There was a grand opening of a Sam’s Club recently, and I thought I can venture out of my comfort zone and try it out. The results are surprising, in a good way. I decided to test out Sam’s club from an objective point of view (as much as I can) to see if I’m right or wrong. I’m throwing the ideas that Walmart is an evil corporation, and treating Sam’s Club as a separate entity.
Aesthetic and Flow of Store:
Sam’s Club is very nice from the outside and the inside. It is very clean inside, and all the aisles are clearly labeled. Within a few minutes I was able to figure out where I was, and where I wanted to go. For the most part it is set up exactly like Costco. You enter in the electronics with photo and optical on the left side wall. Along the left side was the durable goods, with produce and meat in the back. Along the right side was also set up the same way. In the back was frozen foods, with non perishable foods on the right coming back to the front. Pharmacy was in the front right of the store. In the center was the seasonal goods with clothes, and books.
At some points there was a slight change in what I expected. The paper goods and cleaning supplies were in the back instead of by the pharmacy. Do you want your cleaning and party supplies right on top of your produce/meat, or on top of your boxed goods (like costco has). The other oddities are that stationary is right up front before the cashiers.
This is the food banner from Sam’s Club. I’m always interested in the costs because I am all about the quick, cheap food options. Sam’s club has more options with comparable prices. I want to compare the most ordered items: Soda, Pizza, and Hot Dog.
$0.59 at costco (Winner)
$0.87 at Sam’s Club (Winner on choices)
Costco has a limited choice on selection. Usually Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Lemonade, Raspberry Ice Tea, and a regional flavor. The Costco cup is 20 oz, and made of environmentally biodegradable paper.
Sam’s club has the usual Coke, Diet…, but it has many more regional choices including more real ice tea flavors. Sam’s club cup is 32 oz. and made of non biodegradable Styrofoam.
$1.99 for all options at Costco (Winner on price, and overall quantity)
$1.88 for cheese, $2.49 for specialties (Winner on pizzeria taste)
With a negligible cost difference, taste becomes an issue. Costco pizza has an unique pizza taste that is overall positive. Sam’s Club is the closest to a pizzeria taste, but isn’t just there. Sam’s club pizza is also easier to eat. They cut their slice into two slices, which was a good “feature.” The whole pie price is $9.95 at Costco, but $8.95 at Sam’s, but Costco offers more pizza in proportion.
Hot Dog Combo:
$1.50 at Costco (Winner)
$1.50 at Sam’s Club
Costco serves Hebrew National hot dogs (sort of kosher) in most locations and Sinai hot dogs (kosher) in others. Both are “quarter pound of beef” in a decent size bun. Sam’s Club offers Nathan’s hotdogs. The Nathan hot dogs were more round in a smaller bun, but probably the same amount of meat. Overall, it is a toss up, but I like the possible kosher options.
(Winner: Sam’s Club)
Costco works on bringing a small menu that is easy to make. In return they are are able to serve more people faster. It was always a pain when you want something more (like coffee), but it adds to the serving time, and lowers the served people per hour. Sam’s club has many more people working, and is able to speed up service. It also offers boxed quantities of individual ingredients such as boxed mozzarella cheese, or pizza crusts.
Costco wins on quality
Sam’s Club wins on quantity
I know that costco works by making contracts that the companies must follow. If they want to be featured in Costco, they must follow the very generous return policy (more later). Each product offered is a derivative product, which means that the manufacturer changes the model number slightly, so they are able to track where it came from, e.g. HP printer 8100A (the A being, comes from Costco).
Walking through the stores, I noticed the exact same products. Most of the products were in fact similar, however Sam’s club had more products. Costco works off the fear of “once we sell out, it won’t come back.” If the product is at Costco, once it sells out, you have to wait (maybe indefinitely) until it gets replaced. Sam’s Club seems to have more of these one time items in stock.
If you know what you are looking for, Sam’s club is for you. If you want a Vizio television, Sam’s will have more choice than Costco, but if you don’t know which television you want, the better choice is Costco. Sam’s Club has much more product choices. I can’t test quality, but I have never had a problem with the quality of Costco products. I feel that Sam’s Club gives you choices, but not necessarily quality, while Costco gives you quality without choice. Costco believes that this specific item is the best, or these only two items are the best. Sam’s club is the “we will license to all manufacturers,” while Costco is the “we know what you like, but we stand behind it.”
Kirkland Signature is the Costco rebranding of brand name products. Usually these products get a Consumer Reports Best Buy. With that said, the price couldn’t be better. I couldn’t find the Sam’s Club brand until I got to the pharmacy, but I have never heard of “Maker’s Mark,” getting any good press.
The Sam’s Club flowers were not as healthy or fresh as Costco’s. There were no roses, but the prices ranged from much cheaper to much more expensive. With that said, I rather have the roses option at a better price that Sam’s won’t offer.
Overall there is no winner here, however, more likely than not, I usually want quality more than quantity. I don’t want to have to research at the store.
Both stores are comparable when it comes to price. I can’t say that one store is always cheaper. I found different items cheaper depending on where you go. Again it depends on what you are looking for. However, it isn’t worth driving to both stores to figure it out.
(Winner: Costco based on not enough information)
As the main picture shows, I mainly go to Costco for the free samples. Samples are a big deal for me. Sam’s club has brightly, highly identifiable signs to show me where the samples were. Out of the many more than Costco offerings, many sample people were out of the product that they were serving. This is my main pet peeve. How can you sample items that are “out of stock” or wait five minutes for more. Being out of stock is much more reprehensible than please wait while we cook more. There was more “out of stock” than “still cooking,” stations.
Costco has two membership options ($50 for basic or $100 for plus). Sam’s Club, at the time of posting had no quick display, and a monstrous line that prevented me from finding out. I had to go to the website to find out the costs, ($40 and $100). Both offered the same special features, however I much rather a Costco AMEX card, then a Discover card. American Express has much more consumer prevention features than any other card. If you are a hungry college kid, maybe Sam’s club is your option, but I would save up the $10 extra dollars a year.
Return policy on paper is the same. I was not able to purchase something and try to return it, but the return policy is the same. With that being said, both stores are equal in that respect.
Eggs and Milk:
Winner: Costco for egg packaging
These two staples are one reason someone joins a big box store. Both stores have the same general price, but the packaging on the eggs is much better on the Costco side. Notice on the Sam’s Club eggs do not have a protective top. Putting this in your refrigerator is tough because you can’t stack on top of the eggs.
The milk front is equal. The Costco here puts milk in new stackable packaging, while Sam’s Club has the same old milk design.
In NJ, about half the Costco’s have alcohol. This is a big deal because Costco is the #1 wine retailer in America. The reason for the epic sales is cost. Costco’s cost on alcohol makes it an extremely good deal. Sam’s Club didn’t have alcohol, but I was pointed out, that no Walmart has it either, which makes Costco the immediate and overall winner.
Overall I’m still going to Costco. I can’t help but remember how much bad publicity Walmart gets. You cannot help but notice all the negative press Walmart gets. With being so similar, I can’t see how they can differentiate the stores, and being “not evil.” Costco on the other hand, rarely gets any bad press. They are more of the “do no evil,” that is seen across the country. I never heard any negative publicity.