• Instacart will deliver your Hawaii Costco groceries, but is it worth it?

    After living in a dense urban area like San Francisco, I get excited when I hear a new delivery service has opened.  This week, Instacart began Oahu deliveries.  Included in their delivery group, are stores such as CVS, Safeway, Foodland, Times, Petco and even Costco.

    The delivery price seems reasonable.  It starts at $5.99 and has a minimum purchase amount of $35.  There is, however, a markup on goods.  At first glance, the markup didn't seem particularly steep to me.  For instance, although you normally pay $4.99 for a Costco rotisserie chicken, $6.09 didn't seem that exorbitant.  Add to that, you don't need a Costco membership.

    On second glance, however, I realized how quickly these upcharges add up.  Here's a breakdown of five items:

    Item Costco Instacart Upcharge

    Edamame 

     $11.49 $13.49  17%

     

    Rotisserie Chicken

    4.99  6.09  22%

    04 orange chicken

    Orange Chicken 

    13.99  17.09  22%

    05 fig bar

     Fig Bars

    11.99  13.49  13%

    06 degree ap

     Degree Anti-Perspirant

    13.49  16.49  22%

    Instacart will apply coupons from Costco's coupon book, so pricewise, that awash.  Delivery times vary widely: If you're hoping to eat rotisserie chicken in the next hour, you're probably out of luck.  Delivery windows are one hour long, and strangely, slot availability is staggered even at this early phase of launch.

    Selection also varies.  Toiletries are largely unavailable, ditto for electronics -- even something as mundane as an SD card.  A couple of products listed I've never seen at the Hawaii Kai store.  For instance, mainland Kirkland eggs sold in a 24-pack.  Makes me wonder if that can be delivered at all.

    My take:  if you don't have a car this is a fabulous service.  Not only can you get Costco goods (and largely split the difference in savings between Instacart and yourself -- prices are still lower than your standard grocery), you also don't need a membership.  If you happen to live five minutes from Hawaii Kai Costco (which is usually not crowded, except on weekends) and have a car, I think your money and time are better spent shopping in person.

  • Hawaii Kai Food Court closed today through Friday (2/13/17-2/17/2017)

    Hawaii Kai Costco's food court is closed from today (February 13, 2017) through Friday, February 17.  It will reopen on Saturday.  I'm told they're getting new flooring installed this week.

    hawaii kai costco foodcourt closed signhawaii kai costco foodcourt closed

  • Costco Recall Alert: Tyson Chicken Nuggets 5# bag

     

     

    tyson costco chicken recall

     

    Tyson Foods has recalled more than 130,000 pounds of precooked chicken nuggets due to a concern that the product may be "contaminated with hard plastic," the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Tuesday.

    The Class I recall — which indicates the highest level of risk — applies to the following products:

    • 5-pound bags of Tyson Fully Cooked Panko Chicken Nuggets with a "Best If Used By" date of July 18, 2017 and case code 2006SDL03 and 2006SDL33, and distributed nationally
    • 20-pound packages containing "Spare Time Fully Cooked, Panko Chicken Nuggets, Nugget Shaped Chicken Breast Pattie Fritters With Rib Meat" with a production date of July 18, 2016 and case code 2006SDL03 and shipped for institutional use in Pennsylvania. [source:USDA]
  • Costco Product Review: Hawaii Kai Kitten

    "I'm going to find it," she declared emphatically

    I too had heard it -- the day before.  I thought it was just thoughtless bubul birds fighting over an overripe papaya, so I ignored the sound.  Her son had heard it too, first in the morning and then throughout the day.  Truthfully, if it was a cat, I didn't want it, so I pretended it was still "just birds."

    eo kitten cat"I'm going to find it," my friend declared emphatically.  She spent a considerable amount of time hunting for the sound around the yard before apprehensively announcing, "I think it's coming from there."  She pointed to my car engine -- the same car engine that had taken me to Longs and Safeway several times that day.  We opened the hood.  The cry was clearer now, but there was nothing to be seen.  We even looked inside the passenger portion of the car.  Nada.  Then, out of the corner of his eye, her son saw something move.  It was an asphalt-colored kitty, the color of pavement and difficult to detect.  By now the car was cool enough to reach into, but short arms combined with my short body made it hard to catch him.  For at least a few minutes, all arms were in the car, but he dodged everyones'.

