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Oh Costco, let me count the ways

  • Apr 16, 2009
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I'm a value shopper by nature... i just can't shake it.  If the deal is good enough, I'll buy 2 even though i only need 1.  Value doesn't mean buying the cheapest thing... it just means getting the most for your money.  So you can obviously see why a place like Costco would appeal to someone like me because this place has high quality merchandise at the best prices around.  In turn for that benefit you give up a couple things, like selection (even though i personally prefer the Costco buyer choosing the best value of any type of item) and the ability to purchase in small quantities.  I'm totally fine with that.

Here are some personal accounts as to why Costco is the best.

Great Customer Service:  
Peanut Butter Recall of 2008.  Costco called me to tell me that the Zone bars i bought might have bad peanut butter in them.  Thanks Costco!!

Coffee Machine Discount.  This one blew me away.  I bought a very expensive coffee maker for the office from Costco.com.  It was $900.  A month after i bought it, they sent me an email telling me the price had been reduced by $100 and they have credited my credit card.  Are you kidding me... they just gave me $100 back without me asking.  Who does that?  Why don't they publicize that?  What a great feature. 

Return Policy:  
They have the broadest return policy in the market.  They will take almost anything back, but there are now limitations on electronics (must be returned within 90 days) because some people have REALLY abused Costco's generous return policy.. you know who you are!  But even with people abusing their return policy (like bringing back half empty bottles of Gin and brooms that are worn down to a nub and used toothbrushes... yes i've seen all of those things on the return rack) i think it sets the right corporate culture (the customer is always right) and that culture actually generates more sales.  For example, when i shop there, i will throw things in the cart because i know i'm getting a good value, but also because i know if i don't like it I can bring it back.  So i shop with a reckless abandon when i'm there and that generates far greater sales than the small amount that i have actually ever returned.  Bravo on the return policy and i hope you keep it up.

Examples of shopping with reckless abandon:  
Fourth of July 2002.  I went to Costco to buy some beer for a BBQ.  I walked out with 2 ocean kayaks.  True story.  I still have both ocean kayaks and to this day they are one of my best value purchases.  Only $300 each and they came with their own paddle and seat. Disclaimer, i broke paddles in heavy surf so i had to go to REI and buy new ones at $150 each, but all in all great value because a comparable kayak at REI would be $700 just for the kayak.  These impulse purchased kayaks have provided me and my friends hours our recreation and exercise that i would have never experience if it weren't for Costco.

Roomba.   I was there buying something else, i saw it, and bought it.  (this is the little vacuum robot that automatically goes around your house).  I figured since it was at Costco it must be good.  Problem was, my house soooooo small that I never even took it out of the box.  When people would see the Roomba sitting in the box at my house, they knew it was a Costco purchase.

Beach Gear.  I currently have 4 foam surfboards, 2 boogie boards, 2 skim boards, 3 umbrellas and 20 towels at my house just waiting for Summer to get here.  Do i need all that... hell no... but at those prices, i felt like Costco was paying me to buy that stuff.  And i hope my friends enjoy it when Summer hits.

The Food (dining there): 
After reading some of the comments below i realized i missed a HUGE positive of the Costco experience... the food.

  When i was in law school, on a very tight budget, i used to head to the local Costco, take a couple of laps, and call it lunch.  I'd just load up on some of the samples and camp out in front of the TVs.  Lunch and entertainment for free... you can't beat that.

The Cafe:  I'm not sure if you can really call it a cafe, but i will.  You can get whole pizzas for $10, delicious vanilla ice cream bars hand rolled in chocolate and almonds for cheaper than a Haagen Dazs bar from the gas station, but best of all the hot dog and drink combo.  They sell a 1/4 pound all beef hot dog (with a tasty egg bread bun) and a fountain soft drink for $1.50.  That is the best lunch deal in town, hands down.  And even though they don't advertise it, you can just get the hotdog for $1.00 if you aren't thirsty.

Costco American Express Card:
(I am writing this paragraph because i was inspired by the comment below by @robertrogoff) I was turned on to this credit card by @gcm310 so he deserves some credit for this.  But as the comment below states, this is the best card out there.  They have 2 different options, but the rewards on this far out pace anything that is offered by any other credit card I have seen.  You get cash back for rewards in the following amounts for purchases made anywhere... not just at Costco. Gas 3% cashback; Restaurants 3% cashback; Travel 2% cashback; Everything else (including Costco) 1% cash back.  (the business version of this card is even a little better)  To put this in perspective...  if you compare this to traditional reward cards where you get 1 frequent flyer mile for ever dollar you spend that calulates to about 0.5% cashback due to how the value of frequent flyer miles have decreased recently.   I should make a data point on this credit card.

Additonally, this card serves as your Costco membership card as well, so you can eliminate one card in your wallet!!

Now i have noticed that not everything is perfect at Costco.  I don't understand why they aren't willing return things without the receipt.  They know exactly when i bought the item and how much I paid for it because it is in my membership transaction records, but they seem to just want to make the process a touch more difficult than it needs to be.  I can understand the desire for them to put up a slight barrier to returning something, so overall I'm very satisfied with this retail experience.  

