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The pandemic has made buying in bulk a more attractive strategy for older shoppers. If you minimize shopping trips and stock up on staples, you limit your time in stores and your risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
And the potential savings can be well worth the annual cost of warehouse club membership, which starts at $45 at Sam's Club, $55 at BJ's and $60 at Costco.
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“I would expect [your savings would] probably pay for the cost of membership within two or three months,” says Casey Runyan, managing editor of shopping site Brad's Deals. “Sometimes, it can be sooner, depending on what you buy. You know, a TV might save you $100 and then, boom, you paid for the membership."
Plus, warehouse clubs, like many other retailers, have introduced rules and restrictions to encourage safe shopping habits. All BJ's, Costco and Sam's Club stores across the country practice increased cleaning and sanitizing, set up signs and markings to outline social distancing guidelines and require masks covering your nose and mouth to be worn inside at all times, unless you're age 2 or younger.
Special hours: They all also offer special shopping hours for older club members. BJ's opens an hour early for shoppers age 60 and up from, 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday. (On Sunday, that first hour of opening is reserved for first responders and frontline health care workers.)
At Costco, the same age group, along with the differently abled and immunocompromised, is also welcome to stores an hour early — 9 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, in most locations. Health care workers and first responders get priority entry at all hours.
Special shopping hours at Sam's Club are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 a.m. (Sundays from 8 to 10 a.m. at Sam's are for first responders and frontline health care workers.)
Note, though, that these special hours are mainly operating under the honor system; shoppers may be asked to show proof of age, but store employees are not required to strictly enforce age limits.
Curbside pickup: BJ's and Sam's Club also offer curbside pickup, so you can place your orders online and pick them up outside the store without even having to leave your car. Costco lets you order only certain items online to pick up in the store — and charges standard shipping fees per item to do so. For example, in late October, items available for members to buy on Costco.com for warehouse pickup included an array of engagement rings and a few tech products. A $300 Chromebook came with a $10 shipping fee for in-club pickup; a $65,000 diamond ring did not require an additional shipping and handling cost.
What to buy
COVID-19 concerns aside, warehouse clubs offer good deals on more than just supersized cases of toilet paper. Here are five items to consider buying from BJ's, Costco or Sam's Club that should appeal to older shoppers.