SHOPPING MEXICAN COSTCO SAM'S CLUB, AND HOME DEPOT STORES (AutoZone too)
By David Eidell (05/08)
Is it worth a long drive in Mexico to visit a COSTCO Sam's Or Home Depot? After prowling a number of these clubs in the last few years I have come to some conclusions that may help readers:
First off, the membership clubs advertise that they honor membership worldwide. You may renew your Costco or Sam's Club membership in Mexico. The fee will be in Pesos and may or may not be different " dollar wise" than what you would pay at home.
Probably the most important components inventory-wise to clarify are the availability of RV tires, and I am happy to report that the size 235R85-16LT is available at Costco Warehouses. Seventy series eight ply tires are available on the shelf but the 235R85 X 16 load range E will probably have to be ordered and take four days to be delivered to the warehouse.
Secondly, deep-cycle RV batteries are absent at both clubs. Deep cycle batteries in general are very scarce in Mexico. Some Costco warehouses are selling the same brand auto battery as US warehouses (manufactured by Johnson Controls), but Mexican batteries have a different approach to warranty and not even the managers of the Acapulco, and Morelia Costco could answer my questions regarding warranting a USA battery in Mexico. So I therefore came to the conclusion of "no warranty". Sam's Clubs had LTH brand Mexican made batteries, which are of excellent quality (I used to sell them in the nineties in the US and had to honor zero warranties), but size and cranking amps may be different than what your automobile requires. Four years ago I paid one hundred dollars for a dual-terminal Bosch 34-78 battery that had a one-year warranty, but the battery was found at an independent distributor.
Costco beef comes from Canada rather than from the USA. It is available only in quantity packaging, which may be too much for your tiny RV refrigerator and freezer. Since the first installment of this article more and more tender beef has been showing up at various hypermarkets.
Costco fruits and vegetables like in the USA are of prime quality. Last January I found a box of beautiful nectarines that are unavailable at that time of year in the USA. I carefully examined the shipping crate and found that they were imported from Chile.
Cheeses are going to disappoint. If you find something halfway familiar it is going to be a large block of mild yellow cheddar. No feta, no bleu cheese, no aged cheddar, but perhaps an occasional shrink wrap tray of Parmesan cheese in the refrigerated section.
Mexico is slowly but surely expanding and improving the supply of cut frozen vegetables, but the supply remains limited. Frozen cut corn is imported from the USA and Canada.
I have found applesauce, but no exotic mustard's nor horseradish preparations. Mexico is the land of soda pop but it is definitely not the land of diet soda --- there are some but not a great variety of sugar free drinks. Crystal Lite however is common and available ready to drink and in powder concentrate.
Spices are becoming more varied and available including large containers of Montreal Steak Seasoning. Bring horseradish, dill, saffron and favorite seasoning salt blends from home.
If your diet includes canned soup, then wait until Mexico to sample some new flavors because it's all here in Campbell's brand. Some soups taste a bit different but are tolerable. Italian pasta has made great inroads into Mexico and you can find kilos and kilos of made-in-Italy carbohydrates. Familiar jar pasta sauces are common.
Reading material is a real disaster unless you speak español, and will settle for expensive coffee table books. The same goes for computer software. I could not find a single pair of reading glasses anywhere in Mexico in a membership club (pharmacies and hypermarkets are now carrying a limited selection of reading glasses styles up to about 2.00 diopter.
Surprisingly, those pricey enormous stainless steel barbecue centers are also sold in Costco stores in Mexico. But then when you run around looking for your favorite basting sauce, you're not going to find it. You'll find Carrier brand window air conditioners in Mexico (and Daewoo brand window air conditioners in the USA --- go figure!). No Direct TV or Dish Network sales, which are not approved for Mexico. Disposable bottle propane is very hard to find anywhere. DO NOT GIVE IN TO THE TEMPTATION TO PURCHASE A 5-GALLON PROPANE POT IN MEXICO! They do not have the required "OPD" overfill protection device needed in the USA. USA stations will refuse to fill them when you get home.
Car accessories tend to run to lower priced add on material. There is usually a good supply of motor oil, but Delo 400 for diesels is hit-or-miss just like in the USA. You can usually find Delo 400, Union Gardall, and Shell Rotella T motor oil at a diesel truck dealership.
Case beer is available as are wines from Chile. Sam's Club's loss leader beer is a Guatemalan canned cerveza by the name of "Gallo" (rooster), and is every bit as good as the more expensive domestic beer. Mexico produces good brandy (try Castillo if you can find it), and vodka. Don't expect to save a fortune on Tequila. 750ml of the premium quality Herradura Añejo is going to set you back by some thirty-five dollars.
In the pharmacy, herbal medicines are missing, as is the Kirkland brand of acetaminophen (known as paracetamol everywhere in the world except in the USA). You may find Latin versions of Centrum Vitamins, for example, but again, if you rely on Kirkland herbs or medicines, stock up before you leave home.
Whole bean French Roast coffees cannot be found at Costco or Sam's throughout Mexico. As a matter of fact I recommend that you stretch my rule of loading your rig lightly and add several pounds of favorite coffee, coffee filters, non-herbal tea. The last time I priced no. 2 Melita cone coffee filters in Mexico, they were priced at just under ten cents each. When you do encounter really good French Roast coffee in Mexico it tends to be superb and about five dollars a pound when converted from pesos and kilograms. This is about a third again more expensive than whole bean French Roast Costco coffee.
But on a whole, there are enough salad dressings, familiar paper towels (Mexican paper products are slightly less than dismal), and toilet paper, goodies and whatnots, to act as an attraction. If nothing else, buy something and then keep the register receipt as a souvenir.
I have found that prices in the various Mexican branches of Home Depot can just about be matched in competitive local hardware stores but that says nothing about selection and variety. Hardware that you cannot find anywhere else can sometimes be found in one of these large warehouses. Lately I have found a line of dehumidifiers, excellent quality make-up plugs and receptacles for extension cords, Shoe Goop adhesive, and tools that were scarce elsewhere. Mexican Home Depot Stores are especially stocked with a dizzying variety of lighting and ceiling fans.
NOTE: Really good Specification Grade outlet receptacles are still rare as hen's teeth. Before you leave home visit your local warehouse hardware store and purchase several "specification grade 15 amp duplex receptacles". When you arrive at your favorite campsite and find that the park's plug in receptacle has gotten so loose that your cord falls out, offer one of your spec grade receptacles---they'll be glad to change it and you will end up saving your plug on your cord from a flaming death.
AUTO ZONE STORES
Auto Zone Stores are an offshoot of the US chain and they have been appearing in a number of larger Mexican cities. If I experienced mechanical problems in a heavy-duty pickup or motorhome I would definitely search out one of these stores. Specifically they can order a lot of parts and accessories for newer diesel engines, such as glow plugs, water pumps, injector pumps and injectors.