Costco versus Sam’s Club Comparison

An in-depth analysis of prices, customer service, and more of these two big box stores — the ultimate Costco versus Sam’s Club Comparison

costco-versus-sams-club

This post was not endorsed in anyway by either Costco or Sam’s Club. They don’t even know I exist!

UPDATE 9/6/15: I’ve had a few people comment about my comments on the staff at Costco. This was in relation to the Costco that we went to regularly before we moved, and not a statement on all Costcos. We LOVE the staff at the Costco we now go to, and I’ve been very impressed. I know that, in general, Costco encourages helpful, friendly staff, and a lot of that comes from the CEO and management team. The experiences we had at our former Costco were unfortunate, but I do believe were isolated to that Costco store. 

Crunchy versus Creamy

Chocolate versus Vanilla

Costco versus Sam’s Club . . . all the greatest battles in life, right?

For a single person, or even two people, shopping at a warehouse store like Costco and Sam’s Club might not save you money. In fact, you’ll probably spend more than you would have at a regular grocery store. I think that it’s definitely worth getting a membership there if you buy a lot of things in bulk. I’ve found it to be a lot more cost effective to shop at Costco for items we buy all the time (like meat, paper towels, snacks, etc.), and the quality is usually great. It does take a little bit of effort to try and determine if you’re getting the best price, but it’s worth it to do.

I’ve been a life-time Costco-er. My parent’s always went there, and when Forrest and I got married, we started shopping there as well. I had been in Sam’s Club once or twice in my life, but I never really had a chance to explore and see the difference between the two stores. So when I randomly received a free Sam’s Club membership in the mail (it wasn’t even sent for blogging purposes), I was interested to check out the store. Sam’s Club is closer to where we live, too!

So, in early December, Forrest and I decided to do store comparison of Costco versus Sam’s Club. We went to both stores, wrote down the prices for commonly bought products, and rated other parts of each store. It was actually kind of fun, and interesting, to see the comparison. Here’s what we found!

note: We visited the Costco in Orem, Utah, and the Sam’s Club in Provo, Utah a few weeks before Christmas. Conditions and prices at stores may be different in  other areas. We also just did a sampling of different foods that are commonly bought, and decided against comparing electronics, books, movies, and clothing. All of the prices below have been calculated to show unit price, not actual price. Most items must be bought in more than one unit. 

Produce

Bananas: 1.39 (6, C) 1.36 (3 lb, SC)
Strawberries: 3.25 (per pound) 2.99 (per pound, SC)
Romaine: 3.29 (6, C) 3.26 (8, SC)
Clementines: .98 (per lb, C), 1.20 (per lb, SC)
Yellow Onions: .40 (per pound, C) .45 (per pound, SC)
Mixed Peppers: 1.08 (per pepper C) 1.08 (per pepper SC)
Seedless Grapes: 1.99 (per pound, C), 1.99 (per pound, SC)

Costco: 12.38
Sam’s Club: 12.33

Dairy: 

Milk: 1.30 (per gallon, C), 2.24 (1 gallon, SC)
Almond Milk: 2.63 (per container C), 2.63 (per container, SC)
Eggs: .15 (per egg), .15 (per egg, C)
Sliced American Cheese: .09 (per slice, C) .07 (per slice, SC)
Butter: 1.85 (per pound, C) 1.85 (per pound, SC)
Shredded Cheese: .21 (per ounce, Mexican Blend, C) .22 (per ounce Kraft Cheese Mexican Blend, SC)
String Cheese: .18 (per piece, C) .17 (per piece, SC)
Brie: .34 (per ounce oz, C) .30 (per oz, SC)
Feta: .29 (per oz, C) .33 (per oz, SC)
Yoplait Yogurt: .42 (per cup, C) .94 (per cup, SC)

Costco: 7.46
Sam’s Club: 8.90

Meats:

Ground Turkey: 2.79(per lb, C) 2.69 (per pound, SC)
Chicken Breast: 3.19(per lb, C) 1.77 (per lb, SC)
Rotissiere Chicken: 4.99 (per chicken, C) 4.88 (per chicken, SC)
Pork Shoulder: 1.79 (per lb, C) 1.98 (per lb, SC)
Salmon: 7.69 (per lb, C) 7.52 (per lb,SC)
Sausage: 2.26 (per lb, C) 2.49 (per lb, SC)
Bacon: 3.74 (per lb, C) 4.76 (per lb, SC)
Turkey Bacon: .22 (per ounce, C) .19 (per oz, SC)

Costco: 26.67
Sam’s Club: 26.28

Bakery:
Bagels: .46 (per bagel, C) .50 (per bagel, SC)
Croissant: .50 (per croissant, C) .27 (per croissant, SC)
Sheet Cakes: 9.00 (per pound, C) 8.8 (per pound, SC)
Muffins: .58 (per muffin, C) .57 (per muffin, SC)
Dinner Rolls: .12 (per roll, C) .12 (per roll, SC)

Costco: 10.66
Sam’s Club: 10.26

Non-Perishable Foods:
Peanut Butter: .14 (per oz, C) .10 (per oz, SC)
Coconut Oil: .28 (per ounce, C) .28 (per oz, SC)
Olive Oil: 4.50 (per liter, C) 6.74 (2 liters, SC)
Canola Oil: 1.50 (per quart, C) 1.80 (1 quart, SC)
Vegetable Oil: 1.54 (per quart, C) 1.80 (per quart, SC)
Water Bottles: .10 (per bottle, C) .09 (per bottle, SC)
Chocolate Chips: .12 (per oz, C)  .12 (per oz, SC)

Costco: 8.18
Sam’s Club: 10.21

Non-Food Items:
Paper Towels: .008  (per sheet, C) .01 (per sheet, SC)
Toilet Paper: .12  (per sheet C) .19 (per roll, 190 sheets)
Diapers: 38.99 (Store brand, C) 39.88 (store brand, SC) (amounts varied)
Wipes: .22 (per wipe, C, Kirkland Brand) .19 (per wipe, SC, SC Brand)
Trash Bags: .19 (per 33 gallon bag, Costco) .06 (per 33 gallon bag, SC)
AA Batteries: .27 (per battery, C) .32 (per battery, SC)
AAA Batteries: .32 (per battery, C) .39 (per battery, SC)

Costco: 40.12
Sam’s Club: 41.04

COSTCO TOTAL: 109.97 (426.24)
SAM’S CLUB TOTAL: 109.02 (365.74)

If you are looking at price per unit, Sam’s Club wins by a few dollars — however, if you look at actual amount (since most products must be bought in bulk), Sam’s club wins by a good amount. So, at face value, Sam’s Club was clearly less. But I think the best way to judge how much a place costs is by their unit price. You have to buy more at Costco, but you typically get it for a cheaper overall price, with the exception of produce and meats, which seems to be cheaper overall at Sam’s Club.

Food Court

Both food courts have the staples — pizza, hot dogs, and soft drinks. However, we felt like Costco offered more variety — it gets extra points for having a gelato station. Costco also had a larger dining area.

At our Costco, you can order food while you are checking out, which is kind of nice, because it stinks to have to wait in line to get your groceries, and then go wait in a mile long line to order food!

Samples

It’s hard to really judge who has the better samples, because, well, it varies from day-to-day. For instance, today there were some great samples at Costco — at least one in every aisle, but other days, there’s hardly any at all. The same goes for Sam’s Club. I think they both consistently put out yummy samples that really draw you in (we are totally suckers for buying things being given out as samples!)

At Sam’s Club, we noticed that they like to put up competing products as samples, which I kind of like. It helps you decide easily between two similar products. For instance, a few weeks ago they had two different brands of baked chicken alfredo out. We tried it, and we actually ended up buying one, and it was the brand that I initially wouldn’t have chosen! Sam’s Club also has these cool little dispensers where, when you swipe your card, you get a free, non-food sample of something (we’ve gotten medicines, detergent, etc.)

And if you want to know the time that has the best samples, we think it’s around 4:00 on weekdays. Though you might walk out of there with your pockets more empty at that time, because you’ll want to buy everything you try (or is that just us?)

Checking Out:
It could be just our Costco, but I always feel like the cashiers don’t want to be there. They hardly ever make eye contact, and I feel like they never respond to what I’m saying and are usually just talking to their co-workers. With that said, they usually get us through the line fairly quickly, which is nice, because each line is about a mile long.

One thing I love about the Sam’s Club by our house is that it has self-check out. I know that some Costcos have this (one near my parent’s house does), and I just really like it. There’s never a line, but there are still cashiers standing close by, willing to assist at a moments notice.

Friendliness

When we are comparing just these two individual stores, Sam’s Club employees are far more friendly. As I mentioned above, many of the Costco employees seem kind of standoffish. I will say, that the Costco’s customer service desk is always full of friendly and happy people, but I wish that was extended throughout the store. There’s been a few times when we’ve asked about a product that they used to have, and we were just given weird looks. However, I have to say, this hasn’t been my experience at all Costco stores, just the one in Orem. We go to another one that’s near by occasionally, and our experience has been much better.

At Sam’s Club, all the employees are very helpful, and are always walking around asking if they can help you. Part of me feels like this is because of the store location — there is hardly anyone ever there, as opposed to the Costco in Orem, which is a madhouse pretty much every single day. However, I do appreciate them being helpful. One experience that was kind of funny, was when a customer started insulting a sample (really, who does that?) and saying how it’s so bad for you (it was fruit with whipped cream on top) and the sampler lady just smiled and let it roll of her shoulders. 

UPDATE: Since moving to Colorado, I definitely retract all of this. Costco’s employees are 100% more helpful and friendly at all the stores we’ve been to in Colorado, and we have gone to both Sam’s and Costco plenty!

Coupon Policy

Both companies send out monthly mailers with coupons, some of which you have to have in order to use in store, and others just to inform you of a deal going on. Sam’s Club just recently started doing this, while Costco has for a long time. One thing that’s neat about Sam’s Club is that you can load coupons onto your card, and sometimes, you get free items just because — for instance, we recently got a free rotisserie chicken, just because they wanted to give us one.

With Costco’s coupon, don’t worry about cutting out the coupons you want to use. You can simply hand the book to the cashier after you are ready to pay, and when they scan it, any eligible coupons will be applied.

If you want to use manufacturers or outside coupons, you’re out of luck. Neither Sam’s Club or Costco accept these types of coupons. One thing I learned recently about Costco, though, is when a price ends in 7, you should stock up — it’s been marked down by corporate, and it’s about as low as it will ever be.

Click-n-pull

This is related just to Sam’s Club — but it’s worth noting! They have a service where, if you order online your groceries the night before by 5 PM, they will pull all the groceries for you and all you have to do is pay for them and pick them up the next day. I think this is awesome, especially for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the store (and increase the likelihood of impulse buying) or perhaps have wild kids who don’t like to go shopping!

