Monday, November 19, 2012

Costco vs BJ's: My review

When it comes to Costco vs BJ's, I have always thought they were about the same. And since I lived just 5 minutes away from a Costco at my old house, I've had a Costco membership for the past 7 years. But we moved recently, and Costco was no longer a hop, skip and jump away. In fact, it's about a 15 minutes drive away. So we decided to try BJ's after a couple of their coupons arrived in our mailbox. This is my review of the shopping experience at BJ's.

Put simply, shopping at BJ's is chaotic, confusing and stress-inducing. Why? Let me list the ways: first you have to present your coupons to the cashier at checkout. Now if you've never shopped at Costco, you might wonder why is that a big deal. The big deal is that Costco doesn't do this! If an item has a coupon, the coupon is automatically applied at checkout. Apart from feeling that company is working with you to save money, that should also speed up the check out process. Especially when you consider that these are warehouse stores i.e. people are usually buying a bunch of stuff and having to hunt for coupons at checkout can take some time.

Second, BJ's sends out a coupon booklet periodically. What's bad in that? Nothing except all the coupons in a booklet don't have the same start and end dates! Our first time at BJ's, we ended up with all these coupons we couldn't use because they weren't valid yet or had expired. For the first time BJ's customer, that's incredibly confusing and not an inviting shopping experience. Of course we had the option of not buying those items but try telling 3-year old twins who have been patient as you spent an hour moving around a giant warehouse...try telling them that their cinnamon sticks won't be coming home with us.

In addition to these 2 reasons, you also have these minor annoyances:

  • I paid for a membership over 2 months ago and have yet to receive a coupon booklet in the mail
  • BJ's has different color coupon sheets (green, blue, pink) in addition to the coupon booklet
  • The checkout guys at BJ's don't draw stick figures at the back of the receipts. My kids love to get those drawings....
Overall, I just felt that BJ's shopping experience was like an obstacle course which, if I navigated it correctly, gets me the same price as I would get by merely walking into Costco, grabbing stuff and checking out. About the only thing BJ's does better than Costco is that the aisles are labeled and Costco turns over their brands very quickly (I once bought a frozen thai chicken that was really great. Came back a few weeks later and it was gone, never to be seen at a Costco again). 

So there you have it. If you are wondering which membership to get, ask yourself this "do I get enjoyment from cutting coupons, putting them in binders and remembering to carry them everywhere with me?"