Should You Buy Your LCD Television at Costco?
The Good and Bad of Buying an LCD TV at Costco
Costco Members probably already know the value of buying an LCD TV from there, but if you are not a member and are looking to shop for one, then you should probably spend 2 or 3 minutes reading this article and learning why it's a great place for this purchase.
Walk into any Costco and the first thing you see are dozens of LCD TVs, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas, Easter, or the middle of the Summer — the warehouse is invested heavily in consumer televisions. While Visio is Costco’s clear price leader if you are not a member, you may be surprised to note that Sony and Samsung are major players as well. The scope of this brief article is not to delve into technical issues (Sony and Samsung share many manufacturing facilities for LCD panels) but rather to discuss the merits of purchasing at Costco vs other retailers.
LCD TV has replaced the big screen plasmas from a few years back. Again, not to discuss the technical merits (plasmas are all but gone for practical purposes), LCD is here to stay for the immediate future. So the real question isn’t whether you should buy an LCD or a plasma screen, but where you purchase from.
Costco does have some television models from some manufacturers that are made exclusively for them (Meaning you can not compare part numbers directly to TVs for sale at Amazon in all cases). They also don't always carry the really high end models, especially those from the very popular Samsung 8000 series. So, in some cases, it may be hard to compare Costco and Amazon reviews.
Yes, there are some downsides.
- The displays are often inconveniently high for smaller people to view straight on. Displays can also be tilted to the side in smaller stores without sufficient shelf space.
- Help isn’t always available or that great. If you don’t know much about HDMI or LED or Satellite Connections or how your TIVO will hook up you may not always find the answers you need readily available. In my own experience (Being an electronics “nerd” of sorts – I write down the model numbers and research online before I buy) it hasn’t mattered. But for you, it may be important. Some Costco Electronics team members are very knowledgeable and some are not. But I’ve found this to be true in Best Buy and Fry’s as well. If you want to find out simply ask a question to the “associate” you already know the answer to and listen to their response. Best buy sales people are not on commission. I do not believe that Fry’s are either (After writing this I visited Fry's and found out they are paid commission).
Prices and Features
Costco is traditionally very good at securing good prices on the products their buyers select.
While it may not not always be the latest model or the very top of the line, you can be assured that the product offering is “above grade” on average in comparison to other retailers. For example: You can shop for TVs at Walmart and find good prices, but you should really dig deep into model numbers if you do and make sure the TV you select has the feature set you need. A lot of low end retailers (And yes, I consider Walmart a “low end” retailer) will buy the big brands, but offer models that really skimp on features in order to meet a price point. If you need to hook up a Play Station, Xbox, Satellite TV, Blue Ray player, and so forth, make sure the model you select has the connections you need to make it all happen.
Costco vs. the Other Guys
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Fry’s electronics Las Vegas store, multiple Costco locations, and Best Buy. While I didn’t do extensive research I did try to compare some similar models of Samsung and Sony TV’s (I’m not a big Visio Fan).
- Fry’s had the very top of the line models on display and the ability to view such a variety was a real bonus.
- Best Buy had a limited selection of the models I was interested in and did a pretty poor job of displaying them in my opinion (At least at the store I visited).
- Costco was hit or miss in terms of display for some of the mid range models (Some were turned sideways so you could see the full screen).
Bottom line: all three retailers had models that would meet my specifications.
Now I really want to get the very best top of the line model all of the time, but it seldom makes sense. To purchase the top of the line Samsung in the size I am looking to purchase is a full $1,500 more than the second in the line! The top of the line doesn’t have any more connections that what I need. The top of the line was not available at Costco or Best Buy, but Fry’s had it. I really like their selection, and do buy products there from time to time (Many things that Costco doesn’t carry).
I completely ruled out Best Buy as an option due to their restrictive return policy. And Fry’s as well. Here is a blurb about TV’s at Fry’s:
- Refunds cannot be given on televisions 24" and larger. In-home service is offered by the manufacturer on large TV's and may be your most convenient option. Defective items may be returned within 30 days of the purchase date for replacement or upgrade. Please insure sufficient packaging is used to protect any return shipments. Customer is responsible for any damage caused due to insufficient packaging.
Watch out for restock fees and return refusals. Unless you know for sure what you want, Costco is your very best option in terms of returns. Instead of digging so deep into all of them here I’m going to just include the links so you can read about LCD TV return policy at their respective sites:
Costco is in business to make their members happy. They give members 90 days to return TVs while the competitors offer only 30 days. You can increase your selection by ordering online, and then in the event that you do need to make a return you can visit your local Costco.
There are huge bonuses if if you purchase your TV from Costco:
- For COMPUTERS, TELEVISIONS and PROJECTORS, Costco extends the MANUFACTURER'S WARRANTY to two years from date of purchase. Please call Costco Concierge™ Technical Support @ 1-866-861-0450 for warranty assistance.
- For FREE technical support, set-up help, or warranty assistance for televisions, computers, cameras, camcorders, and iPods / MP3s, call Costco Concierge™ Services @ 1-866-861-0450.
When it comes to big LCD TVs in excess of $1,000, Costco is really tough to beat! A very solid product line, very good prices, and service and return options second to none! If you have to have the very latest top of the line model that just came out and are not willing to wait, then maybe not. However, if you are like most people who just want a really good TV and to not have to worry about making a mistake in choosing the wrong model, then Costco is definitely the place to buy
I’d love to hear comments on your experience with Costco LCD TV – both good and bad.
About This Article and My Experience
My TV Buying Experience:
- Vizio then Samsung. I purchased a Vizio TV at Costco last Fall and had some problems with the remote (It was very clumsy and had hard to use design, with buttons on both sides). So I returned it with no issues and purchased a Samsung with a much more user-friendly remote control. The Samsung Model was $100 more than the Vizio I purchased and has a much better "Backend" (i.e. SmartTV features). The Samsung can play MKV files direct from a flash drive where the Vizio could not.
- Purchasing an extended warranty. I also purchased the extended warranty (which I usually avoid), and here's why. Costco's warranty coverage is two years, which is great, the cost to ship a big screen TV and any repairs needed is significant compared to the nominal fee charged for three additional years of coverage. Also, there are tons of reviews about the quality of service provided to members who have needed to exercise their extended warranties. I figured I couldn't even ship back the TV I purchased for the cost of the warranty. I hope I never have to use it myself, but if I do, then I'll thank myself. Plus what you may not know is the extended warranty is deeply (really deeply) discounted for members. The company that backs the warranty sells the exact same coverage to other retailers offering their services for significantly more money.
- Back in the day, before Costco was the household word it is today, and before Amazon even existed, I sold electronics for a number of retail vendors. I've sold pretty much every kind of electronic device: computers, TVs, camera gear, cell phones, and more.
- I'm a gadget guy. I love electronics! I don't care so much about brand as I do performance, usability, and durability. Simply put, I want the newest most technologically advanced gear, but I also want it to be easy to use and to last a very long time (So I can pass it along). I spend a lot of time researching and writing articles which I publish online for people like you to use in evaluating what to purchase.
- I am also a Costco Member and I have been a customer/member for more than a decade now. I hope that you'll find this article about Costco TV purchasing informative and helpful. And yes, I have also purchased a TV (In 2006 I bought a 32" Samsung for $1,349.00 from Amazon and that is still working great today!)
- Side note: I recently spent about half an hour talking to a Costco General Manager about their TV Department and what he told me was very interesting. They do NOT want to cultivate an environment where people feel any pressure to buy. In his exact words "It's not Costco's culture." So you may not find the most aggressive or knowledgeable "salesperson" at Costco, so do your research BEFORE you buy.