The Cult-ure of Costco

We joined Costco the other day.

And now we have to buy a bigger house.

There was the 30-pack of toilet rolls for .50 cents.

Then there was the 60-pack of paper towels for $2.

I’m kidding of course.

But the deals are apparently “so good.”

And the sizes are definitely “so big.”

As a mere mortal, and not a business or restaurant, I don’t know that we would ever need a 2-litre tin of ketchup.

Or a package of 50 frozen chicken breasts.

Or where we would even keep all that.

Hence, the bigger house.

I can imagine a new tv-show called “Costco Hoarders”.

We are already considering a separate freezer.

Just to take advantage of all the gi-normous (yes, that is a word in my own personal dictionary) frozen food items that could keep us fed for weeks in the event of a cataclysmic ice and snow storm that kept us trapped in the house.

But then there would likely be no electricity, so there goes that theory.

The whole marketing theory behind Costco is a study in retail (and perhaps social) science.

To actually charge people a membership fee so they can shop, is incredible.

It sounds so silly. Such a First World thing.

And it seems to be working.

A lot of friends, colleagues and acquaintances of mine had recently had been chatting about Costco, about the great deals they found there. So of course I took that as a sign that I had to try it.

More importantly, I had savoured some of the delights other people had purchased there. Frozen French onion soups that you just pop in the oven and voila, delicious! Or some delectable sea salt bespeckled dark chocolate caramels, that were a gift for Christmas. I nearly ate the whole container by myself.

So there I was, on a cold, blowy, snowy, wintry January day, in the Costco parking lot, which is fairly full. I head inside with a throng of people, who are there to shop. I tell the man who is looking for my membership card that I would like to join, and he points me to another door. I head to where I think he pointed, but end up at the Tire Sales section. A friendly person there points me in the right direction, and keeps an eye out that I find the proper place.

I wait in a line for a short time, and then, it’s my turn.

I tell the lady with the nice Spanish accent that I would like to find out more about memberships.

She explains the different prices, and I am sold on the Executive Membership – which, for $120, gives me 2% back on all purchases. Plus, if I don’t earn $60 in cashbacks by the end of the year, I will receive a membership for the next year, free! It sounded great. And, as an Executive Member, I will be privy to lots of extra special deals and offers.

She takes my photo for the membership card and I’m in.

I can’t wait to head in and check out the deals.

I find myself among many other members, all armed with shopping carts and flyers, meandering around the aisles. Oh, the many aisles.

There’s an optometrist. A jeweller. A travel agency. A pharmacy. It’s overwhelming. And I’m wondering, why doesn’t everyone shop here? There’s food of every kind. In large quantities. There’s meat. And a bakery. A dairy area. And a frozen section. Even a fast food restaurant.

It would take me hours to have a look at every single product. But I don’t have hours that day.

The lighting is fluorescent. The atmosphere is warehouse factory. It should be mayhem. And yet the shoppers are civilized. The stacks of towels, sheets, socks, duvets, sheets, pillows, pants, t-shirts, books, are all neat, orderly, and tidy. Surprising.

The lineups looked long, filled with patient people waiting to pay for their piles of items in their shopping cart.

I can’t wait to go back and spend some quality time, shopping. Having a leisurely look through all the products.

I know Costco is famous for never having the same products two weeks in a row. That is one of the secrets of its success. It stocks up on items that it finds it can buy in bulk, at a good price, to pass along that deal to its customers.

I watched a documentary once on the Costco secret to success, and it said it only orders a couple of types of each product, so customers don’t have ten choices, they only have the two. That seems to work for them.

I look forward to checking out the gas station, which offers gas for several cents less than the regular stations.

I can’t wait to try to find those frozen French onion soups – and perhaps the sea salt covered dark chocolate caramels – mmmmm!

And I will remember to pack my patience, and wear my comfortable shoes.


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