Friday, January 14, 2011

Home of double-wide shopping carts

Couple of Random Anecdotes about Costco for you today:

I'm really not sure if there even was a Costco anywhere near my hometown growing up, but either way I had never been inside one or even really heard of them until my freshman year of college. My hallmate/soon-to-be roommate introduced me to the concept through a fairly rapid sequence: he had a few sundries in warehouse sizes in his dorm room, then when I visited his parents' house over Fall Break I realized the extent to which they did the majority of their household shopping at Costco, and before that trip was over I actually accompanied my roommate and his mom to the store, which I still wasn't quite prepared for. This was the early 90's so it wasn't quite as ubiquitous a punchline to talk about the ridiculous industrial drum sizes that no one could possibly need, and I found it all somewhat surreal. It's one thing to buy, say, two dozen packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese all at once for a bulk price, and it's another to get one gigantic block of Philadelphia Cream Cheese that weighs the same as two dozen grocery store units. I'm pretty sure that gargantuan, novelty-prop-sized silver box was the exact item I was looking at when I said, "I feel like I'm shrinking" - which my roommate just thought was a hoot and which he often quoted back to me over the years.

Fast-forward about four years and I was living in my first post-college pad with a couple buddies (who turned out to be one good friend and one bitter enemy, but that's an anecdote for another time) and one of them was able to use his family's Costco membership to let us do our own provisioning there. Half a decade makes a world of difference as at that point I thought warehouse shopping was the greatest thing ever. On the one hand it was pretty sweet to be able to split a massive package of Hot Pockets with my housemates and end up with weeks' worth of frozen lunches for pennies per pocket; on the other hand we enjoyed throwing massive parties (I believe I may have mentioned that before) and buying everything from plastic cups to Chex Mix in bulk was a good way to enable that habit. But sometimes things got out of hand, like the time we were shopping for a Memorial Day barbecue we planned on hosting and I argued that it was reasonable to buy the five gallon jar of Gulden's brown mustard. I love brown mustard on not only hot dogs and burgers but also lunchmeat-heavy sandwiches, so I figured it would last a good long while but we'd work our way through it. It ended up occupying an inordinate amount of fridge space for the entire remainder of the lease and I can't swear to it but I think it's within the realm of possibility that we moved that mustard to the next townhouse we rented as well. The real downside of that particular folly was when we finally started getting close to the bottom of the jar, because at that point to dip a knife into the mustard for spreading on a sandwich, you had to lower your arm into the jar up to your elbow, and that is just a mess.

So. Much. Mustard.
I've got Costco on the brain today because I went there this afternoon, not only to pick up some necessities for my current domicile but also to switch my membership level from Gold to Executive. I was advised by a Costco emplyee toward the end of last year that I should do so because the computer told the employee how much I had spent there over the course of the previous year and it was a really, really gobsmacking number of dollars. The Executive membership costs more per year but offers a small percentage cash back annually. In my case, if this year is like last year, the cash back will more than pay for the entire membership (not just the difference between Gold and Executive, I mean the whole thing. And then some.) and the fact is this year will most likely see me spending much MORE money at Costco because of Baby #2 and the fact that Costco is already my diaper merchant of choice. So, I signed up and then proceed to buy my breakfast fiber bars for the next seven weeks.

How was I able to go to Costco on a Friday afternoon? Because I was home with the little guy, of course! He's actually doing almost 100% better but it took until late morning today for the lab results on his pertussis swab to come back (negative) and we didn't want to take any chances sending him to daycare and finding out he actually had pertussis, so I took the day off to keep him home. As I type this he's in bed, unmedicated for the first time in like two weeks, and fingers crossed that's the beginning of a good long trend along the same lines.

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