Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My happy place

My affection for the greatest of all stores began when I was only 6 years old. Costco itself was just a baby, and my parents became members of Costco Wholesale, primarily to purchase supplies for my dad’s podiatry business. Or maybe that was just a ruse to gain access into the businesses-only club. Either way, I loved it simply because children weren’t allowed inside. Yeah, apparently they thought we would detract from the serious shopping atmosphere they were trying to create inside their big concrete box. That meant that my mom had to bring a friend along. So she and Kim Spring alternated shopping with keeping an eye on me, my sister and Kim’s two boys. Sounds boring enough, but to a little girl brought up in home with no television, it provided a welcome excuse to watch movies on the little TV/VCR combo built into my mom’s Suburban consol (pretty high tech stuff for 1984!).
Fast forward to 1999 when Dan and I were newlyweds, eating and shopping for only two. We couldn’t understand how the store earned its nickname – the “$100 store” – because we usually managed to make it out the door for far less. However, our first condo was just moments away and we enjoyed many a date night there eating our $1.50 hot dog/soda combos while watching people check out. It was (and is) thoroughly entertaining to see exactly what people think they need a lot of. Like the family I observed walk out with a 20-pack of Spam. Yep, of all the thousands of items stocked there, they choose gelatinous “meat” packed in salt and tin. Yum. Or the guys that come in just for roses. (Did you know you can even order wedding flowers from Costco?) Just by sitting there observing shopping carts you can determine what size clothing someone wears, whether they drink or smoke, if their kids are potty-trained, and the relative health of their food choices. It’s also fun to guess what peoples impulse buys might have been. Did they really plan on buying 40 packs of gum when they walked in the door? Did they think they’d be coming home with a new pair of jeans?
Now 10 years later I have become the worst offender in the impulse-buy department. Especially on the rare occasion that I end up there without the kids - that is with time to wander and sort through the stacks of clothing to find the sizes I “need.” (Maybe they were on to something with their 80s-era rules!) I am now the one people watch, wondering “does she really need 36 rolls of toilet paper all at once? Or two dozen dinner rolls? Or 3 pounds of tortilla chips?” And the answer probably is “no,” but I’ve discovered that it’s usually cheaper to buy 6 heads of lettuce at Costco and throw half of them away than it is to buy 3 at Ralphs. 3 pairs of swim goggles cost less than one at my next-favorite store, Target. Their always-cheaper cheese, meat, and even bread freeze well. And the high-quality down pillows cost less than poly-fill ones at a department store.
So I can no longer pass Costco’s cash register for less than $100. But I always feel like I’ve gotten a good value, in addition to a cheap lunch and an afternoon’s entertainment!

7 comments:

M or J said...

I JUST walked in the door from shopping at Costco, so this was a very fun post to read! Everything you said is so true! And Mike and I have enjoyed many a newlywed date there eating the $1.50 hotdog and drink. We still try to find the time to do that once in a while. Costco is the best! Oh, and I didn't leave without spending a hundred dollars. :) It's impossible!

Anonymous said...

What she failed to mention is that Costco has been the "fine dining" we have chosen on several romantic Valentine evenings! There is nothing like asking your valentine out and proceeding directly to Costco. I will say it is one of the only restaurants that isn't crowded on Feb. 14. I am glad that we share an appreciation of the greatest store in the world.
Danny

Jenny M. said...

I love Costco too! Next time you happen to be east of the Cascades you must see our Yakima Costco...it is one of the largest in the state and brand spankin' new. Yeah, it's what we do for fun in here :)

Willis said...

I know exactly what you mean. I bought 4 pounds of strawberries. Only Rocco and I eat them. Every day we're trying to cram them in so they won't go bad. At least I got a good deal.

Laina said...

Danny, as much as I love a good budget-friendly hot dog and soda, I'm not so sure Costco really qualifies as a "restaurant"

Lisa writes... said...

Better than Target? Okay, now I have to go! ;-)

By the Brook said...

I love the way you write! B's favoite too. He'll love your post.