The Most Annoying Things About Shopping At Sam's Club

You may shop at Sam's Club for the incredible prices on bulk everything, but that doesn't make a trip down the aisles a perfect shopping experience. There are plenty of annoying things about shopping at Sam's Club, not the least of which is that it isn't Costco. Even if you think you're just making a quick run for corn chips and paper towels, you could find yourself swept up in a maze of irritating encounters, everything from other bargain-loving shoppers clogging the aisles to self-check noobs who couldn't operate a scan gun if it were made by Fisher-Price.

While the discounts are deep and the food court is a finance-conscious snack lover's paradise, it's important to admit the shortcomings and mistakes Sam's Club has in store for its shoppers. A roundup of our deep-seated annoyances about visiting the wonder warehouse may be just the thing to help us all vent about the drawbacks we face when gliding through the entrance for low-priced goods, only to find a store full of pet peeves waiting to greet us on the other side. Today may not be Festivus, but we're airing our grievances just the same.

The weekend crush

You're not the only one with the brilliant idea of saving your Sam's Club shopping for your days off. It's well-known around the Internet that Saturday is the absolute worst day to head in for a so-called quick restock of vital goods you've run out of during the week. Clearly, everyone with a Monday-through-Friday workweek is too zonked at the end of the workday to take advantage of Sam's Club's generous 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. hours of weekly operation.

It's not ridiculous to think you can beat the rush by rising with the sun to make the 9:00 a.m. Saturday opening time, or even a relatively early excursion at the crack of 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. But when you realize that everyone else had the same idea and you all showed up at the doors with your cart simultaneously, the folly of your genius is revealed to be a common theme among Sam's shopping public. By then you're stuck in the suburban herd, sliding your trolley along shoulder to shoulder with all the other early risers. The good news may be that waiting until noon would have only gotten you snarled in a larger crowd. At least getting in early might get you out early, too. Good luck with that.

The slowdowns at self-checkout and the exit

If you're fortunate enough to find exactly what you need on the first run down the aisles and finish your shopping in record time, you may feel like you've beaten the system. Your prize for an easy time shopping at Sam's Club? A slow-down at the self-checkout that you thought would help you keep pace. You find out quickly that the lines at these stations are short for a reason: People don't know how to use them. Unlike other grocery store self-check stations that use sliding scanners, Sam's Club employs scan guns that make you play hide-and-seek with the bar code on your purchases. Sometimes it works on the first click, and sometimes it's like playing laser tag while blindfolded. All that time you just saved in the store becomes time lost at ring-up.

Don't think you'll gain any ground after you grab your receipt and head for the door. You're likely to run into a line of other shoppers waiting impatiently for their receipts to be scanned by the bouncer, too. Some visitors have reported waiting up to 30 minutes for their turn to leave. The Sam's Club receipt verification process may be to make sure you've been charged properly while also preventing shoplifters from making off with free goods, but it won't give you your lost minutes back. Consider it a convenience tax.

The produce prices

You may plan on shopping for better prices in all sections at Sam's Club, but one spot where the discounts aren't always worth the trip is the produce section. Though the company is capable of offering fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable rates, there are moments when you'll find better prices at your neighborhood grocery store. Markdowns on seasonal crops and moderate pricing for locally-grown stock give even big-name chains the opportunity to lower prices more than Sam's Club. You can avoid spending unnecessarily by doing a simple comparison between stores and making note of the items that make for more sensible purchases during your regular grocery run.

This annoyance is one that can hit you in the bank account if you're a frequent produce buyer during your warehouse excursions. It may not seem like much for a visit or two, especially if convenience trumps savings. But after a while, the money lost can add up to a great deal of unneeded loss in your grocery budget. It may be worth the extra work to check it out ahead of time.

If you're a cautious shopper, you may have already noticed the discrepancy. And if you weren't aware before, now you can look before you buy to avoid the disappointment of finding cheaper produce elsewhere.