Return Policy

Costco has the best return policy of pretty much any store I’ve gone to. There’s been several times that we’ve had to go and return something, and they’ve done it with no question. For instance, a few weeks ago, after we had used two packages of butter, we discovered that the contents of the third package was completely messed up, and when we took it back, they gave us two packages with no further question. With the exception of some electronics (which must be returned within 90 for a full refund), they stand behind their products 100%, and offer a full refund on their products if you aren’t 100% satisfied. I just read about someone who took back a BBQ that was clearly over a year or two old that had started to rust, and they happily gave him a refund. While I certainly don’t advocate taking back every product back to Costco once you’re done with it, you can buy products at Costco knowing that if you aren’t satisfied, you will get your money back, no questions asked. Plus, if you don’t have the receipt, no problem. They can look up information with your ID number, and you can make in store returns with products that were purchased online. And, if at any time you aren’t satisfied with your Costco membership, you can get it fully refunded (more information can be found here and here.)

As for Sam’s Club’s return policy, I’ve found numerous complaints about it. While they state that they have a 100% guarantee on their products and memberships, there are more stipulations than you find at Costco.  If you purchase something online, it can be returned for cash if you have the receipt, but only a Sam’s gift card otherwise. And within that policy, certain things are excluded — such as televisions and other electronics — you have to have the original receipt. This person tried to return a TV from SamsClub.com that was sent to  them with a cracked screen, and was pretty much told too bad, they had nothing to do with online orders. For in store purchases, you will only receive the last sales price of the product without a receipt (more information can be found here and here.)

Cost of membership

 Costco has a couple of different membership options:

  • Gold Star Membership: $55, for mainly personal use
  • Business Membership: $55, can be used for personal and business use. You can purchase up to five more memberships at $55 on this plan for employees/family members. Honestly, I don’t see that there’s really any difference between this and the Gold Star Membership — enlighten me if you know!
  • Executive Membership: $110, and it includes a 2% money back at the end of the year, and apparently other perks.

Sam’s Club has three options as well, and you can see a comparison chart of the three here. The prices for the Sam’s Savings and Business both increased by about $10

  • Sam’s Savings: $45
  • Sam’s Business: $45
  • Sam’s Plus: $100, you get additional discounts on products with this one!

I have seen both of these companies offer Groupon deals lately that make the memberships super cheap, and you get some cool coupons!

Sam’s Club has a one-day pass (free) that you can use if you don’t have a membership and just want to try it out, but you do have to pay an added fee that members don’t have to pay. At Costco, if someone gives you a gift card, you don’t need a membership to use it — plus, anyone can use their pharmacy!

Conclusion: 

I’m still a big fan of Costco. After researching both companies, I feel like Costco treats their employees the best, and I agree with their business practices more. According to this article, Costco runs the cheapest and happiest company in the world. This article compares wages (granted, it’s a bit dated, having been written in 2006) and showed that Costco’s average wage is $17 an hour, and while Sam’s Club didn’t release the wages of their employees, since it’s run by the same people behind Walmart (so if you don’t support Walmart, know you are supporting the company if you go to Sam’s Club), it’s likely similar to their average wage of 10.11. Other sites I found said that Sam’s Club employees make anywhere from 8-11$ an hour, depending on experience and job. This article said that in 2011, a typical Costco employee made about $45,000 a year, compared to the $17,486 salary a Sam’s Club employee made.

I should also mention, that I love the Costco photo center. The prices are cheap, they have great products, and they stand behind the quality of those as well! I also found that they never question if I have the copyright for something I’m printing (which I always do) which results in less headaches. I haven’t used Sam’s Club’s photo center, so I don’t know how theirs works!

If you are looking for the cheapest membership, I would probably go with Sam’s Club. However, for the best return policies, and for a company that is managed extremely well and treats their employees well, Costco is definitely way to go. For me, paying a little bit extra for the membership  is worth it.  I would not choose based on price of products alone. And, really, a lot of factors go into choosing! Though I admit, the Costco employees at the one we go to could do to be a little more friendly! While it’s been nice having a membership to both places (and really, Sam’s Club has been a pleasant surprise to how nice it’s been), we will always be Costco-ers for life!

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    • I see an error on your difference here 1 liter vs 2 liters Olive Oil: 4.50 (per liters, C) 6.74 (2 liters, SC) so the total at the end of the would be Costco 12.68 Sams Club 10.21 and the end total would be COSTCO TOTAL: 109.97 SAM’S CLUB TOTAL: 109.02
      • Thanks for noticing that! I will change that. I tried my best to check everything and the totals, but I guess I missed that!
    • Thank you for the comparative work. I enjoyed reading this. We've always just had a Sam's club (Tulsa OK) but a Costco is expected sometime this year (in 2015).
      • I'm glad you enjoyed reading it - it took a good amount of work, but I've been pleased with how many people have found it interesting!
  • Great comparison! I didn't realize Sam's was actually that much cheaper. We really loved buying certain thing there but decided not to renew our membership this year, but mostly because we'll be moving this summer.... Thanks!
    • I just redid it, using the cost per unit, and Costco actually came out cheaper! We love having a membership though -- even if it's for all the delicious samples (my parents pay for ours though, so that factors into it all too ;-)
  • We love Costco. I think it must be your local Costco that wasn't friendly, since ours is very friendly. When we get gas, the person attending will offer to wash our windows. When we're getting out of our car, whoever is taking carts inside will ask if we want one, and get one for us (which is really helpful with a 4 year, 2 year, and 6 month old). And you're completely right about the awesome return policy! I screwed up a photo poster board (completely my fault), and they offered to return it, even though I hadn't asked them to- I figured since it was my fault, I would pay for it. They insisted on giving me my money back. The only thing I REALLY don't think is a good price at Costco is chicken breasts. They're outrageous.
    • I'm sure it is -- personally, I think I would be grumpy if I worked at the one near our home, too. It is seriously so busy! I think their return policy is worth the membership fee and more; at no other store do I feel so secure in the refund policy as I do with Costco. But I totally agree about the chicken breasts -- I have no idea why they are so much!
  • Been to both SC in Provo and several Costco's. Costco's is a brighter store. SC seems darker. Costco seems more organized. Agree with you on the Gelato bar! Orem only store U've seen one, though. Will stay with Costco, mainly, no SC near us.
    • I do think the Costco one is more organized, for sure! I've never seen Gelato anywhere else either. I guess the Orem one is just special :) Thanks for chiming in!
  • I wish we had a Costco closer. Since we don't, we go to Sam's Club. THere are some products that I really miss with Costco, and I feel that the Sam's Club coupons are not as good. I have never gotten anything free for loading coupons. I need to find out about that! We never load coupons. We were told that the $45 membership doesn't come with coupons, and you can only get them with the $100 membership, which would make the Sam's membership a much worse deal. Maybe it's different in different states? If not, I need to find out! Thanks for all the detailed comparisons!
    • That's weird that they told you that! From what I've read, they recently introduced the coupons and because of it, raised membership prices by $10! You should definitely be getting them though -- we get coupons in the mail monthly!
  • Hmmm...maybe it varies from state to state, because I definitely know in our club, you have to have the $100 membership to take advantage of the coupons, it says it right next to every item that has a coupon in the store that it is only for Plus members. I will still look into it 'cuz I wasn't happy about paying that much!
    • Oh yeah our store has deals that only Plus members get, but we get coupons too in the mail! I bet it must vary from store to store. That's so dumb if you don't get them though!
  • I have never set foot in Sam's Club or Walmart. I refuse to do business with a company that treats their employees badly, which is the case with both Sam's Club and Walmart. Not only do they have low pay, they also have very little in the way of benefits. The Waltons seem to think that the government should provide their employees with health care rather than their employer. Walmart is part of the reason why we need Obamacare in this country. If you think that people should be paid well and provided with decent benefits, please don't shop at either Sam's Club or Walmart. By shopping in their stores, you are supporting their policies.
  • Great post! I just have a couple things to add. We actually have memberships at both (for whatever reasons ☺) 1. Sam's carries most diaper brands - Pampers, Huggies, Luvs and their brand; Costco only carries Huggies and their brand. 2. Sam's allows you to pay using Mastercard, store credit, cash or check; Costco allows Discover card, cash or check. 3. At our closest Sam's the chicken breasts are HUGE - like pumped with hormones or something - and we've had times where they just didn't taste right. And their frozen ones are just the huge fresh ones cut into reasonable size pieces. So, as cheap as they are, we don't buy them from Sam's any more. Anyway, just thought I'd add some more comparison points ☺
    • Thanks for your input, Jill! I actually was meaning to mention the thing about Pampers, Huggies, etc. being sold at Sam's Club, because the only diapers we buy are Pampers, and I was always disappointed that Costco didn't have them! That's also good to know about the different payments. We've actually never even tried the Sam's Club ones, but I have wondered how they make them so darn cheap...I definitely don't plan on trying them anytime soon, though, now!
      • We are a Pampers family, too, and that's one of the main reasons I haven't gone strictly with Costco. Ultimately, there are things at both places that we miss when we have one membership over the other, especially now that I've been keeping a price list for our staples and one usually has something for a much better price over the other. In terms of the chicken breasts at Sam's...it may be a regional thing or it may have been a random thing that can happen when purchasing meat from any store. But, my husband primarily pointed out that they are uncommonly large for "normal" chicken breasts and then combine that with the overly chickeny taste a time or two, and we've just decided that we'll watch for sales at the grocery store, whether on fresh or frozen chicken breasts. (PS...my husband also has a *very* picky palette, so he may be over-reacting a bit, too)
  • Another thing about Costco: in the words of Costco's CEO, "you may not find the cheapest items at Costco, but you'll find the BEST items at the cheapest price." I couldn't agree more! I'm always impressed with Costco's quality. Their low prices are just a bonus. Whenever I walk into a Sam's Club I'm actually kind of grossed out by a lot of their food items & I don't feel the same in Costco.
    • Love that quote! And I agree -- Costco does tend to have a more high quality feel about it. Sam's has some cheaper prices, but it's definitely not as good of quality!
  • I have a membership to both and both are good. Near me, Costco's prices are slightly better, but Sam's Club carries more national brands and has a little more variety. Thanks for sharing your experience!
