Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale seem to be pretty similar on the surface. But after shopping at both, we found one bulk retailer had a much better experience to offer in-store.
Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale are membership-based warehouse clubs selling groceries, clothing, furniture, and, well, lots of other stuff.
Both stores offer eye and ear exams, a pharmacy, one-hour photo services, and either a food court or kiosk at affordable prices. Even the return policies are similar, though BJ's stops accepting items after a year, while Sam's Club will do so for most items at any time.
An annual membership is required to shop at both stores. Sam's Club costs $45 for an annual membership, and BJ's costs $55. A premium membership at either store costs $100 or $110 a year, respectively.
After visiting both stores, it seemed like BJ's was struggling to keep up with Sam's Club and the stores' other rival, Costco.
But BJ's is showing some signs of strength. Last month, the warehouse chain filed to go public, with plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker "BJ." The warehouse chain had previously traded publicly until 2011, when it made a deal with two private-equity firms to take it private, according to CNN Money.
According to a grocery-store ranking from Consumer Reports, Sam's Club and BJ's rank about equally in cleanliness, meat and produce quality, customer service, store-brand quality, and prices of organic items.
BJ's ranked higher than Sam's Club in just two categories: healthy organic options and checkout speed.
To see for myself which store offered the best deals, I went to a Sam's Club in Westchester, New York, and a BJ's in Jersey City, New Jersey. Here's what I found: