enjoys being part of the Costco Family! We love it, the Management Team has great hospitality and everyone gets along really well.

    Kelly, I’m sorry to hear what happened to you at Costco. But it could be your Costco that you worked at. So please dont dislike Costco for that reason, maybe you could’ve tried a different Costco, I dont know. But best wishes to you!

  7. Mattie says

    So, I just discovered some amazing shopping finds at my local Sam’s club yesterday and I wanted to do some googling to find out if this was normal… let me share with you all what I found – and eventually bought =)
    – a London Fog, black, thigh length rain coat for $9.81
    – two IZOD button downs for $16 each (one chambray, one coral)
    – an IZOD argyle sweater for $4.81 (no, thats not a typo)
    – a coral Anne Klein 3/4 sleeves v-neck sweater for $14
    – two crew neck Anne Klein sweaters with gold button accents on the left shoulder for $4.81 each (one black, the other tiny black and white striped)
    – one Ellen Tracy mustard cardigan for $19 (the kind that doesn’t have any closure and hangs long and flowy on each side)
    – a simple black cardigan for $14 – the brand name is escaping me, but it was someone of note (came in a slew of other colors and prints, but I needed a new black one)
    – and a caribbean blue colored summer dress/swimsuit over-up, deep v neck, (technically sleeveless but the top is wide enough that the overhang acts like sleeves) for $13, also a brand name designer that I cant remember at the moment.

    Now, you’re telling me that Costco has BETTER finds than Sam’s club?!?! I’m on my way!!! can’t wait to see what I discover! (I also heard I have to check out BJ’s!!)
    anyone else have any great finds to report?!

  8. Jessica says

    This is sort of random, but I should mention that while Sam’s toilet paper costs less, the product is super cheap… One roll, swear to god, lasts me less than a week. Costco TP lasts much longer.

  9. Joseph says

    they both have there good and bad quality’s but yes I do agree that buying in bulk is a little to much before the expiration date. But then again even with the membership fees of both stores Cosco or Sams I believe in service. I am disabled and I feel discriminated in both stores just based on architectural barriers they are to occupied comparing who’s better that they forget there costumers ability to even the simplest things like to reach for a jar of peanuts and a long line for the so called normal people remember in time we will all be disabled.

  10. Carol says

    I actually work for BJ’s , Mattie… Yum Yum Yum!!! best place ever!!! seriously

    I am on here looking to see which place is better for grocery shopping prices and deals, Cosco or Sam’s? I don’t really care about the clothes

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