The Emperor has no Clothes or Shopping at a Warehouse Club

If someone takes a little time, you can find some amazing buys these days.   There are a whole laundry list of specific industry and market websites as well as many general purpose sites that are geared towards finding you the best price on a given item.   Many companies have websites that are designed to be the best in their breed and be better than their competition.   There are companies who make all their money by writing software so that the store can beat their competition by having a better experience for the web shopper.

So why is it that there are still stores that you have to pay to get into when the prices are really not THAT much better than the market price?  Here in South Florida, I have a GFS Wholesale Store nearby.  I shop that place before I go to the slightly more distant BJ’s Wholesale club because the quality and some of the prices of the merchandise is better at GFS.  GFS is Free, BJ’s costs me $40 to get in the front door.  Costco won’t even let you on the sales floor without a card and are quite arrogant about that.   Those cards from what I can see are only there to give the shopper or Member a feeling that they belong to something special that others just can’t get into.

Seems to me that I’d feel happier with a kick in the pants.

I have been members at Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s.   I keep a card at BJ’s simply because I can get the dog food there at a slightly better price than other places that I have found in the area.   Their quality is average, and there is a disturbing amount of mediocre “Berkley and Jensen” captive brand merchandise there.  Costco I was wholly unimpressed with and dropped it after a year.   Sam’s Club was what I left for BJ’s about a decade ago, and did so because it was inconvenient.

So is it worth $40 a year for dog food?  Probably not.   The BJ’s on Powerline Road in Ft Lauderdale has Gasoline sold there.   That Gasoline irks me the most.  The thing is that while the local stores were selling gas at $2.61 a gallon the other day, BJ’s was at $2.63 a gallon.   I know there is a lot of variance in prices in gas in any given area, but BJ’s has this Member Price where you were made to feel special when you pay MORE than the market price.   If you are not a Member, and are there in an emergency (which is highly doubtful) you pay an extra 20 cents a gallon for the privilege of buying gas at a BJ’s.   Yes, $2.83 a gallon for gas which was 22 cents a gallon more than the Mobil station just down the road.

Basically there are a very few things that I can’t get anywhere else than BJ’s but every time I go in there I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of.   There is another disturbing trend at BJ’s with roving window salesmen.   You’re in there looking at what ever overpriced item you are considering and some eager young person, and they are always young… ALWAYS, will swoop over to you and start to sell you things that you don’t need.

BJ’s you are becoming the Tivo of the Wholesale Clubs.  It used to be that you’d pay to get in the door, and feel good because you had higher quality than average merchandise and all was good.   Now you have merely average, mass market merchandise at a giant aircraft hanger of a store, no sales support for “complex items”, not enough depth in the selection of the goods, and these annoying sales people wandering around throwing themselves in your path trying to get more money out of you.  Stop it.

Oh and those TV Sets at the end of the aisles with the constantly blaring commercials running really truly need to go away.  Give the sets to a needy school and give us all a break from that incessant advertisement.  I don’t feel like a Member, I feel like I’m trying to dodge the homeless on a city street.

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GFS Marketplace Review

In short, I like the place.   In fact I like it a lot.   I just finished a lunch of their Manicotti and have a Cherry Pie in the oven from GFS.  You will see the pie tomorrow.
I have been a snowbird for years, and finally moved here to South Florida in 2006.   I’d be driving around and would see their location on Federal Highway just south of NE 26th Street and would be intrigued.  That link was the building, behind the 45MPH speed limit sign.   Looking at the building, I had always assumed that it was a Wholesale Club or strictly To The Trade.   I’m glad that when I moved here I had checked it out and was wrong.

GFS Marketplace is here in Florida and through the midwest.   If you are near one, stop on in.  I’m also a member at BJ’s Wholesale and was a member at Sam’s Club and Costco before returning to BJs Wholesale and GFS as well as filling in the cupboards at other markets like the Publix that is within 1/2 mile walking distance to the house.  These days, to get your best value you don’t stick with one traditional Supermarket, you pretty much have to shop around.   I do like Publix, I’m OK with BJ’s, disappointed with Costco and Sam’s Club, but I’m really quite happy I wandered into GFS.
I knew well of their competition Sysco because when I’d drive down to the Florida Keys, it seems like I’d be constantly trying to pass one of their trucks.   Seems like they have a strong presence down there, to the point where all the restaurants have one of their trucks parked unloading at some time of the morning.   I even wondered why should one even bother paying the prices at the high end restaurants when “All the food comes in on the same truck”.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement since I’ve had some truly horrid meals in the Keys, but it certainly isn’t the food service distributor’s fault no matter who that distributor happens to be.

I started with Wholesale Clubs back in the 80s when a friend said you can get the commercial strength cleaning supplies and large scale frozen foods that some folks like when they go out to restaurants.   To this day, you still see some people who can’t qualify for a commercial account at a larger food wholesaler hauling large flat trolleys of food and drink that will be used for tomorrow’s sales at a retail restaurant.
GFS Marketplace allows people like me to walk in off the street and get large flats of Manicotti, Pork, and Chicken for example and load up my freezer with the same thing that the restaurants get.   I’ve seen GFS trucks at loading bays through the area and I know that the quality of the food those restaurants are getting will be excellent.  The way I know is that I buy it myself and cook it myself.   The cupcake picture from yesterday was baked with GFS’s Chocolate Cake mix, some of their store brand chocolate chips, GFS chopped pecans, and icing that was mostly from their store brands and BOY was it good!  I’m also particularly fond of their commercial strength cleaning supplies and their frozen foods.
Past the frozen foods, the Staff at GFS Marketplace in Ft Lauderdale has always been, frankly, Excellent.   They are always engaging, open for questions, and seem genuinely happy to help you.   All too often you walk into a shop and are grumbled at by a surly person and I have never seen anyone at that shop in a bad mood.  Bill The Manager (and ALL of the other managers) there are always going out of their way to help you out and have frequently came over to me and offered free samples (try their Macaroni Salad, its great!) and had a chat.
Prices there are normally better than the local supermarkets for the items they have.   You can shop there but they are not a full service supermarket so you’ll find yourself going here and there for odds and ends if you try.
This particular store has just undergone an upgrade and I’m looking forward to seeing it all sort itself out.   I was there this week in the midst of all the insanity, uproar, and boxes lying all over the place, and the folks who were on the crew there working to upgrade were watching out for us.   In fact, one actually asked me what I was looking for from a lift station about 20 feet from the floor while he was working on pipes for the new refrigeration plant.  Now *THAT* is what I call service!
Thanks, GFS, you won me over!  If anyone at Corporate sees this, your South Florida staff is excellent, and I include the folks from the adjoining areas of Hollywood and Miami in that.

(Hello Grand Rapids Readers…)

No Complaints At All!