    When we finally caught him, he was tiny, scared, and terribly young.  His eyes were still blue, the color all kittens are born with before they change color at around 5 weeks old.  By now, all the kids -- four of them -- were crowded around.  There was excitement.  All the kids wanted to keep him.  The problem was that my friend already had a cat, and I didn't want one.  To top it off, my husband didn't want one either, although he had an excuse: he was allergic to cats.

    The first night

    We didn't have anything to feed him, so he got a few eyedropperfuls of water mixed with cow milk to tide him over until I could get him the right food. I made a trip to Petco, where as luck would have it, I found an employee with extensive knowledge on abandoned kittens.  I left with new knowledge, a can of premixed kitten milk and the smallest bag of kitty litter I could find -- we weren't keeping him, I kept telling myself.  At home, the cat suckled on the new food gratefully, all the while peering into my eyes as if to ask, "Are you my new mommy?"  Before my friend left, she had helped prepare a litter box.  This was the moment of truth.  If the kitten was too young, he would not be able to poop without help.  Young kittens have their bottoms licked by their mother to stimulate bowel movement, I had learned.  Fortunately, over the next few days, he would do his business in the litter box.  

    The first night with our kitten was tiring.  He cried all night while lodged between boxes and hidden from view.  Every few hours I would pull him out and feed him.  It was a weeknight, and when my kids woke up that morning, I was already up.  I had been up all night.

    Plans to give him away change

    My friend's husband initially nixed the idea of a second cat, although he did relent later.  My husband seemed anxious to give the cat away quickly and asked another of our friends, a family of many animals, to take him.  They agreed.  Meanwhile, we held on to him for a bit, feeding him by hand and taking him to the veterinarian for his first set of vaccinations.  By now, the kitten had grown very attached to me, following me around the house like a puppy and mewing constantly for affirmation.  He was also much stronger now.  Nights of crying for food were replaced by nights of pouncing on my head, claws extended and in need of playtime.  Frankly, I was ready for him to go to his new home.  Adding to the drama. the cat could now scale the pet enclosure we kept our indoor bunny in.  Everyone I spoke to said, "Oh, he probably won't hurt the rabbit," but I knew better.  His feral instincts said hunt, then eat.  Just as we were ready to give the cat away, his planned adoptive family let us know they couldn't take him.  Plans had changed: one of them was getting married and bringing a new dog into the house by year's end.  Along with several cats and a rabbit, it would be too much.  We went back to plan B and begged my friend who had rescued the kitten from my car engine to take him.  They did, much to the delight of her children.

    I can't sleep without a cat on my head

    eo rabbit 3 storyIt was the worst night -- I felt as though I had lost a family member.  I brooded.  My son tried so hard to pretend it just didn't matter, but he too missed the cat intensely.  By the next day, I asked my friend if I could get the cat back.  I felt really bad, knowing how much she and her kids had bonded.  Her current cat didn't seem to mind, but that's another story.  Only thing is, I couldn't take the cat back right away.  I had to find a way to protect the rabbit from harm.  Over the next week, I would take out the power tools and build a three-story bunny hutch out of dog crates.  If the rabbit couldn't have the large horizontal run he had before, he'd have to go vertical.  We brought the cat home.
     The cat immediately set to work trying to nab the rabbit through the crate openings.  Out came everything we had stored in the garage, including hardware cloth normally designed to keep rabbits out of spaces, not safely in them. After a lot of trial and error, the cage was deemed catproof enough.  Fortunately, while our cat has an instinct for hunting, our rabbit has no sense of being prey.  The bunny is completely oblivious to this creature that occasionally charges at him from outside the cage.

    eo rabbit cat

     

    It looks like.. .

