The Big Box Shop
“I’m going to Costco,” Robin texted me. “Good luck,” I responded. (I’m not much of a big box buyer.) “I thought you might want to go and write a post about mega-shopping?”
“What a great idea!,” I said. So off we went to the one-month-old Costco store on Olive at I-170.
Is Bulk Better?
After shopping at the petite grocery near my condo, it was quite overwhelming to walk into a store the size of a football field. The hefty shopping carts were larger than the bed of a small pickup truck.
The megastore features an array of items: clothing, groceries, bakery goods, wine, electronics, outdoor gear, books, holiday decorations, houseware, jewelry, and books. (Deep breath.) Look for vacation packages, gift certificates, and a food court, as well as insurance, hearing aids and custom-made eyeglasses, a gas station and tire center.
Having Fun at Costco
Upon seeing so many holiday ornaments, I inquired of a clerk: “When will your Easter and Fourth of July decorations be available?” He looked at me as though I was an old woman, who got her holidays mixed up. But then he smiled and said he was sure they’d be in by the first of the year.
Now that he was onto my warped sense of humor, I pushed him further. “I needing to get some cataract surgery. Which aisle is that in?” He said it was not available yet, but he’d mention it to his manager. By then he’d had enough of my nonsense and walked off to help an elderly gentlemen looking for a gallon of distilled water—a purchase that was impossible since they only come in a package of 18 one-liter bottles.
Old Favorites and New
No more fun and games, it was time to do some serious shopping. I have a particular fondness for Costco’s stuffed peppers, that come in a six-pack. My freezer can handle that. Robin found a large bag of boned chicken breasts, which she shared with me, as well as an XL container of pistachio nuts. (We both like those.)
I couldn’t resist the oversized blueberries. I eaten them for breakfast each morning, and have for years, ever since I read they’re one of the secrets to longevity.
Not Your Typical Grocery
After only partially filling our cart, we engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the self-check mechanism, that only takes certain credit cards. No grocery bags or boxes are provided, though we uncovered one in a trash bin.
On our way out, the friendly checker at the front door counted the items in our cart and compared them with those on our checkout slip. We passed.
Pros & Cons
I got to thinking about the pros and cons of warehouse shopping and here’s what I came up with:
- One stop shopping.
- If you have a big family and enough space to handle extra quantiles, Costco is a good deal. If you feel like engaging in some doomsday hoarding, bulk shopping works for you.
- Tasty food samples. I tried a cranberry-jalapeno dip that was quite good.
- A perfect exercise area for those who want to walk indoors during cold or hot months.
- Lower per item price than most regular groceries.
- A worker-friendly business model. Employee benefits include health, dental, vision, and life insurance, sick pay, parental leave, 401-K plans, and paid time off. Starting salary as of 2021 was $17 per hour.
- The store looks like a gathering of the United Nations. There are people of many ethnic and age differences. A real slice of Americana.
- Costs at least $60 a year for a store membership.
- Practices BYOB, that is, Bring Your Own Bags, which can be annoying if you forget or don’t have enough. (Though you can sometimes find boxes in the trash bins.)
- Need to show your membership card upon entering and, upon exit, have a comparison count of your cart items and grocery slip.
- Takes longer to shop.
- Encourages impulse buying.
- Long lines at certain times.
- Ceiling-high shelves require a man-lift to access some items.
Costco Wholesale. 8685 Olive Blvd. at I-170. (There are three other stores in the St. Louis region.) Membership starts at $60 per year.
Hours: Mon-Fri 10a-8:30p; Sat 9:30a-7p; Sun 10a-6p.
Closed: Thanksgiving Day
Black Friday: 9a-8:30p.