How could you not love Costco? We take the kids out there about once a month on a Saturday, mostly to get a bale of toilet paper, a six-pack of refried beans and a case of Pace salsa. (The three go hand in glove, if you think about it.) I am not allowed to go alone anymore, because last time I went out to pick up a case of paper towels, I came home with a plasma TV and a motorcycle. So, family in tow, I push a basket down the main aisle, and break into song: “Weeeee’re a Costco fa-muh-leeeeee…” until the kids act like they’re shopping with someone else.
First, of course, you have to find a parking space. There are always a few thousand shoppers there, even when it’s not the week before Christmas, so we wind up about a half mile from the store entrance. Gives us plenty of opportunity to see what the other shoppers are wheeling out to their cars. Into the back of a pickup truck goes a hundred-pound bag of dog food and a suitcase-sized brick of mac ‘n cheese. Into the trunk of a Lexus goes a case of margarita mix, a carton of Polaroid film, and a 12-pack of K-Y Jelly. I almost followed that woman home.
Once you get inside (you have to flash your card at the door, but thankfully, you can leave your shoes on), it’s like being in an airplane hangar full of stolen goods. First up is one of the many new features Costco has installed in their attempt to be all things to all people. It’s the photo counter, where you can get 4×6 color prints for 2¢ each. But you have to buy 3,000 prints. There’s always some sullen miscreant behind the counter, wiping his nose on his red vest, ready to answer the same three stupid questions all day long.
Moving along, we put Plan A into action: breakfast. On Saturday mornings, Costco’s food samplers are at peak saturation. On nearly every aisle, there’s a female retiree wearing two hairnets. One on her head of blue hair, and a tiny one on the mole on her chin. She’s spooning up little paper cups of fajita meat, chili, soda, lasagne, cheesecake, and—just before you hit the checkouts—Tums. I make two quick laps around the store and I enjoy the best meal of the week. They keep turning down my requests for a sampler in the wine section, though. Prudes.
Now, we all know that Costco offers bulk foods and discount books, movies and CDs. But in recent years they’ve added an optician’s office, and now you can get life insurance there too. Here in Missoula, the store also sells gas, tires, and the occasional Honda vehicle. Disneyland vacations. Tickets to Broadway plays. Furniture. Hell, we bought a nice maple bunk bed for the kids a few years ago. The price was great, but we had to buy the two-pack.
But there’s also a downside to shopping at the Hundred Dollar Store: storage. Where do I put all this stuff? We’ve got cartons of Lipton tea in the laundry room, a 50-lb bag of jasmine rice in the tool shed. Boxes of Capri Sun and Otter Pops line the walls of the spare bedroom, and I’m currently using four cases of olive oil as furniture in my studio. Costco has replaced my yard sale addiction as the biggest reason to move to a larger house.
And Costco continues to expand. My last trip out there I saw that Costco is now offering prostate exams, which can be performed while you’re buying auto insurance. That’s efficiency, my friends. But one wrong poke, and suddenly you’ve checked the “full collision” box. Speaking of that, they’re also offering gynecological exams for the ladies. Eight pairs of stirrups, no waiting.
Like frozen pizza? Get a box of nine pies. In the mood for pork roast? Here’s a package containing about three sows’ worth of meat. Some pig. One staple I always get there is coffee. Ten bucks for three pounds, man, how can you beat that? It’s pretty decent java, and it seems to be politically correct. The label says it’s dolphin-safe and all that sustainable shit. No bean pickers were beaten up by union strong-arms in the process, and the donkeys used are all herpes-free.
I don’t know anything about Costco’s business practices, how they treat their employees, or how many Brazilian rain forests they have to raze to make their maple bunk beds, but I love the joint. They might be running a white slavery ring, be stealing their 20-lb. boxes of Cascade from foster home kitchens, and mixing ground-up feral cats into their Polish sausages. I don’t care. Besides, those sausages are delicious! Meow!
Unlike Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and the other humongous discount department stores, Costco stocks pretty good quality stuff. It’s not going to fall apart before you get your shopping cart returned to the Kart Korral. I try to avoid the ‘Marts, but in my experience, any clothing you buy at those places is good for six wearings or one season, whichever comes first. I think the merchandise in general is designed to survive the ocean trip over from mainland China, then will disintegrate within a few weeks of hitting the shelves.
So take my advice, fork over the $35 for a membership, load the brood into your grocery-getter, and head out to Costco for a wild time some Saturday morning. It’s a trip to the zoo, the museum, the library and the snack bar all rolled into one. You can even buy a bullet to bite on during that prostate exam. I give that a big thumbs up.[Bookmark newwest.net/bobwire Make it a part of your daily routine. Like clipping unwanted hair.]