Back at the end of May, 2013, a store called S&R opened here in Davao. S&R was already a well known name in the Philippines, they operate a number of stores in Luzon, and one in Cebu. Davao was their first Mindanao branch. S&R is owned partly by Costco, the US membership store. The S&R stores are very similar to Costco or Sam’s Club in the States. In fact, when S&R first opened, and I walked in for the first time, I honestly got a feeling inside me that I was back in the States again, it is that close to what you see and experience living in the States.
At the time that S&R opened, I wrote a pretty extensive article reviewing the store, telling of my experience shopping there, and such. I wrote that article shortly after they opened, and now that it’s been a few months, I thought I’d write a follow up to share my feelings about the place now that it has become sort of a “regular” shopping place for us. I have had positive and negative experiences with S&R, but overall, I consider it a pretty good place.
S&R, like their “cousin stores” Costco and Sam’s Club, is a membership store. You must be a member to shop there, or you can go in with a member who has invited you. The cost of membership is P700 per year for the primary card holder. A second card can be gotten for P400 per year. For example, in our family, Feyma is the primary card holder and I am the secondary card holder. At this point, we are considering getting a second membership with one of our nieces being the primary card holder and another niece being the secondary card holder. Both of these nieces live with us, and it will be convenient if we can send them to S&R to pick up things that we need. We would like to get cards for our older kids too, but the rules at S&R are that members or cardholders must be at least 18 years old, and the kids are not that age yet.
In our case, S&R is very close to our house. We can walk there in between 5 and 10 minutes, making it very convenient. To be honest, we do a lot of shopping there. In fact, S&R has become our primary place to buy grocery items. We used to go to SM City a lot, but truth is we rarely ever go there any more for groceries. It is 90% of the time S&R where we buy groceries. In fact, because of the way that traffic is set up, we can actually walk to S&R more quickly than we can drive there!
I mentioned that we had experienced a couple of bad things at S&R. You are probably wondering what kind of things I am talking about. Well I can think of two different types of bad experiences, one type which has happened 3 times when we have shopped there.
So, that first, and most common bad experience at S&R is in relation to buying meat there. They have some things like sausages that they pack themselves, which we have experienced problems with. There is one type of breakfast sausage, which comes in a shrink wrapped plastic wrapper, and is packed by S&R themselves. I am not talking about stuff in the freezer section from big companies like Jimmy Dean or Hormel. This one particular breakfast sausage is very good and we like it a lot. It is better than any other sausage that we have ever found in the Philippines, at least in my view. We consume this breakfast sausage regularly. One time, they were out of the sausage for a couple of weeks, then one day I went in and they had just one package of it in the refrigerator, so I snatched it up. Took it home, and the next day, Feyma prepared some for my breakfast. I took one bite and could tell that something was wrong with it. It was rotten. Tasted rancid. It was not terribly bad, but not good either. It was still good enough that I told Feyma to just cook it all up and feed it to the dogs. They ate it without any problems. A few weeks later, we bought another pack of the sausage, and it was bad as well! We were quite disappointed. Feyma went to S&R and complained to a manager in the meat section. They apologized and said that it would not happen again, but did not do anything else for us, which is what I expected. A month or so later… same thing! Rotten sausage. Problem is, we really like the sausage, but not if it is rotten, of course. You cannot tell it is rotten by just looking at the bag.
Also, during the past few months, we bought some sliced roast beef lunch style meat there. Same thing, it was rotten. This roast beef was so bad that the dogs even turned up their noses! We won’t be buying any more of that!
So, I have to say, buying rotten meat is certainly a big downside for S&R, and we have come up with ways that we feel will minimize the problem. For example, on the sausage problem, we will now only buy it when they get a fresh shipment in. So, if they run out, and then all of the sudden they have a big supply of it, we will buy a few packs and freeze it. Hopefully this will minimize the problem. If the problem persists, we will have to reevaluate.
The other problem that I experienced there was really just a hassle, but annoying. They had some nice frozen scallops there. I am really a big scallop lover (and scallops are not readily available here, at least not in our area), and although the bag of scallops was quite expensive (P3,000), I decided to buy them as a treat. Also, the bag was huge, and I felt that they would stretch out over many meals, and make the cost per meal really not that bad. So, I bought them. Went up to the cashier and paid my money, then they took my scallops and laid them aside, and told me to “just wait”. I asked what I was waiting for, and they said that they had to get permission from the supervisor for me to buy the scallops. Hmm.. I had already paid, frankly they were already my scallops. They explained to me that if you buy a single item over a certain price, the supervisor has to approve it before you take the items. You already have to get your purchase checked before you are allowed out the door (just like Costco in the States), so I could really see no reason for this. I complained to the Store manager about it, but I doubt that my complaint really had any impact. I was polite to him, but let him know that their policy was a big hassle for the customer.
Basically, though, as far as I can recall, these were the only hassles or bad experiences that we have had at S&R. I consider it to be a good place, with items that you just can’t get elsewhere. As I said, it is so close to our house, we tend to go there at least 3 or 4 times per week. There was a time when we went to S&R daily, although that has calmed down a bit as time goes on.
So, I do recommend S&R for expats in the Philippines. You can get stuff there that you are used to having from back home. I feel that the prices are fair, although many expats complain that the prices are too high there, I just don’t find that to be the case though.
In the end, I am still very happy to have an S&R branch in Davao!