Is it just me, or is Costco going downhill lately?

I have been a fan of Costco for years, but lately I have been noticing a distinct downhill trend in the quality, variety and price of their offerings. I know things vary greatly store to store, and I will say that the one closest to me (Yonkers) has never had as good a selection as others in my area, but I really feel like things are declining overall.

For instance, they recently replaced their excellent Kirkland brand super-premium vanilla ice cream ($10 for two half-gallons) with another super premium ice cream from Humboldt Creamery. The new product is very similar, but the price is higher ($13, or a 30% jump). Land o’ Lakes half and half was replaced with an organic product for twice the price. Several cleaning/household products I used to buy there (Scrubbing Bubbles, powdered Cascade, Charmin Ultra Strong) have disappeared from the shelves. Beef is not nearly as dependably good as it used to be. Eggs are only available in size large and are usually MORE expensive than my regular grocery store. And so on.

I have also noticed an increase in the number of pre-prepared products (heat-and-eat entrees, soups, etc.), which are taking shelf space away from actual ingredients or products that require cooking. I don’t normally buy this type of stuff so perhaps my expectations are off, but these products do not seem like a good value (or any more reasonably priced than they would be at a regular supermarket). The actual raw ingredients they do offer are largely being replaced with organic versions, which cost far more than non-organic versions, instead of having both options.

A quick google search turns up quite a few similar complaints, so I guess maybe it’s not just me - curious to know if other HOs are having similar experiences in other parts of the country. Honestly, if the Yonkers store were my only option within driving distance, I would probably give up my membership. Luckily the Port Chester and New Rochelle stores are somewhat better, but given that they are much less convenient, I don’t benefit from the membership nearly as much as I used to. Anyone else reconsidering whether a membership is worth it anymore?

That’s an interesting observation. Here, in SoCal, we’ve noticed a marked REDUCTION in the number of those products, at least the ones we’ve come to like. Lamb stew, beef stew, duck, stuffed turkey rolls, stuffed chicken breasts… many have disappeared lately.

I think this may be the issue. It seems like every time I go, there are NEW heat-and-eat items, and an increase in overall shelf space devoted to them, but I seldom see the same thing twice. A constant revolving door. I’m sure that appeals to some people, but I find it frustrating to buy an item I enjoy once and then never see it again.

This is a great thread. I’ve never liked that fact that you never know when something
you love will disappear. Are you seeing more store made prepared meals or
brand name stuff? Their vanilla ice cream was terrific, but Trader Joe’s is just as good
IMO if not better and since I lived a bit closer to TJ’s I would usually buy TJ’s ice cream. The
change from Amex to MasterCard I think was the beginning, they are most definitely catering
to a different demographic than when they started out. Also I think with their generous return
policy and decent salary and benefit package they need to do this to keep their bottom line
intact… hopefully they wont bottom line themselves out of business.
I was always envious of what my sister had available to her from her Costco in Marin, two different worlds even before things began to slip. All that said, with the amount of Starbucks coffee my DH goes through and the fact that it is on sale so often, I’m pretty sure makes up for our membership fee.

I think it is you.

Please research Costco’s business plan and you may understand why they sell when they sell it. Basically, it is profit. Other than cooked chicken, they do not have many loss leaders. If they cannot make a profit, they don’t carry it.

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They changed from Amex to Visa, not MasterCard, and I have to believe that was based on bottom line economics — getting the best deal on merchant fees—rather than trying to appeal to a different demographic. IME products rotating on and off the shelves has always been a fact of life at Costco. We don’t use it for our grocery store so no emotional damage when they quit carrying things, although I got a little emo when they discontinued the Hathaway boxer briefs I wore for years.

I fully understand Costco’s business model, thanks. It’s part of the reason I shop there. However, their business model doesn’t explain why they have switched to organics, why they are devoting so much shelf space to prepared meals, nor why their meat is declining in quality.

Perhaps it is just changing customer demand, or poor purchasing at my store (or a combination of both). I think the retirement of founder James Sinegal is probably a major contributor as well. Imo the decline began long before the change from Amex to Visa.

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I can’t speak to the meat, but I am sure that the switch to organic and prepared meals is customer demand. I see the switch to organic at my local supermarket (Shoprite) as well–many customers want organic (for whatever reason). And prepared meals are what working couples and singles want, because they don’t have time to cook from scratch. Look at the popularity of Blue Apron et al–they are a way for people to cook without spending a lot of time in the shopping, prep, etc.

Costco’s business model, BTW, is to make their profit on the membership fee, and very little on the mark-ups. And I suspect that some of the items are placed there by companies who give Costco a low price at the beginning as a way to reach a wide audience, then raise their price or stop offering it to Costco once they have a customer base that will buy them at normal retail elsewhere.

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Timely topic. While paying $58 to renew my Costco membership, I too was thinking am I still receiving value shopping here? Our local warehouse is in NJ. I have been a member since they opened doors. Although I will forever miss the drive in movie theater the property once occupied.

