There's a reason my kids love going to Costco with me, and it's not just because they get to enjoy free food samples or get a budget hot dog at the food court. My kids really enjoy checking out the toy aisle at Costco. And who could blame them?
Now, as someone who's been a Costco member for well over a decade, I know full well that shopping there will often result in a lower credit card tab than you'll get at other retailers. But in my experience, the toy aisle is the one place you may not find such a great deal. And that's why I tend to steer clear of that aisle when I'm at the store.
You might end up paying more
One of the tricky things about comparison shopping at Costco is that the warehouse club giant commonly has items produced specifically to sell in its stores (or online). Because of this, it can be a little hard to know whether you're getting a good deal.
Costco might, for example, have a certain Lego set or doll on offer that you can only find at Costco. You might find a similar one at Target or Walmart, and at a lower price point. But is the lower price definitely the best deal? Maybe, but it's hard to say for sure because you're not talking about the exact same product.
With that in mind, I'll say that in my experience, I've often found comparable items at other retailers to be cheaper than what Costco has in its toy aisle. This isn't always the case -- but it's happened to me frequently enough that I no longer turn to the Costco toy aisle as a go-to source when I need a gift for my kids or one of their friends.
The selection of toys you find at your local Costco might differ from the selection at another warehouse club location. The prices might vary, too. So you may have a different experience buying toys at Costco.
Also, the price Costco sells toys for online can differ from its in-store price. In many cases, you'll get a better deal in person, though that's not always the rule.
But just as a point of comparison, right now, Costco has a 12-pack of playing cards it's selling online for $21.99. Amazon offers a 12-pack for $11.17.
Costco is also selling a 151-piece arts and crafts set online for $39.99. Amazon, meanwhile, has a 150-piece set for $29.99. Now to be fair, these sets don't contain the exact same pieces, which is why, as mentioned earlier, it's a little hard to compare prices. The point, however, is that Costco's toy offerings aren't always overwhelmingly and obviously less expensive than those offered by competing retailers.
Costco's selection might be limited
Another reason I'm not such a fan of the Costco toy aisle? The selection tends to be limited. Again, this could be a function of my local Costco warehouse. But I often find myself walking away disappointed after visiting the Costco toy aisle and browsing online for toys at Target or Amazon instead when I need them.
All told, I love the way Costco allows me to reap savings in many ways. But I haven't had the best experience with Costco's toy aisle. And so if you're going to purchase toys at Costco, it pays to go in with the expectation that you may not get the best deal available and you may not have too many options to choose from.
That said, because many of Costco's products are made specifically for Costco, you might find toys at your local warehouse club that you can't buy elsewhere. So while you might pay more, you can benefit from walking away with a more unique find.
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We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Maurie Backman has positions in Amazon.com and Target. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon.com, Costco Wholesale, Target, and Walmart. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.