  • Katie, this was so interesting for me to read! I haven't been to sam's club in so long, though my mother had a membership when I was young and I remember accompanying her. We love Costco! A couple things - we go to the orem costco too and I have never had any issues with their employees not being friendly, infact the other day my husband said "that was probably the least friendly employee we've ever had here" and really we didnt have any problems with him, he just was fast and quick and quiet. Also, I haven't returned much at costco, and the 90 day policy for electronics might be a problem for some people, but they are so nice! My husband returned a tablet to costco just because, and told them that there was nothing wrong with it, he just wanted to buy a different one and he got a full refund. Also, just because I know this from asking with work - at costco the business membership has to be attached to a personal membership. So you can get a business card, say for your blog, or my company that I work full time at now got one just with the name "Heritage School" but it had to be attached to a personal card so the cheapest option for that is actually 110. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to do this. Was a very cool read!
    • That is so interesting that you've never had an unfriendly employee at Costco -- maybe we've just had bad luck. I must admit, they've been a lot better lately (we've just had several people act like we were so dumb when we asked about certain products they used to carry -- I think that's what bothered me the most!) That's awesome about the electronics return policy -- I really think that their return policy on everything is worth the price of the membership. Thanks for clarifying on the business card to :)
  • I live in S.C and I wish we had a Costco's near us. I renewed our Sam's membership advantage plan in Oct. and it went from $40 to $45. In January we received a coupon book in the mail and it is my understanding that it was a one time thing. I don't know anything about Costco's membership plans but with Sam's membership you receive 2 cards and you can have a friend , relative , neighbor , etc. put on as the second card holder if you wish. Therefore you can split the membership fee to $22.50 each. I've been a Sam's member for at least 20 yrs. and I have noticed alot of brand name items have vanished from their shelves ( example Softsoap only available now in their brand name Members Mark ). I like to be able to choose if I want brand name or their product. If a Costco's comes within 50 miles I will certainly will drop Sam's for Costco's !
    • I believe Costco's memberships are the same! But I think you are correct with the Sam's Club coupon book being a one time thing, because I haven't goten another one. I noticed they don't have as many name brand products as I would like. I hope Costco comes closer to you! My in-laws live in NC, and their isn't a Costco very close to them at all -- just Sam's Club.
      • I'll be up front with you. I am an employee of Sam's Club. I can't speak officially for the company, they are very strict about PR. With that said, Our Instant Savings events vary from month to month. The mailings that you get are featured items that anyone with a membership can take advantage of, not just plus members. (When we introduced the formerly named e-values, currently named Instant Savings, They were exclusive to PLUS members.) However many items have an additional discount for PLUS members, The current PLUS program is far more beneficial compared to several years ago. I could easily write 3 pages on the benefits that the PLUS membership offers. When it comes down to associate benefits, Medical insurance is offered to associates who have been working with the company for greater than 90 days. (this is the policy that i am currently familiar with it may have changed with The Affordable Healthcare Act. ) Other benefits include 401k contributions being matched by the company up to $15000 a year. Associate Stock Purchase Plan, Vision Insurance, Accident insurance, Critical care insurance, etc. The healthcare plan in my area has several options depending on how much you are able to afford and depending on your needs. Me personally, i have insurance with a high deductible of ~$2250 with $250/yr company contributions to a HSA kind of fund. and as $5000 Out of pocket Maximum. Preventative care is covered 100%. The Medical insurance is available to employees who have been working for the company for more than 90 days regardless if they are full time or part time. This was the case long before The Affordable Healthcare Act. The only thing that i don't like that is a problem for a lot of employees is that there is a limited amount of time to enroll in your yearly benefits, with the exception of 401k contributions and Associate stock purchase plan contributions. Finally some benefits are exclusive to Full-time associates. I can't go into the details, but the majority of benefits are available to all associates. In conclusion, I implore everyone to do their own research on the benefits of each store. Prices fluctuate on a regular basis on many items. I have personally never set foot in a Costco despite there being one close to my home and place of work. On paper the benefits of SC vs. Costco are clearly in favor of Sam's Club. We have a culture based around 3 basic beliefs, Respect for the Individual, Service to the member, and striving for excellence. I know this was a long-winded response and I hope that I answered some questions raised. As I wrote earlier, while i am an employee at Sam's Club I do not speak for the company officially. If you have questions about the benefits of membership, feel free to call your local club, or visit and speak to the Membership Assistant Manager.
        • Hey! Thank you so much for sharing such an indepth response. I really appreciate it. Although we do prefer Costco, we still do go to Sam's Club, and I will say, the employees out ours are much friendlier than the ones at the Costco we go to. I think that both stores have costs and benefits, and, like you said, everyone should definitely do their research and decide which one they want to go to. I like having a membership to both! :) Once again, thanks for sharing!
  • As a business person, Sams wins - hands down. Better hours, better service, better payment options. Plus, and this may just be here in MI, but the Costco folks seem rude. That said, I have both memberships because Costco carries different items.
  • Costco carries a lot of private label products. Sam's does have early entrance for business and Plus members (open at 7 for these members) which Costco doesn't. As far as return policies go, it's only a matter of time before Costco gets more restrictive as the amount of theft and fraud continue to increase. Society is awful, sorry to say!!
  • I went to check out Cosco and Sams Club and in my are (Warren Michigan), Cosco wins hands down, they have the organic products everywheres, from organic brown rice to organic flour, chicken, sugar, organic veggies and much more. Then I drove to Sam's club, I did not see anything organic, the meats were scarce and the store looked dirty....
