Costco has a bit of a cult following nowadays. If you shop at Costco, you tell people about it. Truth be told, that impressive following isn’t just hype, either. Costco is one of the biggest bulk warehouse stores in the United States, and they are famous for having some of the best brands combined with some of the best pricing.
Oh, and the hotdogs and chicken bakes often warrant a visit by themselves. Still, despite almost everyone loving Costco, there are still some misses, or just non-ideal products that they sell that are better bought elsewhere.
To compile this list, 24/7 Tempo looked through various online sources, compiled the “community sentiment” across some influential forums, and used some editorial discretion to determine which products were added. (Another list provides valuable insights into products to be cautious about when shopping Sam’s Club.)
When it comes down to it, sodas just aren’t as good a deal at Costco as many of their other products are. Sure, there may be more available in raw numbers than in your local grocery store, but unless you are planning a massive, massive event, it probably isn’t worth it.
When comparing the actual price per unit, Costco isn’t all that competitive, particularly compared to local grocery stores. On top of that, local stores often have huge deals on their sodas, sometimes as much as buy-2-get-3. Standard prices aren’t competitive, and with deals, they aren’t even close. If you need to buy sodas, make sure to check the smaller stores before heading over to Costco. (Here’s the biggest grocery store chains in North America)
2. Pre-Cut Produce
Walking through Costco’s produce section, it’s easy to see the draw of a huge container of pre-cut melon or mangos. Unfortunately, the common sentiment is that Costco is known to have some rather lackluster pre-cut options. The primary issues people have with these products are that they are either not great quality (unripe or tasteless), or there is so much that even a family of four couldn’t finish it before it spoils.
The recommended solution? Costco DOES have a fantastic selection of frozen fruits and vegetables, and they are generally well-known for their quality. Instead of buying a bulk item that spoils, getting the frozen option will usually taste better and last longer.
Plain and simple, Amazon has a lockdown on books. Costco struggles to compete in a few ways on this front, namely, pricing and selection. When it comes to pricing, Amazon offers incredible deals on most books, and if you aren’t demanding a physical version, Kindle or other online versions are significantly cheaper. If you do want a physical copy, the selection of books available at Costco usually aren’t that great, if not just because they are limited on space and can’t devote a whole warehouse to just books (whereas Amazon can). (Here are the 10 things I would never buy on Amazon.)
If there’s a particular book that catches your eye that’s just too good to pass up, or you want to pay for the convenience, sure. Otherwise, Amazon or even your local library will be cheaper or free.
4. Kirkland Brand Toilet Paper
The Kirkland brand is renowned for its quality, but it isn’t totally blemish-free. In fact, maybe one of the greatest marks against the brand’s image of quality is its approach to toilet paper. A simple Google search of Kirkland Toilet Paper is sure to bring up people upset or complaining about it, and it’s for good reason. This specific brand of TP is just something you never want to buy at Costco.
Their toilet paper is something better used in an industrial or corporate setting. Most people complain about its thinness and lack of softness, all of which are the common trappings of commercial TPs. For your own home, it’s always worth it to splurge on the “good stuff.”
5. School and Office Materials
You can find school and office materials at Costco during all times of the year. Things like pencils, notebooks, pens, and all the other essentials usually have a dedicated section in the store. At Costco, however, these aren’t a primary focus for the brand, and their pricing isn’t all that competitive.
We recommend either shopping online or waiting for a back-to-school sale. Back-to-school sales at smaller retailers like Target or Walmart usually have better pricing since they are trying to move a whole lot of stock a lot faster.
6. Name-Brand Liquor
We all have a favorite brand of liquor for our preferred cocktail! That being said, Costco may not be the place you want to be shopping for it. First, not all stores carry liquor. This is because alcohol is controlled and is only sold in particular stores (often known as ABC stores) and isn’t legally allowed to be carried outside of them.
Still, that isn’t the real reason you don’t want to buy brand-name liquor. The real reason is because of how good their Kirkland brand is! Name-brand liquor can only be so cheap, but because Costco is able to charge whatever they want on their own brand, it’s usually significantly discounted when compared to big brands, and when it comes to quality, it’s equal or often better.
7. Most Electronics
We’ve talked about this before, but big bulk warehouse stores aren’t generally the best place to buy electronics. In order to sell a product in a place like Costco, an electronics brand will often design a unique product to specifically be sold in these stores at a discount.
In order to get Costco to pick up the product, they will do their best to reduce costs and sell at a discount, resulting in reduced features or lower quality. A stock Samsung television from Costco, for example, could very easily be a “stunted” version of one sold at a traditional electronics retailer.
Rice is a household staple, and Costco does have some decent offerings. Still, as it stands, nobody can beat Asian or International Markets when it comes to buying rice in bulk. Usually, Asian markets will have an entire section dedicated to rice with absolutely huge bags for ridiculously low prices. Plus, the variety is better in these markets and offers a lot more choice to the customer.
9. Peruvian Avocados
According to a few forums, there have been repeated problems with Peruvian Avocados at some Costco locations. In the United States, almost all of the avocados bought and eaten come from a particular place in Mexico, but Peru has been increasing its avocado output to try and enter the market.
Avocados don’t natively grow in Peru, and the country is further away from the United States. As a result, avocados need to be harvested earlier and with a lower oil content than Mexican ones, and that difference is sometimes felt in stores. Harder, less buttery avocados aren’t ideal for many customers, and that is more likely to happen with Peruvian ones than with Mexican ones.
10. First-Round Seasonal Items
When the décor comes out, the frenzy to buy is like a fever. But, if you can hold on just a little bit, you can score massive deals on things. This applies to more than just décor, but really anything that is seasonal, including lawn chairs, kites, toys, and more. The first round is when things are the most expensive, and then as they try to move the product faster later in the season, you can score it a little cheaper.
Flour goes stale and goes stale faster when you don’t store it in a vacuum package. Unless you are baking in huge quantities or need it for larger-scale events, it’s hard to go through the flour packages from Costco before they go stale or even bad. Opt for smaller portions from other stores, or if you really don’t have an option, get a vacuum container.
Coffee is another example of one of those products we would never buy from any large bulk store for a few reasons. First, it goes stale really fast. Once you open a bag of coffee, a timer starts. Second, most bulk stores only sell pre-ground coffee. Pre-ground coffee is sitting on the shelf stale, so bringing it into your home already stale just isn’t the move. If you do look for whole bean options, they are extremely limited and usually overroasted (dark roasts, French roasts, Italian roasts). Coffee is one of the biggest recommended items to never buy at Costco.
Buying smaller amounts of whole bean coffee from specialty stores is going to be worlds better than buying anything bulk or pre-ground from a place like Costco. (Click here for the best independent coffee shop in every state.)
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