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October 06, 2016

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Have shopped at Sam's and Costco in multiple states, and in my experience, all Sam's Clubs are filthy, crowded, and unpleasant. The only positive thing I can say for Sam's is the do seem to carry a bit more variety in the food/household items category. Costco wins this comparison hands down.

Why isn't BJs included? I have been a member of Costco, Sams and BJs at different times. While I will admit that the deals at Costco are better the sizes of many items are even bigger than they are at Sams or BJs. Keith mentioned about all Sams Clubs are filthy, I found that about Costco also (although to be fair a new one opened in my town a couple years ago and they have been pretty clean - I guess we'll see in a few more years). Currently I only belong to BJs (there is also a pretty new one in my town - actually across the road from the Costco). I prefer them because they accept manufacturers coupons and take any credit card. Plus the sizes work better for us. I know they are the little guy on the block compared to the other two but we just like them better.

I'm another fan of BJ's--we have all three clubs in the RTP area of NC, and BJ's is the most accessible. BJ's has gas pumps, self-checkout and accepts Apple Pay & coupons. Sam's is my second choice and I would shop there more often if one were closer to my house (they relocated the store in my town and now 2 locations are over 20 min away because of the roads I would need to take). A new Costco opened about 10 minutes from my house in Spring 2016 (BJ's is also about 10 minutes away in another direction). All of the stores here are clean, but Costco's parking lots and lack of self-checkouts make it the least convenient store for me. Navigating the Costco parking lots in a car and with a cart after the purchase is always tricky, and I'm worried I'll be in an accident. Costco is always the most crowded, and I've tried several days of the week and times of day. I've enjoyed visiting Costco stores in other areas of the country, but I won't renew my Costco membership next year. My husband refuses to shop at the Costco here, and he willingly shops at BJ's or Sam's when I need him to pick up something on his way home. The only thing I'll miss from Costco is organic raw cashews...

I've belonged to Costco for 24 years and would never give it up solely for their outstanding selection of kosher foods. I also belonged to BJ's for about 20 as a second club, but dropped them last year in favor of Sam's. What I've found are that Costco stores are consistently nice; BJ's and Sam's are hit-or-miss. Some have a "third world" appearance, others in more affluent areas are up to the Costco standard. The Sam's 10 minutes from me is smaller and dingy; drving 20 minutes further takes me to the gold standard, including a gas station.

Reasons BJ's lost its luster were 1) for us, it was inconvenient. The closest was about 35 minutes away (but along a route we frequently took). 2) While they accept manufacturer's coupons, they didn't stock most of the items for which I had MCs. 3) Their in-store coupon deals required clipping the coupon (or you didn't get the discount)--Costco and Sam's give you the discounted price without having to clip or locate the coupon. I often found myself either forgetting to clip the coupon or discovering that it existed only after buying the item. (Maybe this has changed.)

I joined Sam's as my second club for several reasons: 1) greatly-discounted first-year membership offer, 2) the ability to get in at 7 a.m. six days/week with their upgraded membership 3) Their credit card rebates for purchases everywhere were far more generous (prior to Costco's conversion to the Citi VISA) and that rebate differential alone using their card for all my purchases would have covered the cost of membership. 4) BJ's was never exactly convenient--the closest was 30 minutes away, but along a route we took every few weeks.

Nice things I've discovered with Sam's that you don't get at Costco: 1) their website gives you availability and pricing of their entire inventory at the warehouse you select. I've found myself at Costco checking out prices of the same item at Sam's and have saved plenty by deferring purchase. 2) Entering early in the morning (during Plus member hours), my club greets you with a display of complimentary fresh fruit, full-sized pastries and cups of coffee (another Sam's I went to didn't). 3) Free Wi-Fi. 4) Also by shopping early in the morning, meats with the same day's sell-by date are usually discounted substantially.

Costco's customer service is legendary--they'll take back pretty much anything. True story: A friend's elderly father took back a 10+ year-old desktop computer complaining it was not operating as quickly as new--they looked up the purchase and gave him a full refund on the spot. I've never felt the need to test their customer service to that extent, but they are always friendly and understanding.

The Sam's in Las Vegas must be a complete anomaly as we loved shopping there. It was clean, organized, and the fact that it was so much less congested than Costco made us switch our membership to them. However, the store here in Jacksonville, FL is just as you described and we're back to being Costco members.

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