  • My husband worked at Sams Club, I used to work at Walmart, and my dad worked at Costco and you are spot on about the way their employees are treated in each store. More Sam's Club/Walmart employees are on food stams/government assistance than not, and more Costco employees are actually able to support their family from their wages. I would much rather support a company that supports their workers.
  • I think the Wal-Mart vs. Target is the same discussion. The whole credit-card fiasco withstanding, Target is a nicer shopping experience than Wal-Mart. And Costco is much nicer than Sam's. We find the Kirkland house brand to be very high quality and they really stand behind it. When we had a Sam's membership, we always dreading going and used it rarely. With a Costco membership there is a certain excitement to going. From the staff to the quality of merchandise, it's Costco all the way. We have a brand new Sam's five minutes from our house and still drive 20 minutes to Costco.
  • I was a member of both for many years and finally dropped the Costco membership because my financial situation deteriorated and cost became the main factor for me. SC is so much cheaper than Costco. I live in Long Beach, CA and have more than 1 of each store available. One thing I find fascinating is that at the gas stations here, the Costco stations are always mobbed and the SC station is rarely busy, even though the gas is much more expensive at the Costco stations. Even some the arco stations are as cheaper or even cheaper than Costco and the Costco stores remain very busy
  • I do not speak for any other Costco employee but myself and I do not represent the company in any way. I work for Costco as a cashier's assistant. I can tell you that it is uncommon for my fellow co-workers to be unfriendly or unkind to our members. However I must put up some defense for those dead eyed workers at your local Costco. I can tell you from personal experience that working any kind of retail is soul sucking. Being called a b*tch, f*cker and etc. on a daily basis because we don't stock your particular yogurt anymore is truly draining. Even when we have the best intentions like retrieving that one thing you forgot. It only means the members behind you are going to make rude and insulting remarks about us to our faces because the line slowed up ever so slightly. Heck we get rude remarks for just tossing the trash from the samples out of the cart. If you have problems trying to find a product we'll get it for you. If you think your strawberry's aren't looking fresh we'll grab another. I could go on but you get the point. All we ask in return is two things. Firstly, don't leave unwanted cold items on the floor to spoil just give it to a cashier. Secondly, treat all working class people with some respect and empathy, we're people too. If you do this to we'll always treat you 100x better even if we're in a foul mood. Random Side Notes: 1) The meat from the Costco meat dept. might be more expensive than Sam's Club. But if you compare the grade you'll notice it's a grade higher than Sam's club. 2) In independent studies Costco gas has higher grades than any other gas on the market. We meet and exceed the TOP TIER™ standards. 3) We charge a maximum of 14% above cost on all products. This is why we don't carry Apple products and other self proclaimed "premium products" 4) You can order a whole pizza from the food court by phone. So when you enter the building to shop call or visit the food court and place the order. So when you leave the checkout you can just pick the pizza up. 5) I see a rise in abuse of our return policy. Keep in mind that if abused to much it will likely be taken away.
    • I appreciate your comments! I definitely agree with you -- working in retail must suck at times, because they are some truly rude people out there. I always do my best to be kind to cashiers/other employees wherever I go, whether I feel they deserve it or not. The only time I've gotten upset with a cashier is when they are truly being rude to me (which has never been at Costco -- they just have the disinterested employees on occasion :). At the Costco I go to, there are a lot of young people and students that go there, and it's super busy, so I would imagine a lot of the employees run into some very rude people from time to time, and I don't think that's right! The meat is definitely much better at Costco than at Sam's -- it's worth paying for! Thanks again -- I always enjoy hearing from different people on this topic!
  • another thing about costco, they give their employess a bonus at end of year..the monster that runs sams club(walmart) would never treat an employee this way. the return policy at costco is great,...the best of any buisness. another factor, i believe you do don,t get the customer service at checkout at sams club that you get a costco,s...walmart owns sams club, and that makes many run as fast as they can
  • I won't get a Costco membership simply for how they treated my fiancé while he worked there. He says it was the worst place he ever worked for but that could simply be our particular store. He had to have 2 jobs because they only gave him part time in the bakery and told him flat out that even though he was a great employee he would never be allowed to advance to a full time position. We would have been unable to pay all of our bills if he didn't have the second job and they kept telling him that if he didn't quit his second job (which paid more hourly btw) they were going to fire him. They were only willing to guarantee him 15 hours a week but wanted completely open availability. As soon as his other job offered him a promotion with full time hours he took it and quit costco. When he told the manager at Costco that he was putting in his 2 weeks the manager told him to get out and not to come in for anymore of his scheduled shifts. On the other hand I know several people that work in Sams that say they love their jobs. I don't know what the pay difference is but they seem to be getting along fine.
    • Being an employee of Costco this sounds pretty fishy, There's an employee handbook that cannot be violated it's our bottom line. It clearly states a part time employee will get a MINIMUM of 24 hours a week. Most at our store get closer to 30 hours or more and if they don't can always pick up in different departments for up to 40 hours a week. It sounds more like your Husband either didn't wanna work or Had a terrible manager... but the bottom line during orientation you're handed a hand book. It reads clearly and has all the employee rights in it. All he had to do was ask or say something and this would have been rectified promptly. It's a great place to work, The hardest part is probably getting your foot in the door. Anyways Hopefully he's happy wherever he is now.
  • We are Costco fans. I visit Sam's club on occasion with my sister and dad who have memberships. It seems to be location that makes then Sam's Club fans. but I love the option to go to both. One fantastic thing about the upgraded membership at Costco is the 2% back. Most people spend lots of money at Costco! The 2% back basically pays our membership making the prices even better since we don't have the yearly cost on top of it. If you end up not spending enough money to offset the difference in membership costs, they will refund you that amount. Pretty amazing. We do a decent amount of Christmas shopping at Costco too! And of course, dang good pizza at an amazing price. The kids LOVE to each lunch at Costco.
