Seattle King of the Big Boxes
So earlier this week was a real departure from my normal shopping comfort zone as I found myself good and lost inside our nearest Costco. (Yes, I know it’s just a giant rectangle, but dang, it’s huge in there!) It’s been probably over 5 years since I last wandered inside a Costco, and my adventure with DH inside our local homegrown warehouse club had me going through a bit of culture shock.
Even though we live in the land of Costco (Kirkland Signature baby!) we are probably one of the few households in Seattle that don’t have a membership. In fact, we even had a bunch of Costco gift cards from our stash of wedding gifts (from 4 years ago) that we had yet to use. But a broken garage door (and a tip from a friend that Coscto has subcontractors that can replace garage doors at a better price) prompted the trip, and so I dragged convinced my parents (who have a membership) to take us as guests.
Now a little more disclosure about my personal shopping habits: I’m one of those weird people who actually loves an empty fridge (aside from beverages!) I hate seeing leftovers packed in and random stuff (like lettuce from goodness knows how long ago languishing in the “crisper”… ew.) So on compost/garbage/recycle days, I purge like a maniac. So naturally I don’t often shop at places like Coscto or other big boxes like Target, except a few times a year to stock up on detergent and paper products.
Many of my friends in HK (especially those with small children and families) bemoan the fact that they are deprived of the big box experience, but both DH and I agree that Coscto is a uniquely American concept where BIGGER and MORE is better and cheaper. Lower per unit prices are achieved by volume sales. And so you end up buying huge portions, even when you don’t want or mean to, which is fine for non-perishables like the Big Red Chinet cups! (I’m old and I don’t even like beer, but I guess we’re totally ready for the next kegger!… Now where did I put our Sharpies?)
But there’s gotta be a limit on this type of warehouse purchasing mentality. Certainly I can see the appeal if you have a large family or run a small business, but for the average consumer, while Costco is good, sometimes it’s a little too much and certainly overwhelming. DH even commented: “If I didn’t grow up with Costco, I’d think it was the weirdest thing going in as an adult.”
The best strategy we had before splitting up with my parents was to set a time limit on how long we’d shop for. We gave ourselves 45 minutes. We started at 7:15pm on a Wednesday evening and agreed to meet up at the checkout line by 8pm.
With the clock running, and the garage door sorted out, DH and I were soon frantically running through the aisles and stocking up our cart with the easy stuff: our usual paper products (TP, paper towels, tissues, detergent etc.) With that finished, we started wandering towards the frozen food section which is where things all went downhill, since I had to take a pee break.
I told DH I’d meet him back at the frozen food section. And of course, the restroom was on the opposite side of the warehouse. 15 minutes later, I found myself lost and wandering through the food aisles looking for the frozen food section. (Where the heck was it? Was it by the wine section?! Oh look, ground turkey for $3.00 a pound, that’s so cheap!… Oh but you have to buy 6 pounds!… Wait, where’s DH? HELP I’M LOST AND SURROUNDED BY MEAT!)
DH: Angela! STOP! I’ve been chasing you for like the past 5 minutes.
ME: Oh, sorry, I thought we were supposed to meet in the food section?
DH: The frozen food section is right over there (pointing to rows of large freezers.)
ME: Oooops, sorry, I got confused and disoriented. Hey, did you see this ground turkey? It’s only $3 a pound!
DH: Put that down! It’s huge! We’ll never be able to finish it. We have got to get out of here, you’re already starting to get brainwashed.
ME: Sorry, I got a little lost…. Oooo, what’s that? (Wandering off…)
DH: Stop looking! Come back here! Stay focused! I know it’s distracting, but you’ve got to concentrate. I told to you to avoid that whole “middle section” because that’s where they try to suck you in. Let’s go now, before it’s too late.
And so we made our way to the checkout area at 8pm, as promised. My poor parents were there and waiting with a grand total of just 3 items in their cart: TP, Kleenex, and paper towels, all of which had an additional coupon. Wow. I guess they’re Costco experts by now, and self restraint is a lesson I’m still learning, particularly in a big box store like Costco.
So you’d think that Costco would be slow and quiet on a weekday evening near closing time. No way, the lines were way long, and there were people everywhere. I shudder to think what this place looks like on the weekends.
Did I mention that I didn’t have a membership to Costco? Well I didn’t… um, until this week! Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid, but it’s a perfect complement to my Amazon Prime membership! Oh, and those Costco wedding gift cards? Used up every last one (how did we manage that?!) I guess here’s to being a real Seattleite now.
I’m definitely treating myself to the $1.50 hot dog + drink on my next trip just to thumb my nose at inflation.
Happy Friday and happy shopping!
Love this one Angela! I even got excited seeing the pics are from MY Costco. I get sucked in about once or twice a year and despite best intentions and stern self talk before hand, I always end up zig zagging my cart through the aisles like a meth head looking for his next fix. Giant tubs of red vines. Check. Twelve pack of dental floss. Check. Double pack of watermelons. Check. Roasted chicken and tubs of marinated shrimp. Check and Check. If my husband came with me and talked me down I might manage to avoid the dangerous middle aisles but that ain’t gonna happen…Maybe instead I can have you over on trash day to clean out my fridge. I’ve got some roasted chicken I need to toss and I’m feeling just too guilty to do it…
Thanks Star! Hahahaha, didn’t know that I was lost in your neighborhood Costco! We were “relatively” good this time, so no gigantic tub-o-red-vines (which I personally LOVE) but I did find it very hard to resist the temptations. Love your meth head analogy and so true. My rule for trash day is if it’s a week old or more… it’s going in the bin. I remember growing up with Costco and OD’ing on the butter croissants and muffins. If I even look at a box now, I feel nauseated and sick… Thanks for stopping by! 🙂
welcome to the happy and brainwashed customers group of Costco. We draw you in with 1.50 hot dogs, 50 cent drinks, and 3 dollar chicken bakes and 10 dollar giant pizzas. And of course if you feel like you don’t want to spend money, you can always walk around collecting samples. Oh costco…life would be different if it wasn’t around haha. Congrats on being freshly pressed! I can’t imagine what life would be like without costco, sam’s club, BJ’s, and all those other warehouse stores.
Hi there, thank you for the kind wishes on being FP’d and the hearty welcome to the big box club! 🙂 I found that by the end of our adventure, I was wishing we had picked the flat cart instead of the regular basket cart. Hm… I don’t think I can handle more than 1 warehouse club, otherwise, I might go berserk as it’s become apparent to me that I lack self control. I like your strategy of staying near the food and trying samples. I’ll have to employ that strategy next time!
You are way braver than me! The reverse culture shock would have done me in.
Have you read the latest David Sedaris book? He mentions using Costco to stock up on individual packets of pain killers and giant boxes of condoms to distribute at his book signings.
Haha…. We’re not members either, but every once in a while, we’ll go as guests and without fail, we get all starry eyed and brain dead as soon as we enter. There is something in that chilled, warehouse air… 36 chicken apple sausages? Don’t mind if I do! Regal movie theater tickets that will take us three years to use? A must have! 250 ice cream cones? Hmmm… Almost. Gotta draw the line somewhere.
You never had a membership? Another definite MUST. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve browsed the aisles of Costco for their free samples when I’ve been too tired/lazy to feed my kids…
Come on now, Angela. You KNOW you need that 6lbs of ground turkey! Go back there and get it now! NOW!
I’d never put two and two together that the Kirkland brand was that Kirkland. We don’t have a big box store like that anywhere near us…..but the last time I was in one, there was a large assortment of Irish wool sweaters in the ‘mid section’….I found that odd. But I’m sure I used my parents card and bought four years worth of TP. Next time, you should go for the mega pack of disposable cocktail glasses and get a few boxes of wine to go with them.