What Is Sam’s Club?

Sometimes, you just want to go to a huge crowded warehouse that requires membership and buy a year’s supply of toilet paper, camping supplies, and some rotisseries chicken. Fortunately for us, there’s Sam’s Club! That’s right, it’s the big boy of big box stores. But what is Sam’s Club? Who owns Sam’s Club? Does Walmart own Sam’s Club? Do I own Sam’s Club? Let’s go clubbing.

What is Sam’s Club?

Sam’s Club is an American chain of membership-only retail stores. Sam’s Club takes its name from Walmart founder Sam Walton. That’s not a coincidence. Walmart owns Sam’s Club. When Sam Walton started Walmart, it was first located only in Arkansas and then spread throughout small towns in the U.S. When they opened Sam’s Warehouse Club in 1983, they put these big warehouse stores in more urban areas. Eventually, that distinction went away.

How does Sam’s Club work? 

Sam’s Club is a warehouse club. What exactly does that mean? Well, It’s a “club” so it requires membership. People can buy a basic membership for around $50ish a year, which allows them to shop there. There’s also a Sam’s Club Plus membership for around $110. Plus members get bigger discounts on Sam’s already cheap fuel, pharmacy discounts, roadside assistance, and other various deals. For folks who are still unsure about this whole warehouse shopping experience, Sam’s Club offers a guest membership for its online store. Purchases made with a guest membership have a 10% service fee. 

Sam’s Club was not the first warehouse store. Price Club was the first when Sol Price opened the flagship location in San Diego, California back in 1976. Warehouse stores like Sam’s Club offer a no-frills shopping experience with a heavy discount on bulk items. There are super tall shelves stocked with a wide array of products from food to auto parts, with some displayed straight up on pallets. 

Sam’s Club vs Costco

There were several warehouse stores and warehouse club chains back in the day. But as Sam’s Club grew and expanded, they started to buy up the competition. These days, the big two left in the warehouse club gang are Sam’s Club and Costco. So which is better when it comes to Sam’s Club vs Costco? That’s like asking me to choose a favorite child (I love the oldest one more, obviously). 

Costco has over 800 stores worldwide. How many Sam’s Clubs are there? Sam’s Club operates around 600 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Costco’s memberships are right around the same price as Sam’s. Costco also has slightly cheaper prices all around, especially their Kirkland store brand products. However Sam’s Club has way more name brand products. While Sam’s Club is owned by Walmart, Costco is a publicly traded company. But the biggest difference is probably the food court. Both stores have food courts and generous samples on the weekends, but Costco has those famously cheap hot dogs and pizzas. 

Basically it comes down to personal taste. I decide between the two the same way I choose everything. I go to whichever one is closer.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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