    As the kitten has matured, its tail has grown bushier, its fur longer.  When I took him to the vet the second time, I couldn't help noticing his resemblance to the cat on the cat breed poster.  The veterinarian read my mind when she said, "He looks like a Maine Coon," before quickly adding apologetically, "but maybe he's just part and won't get that large."  He's now four months old and well over five pounds, so I'm beginning to wonder what the other part might be.  As it turns out, Maine Coons are a pretty specific breed with some interesting tendencies, many of which we noted well before we suspected he might be one.  He's really mellow, a bit dog-like and loves water -- especially toilet water.  We constantly have to be sure to close the lid or our cat will make a drinking bowl out of it.  He also thinks his paws are hands.  He will scoop out kitty kibble, chase it around the floor, then pick it up and eat it off of his paw.  All in all, our family is pretty hooked on this furball of trouble.  My son marvels at how he now has the largest, furriest creature possible that doesn't trigger his allergies.  My husband still claims he's allergic, but so far hasn't shown major signs of it.  My husband closes his door to keep the cat out, but almost seems disappointed when the cat doesn't try to enter.  The cat -- like bunny -- also likes my husband intensely because hubby is the most generous family member when it comes to treats.  I hope hubby doesn't feed him too many treats.  Even without the extra help, male Maine Coon cats grow to eighteen pounds and nearly four feet long.  A Google search of the words "biggest cat" will turn up records of cats like Samson or Ollie with Maine Coon lineage.  Those cats top the scales at nearly 30 pounds and over four feet of length.eo maine coon kitten

    Thank goodness it wasn't a Costco quantity pack

    All I can say is, thank goodness I only got one cat.  Can you imagine two 30-pound cats?  Seriously, we don't know if the cat climbed into the engine at Costco, but I'm having a difficult time thinking of anywhere else he could have been picked up.  By the way, my friend's kids named the cat.  His name is Lucky.

     

  • Costco Cooking: Easy Chive Kim Chee

    kimcheeinbowl chives

     

    From time to time, I receive a surplus of chives from friends and neighbors.  I also, from time to time, crave chive kim chee. It's the ultimate in local smelly fermented food.  Once you've had some, you'll be hooked.  Just make sure everyone else tries it too so that no one can complain about the aroma.  In any case, it's too much work to make kim chee from scratch, so I just buy a huge tub of won bok kim chee from Costco, eat a little to make room for the chives, blanch the chives, then let it sit for at least a day.  Voila!  Chive kim chee.

     

  • Bakery Worker at Costco Hawaii Kai Confirmed to Have Hepatitis A

    BREAKING:

    [Hawaii News Now]

     

     . . .

    The Department of Health confirmed that Costco customers are being contacted, and urged to monitor for symptoms. Costco is using receipts to determine who might be at risk.

    Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes. 

    *****

    Hepatitis A Questions and Answers (FAQ) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    CDC Hepatitis A Questions and Answers for the Public

     

  • Costco Product Review: Sunreaders, Reading Glasses with Sun Protection

    The product tagline really should read:eo sunreaders costco package

    Sunreaders: Sun protection with reading glasses

     

    I probably shouldn't have taken that "shortcut" through the mystery product aisles at Costco.  You know those aisles, the ones that change regularly and where seasonal products are kept.  I stopped to look at reading glasses; we never seem to have enough when playing board games.  I picked up the card containing two pairs of Sunreaders.  "Hmm," I wondered to myself.  "These might be good outside.  Maybe they'd even cut the glare when reading my phone in the sun."

    I bought the set of two tinted glasses: one with a classic gray tint, the other with amber.  I gave the gray pair to my husband and kept the amber, a tint I'm partial to.  As it would turn out, I bought them on the eve of Tropical Storm Darby.  It would be another two days before I could properly say I'd tested them out in the sun.

    These particular "readers" got terrible reviews on the Costco site.  The real issue, to me, isn't that they're a terrible product.  Rather, their primary purpose isn't magnification.  Fact is, they make terrific sunglasses with the small bonus of a magnifier. At $16.99 for two pairs of sunglasses with 100% UVA/UVB protection and anti-reflective coating, they're a good deal.  Problem is, if you bought them for reading, they're not what you were looking for. 

    eo sunreaders lensThe magnifier on these glasses is a small section of each lens, roughly the size of a nickel.  It's so discreet that with the tint I didn't know it was bifocal-style until I unwrapped it.  Personally, I can't see through the magnifier unless I adjust the glasses manually.  My husband -- whose head is slightly bigger than mine -- says he can see through it by looking down.  Clearly, if you were hoping for readers, by now you're already disappointed.

    However, as sunglasses go, I like them.  I took them on a drive around the Windward side and the tint is just right: not too dark and not too light.  Because the reader portion is so small, I hardly noticed it as I drove.  Just a FYI: Most sunglasses don't fit my head.  This one was no exception.  However, the product comes with nosepads, a must for me.  Once I attached a Croakie, it was as good a fit as I'll ever get. 

    The quality is good: solid and sturdy.  These are a product of DesignOptics, a Foster Grant division.  My take on them: buy them if you need sunglasses and have an occasional need for far-sighted reading in the sun.  Don't buy them if what you really need is reading glasses.

  • Costco Product Review: Downy Unstopables


    downy unstopables costco

     

    We tried it two months ago and liked it enough to buy it again.  Granted, our family found it strange that we were using Downy's In-Wash Scent Booster to boost our specifically-designated "no perfumes" laundry detergent.  Truth is, aside from the fact that sometimes the kids clothes require a little extra TLC -- when are they getting air conditioning in our public schools, anyway -- we've found uses other than the suggested one.

    The suggested method is: "Shake a little or a lot into the cap.  Toss into the washer at the beginning of the wash. . .Downy Unstopables go directly into the washer to give a fresh scent boost." 

    Here are two additional uses that merit mention:

    1. A couple of pea-sized pellets in the disposal for a fresher smelling kitchen sink
    2. A tablespoon or so of pellets mixed with two cups of hot water for a homemade version of air freshener or neutralizer.

    Throwing a few pearls into the disposal is fairly self-explanatory.  Personally, I like to partially melt them in a full sink before turning on the disposal and sending them down the plumbing.  They do sud up just a tad, so I'm hoping they're also cleaning the inside of the pipes.

    Turning your Unstopables into an air neutralizer is really cost-effective.  Procter and Gamble is also the maker of the leading odor neutralizer, so it's no surprise that the product is similar.  It's just a lot cheaper to buy Unstopables, melt them and put them in a spray bottle.  I find that Unstopables' odor neutralizing effect is better than ready-made products.  It doesn't smell like much, but when you're done spraying, the offending scents are gone.

    I'm quite sure there are additional uses for this product.  For those into sachets or potpourri, I bet these would go well with them.  They're also quite pretty.  The fresh scent version is a lovely aqua color, and I believe the Hawaii Kai Costco also carries the pink "Shimmer" version.  If you're concerned with color, there are a total of six fragrance/color combinations available, but not all of them are available at Costco.

    Because they are so attractive, a word of caution here.  Please be sure to keep them out of reach of children and pets.  There have been too many reported incidents where children mistook laundry products for candy.

    Until August 31, 2016. Downy Unstopables are $3 off at Costco.

  • Your Costco Card is Valid at Sam's Club through July 4th

    Via Twitter:

  • Warehouse Club Tip: Bulk Onions

    Living here in Hawaii, aren't you envious to find that onions keep for months on end in a Midwest cellar?  Here's are three ideas on how you can preserve your round onions in our humid paradise without waste.

     

    Preserving Bulk OnionGrilled Onion

    1.  Simply wrap each one in newspaper and store it in your refrigerator.  It's as good as a cellar.  The onion won't sprout and keeps for at least 3 months or more.  Trust me, this one works.

    2.  Onions don't do well in the freezer as the water content causes it to become soft and mushy.  However, if you grill them beforehand, you can freeze them in portion-sized clumps and they're very convenient for burgers, vegetables or whatever you would normally use grilled onions for.

    3.  Make a duxelles out of them and freeze.  In addition to preserving your onion, it preserves your mushroom too.  It's great for stews, shoyu chicken and anywhere you need a flavorful broth.

     

  • Costco Hawaii: Did You Know #1

    I just finished shopping at Costco and was pleased to see this display:

    Costco Pizza Preorder

    On the mainland, it was common practice to order food from the food court while checking out at the register.  Looks like the practice -- at least for whole pizza -- has finally reached Hawaii Kai. Notably, because there is a side window for pizza pickup, it means you won't have to wait in line outside again just to place the order.

