Sunday, July 8, 2012

Costco: a more discriminating Sam's Club

A new Costco opened in Coralville this month. I am a long-time member of Sam's Club (ever since my dad added me to his membership while I was in high school), so of course I wanted to check out Costco and compare. I went today.

I was really impressed with Costco. Impressed enough to get a membership. I will most likely let my Sam's Club membership lapse.

When I arrived, my mind was blown by indoor parking. Imagine it: you drive into a giant warehouse with nothing but a parking lot. The parking lot was thoughtfully designed such that you can fit the shopping cart between any adjacent cars, as well as in that no-man's-land between cars facing each other. What luxury this is when it's raining or snowing! (Or hot enough to melt your face, like in the last two weeks.)

The store is likewise huge -- bigger than Sam's Club, and packed with customers. I felt like an Iowan in NYC: stopping, gawking, sensory overload.

The biggest benefit to Costco that I see is that it caters to vegetarians and fans of organic foods a lot more than Sam's Club. At the latter, I cannot think of a single "organic" food for sale. Whereas at the former, a surprisingly large number of foods is organic, including eggs, rice and almond milks, produce, prepackaged foods, etc. And vegetarian prepackaged foods are aplenty! Dips and hummus, vegetarian pizza, vegetarian spring rolls, and on and on.

The fresh produce section is larger than at Sam's, too. Here, fresh produce is actually in a walk-in refrigerator. The doorway blows freezing air to keep heat out, and once you're in, all you think about is grabbing what you need and jumping out. Some package sizes for your reference: strawberries in 4 lb packages, spinach in a 2 lb package, carrots in a 10 lb bag, or organic baby carrots in a 5 lb bag for the same price as the former.

Costco is more discriminating for meat eaters too. Sam's has only USDA Choice meats, whereas Costco carries a range including USDA Prime.

All in all, I am thrilled that Iowa City / Coralville is a large enough market for stores like Costco. I plan to make the most of my shiny new membership!

If you're familiar with Costco, what are you favorite finds there?