The quick disappearance of premade food options

Shopping for prepared meals and premade food options at Sam's Club gives you a variety of delicious items made onsite that can be used for family dinners and special occasions. Dishes like mac and cheese and chicken Alfredo can help you keep money in the bank while saving time in the kitchen ... that is, if there's enough on hand when you show up at the store. No matter how quickly the crew behind the counter cranks them out, there's usually a deficit of one option or another, making for slim pickings at the most inopportune moments. And there's nothing more annoying than shopping for a planned get-together only to find out the chicken enchiladas you had your heart set on serving have gone missing in action.

The lesson here: You're not the only one who loves Sam's Club's premade meals. You can avoid the aggravation of a failed dinner grab by calling ahead and asking if what you have is stocked and ready in the refrigerated section. We know from personal experience that there's a steady flow of pre-made food flowing from the workers to the case throughout the day. Checking in before heading out will help minimize your annoyance while preparing for your social event.

The constant surveys

You may have accidentally agreed to participate in a Sam's Club survey once. Chances are, after finding yourself on the carousel of regular and repeated requests, you regretted your decision. Sometimes they show up on your receipt, and sometimes they arrive digitally. However you receive them, few interactions with the warehouse retailer feel as needy as the survey plea. A variety of rewards are promised in exchange for your assistance if you're up for the challenge. But unless there's a substantial discount offered immediately for giving up your time and energy, the juice isn't worth the squeeze.

While some people love being invited to participate in surveys, few people like being bombarded with request after request until they're sorry they offered. Knowing that there are Sam's scam survey links arriving via email and text makes the practice even more annoying. The company offers guidance on its website to prevent customers from falling prey to scammers. But even if Sam's Club can't control the phishing its company's name and reputation are used for, having so many surveys makes it difficult to know the shady Sam's Club operations from the legitimate ones.

The credit card promos

The lure of easy money is a great enticement for shoppers in the market for a credit card with a quick path to approval. Sam's Club knows this all too well, and we've frequently encountered the company's promotions in real time. Sometimes it's a message that appears across the payment screen, which is easy enough to wave away. But sometimes clerks are part of the operation, asking as you check out if you're interested in a card that you already qualify for as a trusted Sam's Club shopper. Credit peddlers even stake out the self-check lanes, looking for easy prey. When it's promo season, you'll be lucky to get out of the store without being approached at least twice.

As credit cards go, Sam's Club offers a pretty good deal, with the requisite pros and cons, of course. Sure, there's no annual fee, but yes, you do have to be a Sam's Club member ... which comes with an annual fee. But none of that is the point here. The annoying thing about being offered a Sam's Club credit card is that the presumption is that if they ask you nicely enough times, you'll give in and say yes. This is obviously never the reason or the situation for accepting a credit card, even one that gives points back on every purchase. So annoying.

The empty sample machines

There's a casino-like thrill in a Sam's Club with a Freeosk at the entrance, adding a little Las Vegas glamour to the world of warehouse shopping. The sleek machine glows with freebies, beckoning you onward with a screen explaining what you'll be winning simply by scanning your membership card. Maybe it's fabric softener, or perhaps it's a protein chew. Ah, the excitement of watching the ad scroll by and learning that it doesn't matter what's in the Freeosk. All that matters is that it's free, and soon to be yours! Then you scan your card, and the message on the screen says "machine empty." Shoppers around you likely know the heartbreak all too well themselves.

The truth is, while it's fun to get a freebie on a Sam's Club visit, these machines are capricious at best and disappointingly unmaintained at worst. Having an automated device that depends on your card scan to prevent sample overindulgence may be good business. But when the machine runs dry, whatever company has its product in the chute will be missing out on an opportunity to turn samples into sales. And shoppers will be annoyed that they were duped into thinking they were in for a bite-sized win.

