Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Falls Church BJ's: Review
The classic above (from PostSecret) pretty much sums up my feelings about large discount stores. But when a BJ's opened practically in our back yard, I thought I might as well check it out. Here's a review.
BJ's is offering two limited-time membership deals at the new store: $35 for a 15-month standard membership (normally it's $45 for 12 months) and $70 for a 15-month membership where you earn 2% cash back on most purchases (normally it's $90 for 12 months). I chose the $35 option. I signed up online and immediately got a printable page with a bar code that I could take to the store for my official membership card.
The tyke and I made our first trip the other day. The parking lot was easily navigable, with lots of carts available. I noticed immediately that the carts have seats for two kids in the front basket — apparently everything is bigger at BJ's.
We headed first to the customer service counter to get my card. There was a short wait, but once I got to the counter and presented my print-out it took about 15 seconds to get the card. The guy took my picture while I was standing at the counter, with what looked like a bar-code scanner (and oh, what a lovely picture).
Then we were off to explore the premises.
Main impression: Their merchandise is cheap. And big. I realize that this is the entire concept of these places, but somehow I was unprepared for the scale of some of the products. I would see a giant bottle of shampoo, for example, and think "Well, $7.99 — that's a decent deal." And then I'd realize that the price was actually for a case of three giant bottles.
So I kind of get why people are crazy for these stores. I just don't know where I would put all that stuff. My pantry is not set up to accommodate five-gallon drums of pickles, no matter how wondrously cheap they are.
- Enormous jar of Nutella. I mean, enormous. For $4.69. Insane.
- Giant box of frozen pumpkin ravioli. This was probably a mistake, as it takes up an entire shelf in our freezer. But it's October, and I've got pumpkin on the brain.
- Package of six Brita water filters for $28.99.
- Four-pack of Secret deodorant for $7.49. My deodorant needs are taken care of until roughly 2015.
- One home decorating magazine (regular size, but 20% off the cover price).
Check-out was quick and easy. Apparently they don't provide bags, which is weird but I suppose makes sense given the scale of much of the merchandise. I could have used a bag, though.
The store has a Verizon Wireless kiosk, an eyeglasses center, an auto service center, and a small cafe. I didn't look closely at the electronics section, but I saw lots of TVs and iPods. I would definitely check out the BJ's prices if I was in the market for a TV. There were plenty of DVDs and a smallish books section.
Oh, and now I know the answer to the question I ask the universe every December: "Who is selling our neighbors these giant inflatable snow-globe lawn ornaments?"
The place was clean, neat, and not overly crowded. The employees were helpful and reasonably friendly.
Bottom line: BJ's will not replace my regular grocery store (Safeway) for routine grocery purchases. At this point in our family life, it doesn't make sense for us to buy a lot of our food in bulk. But for some non-perishables — diapers, batteries, detergent, toiletries — we can definitely save money at BJ's. I just need to keep in mind that we don't have unlimited space at home to store those items.
If we had five ravenous teenagers and a McMansion, I'd be there once a week. Since we don't, it'll likely be more of a once-every-six-weeks stop.