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August 13, 2009
The return policy for Costco is a bit more relaxed here in Fort Worth. They are very easy on returns and I mean anything. The have a great nitrate free bacon, so it can go bad fast. Well the last package went bad on us (three packages for around $13), I called them and they told me to put it in a zip lock and return it, full credit. Its only $13 but most of the product was consumed and they were still great about it. We used to be Sams family,but everyone we met that went to Costco used to say "Costco it's just a liitttttttle bit better than Sams and cleaner". So my wife and I thought it was a sales pitch they gave to their members to recruit people.... for the last six years we find ourselves saying "Its just a liiitttttle bit better than...."
July 03, 2009
ok...the hot dog is mentioned here...but i think this is a "updated" review (don't recalll reading that the first time around)..great review!!! couldn't be any more thorough. i'm getting the costco am-ex card tomorrow...and a costco hot dog!!!
July 06, 2009
they should be paying me a commission on all the hot dogs i'm selling for them... actually... my friend's happiness is worth more to me than any hot dog commission.
May 24, 2009
That review was fun to read! (i particularly like the kayak anecdote). Another plus is that the hot dogs are Hebrew National and therefore healthier (no fillers and nasty stuff) and Kosher.
May 13, 2009
Really excellent review - I couldn't agree more!
May 01, 2009
LOL! You remind me so much of my brother. If the deal is good he will buy an overwhelming amount of what ever caught his eye. Great Review!
April 30, 2009
I think JR introduced me to Costco about 24 years ago. The Johnson family may have been Costco member number 1 if I am not mistaken. All I remember is that he had 3.... maybe 4 freezers packed with frozen bounty. Chest freezers, uprights, you name it they were filled with creamsickles, frozen yogurt, mini pizza's, taquitos and other delicious snacks. Even today with all his success it is nice to see that JR remembers where he came from. Good on ya!
April 30, 2009
true to my roots man... bagel dogs and stag chili are what power this engine. recently their well priced wines have been my fuel as well. I just bought a case of WildHorse for our launch party tomorrow.
April 30, 2009
I like the buffet (free samples), Kirkland products, and ease of shopping. A great deal is the no cost American Express card that gives you a per cent rebate check once a year. I get 5% for gas purchases, e.g. and it adds up.
April 30, 2009
I love Costco - here is my rave

1) Lunch - If I'm ever in the area of a COstco around lunch time, I pop in for an inexpensive meal. Giant hot dog and fountain drinks for $1.50. If I'm really hungry, a large slice of pizza is $1.99.

2) Batteries - the Kirkland brand batteries are very good. You can also get Eneloop rechargeables. I even got a great set of Sony batteries with a small smart charger. Awesome for the digital camera.

3) Energy bars - why pay $$$ at a sporting goods store. Clif bars are way cheaper at Costco. They also have several other brands of bars to chose from. Various amounts of protein and other ingredients to keep you going during a long bike ride or fitness run.

3) TVs & computers  - the 90-day no-questions-asked return policy is a deal-maker. Far less hassle than Best Buy if you are unhappy with the product. No restocking fee, either. They carry many different models in the store compared to what you can order on the web.

4) Random-osity - Wandering through the aisles, you never know what you might find. There are always surprises. Beware, though, you will almost always leave with more than you came for.
April 30, 2009
wow - great points! that should go into your own review, for sure : )
April 28, 2009
Ahh, Costco warms my heart. I also appreciate value and when presented with the option of buying a single item, I always enjoy getting it in bulk instead. JR nails it perfectly on why this is such a great store. The value, the selection, the customer service and the return policy. While Costco made a name for itself by selling items in bulk, they also offer single items at competitive prices (like TV's, Ipods, wine, etc). I also enjoy the "seasonal items." You never know what they might be selling, and more often that not, I am buying. (Especially since I am one of the owners of the aforementioned ocean kayaks!) But, they also occasionally sell art, men's suits from Canali, Hugo Boss, etc, and well, ocean kayaks. Plus, their food items are off the charts, the wine selection is pretty good – they are the largest wine retailer in the US – and they offer a laundry list of services that one wouldn't expect such as selling insurance, carpet and window installations, travel, car repair, eye exams, and they even have their own gas station. All in all, I defy anyone to find a more complete shopping experience. It is truly magical, and I hate shopping.
April 28, 2009
Great article. Renewed my faith in the store. I have bought everything from socks to tires. I didn't know their return policy was so reasonable. I'm taking the car in to have the tires balanced and will reward myself by poking up and down the aisles of the store while I wait.
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About the reviewer
J.R. Johnson ()
Ranked #31
If you're looking for some more company related stuff about me... it's on my bio page here.      Also, here's a family surf video from our recent wedding. Family = good … more
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Costco is a wholesale retailer which originated in Kirkland, Washington (thus why all Costco brand items are Kirkland Signature brand).  It is the fourth largest general retailer in the United States behind 1)Walmart 2)The Home Depot and 3)Kroger. 

The reason why Costco is so cheap is because they send in bulk, at wholesale price. Furthermore, Costco does not always carry different options for similar products (as you would find at most grocery stores).  Costco really gives you the bare bones - the product (and only one option at that), and no to carry your purchases out.

Currently, the Costco annual membership fee is $50 which includes two membership cards.  Costco only accepts checks, debit cards and American Express.
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