    A couple of other tidbits I learned by eavesdropping these past few days:

    • Costco offers rainchecks on regularly stocked items that have run out.  This can be useful if you're using the coupon book and stock is out.
    • You can still get sauerkraut for your hot dog at the counter.  Just ask.  (The guy in front of me asked for the "white stuff in the container" and looked a bit baffled when the cashier asked if it was sauerkraut.  It was.)
  • Warehouse Club Tip: Bulk Garlic

    Warehouse clubs offer great bargains, but only if you can take advantage of the quantity.  This article highlights the preservation of peeled garlic.

    You've seen the bag of garlic at Costco and Sam's Club.  It's fresh, it's peeled, and it comes in a whopping three pound bag.  Most of us can't use it fresh all at once, but if you prepare it in a food processor, add some salt and oil and freeze it, it will keep for six months or more and be more flavorful and useful than fresh.

    First, wash the garlic in a colander.  Pat dry.  Then, place half of it in a large food processor and add a few tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon of salt.  Pulse to desired size.  Scoop the contents into a gallon Ziploc bag.  Repeat with the second half of of garlic.  Place in the same Ziploc.

    Put the contents in the freezer and check on it in 3-4 hours.  Gently break up frozen chunks and place back in the freezer.  Repeat one more time.  The mixture will keep for at least six months.  Your frozen garlic can be used as you would use fresh garlic with the added benefit that it doesn't burn as easily when stir frying. Personally, I think the flavor is better than fresh because of the addition of salt and oil  and because the chopping action releases more intense flavor.

  • Costco or Sam's Club: Selection and Quality: An Oahu Overview (Part 2 of 2)

    Continued from part 1: Costco or Sam's Club: Convenience and Price: An Oahu Overview (Part 1 of 2)

    Selection

    To be fair, most of my Costco experience comes from the Hawaii Kai store.  The Costco Iwilei store has a broader and wider selection of goods than the Hawaii Kai one.  It is, after all, the Costco store with the highest sales worldwide.  With regard to Sam's Club, I've frequented both their Keeaumoku and Pearl City locations and they're a tad more identical to each other than the Costco locations which can vary in size.

    There are a couple of areas that Costco and Sam's Club differ in selection.  Costco has a wider variety of wine, a number of which falls in the under $10 category.  It also, coincidentally, has a wider variety of cheese; one presumes to go with the wider selection of wine.  In terms of other alcohol, both Costco and Sam's Club carry a wider variety than than most grocery stores.  Sam's Club has a wider variety of snacks than Costco.  This can be important if you're a Little League mom, or if you regularly need to contribute to the church potluck.  My son's eyes nearly popped out when he saw that he had a choice of not one type of Kit Kat, but four.  To be honest, the snack chip selection at Sam's Club is also jaw-dropping.  I like that they do sell boxes of one flavor rather than a variety pack.  With variety packs there's always one flavor no one likes, so that ends us sitting in the box while the kids have a fit because the ones they like are gone.

    If you're a business owner you'll appreciate the office supply section at Sam's Club.  It's bigger than Costco and carries daily supplies such as file folders in a variety of colors, envelopes of varying sizes and even different types of paper, like cardstock.  If you're a convenience store owner, you'll also appreciate the wider variety of beverages at Sam's Club.

    When it comes to produce, both Costco and Sam's Club keep a good stock of staples on hand like carrots, potatoes and celery.  Costco seems to pay more mind to organic offerings, whereas Sam's has a wider variety of unexciting but necessary vegetables like whole green onions and sliced cabbage for coleslaw.  Sam's Club also seems to keep more types of potatoes on hand than Costco.  Sam's usually has Yukon Gold, red, white, sweet and heirloom potatoes on hand in addition to Russets.  I'm not much of a potato person, but it's hard not to notice.

