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Membership Warehouse Stores
Another type of store that now sells a limited variety of PC systems and components is the warehouse store. These chains, the most popular of which are Price-Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's Wholesale (though there may be others) basically consist of huge warehouses of products on large shelves that are sold with no frills at low prices, and usually, in large quantities. They typically require an annual membership fee and may have requirements or conditions for joining.
These stores have most of the same advantages and disadvantages as department stores. They are better than department stores in some important ways, though overall it's a similar shopping experience. The advantages of warehouse stores include:
Disadvantages of membership warehouse stores include:
Please, don't get me wrong; I love warehouse stores and feel they can't be beat for many household and grocery items. There are whole categories of products I refuse to buy anywhere else. (Compare the price of baker's yeast at a warehouse store to the price at a grocery store--it costs one-tenth as much, literally.) But they are all simple or commodity items. A warehouse store is a great place to buy dishwasher soap, or batteries, or canned goods, or a frying pan. It's not a good place to buy a PC. The only exception would be this: if you know exactly what you want, and they have exactly what you want, and you don't need support or service from the vendor, and you are going to get a great deal, you might consider buying from a warehouse store. That's a rare set of conditions indeed.
That said, these stores can be a great place to buy some peripherals and media. For example, they will often have excellent deals on printers--if you know what you're shopping for, it's worth checking their prices on the models they carry. Warehouse stores often also have the best prices in town on media such as CD-R/CD-RW blanks, printer paper, and inkjet cartridges. If you use a lot of these consumables, a membership at one of these chains should be considered a worthwhile investment!
Tip: Most of these stores
will let you shop there without a membership if you agree to pay 5% above the listed
price. Some will waive this 5% and give you a "trial day" if you ask; if they
won't, and you are buying a big-ticket item, consider joining for a year to save on the
5%; you will make back the membership fee if you shop there regularly anyway.
Next: Office Stores