Since Costco opened in 2011 in Auburn in Sydney I have been itching to go see what all the ho hum was about. A couple of weeks ago some friends of ours were going there because they wanted to buy around 100 water bottles for their wedding. We were told we had to leave at 8.30am to avoid the crowds. This was a bad start for me as someone who has some problems with claustrophobia.
When we arrived we had to park in a nearby street because apparently the car parks become chaotic. On the walk from the car to the warehouse I had a thong blowout (when your thong plug pops out and you are rendered unable to walk) something in my mind was telling me to go back! Still I powered on, and came across the huge trolley line (when I say huge I mean it-you could fit ten people into these gigantic metal machines). Then came the entrance. Staff dutifully check everyone’s membership cards (we only got in because our friends were members and are allowed one visitor each) and then I was faced with rows upon rows of goods, packed from floor to ceiling.
Items range from televisions, white goods, jewellery, clothing, meat, vegetables, canned goods and even alcohol. Everything is in maxi (products look like they have been on steroids).
I now understand what everyone says about the US being completely super-sized.
But can you save money by shopping at Costco?
Brands at Costco
Costco stocks many of the major brands and labels. There were Kraft products, Kleenex toilet paper, Adidas tracksuits and more. If you want to stick with the major brands (and buy in bulk) then there are savings to be had. For instance, I bought a 60 roll packet of Kleenex toilet paper for $28 (this is compared to Woolies having a 24 pack for $16.95.
However you will not save money when you compare it to Woolies or Coles own brands which run at a significantly cheaper price to the others.
Limited stock at Costco
Despite the availability of common brands there is still a lack of variety in what Costco actually stocks. They have all the major day to day items but the variety is limited. A lot of their items are part of their Kirkland Signature range. I don’t know about you but I do not want to be supporting a US brand over Australian ones.
Buying in bulk at Costco
Savings are there to be had if you had another house to actually store what you buy. Everything has to be in bulk. So for instance, you cannot buy a packet of 12 slices of cheese, you have to buy a packet of 100 slices of cheese. This is great if you have a large family and go through items quickly that need to be replenished often.
However if you are a twosome like our family you probably can only buy two things because you have nowhere to keep them. Some people get around this by joining up with another family and splitting everything they buy.
The cost of a Costco membership
It costs $60 per year to be a member of Costco. Throw in petrol costs and time taken to get there (I do not live anywhere near Auburn), and you’re probably not going to save as much cash as you think.
If you lived closer and did all your shopping there then you could possibly come out ahead. BUT because you can save more money buying Homebrand in Woolworths I think this is unlikely.
It was an experience to see a row of fridges next to the vegetables but it also means you end up buying (let’s be honest) useless crap. I left with a 100 piece pen set for no other reason than I like stationary and thought it was cheaper.
My husband had to stop me putting bowls, glasses, books and other items in the trolley all because they were cheap. So you may find some bargains but in reality you don’t really need them and therefore you are spending more.
My verdict on my expedition to Costco?
Going to Costco was an experience but not one I will be repeating anytime soon. I can see the benefits for some to shop there (especially bigger families with a number kids); I just could not see any savings for myself.
Combine that with the weird super-sized products, the weird trolleys and frankly the weird staff procedures (who were like bouncers at the front and exit) I felt on a whole somewhat uncomfortable and somewhat disgusted that we are moving to become even more Americanised!