    As for the bakery, both offer nearly the same items.  Sam's Club seems to have more locally baked outside vendor products than Costco, for instance their hamburger and hot dog bun brand is Love's.  Sam's also seems to have more tortilla products, including larger flour tortillas for wraps.  The edge does go to Costco for In-house baked products, as they seem to have more of them -- in particular, varieties of cakes and pies.  Having said that, I like Sam's birthday cakes more.  I believe they still do buttercream frosting on it.  

    One of the areas that Costco does excel over Sam's Club is their limited-time, limited-quantity offerings.  By this, I mean items like furniture and clothing.  Costco is quite adept at picking out and merchandising attractive pieces for sale.  I don't necessarily get that same vibe from Sam's Club.  It seems to me that Costco sacrificed some of its floor space for these goods over the everyday, practical item shelves that define Sam's Club.

    One area I don't have enough knowledge of, is their tire departments.  Both Costco and Sam's have them, and both offer installation too.

    And as a last note, because my family seems to eat more pizza than any other family I know, Sam's Club's take and bake pizza is just $6.98 and is preferred over the Costco take and bake which is $8.99.  I believe they are roughly the same size.  

    Quality

    I'm going to give this one to Costco, only because if you don't like what you bought, Costco has the most flexible return policy anywhere.  In fact, if you don't like your membership, they'll even give you back the prorated portion of it.  Costco also has a program that automatically extends the warranty on a number of electronic items such as televisions and computers. With their new Citibank VISA you may be able to extend the warranty on all your purchases without an extra fee.

    As for individual items carried at both retailers, each has good quality tried-and-true products.  I guess that's what happens when you're Walmart and Costco, the number one and number two retailers in the country.  Surveys occasionally have the Sam's Club brand surpassing Costco in satisfaction surveys and both are always near the top of the major retail brands when it comes to customer satisfaction.

    Conclusion

    At the start of this two part article, I stated that the number one consideration to take into account when picking a membership is convenience.  If you live near Costco, pick it.  If you live near Sam's Club, pick it instead.  

    I'll end this with a bit of nostalgia.  I remember how hard it was to make ends meet before warehouse clubs.  Even after the advent of their arrival, I recall thawing a five-pound brick of NIQF (not-individually-quick-frozen) chicken thighs, splitting it into 3 or so portions and making food for the rest of the week with it.  Milk?  Out of the question.  My husband recalls growing up on Milkman (powdered milk) and going to a friend's house to snag the real stuff out of the refrigerator.  

    Milkman powdered milk
    Growing up in Hawaii do you remember Milkman powdered milk?

     

  • Costco or Sam's Club: Convenience and Price: An Oahu Overview (Part 1 of 2)

     

    Convenience

    Which one to join? The short answer can be found here:

    Costco Oahu Locations:

    Costco Hawaii Kai (East Oahu)
    Costco Iwilei (Downtown area)
    Costco Waipio (Waipahu/Leeward)
    Costco Kapolei (West Oahu)

    Sam's  Club Locations:

    Sam's Club Keeaumoku (Ala Moana)
    Sam's Club Pearl City (Leeward)

    Costco has four branches somewhat evenly spaced throughout the urban and suburban stretch of Honolulu.  Sam's Club has two locations, both centrally located in dense population hubs.  If you're only picking one and not the other, pick the one situated where you can most often enjoy the benefits.  Extended, that means that Hawaii Kai residents should most certainly pick Costco, whereas an apartment dweller near Ala Moana should pick Sam's Club.

    As for whether they're both worth it, In Hawaii it's a resounding YES.  If you're a Costco member and want to know whether you should join both clubs, fortunately Sam's Club has a way for you to find out.  It's called a One Day Pass (PDF), There's a small 10% upcharge, but at least you'll get a chance to browse the aisle to see the merchandise.  

    If you're a Sam's Club member and want to find out if Costco has what you need, you can get a Costco member to buy you a Costco gift card and shop without a membership. The cashier will ring you up under the member code #99.  Be aware that some have reported issues with the gift-card-only approach.  It may, for non-member shopping at Costco, be better advised to -- borrowing the slogan from a local competitor-- "shop with a friend."

    Or, if you're still sitting on the fence about both, use the One Day Pass at Sam's Club and a member-purchased gift card at Costco to explore.

    Price

    Membership clubs offer Hawaii residents a reprieve from crazy regular tourist retail prices.  As an example, a 1/2 gallon of lactose-free 2% milk might cost $8.50 at a normal store.  At Costco, you get three 1/2 gallon cartons of 2% lactose-free milk.  At an everyday store, 8-ounce trays of mushrooms are advertised at the SALE price of $3.00.  At Sam's Club, four times the quantity (a two pound container) is usually around $5.50.

    Membership Price

    It's pretty hard to not join.  Membership fees are generally low given the benefit they provide.  The lowest priced membership is $55 at Costco and $45 at Sam's Club.  It's not that simple though.  There are multiple levels of membership, some of which may end up saving you more than you paid.  

    For instance, with the $110 Executive Membership at Costco, we've received a merchandise check for all of our membership money plus more every year.  Add the upcoming VISA card they're offering with Citibank, and you could end up saving thousands of dollars on top of the price you paid.

     Sam's Club has its own branded credit card and a purchase rebate program too.  They also have specials.  For example, through the end of 2016 if you use your Discover Card to buy the membership, you can get a bonus Sam's Gift Card of either $10 or $25.  Sometimes,  you can also find deals on Groupon or LivingSocial.  In any case, $45 is not a lot of money relatively speaking.  Last year I bought an outdoor grill and I probably saved $350 or more over comparable models.

    Merchandise Price

    That leads us into merchandise prices.  They're different, as is the merchandise.  Sometimes the Costco price is lower, sometimes the Sam's Club price is.  One website did an extensive comparison table of merchandise which, while interesting, doesn't really address Hawaii prices at all.  

    In general, I think that Costco has better prices on liquor and organic food, whereas Sam's Club has great prices on Wal-food.  Staples usually overlap in terms of availability, but often come in different brands and packaging sizes.  For instance, at Sam's Club, flour is sold in 25# bags and at Costco the normal stock size is 50#.  Costco's 50# size may have better per unit prices, but really -- who needs 50# of flour for a household?

    Getting into specifics, for the sake of comparison, Yoshida's teriyaki sauce was $8.29 at Sam's Club and $6.99 at Costco.  Conversely, an eight-pack of sweetened condensed milk was approximately $1.50 per can at Sam's Club and a little over $2.00 at Costco.

    Which leads to another point.  Both companies receive routine price changes from headquarters and also have some flexibility in pricing locally.  When there is a large batch of perishable produce that needs to be sold, both will price it accordingly.  Interestingly, one blog explains how you can tell which items at Costco have been marked down and why.  Summarized, it looks like this:

    Reading Costco Price Tags
    .99 = item is full price
    .97 = a deal decided by the manager, usually on clearance items
    .49 and .79 = a manufacturer’s special
    .00 = the goods are about to expire
    * = the item is being discontinued

    For Sam's Club, another blog specifies:

    Reading Sam's Club Price Tags
    .01 or anything ending in a penny = clearance priced

    Letter on shelf tag (usually RH corner) is:
    A = Active Item (Something that they normally carry)
    N = Never-Out (Item should always be in-stock)
    C = Canceled (Store will no longer carry the item. If it’s not already clearance priced, it will be soon if not sold out)

    The point here is that prices are dynamic, so a point to point comparison today may change tomorrow.

    Before concluding, it would be hard to discuss gas prices without delving a bit into the subject of selection.  With the exception of the Hawaii Kai Costco, Costco offers a gallon of gas at a price normally 35 cents or so below retail competitors' prices.  I had heard that Hawaii Kai didn't get a gas station because the community opposed it, but I have been unable to confirm that that was the case.  

    Sam's Club Pearl City also offers discount gas at about 35 cents less than retail competitors' prices.

    According to GasBuddy, both Costco and Sam's Club were selling gas at $2.13 a gallon when the next competitor's price -- excluding Navy Exchanges, which are limited to armed service personnel -- was $2.50.

    NEXT POST : Costco or Sam's Club: Selection and Quality: An Oahu Overview (Part 2 of 2)

    (Due to amount of detail in this subject, it was separated into two parts.  This post addressed Convenience and Price.  The next post will address Selection and Quality.)

     

  • Costco