  • The point of Costco's Business Membership is due to their strict use of the Costco card-only the member's name that is reflected on the card is allowed to use the card. In the Business Membership, you get more cards with your employee's names on it - allowing you to focus on work instead of shopping for the business.
  • Great break down! I have both memberships, but I use Sam's more. I have the business membership so I can get in and out before Costco even opens their doors for the day. I like to buy meat and produce and office supplies and basics at SC. I like Costco for kids' school lunch snacks and "stuff." They always have better brands of clothing, etc. We buy electronics at Costco too, b/c their return policy is better if there is a problem. I agree with the unfriendly Costco associates though. What gives? They treat everyone a little bit like a criminal and the checkout lines are ridiculous! If I go to Costco, I know I need to budget 30 extra minutes just to get out the door.
    • I agree -- it takes FOREVER to get out of Costco, and those lines...what's up with those?! We are always in and out of Sam's Club much faster than Costco. If they have a product that's identical to Sam's Club and we need it fast, we definitely go there first.
  • Hello All!!! So ingeresting to read everyone's thoughts on these two places. I recently just celebrated my SIXTEENTH year anniversary as a COSTCO employee. Its interesting to see things from members views. I work in New Jersey where its always busy. All of you are right about one thing.....Costco's return policy is the best! Also just for information purposes they pay well, have excellent medical benefits, and are closed (paid) holidays which is huge in a family. Glad so many of you are happy w Costco
    • Thank you for commenting! Just the other day when we were at Costco, I was commenting to my husband how, after looking at different employees' name tags, many of them had been there 10+ years. I think that says a lot about the company. We definitely love Costco, and I love hearing from an employee to confirm how well they treat their employees!: )
  • The employees at our local Costco are very friendly, despite it being an extremely busy location, and you can tell they are treated well and love their job. Many have been there for many years. I definitely agree with their corporate policies more, and even if they weren't slightly cheaper would support them over a Walmart-owned company.
    • I'm sorry to hear that, but I assure you, my post was not sponsored in any way, shape, or form. It is my honest opinion and this post took hours to put together. This blog is my full time job (our only source of income, in fact), and unfortunately, we have to use ads to make an income. Hopefully you'll give our advice and opinions a little more credit, because I promise you, it is 100% honest. On our mobile sites, we have more ads, but I can see how it might be distracting when reading a post like this. I'll look into having less show up on this particular post.
    • Thank you for having ads! I know how much work you bloggers put into everything you do, and I REALLY hope you earn enough to keep it up because I love your blog!!!
      • Thank you so much, Kristina. I really value your opinion, and your support. I'm so glad you enjoy my blog. We really do work so hard on it!
  • Very informative! You would think the lower-paid employees from Sam's Club would be LESS friendly than the well-paid employees at Costco, right? Go figure! If I were a Costco employee I'd have a lot to be happy about and NOT be "standoffish"! LOL!
    • Agreed! This was mainly our experience at the old Costco we went to - though, I think I might be grumpy too...because it was alway SO crowded! Either way, I would think the Sam's Club employees would be a little more grumpy :)
      • I would also like to share that buying from DOLLAR STORES helps saves lots of $$$ when buying a few select items such as: Cooking oils (all kinds including expensive Olive oil), various bread items (sliced white/wheat bread, hot dog/hamburger buns, bagels, tortillas, etc.), milk, eggs, tv dinners, fruits and vegetables (although most are ripe and won't last long), spices/seasonings, cookies, 2 liter Pepsi bottles - yep, $1 each! .. generic over-the-counter medicines, and of course your typical everyday household items. I normally like to buy from the dollar stores (99 Cents Only and Dollar Tree stores are popular in Houston, TX) for items such as these and everything else at Sam's Club, which is the membership I'm currently in now, and yes, I was a former Costco member. The "pick n pull" feature, it's worth noting - is AWESOME! I just love that I can avoid impulse buying and control costs better this way and avoiding the hassle of even having to shop the items for myself in the store! Just pre-order your items online, show up the next day, pay, and cart off all your stuff to your vehicle! WOW! Take THAT, Costco!
    • They have products you can buy by the case lot, but most things you can be just individually - they are just larger portions typically.
  • Costco is very strict on what their suppliers can do with their meats and produce. For example, theu are not allowed to spray beef with anything that makes it look redder/fresher. They are not allowed to inject meats with a saline solution to make them look more plump, etc. For the person who thinks costco's chicken prices are too high, try a experiment: cook costco chicken in one pot and sams chicken in the other. Notice how much water is in the pot vs useable chicken when you are done.
    • Great points! I definitely believe that you get a much higher quality product at Costco v Sam's Club, especially when it comes to the meat!
    • I love the chicken at Costco - I can really tell the difference when I cook it with something else I got on 'sale' at other stores. And the pork chops????
      • Agreed! I think their chicken is a little more expensive than what you can get on sale, but it's worth it for the quality! The only chicken I like more is Zaycon Chicken, which you can get for 1.69 a pound, but you can get only get it twice a year.
  • Thanks for posting this comparison. I also have both options available: the local Costco and the local Sam's Club are both about the same distance from my house. After a few years of Costco membership, I switched to Sam's Club, primarily for two reasons: 1) The Costco was always jam-packed, both in the store, at the gas pumps, and in the parking lot, whereas Sam's Club is no more crowded than any average supermarket. The lines at Costco's gas pumps are 5 times longer than the lines at the Sam's Club pumps, and Costco's parking lot is way too small for the number of customers they have: I often had to park clear over at the Office Depot's parking lot, about 800' away from the Costco's front door. 2) The local Costco fuel station doesn't have diesel fuel for my truck, whereas the Sam's Club does. I have seen this at many other Costco's around California during my travels: very few of them have diesel fuel, whereas most Sam's Clubs do.
    • I can definitely understand why you went with Sam's Club! My experience is that the stores vary so much depending on where you go. When we lived in Utah, Costco was jampacked and the employees weren't very friendly (probably because it was so busy). Sam's Club was much friendlier! However, since moving to Colorado, it's been a completely different experience! Sam's Club by us has the least helpful employees ever, and it just is so crowded. We much prefer the Costco!
