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It's party time at Sam's Club

January 30, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Marvin Beaty charged out onto the floor of Sam's Club in Hagerstown on Friday morning for his $5,000 shopping spree.

But after loading a box of silverware, a drill and a computer monitor onto his cart, he hit a snag: He couldn't think of anything else to buy.

"When you can buy it, you can't think of what to get," said his wife, Jean Beaty.

Marvin Beaty, who owns a game rental business in Winchester, Va., said he drives about an hour to Hagerstown each month to shop at Sam's Club, which offers its paid members discounts for food and other items that are often sold in bulk.

Beaty's name was randomly selected from a pool of Sam's Club members across the country who renewed their memberships last October, November or December.

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At a ceremony with the store's employees, Sam's Club operations manager Ben Barnhart presented Beaty with a mock check for $5,000. He then gave him five cards worth $1,000 each that can be used anytime.

Barnhart said Sam's Club, founded in 1983, has about 39 million members in 49 states. He estimated about a quarter of them renewed their membership during the three-month contest period.

"It's pretty awesome to have the winner come from our area," he said.

Barnhart said Beaty was caught off-guard when a Sam's Club representative called him to tell him he had won the contest.

"He thought it was a joke, of course," he said.

Beaty, 63, said he didn't even know about the contest when he renewed his membership last December.

"No idea," he said.

Beaty said he spends about $500 a month at Sam's Club on items for his home and business.

"We like Sam's Club, like the service, the products. We just stayed with them," he said.

Beaty's home in Winchester is a long way from Hagerstown, but he said the big savings make the trip worthwhile.

"That's the name of the game. That's why we do it," he said.

Beaty said he also finds the Hagerstown store convenient.

"It's easy to get in and get out," he said.

Beaty still has his original membership card from 1992. As a business member, he pays $30 a year for the right to shop in the store. Regular consumers pay $35 annually.

Barnhart said the Hagerstown store, which was the first Sam's Club in Maryland when it opened in 1991, has about 85,000 members. He said the company makes its profit from the membership dues, selling the products near cost.

In addition to food, customers can find bargains on lawn care products, snow removal equipment, office supplies, electronics, tires and dozens of other products.

Well short of their $5,000 limit and stumped about what else to buy, Jean Beaty suggested the couple take a more scientific approach and prepare a list before they return for their next shopping trip.

"It won't take too long," she predicted.

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