After hearing all the things about Costco, we manage to make our first trip to the warehouse in Auburn. The carpark entries are either at the front (off Parramatta Road) or via a side road. Entering the carpark (on a Sunday) and you can imagine how busy it is. It is definitely a car park with vehicles moving very slowly or stopped waiting for a spot.
The store entry was either via the long ramp or the hospital size elevators, enough to fit at least 4 trolleys. The thing that hits us first was the smell of cooked food and the queues of people. The signs are so large that you won't miss the prices and what food is on offer. After queuing for the 18" pizza and drinks for 5, the wallet's only about $25 lighter. The humongus pizza feeds a family - the first sign of value to come inside the store. The membership is currently $60 (or $55 if you have a business/ABN) - almost cost of cup of coffee monthly. Members are not just 'members' but immediately awarded the Gold status? The member cards are printed and issued straightaway but they'll need to take your mugshot.
It's strictly members only (and guests) entry to the store and diligently monitored by the entrance 'bouncers' asking, 'Card please'. Cards are flashed in their faces but I'm sure they don't know if the cardholder is the owner of the membership. Make sure you pick up your trolley from the carpark (or you'll have to make another trip down there). The trolleys are huge and perfect if you have twins as the toddler seating holds 2. These are not easy to maneuver and makes me wish that 90% of the people there had been taken through their L's in order to drive the trolleys. I can assure you there were plenty of bingles, due to partly driver, partly the rear wheels are fixed straight (unlike the usual Coles/Woolies/other trolleys). But isn't this the case with most cars?
The warehouse store has very, I mean very high, ceilings with huge white spot lights. I almost needed sunglasses in there. Goods are stacked so high and dwarfing the throngs of people. Goods that are for sale continue to be accessible at the ground floor level of the industrial shelvings. It's no wonder trolleys fill up quickly as you will find mostly bulk buys. Almost all sorts of merchandise you could possibly want in a warehouse buying environment - electronics, food, frozen meats, breads & pastry, fresh vegies (held in a large cool room - brrr!), household products, clothing, books, toys, outdoor needs (I saw a plastic kayak for sale).
Towards the rear of the store, or should I say 'Warehouse', is where the foodstuff is located and there are several food tasting stations in operation. You get to see, buy, taste - what more could one want?
With a trolley-full of goods, we queued at the busy checkouts. Looked like over 20 counters, each one run with precision process - products go on the conveyor, operator scans the product, trolley goes on the other side, another worker stack the goods down into your trolley, you show the member card, pay and off you go - not quite at Grand Prix pitstop speed but systematic.
Pushing the trolley back to the car is hazardous - heavy trolley, reduced maneuverability, many people (and children). The carpark does not have adequate walkways for pedestrians or trolleys so you're weaving in/out of traffic trying to get to your car.
Shopping experience = So-so, it's wholesale what do you expect?
Customer service = Non-existent, workers too busy,
Carpark = Busy, allow time to circle and wait for someone to leave
Value = Not all products are cheaper here, you still need to comparison shop, bulk sizes does not always equal cheaper
Stress free? Not at all, people, people everywhere
Would return? Probably
PROS: Bulk buys - Big/Volume product sizes, some massive savings
CONS: Crowded, long wait time (car park and checkouts)