10 Things Not to Buy at Costco, Sam's, or BJ's

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Warehouse clubs like Sam's Club, Costco, and BJ's Wholesale Club offer great deals on some items -- but not all. That's often because shoppers can find cheaper prices elsewhere but also because some items aren't wise to buy in bulk. From foods to paper goods, here are 10 things to avoid.

Related: Sam's Club vs. Costco


Costco sells a condiment "picnic pack" with two 32-ounce ketchups, one 28-ounce mustard, and one 26-fluid-ounce pickle relish. For anyone who doesn't use relish as often as mustard -- or just doesn't care for one of the three -- up to a quarter of the purchase price goes to waste. Condiments may sit in the fridge for months but don't stay fresh as long as you might expect once opened. Ketchup lasts six months, while mayo lasts just two, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unless you're a business owner in the food-service industry or you're inviting everyone you know to a summer barbecue, sticking to supermarket sizes may be smarter.

Related: 10 surprising things you can buy from Costco, Sam's, or BJ's


There are many places to buy cheap diapers -- Amazon, Diapers.com, Target, Walmart, and more. Warehouse club diapers are similarly cheap, but their larger packages may not be the best option, especially when buying very small diapers for newborns. The smallest quantity available at Costco in size 1 (which fits babies up to 14 pounds) is 192 diapers. A child might grow out of the size before the package is empty. Smaller quantities available at Target and Amazon -- both of which have subscription services with convenient delivery and discounted prices -- could be a better buy for a fast-growing child.


Costco and Sam's Club sometimes carry name-brand clothes and shoes, such as Hunter boots at Costco and Carter's brand kids' clothes at Costco and Sam's Club. But sometimes these deals really are too good to be true. Company representatives say Costco is not a "fashion retailer." If a designer brand turns up at a warehouse club, it is likely to be a fading trend or a style unpopular with retailers. Unless it's a very basic item, it might soon look passé, so don't let a designer label override personal taste.


Vegetable oil and olive oil are often assumed to have long shelf lives, but they're good for only three to five months after opening, according to the USDA. The enormous containers of oil sold at warehouse stores might be suitable for restaurant use, but a single household isn't likely to use enough to get their money's worth. Smaller quantities from the grocery store may cost more per ounce but won't lose freshness and quality before they can be used.

Related: What food freshness dates really mean


Bins of chocolate-covered pretzels and jelly beans may be a good buy based on unit price but can take a toll on your waistline. A large container encourages constant snacking and makes it hard to keep track of exactly how much has been eaten. Buy a more reasonably sized (and lower priced) bag or risk buying a bigger pants later.


Books and movies typically can be bought at a steep discount online. Tempting though it may be to scoop up the newest edition or latest release while strolling the aisles of Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's, buying online or used is often the cheapest choice.


Contrary to popular belief, laundry detergent isn't meant to last indefinitely. Laundry detergent loses some of its effectiveness after just six months. Unless a jumbo-size container is part of a plan to do laundry for a lot of people on a regular basis, buying smaller portions may be the way to go.


Most fresh fruits and vegetables don't last long before wilting or spoiling. Unless intended for a big event (or family), the biggest containers of fresh produce usually aren't the best buy.


Sunscreen and lotion last up to three years -- but after that (or if they are exposed to heat), they lose their effectiveness. Before buying a multipack you may not be able to use, even in that extended window, check the expiration dates. Better yet, don't buy in bulk so it's possible to use an entire bottle before it expires.


Consumers can get good deals on toilet paper, paper plates, napkins, paper towels, tissues, and the like in bulk at a warehouse store. However, compare the cost per sheet (or plate) and prices are often just as good, if not better, at Target, Walmart, or even the grocery store, especially when combining coupons and sales. Smaller sizes save space, an added plus for shoppers without room for massive blocks of towels and tissue.