The very first time I visited PriceSmart, I noticed a striking resemblance to Costco in the States. Even many of the products were the same brand names sold by Costco. At the time, I did not know that PriceSmart is in the Costco family of companies, but after a little research, I discovered that Sol Price founded FedMart, PriceClub (which ultimately merged into Costco), and PriceSmart. Price was born in The Bronx in New York City to Samuel and Bell Price, Jewish immigrants from Minsk, Belarus, in the early years of the 20th century. The family relocated to San Diego, California, in the early 1920s.
Price was considered a pioneer of the “warehouse store” retail model. Sam Walton, who started Walmart, wrote in his book Made in America that he “borrowed […] as many ideas from Sol Price as from anybody else in the business.” He especially liked the idea of calling his discount chain “Wal-Mart” because he liked Sol’s FedMart name.
PriceSmart owns and operates warehouse clubs in 12 countries and one U.S. territory: Aruba, Barbados, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. PriceSmart is a membership club, just like Costco, with annual memberships starting at 35 USD for Diamond Membership and 75 USD for Platinum Membership. The membership can be used at all PriceSmart stores, including the eight located here in Costa Rica.
On a recent beautiful Sunday morning, we traveled to Escazu, “the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica,” to pick up a back massager that I had ordered online a few days ago. My regular PriceSmart in Alajuela, which is much closer to my casa, was out of stock. The best time to shop at PriceSmart is before noon on Sundays because you avoid the crowds. PriceSmart also carries some products that you cannot get at your local mercado (market).
We don’t shop at PriceSmart often—perhaps three or four times a year—but it is a great store with excellent customer service. About a year ago I purchased a big screen television that went completely out for some unknown reason (I assume it was due to the lightning strikes during the rainy season). I still had 6 months of my factory warranty left on the television, so I took it back to PriceSmart. They tried to repair it for about three weeks, but ultimately couldn’t fix it. They offered me a brand new one with a new one-year warranty. That’s the kind of customer service I admire!
See you at PriceSmart soon. I’ll be the guy typing blog notes on his cell phone while keeping an eye on the price of large bags of mixed nuts.