  • I don't like to go to WalMart - I got tempted because they put a huge new one in VERY close to my home - I shopped it a few times and yes, it was cheaper but to me the WalMart philosophy and how they treat employees and vendors is not a good way to operate. I would rather spend more money and go to Costco.
    • Agreed! We go to Walmart because it's close, and I can sometimes get good deals, but I feel like every time I leave the store, I swear it's the last time I go. I feel like they treat the employees bad, which in turn makes a lot of the employees not super friendly either! Costco is definitely the way to go.
  • I go back and forth between Sam's Club and Costco (only been here less than a year). There are things I like at each one, which the other doesn't carry. The only big difference I've seen is Costco is less expensive on their gas than Sam's. Oh, and the Costco employees are MUCH more friendly than at Sam's Club...for sure!!
  • Hi I belong to Sam's Club! #1 Costco is more than 20 miles away! #2 Sam's is in the same parking lot as Wal-Mart and is less than 10 miles away! Plus the price of the gas is mostly .30 cents lower than all the other gas stations! That is the biggest plus!
  • I also wanted add on biggest difference between them, it's open business hours and parking space. Maybe it's only near my house C and S's. It's located in City of Torrance, California. There Costco and Sam's are next each other. This Costco opens from 10am for any membership card. Sam's opens 7am weekdays for member's plus($100) . At Sam's, it's helps A LOT for people who drop off kids around 7-8am. We don't have to spend extra money to kill the time to opening. They are offering morning coffee(taste no good but better than nothing!) And those membership difference $45-$100 can save it from members plus coupon. (So basically almost free for upgrade it) Both parking are huge but this Costco most of the times FULL. Seriously, I can't believe people are parking without fight, it's like going to the "battle field". It is very annoying and feels down after certain hours pass in the weekday and all day weekend because I feels like "Oh no I missed it to go Costco first in the morning". Sam's club has little smaller parking but never had problem with parking spot and we can shop very comfortably.(no need to hustle and feels like ready to go battle for parking. They also self checkout lane in sam's but not in Torrance Costco. If you're hurry to go birthday party to have ordered item, no problem. 10 items? in a min, you can check out most of the time. Those 3 big things are made decision clearly and worth it to drop Costco membership.
    • Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed comment! It's always great to hear other people's insight, especially on specific stores - I know that my experience at stores in different areas have varied!
  • Thanks for doing that. I used to go to Sam's Club when I lived in the U.S. and just loved it. Their fish was really good and the prices on their tomatoes etc. unbeatable. Now I live in Canada, we don't have a Sam's Club - boo hoo. The service at Costco is awful (every one I've been to across multiple provinces) - their staff are grumpy and unfriendly. Can't understand it. Feels like they all hate their jobs, it makes me miserable shopping there. At Sam's Club the staff would go out of their way to help. Costco could learn a few things! Come to Canada Sam's Club.
  • I do not support Walmart at all, therefore I refuse to have a Sam's club membership. I have used the optical department, photo department, pharmacy, and have purchase online with Costco, as well as buying weekly groceries there, etc. Costco is amazing, and the fact that they treat their employees so well is the deal-breaker for me. Also, I do have the premium membership, that gives 2% back. I always get back an amount that is more than the personal membership. I also once calculated the savings on the gas: If we gas up our cars exclusively at Costco, that nickel difference saved adds up to more than an individual membership. Combined with my 2% back, and my Costco membership ends up being paid for. ALSO (how many alsos can I have?), their food court pizza is amazing! It's the only pizza we get for carry-out.
  • Good article, thank you. Here is my two cents: There are two Cost Co's I used to frequent near my home. The closer store had very rude employees. Always from the time it opened till years later when we finally decided for the third time to stop shopping there. The Cost Co that is farther from my home was a bit better but they had some rude employees too. In fact one made a racial comment about white people so I told the manager and stopped shopping there. We now go to Sam's Club which is within a mile of the two Cost Co's we used to shop and are very happy with the employees, the products they sell and the gas stations. The Gas stations are the main reason we shopped at either store.
    • Good or bad employees can really make or break a shopping experience. I am glad that you have found somewhere to shop that you are happy with =)
  • The information you post is fabulous. I was hoping thee would be a comparison in quality and freshness of meats, vegies and fruits. If you did post it, I missed it. I don't belong to either and in St. Louis Cosco is much further from me than is Sam's, which would off set prices, but not quality. Thank you so much, Donna Day.
  • I've read a lot of these Costco v. Sam's comparisons on different websites, and no one ever mentions what to me is the biggest problem of both stores: the customers! I was a Sam's member for years and will likely become one again because I'm finding my fellow shoppers to be SO rude at the Costco I joined. I mean, to the point where I am just flat-out in a bad, angry mood when I leave. Not sure if it's location-dependent or what (this one is located in a wealthy suburb, at least 30 miles from where I live). The employees are OK, although I thought Sam's Club employees were way friendlier. When I first walked in (before I bought membership card) at Costco, I was treated like a criminal by the door guy. To be honest I almost turned around and went to renew my Sam's Club card. Sam's customers can be a little rude, too, but overall, they don't act nearly as entitled as Costco shoppers do. I am impressed with the quality of food at Costco as well as the Kirkland products, so I am a bit torn. I do wish Costco would put stores in more central locations, too (Sam's are all over town so guaranteed to be one at least pretty close to where you live).
    • Hi, Bonnie! I would definitely say it is location dependent. When I originally wrote this post, I lived in Provo, Utah. As much as I loved Costco, I HATED going - the employees were rude, and it was like I was on a crowded subway as I wnet through there. People were so rude. Sam's was much more low key, and the employees were much better. We live in Colorado now, and I much prefer Costco near us - their employees are SO much more friendly than our local Sam's Club, and I don't have any issues with the other customers. It gets busy on Saturdays, but beyond that, it's always a pretty good experience.