I Refuse To Pay To Shop At Costco

What's so great about Costco? I'm well aware of how passionate its partisans are as they regularly rave not only about the marvelous bargains but also the delights of the food court and, of course, that famous $5 rotisserie chicken. While I've always been curious about it, I've never experienced the wonders of Costco for myself, and I likely never will. Why? It's all down to that $60 admission fee that I refuse to pay.

I'm not entirely unfamiliar with big box stores. I've had a Sam's membership a time or two, either gifted to me or reimbursed by work (I used to be an elementary school librarian and in charge of various fund-raising activities involving food). I've also shopped at BJ's before since one where I used to live would occasionally distribute free one-day passes. While I wasn't blown away by the bargains at either retailer, neither one has the mystique of Costco so I'm prepared to admit I may not have seen big-box shopping at its finest. That being said, though, it would take a lot more than mystique to get me to shell out $60, just to go inside.

Costco's not the best fit for me

Even if Costco were to drastically reduce its membership fee, I still might have some hesitation about joining the club. For one thing, I tend to get anxious when I'm shopping somewhere where everyone else seems to be "in the know" and I feel like I haven't been and probably never will be initiated into the mysteries. For another, the nearest Costco isn't all that close to where I live — it's maybe half an hour away. While I know Costco gas is supposed to be pretty cheap, would it really offset what I'd spend on driving half an hour each way?

Yet another reason is that, for the most part, Costco isn't selling what I'm buying. They tend to offer more name-brand groceries, while I'm all about generics, plus there's the whole bulk buying thing. I'm only ever feeding one or two people at a time, so supersized everything is neither convenient nor cost-effective, plus my house is small and my storage space is limited. One more deal breaker: I also have a regrettable tendency to get sick of any item I buy in large quantities. Even if I love a certain item enough to eat it on a daily basis, all I have to do is buy a case of the stuff and suddenly it loses all its charm. This means that any mega-packs I might buy from Costco are more likely to be money wasted than a fantastic bargain.

But I see why it might work for some

In the interest of being fair-minded about this, though, I don't want to dismiss Costco and its pay-to-play policy outright. After all, it's been in business for four decades and has numerous enthusiastic members who renew year after year. Is it that they all know something I don't know (could the chicken bakes really be that delicious?), or is it more like different strokes for different folks? Since it would have been kind of weird and creepy (not to mention cold) to stand outside of Costco and poll people, I did the next best thing and visited Reddit, instead.

On r/Frugal, I was able to find a thread where Costco members shared specifics about how their Costco purchases saved them enough to recoup their membership fees many times over. Okay, that answered my question about why anyone would willingly fork over $60 a year to shop at their favorite store, but I can't say that any of these stories really resonated with me. For the most part, it seems people were purchasing the same items on a regular basis, which is something I don't tend to do — I'm more of a seat-of-the-pants shopper. I'm also fairly sure I'd stress out over having to keep track of prices and do the necessary math to make sure I was, in fact, saving more than my membership cost me.

I'm still not sold on the concept, though

As I don't want or need what Costco's selling, for the most part, nor do I wish to find myself tripping over piles of bargain buys, a Costco membership is not in the cards for me. It's a good thing, though, since it means that I don't have to come to terms with the fact that the whole membership deal still bugs me.

A few years back there was a commercial for some bank (I forget which one) whose main selling point was not charging ATM fees and the commercial was centered around a cooler that made you pay to get your own beer out. Nonsensical, right? The bank was conflating that situation with having to pay to access your own money, which is also wrong. So, too, in my mind, is having to pay for the privilege of spending that money. Costco is a store that sells groceries and other products. I'm not going to go in there just to walk around and be entertained, nor am I even there to make a meal off the free samples (well, maybe just a little). Instead, I'm most likely there to buy stuff, but it galls me to pay what amounts to an admission fee first. Yes, I understand why many people feel otherwise about Costco, but as for me, I'll continue to do my shopping where I only pay for what actually goes into my cart.