Warehouse store showdown: Should you join Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's?
Membership in warehouse stores can save consumers big. But among the big three – BJ's, Sam's Club, and Costco – which one is right for you?
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In a Consumer Reports survey, 26,000 shoppers evaluated their experiences at 10 major retailers: Costco, JC Penney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target, and Walmart. Costco was the top-rated store in the survey. Sam’s Club got average or slightly above average grades in all categories. BJ’s wasn’t included.Skip to next paragraph
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In another survey by Temkin, 6,000 consumers ranked companies based on customer service. Costco ranked third, behind Amazon and Kohl’s, with 79 percent of survey respondents giving it an “excellent” or “good” rating. Sam’s Club and BJ’s were close, however, at 78 percent.
While this doesn’t point to a clear winner, it’s safe to say the overall shopping experience at any of the big three doesn’t differ much – and doesn’t disappoint.
6. Return policies
From Costco’s return policies page: “We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund. The following must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touch screen tablets, MP3 players and cellular phones.”
From Sam’s Club return policies page: “We offer a 100% guarantee on merchandise and Membership. We will refund purchases in full with a receipt. Click here to view our Return/Refund exceptions. No receipt: We will refund the purchase(s) at the last selling price with a shopping card.”
From BJ’s return policies page: “Items eligible for return must be returned within 30 days from date of shipping. For more information, please see the “Proper Conditions for Return and Credit” section of BJ’s Return Policy.”
So Costco and Sam’s Club have similar return policies, while BJ’s policy is far less liberal.
7. Coupons and sales
BJ’s is the only warehouse club that accepts manufacturer’s coupons. BJ’s also has 24-hour flash sales online, promoting deals on items like HDTVs and digital cameras – often with free shipping.
At Sam’s Club, discounts can get even deeper with online auctions. Online members can bid, with all bids starting at $1.
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Renee Morad is a writer for Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.