How Costco Let Sodastream Snooker Their Customers – The Sodastream Deluxe Machine “Free Shipping” Farce

Costco now offers the Sodastream Deluxe Machine. I bought it, and found that Sodastream is really screwing over the customer two, or more, ways.

The Soda Maker Back Story

OK, I don’t drink many carbonated drinks – a beer a month and a Coke a year. But, I do drink soda water / club soda.

This hasn’t been a real problem until a couple of things happened:
* The environmental movement
* My daughter going to college and even getting smarter, and more vociferous with her views on the world.

She was always telling me what a waste single use bottles and cans are and that I should recycle.

As you are aware,  sometimes following the nagging is the course of least resistance so I broke down and researched carbonated injectors a few months ago, but didn’t find a soda maker that I liked. Then I was at Costco and they had the Sodastream – Dynamo Deluxe Soda Making Machine (wow, is that a mouthful – in more ways than one) on one of those corner displays.

I am a staunch supporter of Costco and their pricing, especially when you consider the quality of their products. And when you compare Walmart to Costco, it is Costco hands down. The Walmart pricing strategy is all about, well, price. If you buy something like beef jerky and Walmart wants it customers to get a lower price, they simply repackage the 6 oz pouch into a 4.5 oz pouch. Costco does the opposite, they go bigger, but more importantly, they increase the quality or add a bonus (like toothpicks or dental floss) or an enhancement.

Here is one of the few times I have had an issue with Costco – due to their lack of researching their product. Sure the  Sodastream maker works out to be a cost savings for my club soda, and helps, a bit, with environment; and helps, a lot, with my daughter.

How Sodastream Screws Over Costco Customers

There are two, some say three, ways that Costco is letting Sodastream take advantage of the Costco goodwill. Just to be clear, I don’t forgive Costco for doing a crummy job researching the implications of offering Sodastream to the Costco customer database.

Here is how Sodastream pulls a fast one:

1) The Costco Sodastream Deluxe Machine comes with the bigger (typical Costco) 130L carbonator, but all the re-suppliers that Sodastream lists on their site (Staples, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sur Latable, Ace Hardware, Kitchen Collection, Camping World, etc.) only sell the smaller 60L recarbonators. Soda Stream does disclose that “All retailers will accept returns of the 130L size, however; they may be exchanged on a one-to-one basis for a full 60L carbonator at the regular retail price”. But Costco customers must choose to either lose the larger 130L carbon dioxide container or order directly from Sodastream.

2) So I researched the carbonator bottle refill costs and the chumps at have gamed the consumers in terms of “free shipping.” They offer free shipping over $100 purchase, but when you look at the 130L bottle refill, it is $49.  You have to buy 3 carbonators to get free shipping.

3) One of the Amazon customers writes in their review, “These are great in the UK, where you can buy the gas refills (actually exchanges) in many supermarkets for not much money. However, in the US there are pitifully few outlets for the refills (Williams Sonoma and Camping World) and as such they are always out of stock. Because these gas cylinders have a proprietary fitting and anti-refill valve on them, they cannot be refilled at paintball, welding, or homebrew stores, so your only option is to mail them to Sodastream and obtain refills from the manufacturer directly. This adds up very quickly, and there is simply no way you can achieve the 20c per liter carbonation they claim here. The cheapest refills available from the manufacturer today are 3×14.5oz cylinders for $39 + $10 shipping = 41c/l. But since you have to have 3 cylinders first, you have to buy 3 more first (another $75 + $10 shipping), and these are their SALE prices.”

In a sense, Sodastream has adopted the cell phone industry model… Sell the phones for a very low cost, but make money on the monthly usage. It is similar to what Sodastream is doing, a low cost to buy their product, but high cost carbonated refills.

It is one of the few instances were Costco has failed to do full research from a customers perspective.

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