Anyway, my typical shop at Costco includes pharmacy, travel pkgs, optics, vitamins, party supplies, cheese, coffee beans, wine, beer and party sized hard liquor (purchased at another NJ location), and the frozen custard at the cafe. Occasionally, clothing, meats, fish, produce if the deals warrant it. I don’t buy much in the way of prepared foods made “in house” unless I am pressed for time and then I read the label carefully since the sodium levels are ridiculous. I do find produce, organic or not, over priced compared to smaller markets and weekly grocery specials or coupons.

But, the last time my wife and I bought a Costco vacation, coupled with new eyeglasses and pharmacy scrips, it more than made up for the current membership and lack or decline elsewhere in the store.

finally, I believe the real clinkers are in home goods aisles, I can absolutely find prices well below Costco offerings online or in many local retail stores.

Unless those non food items end, I guess I will continue paying a membership fee. Being able to shop at any Costco while traveling also appeals to me.

Maybe it’s my local store or the fact that I’m a recent member but Costco’s meat has never been all that impressive to me on either price or quality. They’re fine if you want a 16-lb rack of ribs but their other primals are average, IMO. I find I get better prices and/or higher quality at Wegman’s or my local butcher.

And I always price-check them when I’m making a big purchase like electronics or something, but I rarely find them to have the exact brand I want. Exception: They recently cut me a deal on my Verizon renewal that was much better than VZ’s official stores or any local reseller would offer.

But I do love them for the kinds of bulk things they’re best known for. TP and other paper products, bulk nuts and snacks, coffee when they have Chock Full in stock, bulk cheeses, etc. One thing I didn’t expect – their spices are actually a pretty good deal from time to time. They sell Tellicherry peppercorns fresher and cheaper than I can find at any local ethnic store and their bay leaves are always just-picked fresh.

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Good call on spices and dried herbs…real vanilla extract too. My wife loves the large ground cinnamon value.

Forgot all about that in my post.

I love Costco and shop there (Norwalk, CT) most weeks. I have noticed that more shelf space is being allocated to organic, GMO & gluten free products all commanding higher prices. I see this too in my regular supermarket. That’s apparently what a younger demographic wants, so we better get used to it. Over this past winter it seemed that they raised their prices quite a bit across the board. Costco, at one time, marked up a maximum of 15%. I don’t know if that’s still the rule but even if it is, vendors can artificially raise Costco’s buy price by rebating back to them in the form of marketing money. I don’t buy a lot of meat there because it’s just me and my wife and their packs are large but I always walk by their meat case. I don’t notice any change but I do buy better marbled and cheaper steaks @ both Shoprite and Stew Leonards when on sale. My Costco carries both large and extra large eggs which are a good value. Milk is dirt cheap. Land of Lakes Half and Half is back.! I buy prescription arthritis medication for my dog from their pharmacy and it’s a third of the price of even the online vets. Excellent quality Kirkland branded dog food. Cheap whole bean coffee, bottled water, cheeses, vitamins/supplements . It is frustrating when they discontinue a product you like but I do like seeing new products there and I never leave without buying something I had no intention of buying when I walked in the store. I also buy things from Costco.com All in all, I feel I get my money’s worth.

[quote=“Rooster, post:9, topic:10448”] I believe the real clinkers are in home goods aisles, I can absolutely find prices well below Costco
[/quote]

Agreed - I rarely buy anything of that nature at Costco, unless I need it right then and don’t have time to wait for an Amazon delivery.

Good to know! I occasionally go to the Norwalk store when I’m out there for a Total Wine run, but it has been a while. Perhaps there was just a disruption in the supply chain for the Land o lakes half and half.

Horizon organic half & half replaced it for about two months. Now they carry both. I bet this was in response to customer complaints. During this time I started buying quarts of Stew Leonards Light Cream for $.50 cents more ($2.99 vs. $3.49). You need much less light cream to lighten coffee compared to half and half. FYI: The Norwalk store never repaced the Kirkland Vanilla Ice Cream. They just raised the price:)

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Interesting. I tried to buy the Kirkland brand in Port Chester a couple of months ago and it was gone, and then I ended up buying the Humboldt replacement at Yonkers last week. It tastes about the same as the Kirkland brand, so much so that I was wondering if maybe they are just repackaging the same product with a manufacturer’s label for marketing purposes. We’ll see if it eventually becomes an across-the-board change.

As for the half and half, the Yonkers store didn’t have ANY half and half last week, so I ended up going to Stew’s and buying theirs as well. 2 quarts for $5 is only a bit more expensive than Costco (I think the LoL was $2.19 last time I bought it at Costco). I like Stew Leonard’s light cream too - it’s a nice middle ground between half and half and heavy cream, and not one that you see much in stores.

I prefer Stew’s dairy products over the other large brands, especially their 1% milk. Costco’s 1% milk is only so-so tasting but acceptable for me.

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I find the meat depends on which Costco. Danbury for me is better than Yonkers. In fact, the whole Danbury store is much nicer to shop in.

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Like Twilight zone different … love that store

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I’ve never been to the Danbury store - it’s a bit out of my way, though I’ll be sure to stop there next time I’m in the area. Yonkers is probably my least favorite Costco of all time. I happened to stop into the one in Nanuet recently and was pleasantly surprised by the overall selection - I need to make more of an effort to go there when I’m already on the other side of the river.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold