Are the savings at buyer’s clubs worth the membership fee? For us… for a while… the answer was yes. Now I’m not so sure. The only buyer’s club within an hour’s drive for us is a BJ’s Wholesale Club. When we first found this store a few years ago, we were pleased to discover that they stocked a number of soy-free food items that we had not been able to find in any of the other grocery stores we have access to. In the beginning, our purchases there were quite substantial. We also saved a lot of money by buying many items in bulk.

Wild turkeys eating at the edge of our lawn

More recently, we have noticed that many of their prices are no longer competitive and that many of the other stores have begun stocking the same items. And although there are still some foods, like a certain soy-free cheese, that we can’t find anywhere else, the $45 annual membership fee at BJ’s doesn’t seem as reasonable as it used to. When our membership ran out this past January, we decided not to renew it. Although we would continue to purchase the few items we can’t find anywhere else, we would buy them with a day pass at the ten percent higher non-member price.

We had stocked up pretty thoroughly before our membership expired, so we didn’t have to shop at BJ’s again until a couple of weeks ago. As my husband went through the checkout, he was asked for his membership card, and when he said that we had let our membership expire in January, he was urged to sign up as a new member and take advantage of the current new membership offer of fourteen months for only $35. The deal also included a ten dollar coupon that could be redeemed on that day’s purchases, making the actual membership fee only $25. When my husband signed up for the new membership, the deal didn’t end there. They also threw in a free bunch of bananas, which he accepted, and the offer of various free items from the store bakery and a huge booklet of product coupons for processed foods, which he did not.

So for the next year we’re back to being a buyer’s club member. We already know that we will not be rejoining next year at the full membership price. And I wonder why the membership renewal offers are never as generous as those offered to new members.