Who wants to hear a story? Great! Gather around and don’t spill your juice box on the carpet. Someone always does. It’s the reason our Kindergarten teachers never trusted us with any food or drink on the carpet. Only duct tape was allowed, so we knew where to sit. Obedient little rug rats, we were.
Have I stalled long enough? Is everyone here? Good.
For the uninitiated, Costco Wholesale Corporation is a membership-only warehouse, which sells just about everything. It’s a great place to buy groceries if you want to buy in bulk.
Essentially, Costco is the place you go to if you need a bath tub but want to buy an entire ocean. Does that make sense? I think it makes sense.
The story I’m about to tell you is from a couple of months ago.
Is it weird that the first time I went to Costco is in 2018? I don’t know. It could be weird. I could be an anomaly.
My family never had a membership until the last few years, so I’ve never really had an excuse to go. You can’t go to the other side of the world if you don’t have a plane ticket.
And let me tell you, walking into Costco for the first time was like entering a different world.
They should really just call themselves Costco Rica, at this point. Any objections? No. Costco Rica it is.
But this story starts before that. It starts in the parking lot. I’ve heard, and seen, stories of how vicious a Costco parking lot can be. So I had my elbows up, ready to fly, if needed.
Alright, my elbows weren’t really up, but if they were it was because I was in a winter jacket and was like Randy from A Christmas Story, when his family tightly wrapped him in his snowsuit and he said, “I can’t put my arms down.”
If that joke resonated with at least one person, I’m satisfied.
We parked in the furthest spot from the door. Right next to our car was a buggy.
Most mortals call it a “shopping cart”, but I call it a “buggy” because I am not from this planet.
Growing up, I was always the buggy pusher when I went grocery shopping with my mom. It was so much fun. I was a total pro. It was like a real life video game. Navigate the obstacles and avoid the banana peels on the floor.
So I grabbed the buggy next to our car and pushed it all the way through the parking lot, into the store. Being a buggy aficionado, I immediately realized the dimensions of it were much larger than I was used to.
I felt like I was pushing a jacuzzi, or a float in the Santa Claus Parade.
We get in the store and my mom has to show her membership card. I felt like I was a member of some secret society, like Homer Simpson was with the Stonecutters.
We do! We do!
Anyone get that reference?
The security to get in and out of this place was tighter than…tighter than…please hold while I think of a comparison.
The security to get in and out of this place was tighter than the 2014 Winter Classic at The Big House in Detroit, Michigan. There were over 100,000 people at that stadium, yet I walked through the gates and at most, the security personnel breathed the same oxygen I did for two seconds.
No one searched me. I didn’t go through a metal detector. It was colder than cold (Ice cold!) that day and I was a walking 12-layer lasagna, but no one bothered to check if I was sneaking something nefarious in.
Of course, I never would. But still.
Costco, though, they stop everyone at the door. Thou shalt not pass without a membership.
My first impression of the warehouse was, “Oh, so this is the place that will be overrun first, when the zombie apocalypse comes. Got it.”
My second impression was, “Did I make a wrong turn and enter a Home Depot by accident?”
It did not feel like a grocery store, at all.
There were people everywhere. It’s as if someone kicked an ant hill and the ants were frantically dispersing.
I hate that about large crowds. You realize that people don’t really know how to walk, so everyone has to overcorrect their own walking pattern. And when buggies are involved, the stakes are raised.
I wasn’t in the store for more than 60 seconds before my buggy almost got T-Boned by a reckless buggy pusher. The near-accident was never going to be my fault. I’m a buggy aficionado, remember? That gives me immunity.
The main reason we were there was to buy cases of water that were on sale. I was there to lift the heavy cases.
I wasn’t in the mood for browsing. I’m a very “get in, get out” person when it comes to shopping. I go in with a general game plan of what I’m looking for, and then when I see it, I’ll know if I want it. Then I get out.
So after the near buggy accident, I had my mom direct me to the water. Let’s make this quick.
Along the way to the water, I noticed sampling stations set up. I don’t want to poo-poo a sampling station because who doesn’t like free things, especially food?