The mysterious movement of items from section to section

Zooming through the Sam's Club sections to find what you want sounds like easy work, until you head for the spot where Quaker Old-Fashioned Whole Oats are stocked, only to discover they aren't there anymore. Did you hit the wrong aisle by mistake? Nope ... you're definitely in the aisle where you found it last time. But now, on the pallet where you usually find a screaming deal on healthy, whole-grain breakfast food, you find salad dressing instead, or mashed potato flakes, or cookie mix. It could be just about anything except what you thought was a permanent fixture. Suddenly, you're on a wild goose chase that takes you twenty minutes out of your way. Ultimately, you find out your quarry is ten feet from the original oats location, but facing away from you and stocked with snack bars and protein shakes. You've wasted your time running through a labyrinth only to end up back where you started. Who knows where it'll show up on your next visit?

There may be a method to the mix-and-match madness of the Sam's Club aisle layout, likely something to do with new stock needing a spot on the floor and older items being in transit in the meantime. But the annoyance of having to deal with a scavenger hunt makes it tempting to just pay extra at a different store — one with a permanent spot for everything.

The lines at the gas pumps

One of the best perks of shopping at Sam's Club is being able to take advantage of discounted gas prices. Who doesn't love getting a lower rate on fuel, especially when the cost of gas is so up and down? At Sam's, you can count on saving at least a few dimes per gallon ... if you're patient enough to wait in the eternal lines, that is. No matter how many pumps are open (and there's no telling what that number will be from visit to visit), it's a safe bet that you'll be waiting behind five or so other smart shoppers gassing up at a station where membership actually does make a difference.

If you're thinking that heading to Costco instead of Sam's Club to get your cheaper gas is a good idea, you may be both right and wrong. Depending on your location, one warehouse may have a bigger discount than the other. But you're not going to find shorter queues at Costco than at Sam's Club. It's better to be prepared for the irritation of spending time to save money on gas and stay put so you don't lose your place in line. Maybe shop first so you'll have snacks to enjoy while you wait.

The confusing membership rules

The idea of a Sam's Club membership is very simple in principle: Pay an annual fee, get a membership card, and save money. The practice is slightly murkier. The standard for warehouse entry is that you show your card to the clerk at the door, sort of like giving a password at a speakeasy. But Sam's Club is squishier with its regulations than this setup might suggest. Where Costco takes a hard line with shoppers passing into its bulk shopping realm, Sam's attendants sometimes let you pass without proving you're a member. You can have your card ready and not need it at all, which takes the exclusivity out of the membership. Just when you've gotten comfortable with leaving it in your wallet, you get carded again. Suddenly, anyone can get into a place you just shelled out $50.00 for, but you have to prove you belong here. Is this an actual club or not?

Membership really comes into play when paying for your purchases, of course. Only after you scan your card can you complete the transaction and revel in your incredible savings on ginormous bundles of toilet paper and hard seltzer. Without paying your fee, you'll be unable to pass through the gates of glory. So maybe it's an actual club after all.

Oh — you say want something from the Sam's Club food court? Well, there's no membership necessary at all for that. Ugh.

The use of AI for scanning receipts at exit

It's not enough that AI is taking over the worlds of art and industry; now it seems poised to take over the world of Sam's Club receipt checking, too. The company is currently testing out AI scanners that take the place of the workers at the exit making sure your purchases are on the up-and-up. This innovation puts newer, smarter robots in charge of tallying up the cart that just passed through the self-check robots, a checkpoint that makes sure both you and the robots did your jobs honestly. The good news about this near-dystopian development is that it may make your departure from the store quicker; rather than waiting for humans to beep your frozen ravioli and maple syrup, you can just glide through the AI portal for an automatic scan. Good luck not getting swept through a stargate as you pass.

But with stories of how much better Costco treats its employees than Sam's Club, instituting AI in a task that may result in job reduction doesn't make the prospect of shopping at Sam's more attractive to those of us who view automation with a wary eye. Knowing that Sam's Club is likely putting digital advances ahead of the human beings it employs is more than just annoying; it's downright troubling.