From Aldi and Trader Joe’s to Sam’s Club and Whole Foods, people have a ton of options when it comes time to head to the grocery to stock up on sundries and supplies.
This can be good when you’re looking for ways to beat the rising cost of groceries.
One store that has particularly loyal customers, however, is Costco. The bulk outlet even requires folks to pay an annual fee in order to step foot through the door.
So what is it that not only attracts shoppers to Costco in the first place but makes members out of them?
Let’s start with the obvious. On some days, usually busy shopping days, Costco literally gives out free food.
You can do a loop of the grocery area and enjoy samples of sausage, artichoke dip, cheese and crackers, appetizers, candies, various beverages, etc.
Costco also doesn’t police you so you can go back for seconds or even thirds and make a meal of it.
The food court
While the samples are great because they’re free, the food court at Costco has some pretty affordable options.
There’s the famous $1.50 all-beef hot dog combo, pizza by the slice or pie, sandwiches, salads, desserts, and more.
The food is actually good, too, so you’re not stuck with slimy pizza or salads with wilted lettuce.
While regular grocery stores sell plenty of items, they don’t have the bulk selection that Costco does.
From 30-packs of toilet paper to giant jars of peanut butter to enough supplements to last you months, everything's bigger at Costco.
That can mean fewer trips to the grocery store and is a godsend for large families. They even have volume sales with a $10,000 minimum.
Friendly and helpful staff
Sometimes you may have to wait in long lines at Costco, but by the time you get to the front, the staff is always pleasant.
They’re often adept at making engaging small talk and making sure you found everything you needed. That doesn’t slow them down either, as the staff is as efficient as they are agreeable.
If you ever wondered why Costco workers are so nice, a big part of it is that the company treats its workers well.
For one, the pay is good for all of their positions. Plus, the health benefits are generous and comprehensive, including dental and vision care.
Then there’s the 401K plan, which is better than the average. Staff can even get free Thanksgiving turkeys!
Generous return policy
Costco is famous for its generous return policy, which essentially states that if you’re not happy with your purchase, you get your money back.
There are some exceptions, like electronics, alcohol and tobacco, diamonds, and custom orders. But other than that, they’ll pretty much take back anything.
It’s resulted in some bizarre Costco returns at times!
Because Costco sells in bulk, its prices are competitive compared to regular grocery stores.
You might spend more upfront on peanut butter since you’re buying two large jars instead of one small jar, but you’ll pay less per unit and come out on top — as long as you use it all up.
Costco also offers discounts you can’t find elsewhere, like steeply-discounted gift cards.
Pro tip: You can earn cash back every time you shop at Costco using one of these credit cards.
Not only are Costco warehouses giant, but so is their selection of merchandise.
If you’re shopping for salmon, for example, there are fresh, frozen, skin-on, Sockeye, Coho, King, farmed, wild, smoked, tartar, burgers, and canned options available.
Add to that the fact that Costco sells everything – from groceries and paper products to furniture and clothing, jewelry, and so much more – and you can understand the appeal.
Depending on the grocery store you’re shopping at, you may find that some days the produce selection is great, and others it’s kind of pathetic.
Fortunately, at Costco, the merchandise situation is going to be the same every time (barring toilet paper shortages or holiday demand).
The retailer has pretty meticulous quality control protocols in place, so products will be reliable and worth your money.
Membership literally pays off
There are two kinds of memberships for individuals at Costco: Gold Star and Executive. The former will set you back $60 and the latter $120.
However, the Executive level also gives you 2% cash back on all of your purchases every year. Costco literally sends you a check, which if you shop there enough can be more than the cost of your membership — up to $1,000.
That’s something you won’t get at a regular grocery store.
It caters well to different needs
Are you a pescetarian? As we mentioned earlier, Costco has a diverse selection of fish.
Don’t eat meat at all? There are lots of vegetarian options at the food court and in the store.
Need gluten-free products? They carry both groceries and freshly-baked options, and lots of them.
The aisles are also large enough for folks in wheelchairs, and motorized carts are provided for anyone who needs them.
While members enjoy shopping at Costco for practical and financial reasons, there are also some fun aspects people look forward to.
This includes finding new items, as Costco does take on new suppliers from time to time.
You may remember the first time you saw their giant teddy bear, for example, or you found a new kind of sandal in the apparel section.
If you’re not in a rush to buy groceries and grab prescriptions, it can be fun to poke around Costco’s electronics section. There’s an undeniable appeal in being able to both look and touch.
They always carry an impressive stock of the latest in TV technology, for example. You can also see what new smartphones are available and decide if you want to spring for a new one.
Shopping at Costco can be nostalgic for baby boomers since the store has been in operation since 1983.
Folks from that generation have also passed the tradition of a Costco outing down to their kids, so going shopping and having lunch at the food court feels like a rite of passage.
The $1.50 hot dog combo feeds into that nostalgia as well, as the price hasn’t changed in decades.
Speaking of the hot dog combo — a famous loss leader for Costco — gasoline is a loss leader for the company.
That means Costco loses money on these specific products, but the draw they provide means members spend enough money on other items to more than make up for it.
So you can fill your tank after your shopping trip for less than most other places — and feel pretty good about it.
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Shopping at Costco is preferable to traditional grocery stores for many people. This is because of its low prices, unique and large selection of products, free samples, cheap food, and clever shopping hacks.
That doesn’t mean everyone would rather be shopping at Costco, as stores like Publix and Wegmans also have extremely devoted customers.
But if you’re a large family that goes through a lot of groceries every week, Costco is hard to beat.
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