But if you think I was going to stop, park my buggy, and wiggle my way through a crowd of 10 people to get something attached to a toothpick, you’ve got the wrong person.
That being said, I have no clue what the free sample was. I had an empty road (aisle) ahead of me and I was going to enjoy it, like a dog with his head out the window of a moving car.
After loading the water into the buggy, my steering was impaired by the weight. I felt like a Formula One car going through Monaco. I could only hope that when people saw me coming, they’d leave some room.
I don’t know if I was wearing an invisibility cloak, or what, but people seemed to like to walk directly at my buggy. I don’t understand it. Do you want to get hit?
The place was a zoo and it wasn’t even a weekend. I’ve never gone Boxing Day shopping, but I’m assuming this is what it must be like.
From the water, we went over to the cookie section because why drink water if it’s not washing anything down?
That was a joke.
It’s amazing how bad cookies can look once you look at the price tag. They could be the most scrumtrulescent thing that your taste buds ever touch, but $8 for a case of cookies scared me off.
Also, I’ve had those particular cookies before, and although they tasted great, there were always clumps of sugar left in the container, as well as on the backside of each cookie.
Yes, I’m turning into an old man.
Long story, short, we headed to the check-out line.
We joined a line and the lady in front of us turned around and stared right at me.
RIGHT. AT. ME.
Eye contact was made, kids. The kind of eye contact that says, “Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but I’m a stranger who’s going to start a conversation with you in 5…4…3…2…
I darted my eyes away. Shut it down.
And then she made eye contact with my mom. Oh no. Don’t look into the eyes!
My mom and I are notorious for strangers coming up to us and asking questions, or starting random conversations. We don’t know why.
I guess it’s a compliment. Perhaps we always look like the most welcoming people in the room? Who knows.
For the moment, we had avoided a conversation with this person, but lines are long and time stands still, so a few minutes later, she turned around again and started talking to us.
I don’t even remember what she said.
Oh wait, I might. She was there to buy flowers and came across a piece of clothing she liked. I stood there thinking, “Why would you come to Costco for flowers and clothes, when you could avoid the chaos and do that anywhere else?”
As we were approaching the cashier, I noticed that we had to say goodbye to our buggy. Our buggy would be passed to the cashier behind the counter and they would scan and bag items from there.
There wasn’t even a sign telling us to do this, so if I were there by myself, I would’ve loaded everything onto the conveyor belt, brought the buggy with me, and looked like a fool.
That’s a pet peeve of mine. If you’re relying on someone to follow a certain protocol, make sure you have directions somewhere to instruct people who have never done it before.
You have to educate before you can expect. Someone should put that on a t-shirt.
As soon as it was our turn to pay, I abandoned ship and went to their Food window to get myself some lunch.
I ordered chicken fingers and fries because I have never been let down by an order of chicken fingers and fries.
Before we could leave the store, we had to join a queue so they could check our receipt. I understand why they do it, but my chicken fingers and fries don’t have time to stand in line. They lose heat. Time is of the essence here!
I was expecting them to take my chicken-fingerprints at this point.
I should’ve asked them if they ever caught the buggy pusher who almost ran into me, but they probably would’ve said they’d check the surveillance footage and get back to me. Then they’d ask for an e-mail and phone number they could reach me at, but really they just wanted me to be on their mailing list. So I never asked about the wild buggy pusher.
Leaving the store felt like I was exiting Halloweentown and returning to the real world. It was like I went through a portal.
I’m not here to bash Costco – this is a humour post. Costco is a dog-eat-dog-eat-samples world, and a good place to study human behaviour.
It’s just not for me. Give me a nice grocery store, with a bakery smell that hits you as you enter, and I’m a happy customer.
I think that’s what I like about grocery stores the most. You’re greeted by the smell of fresh bread and pastries, which you’re forced to track down as you make your way through the store.
It’s like a scavenger hunt.
Will I ever return to Costco some day? Never say never; maybe say maybe.
Feel free to share any thoughts you may have after reading this story. Did you relate to any of it? Do you have any Costco/grocery store-related stories to tell?