Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where America Shops--Costco

I'd like to say a few words about shopping at Costco, one of my favorite places to visit (and where I regularly spend a high percentage of my income). Outside of having such a great selection of products at great prices (provided you are willing to fill your residence top to bottom with huge quantities of toilet paper, paper plates, plastic trash bags, et al.), it is hard to match the excitement that is offered by this fine establishment.

Excitement? What can be exciting about going to Costco? Plenty, as follows:

  • Can you successfully wheel your cart away from the store and into the parking lot, to where your car is located? Not always an easy task, based on my personal experience. One day I was leaving the Costco, which in my area, requires navigating past the teeming hordes snacking at the covered picnic tables and around the starving folks waiting in line for Hebrew National hot dogs (which, as we know, are God's personal favorites, although they are not kosher). Anyway, I was just entering the parking lot area, when I saw a white Cadillac, driven by an old white guy, heading rapidly in my direction. I glanced in the driver's eyes, and saw, unfortunately, a blank stare, signifying that he did not see me. I was already in his path, and, he was, literally, a few feet away, so I pushed myself away from the cart, and, he (barely) missed hitting me, and collided with my cart. The eggs that I had piled on top of the cart fell to the ground and broke. The driver then stopped and asked me if I was OK, and I signified that I was, and he offered to pay for any destroyed items, which fortunately, was limited to the $2.00 eggs that were broken. Then, incredibly, a couple of bystanders ignored me, even though I was clearly freaked about the whole thing, since I just missed serious injury, and they asked the old codger if he was OK. Unbelievable. Anyway, the moral of the story is when you enter a parking lot near a Costco and you see a car moving in your direction, pretend that you are in New York City, not Southern California; in other words, they are not going to stop for you, so assume that they are going to hit you.

  • Avoiding collisions in the bumper car derby in the parking lot--Costco, like most successful American businesses, does its best to maximize customer access to its stores, so all of the Costcos that I have visited have the parking lot rows placed with only minimal space between them. So, the result is there are countless near misses in the parking lot nearly every time I visit a Costco. Today was typical: I waited while an SUV in front of me was stationary, waiting for somebody to leave his parking space next to the store entrance. The SUV blotted out my sight lines and I could not really tell who its occupants were waiting for. I saw one car on the left back up, then go forward again, then back up again, then go forward again, and then...nothing. I guess that they were just perfecting their parking technique. Then, I saw a car in the front row on the right start backing up, to the left. Then on the left side, I saw a car in the third row on the left start backing up, at the same time. And then, to my surprise, I saw a car in front of me, on the right, start backing up out of his parking place. I honked at him to stop, but he did not hear me, and then he missed hitting a few feet. The ending was happy, since everyone was able to either get out of their parking place, or get into a parking place, without any collisions or injuries. Yes, life is a game of inches.

  • Lining up to get free samples--This is perhaps the most rewarding sporting event at Costco, since, as my late brother David put it, if you do things right, you can have an entire meal at Costco by trying out the samples. The way that people do everything short of jousting for position gives the impression that those who are lining up have not eaten for a week. However, judging by the ample waistlines of those I see in line, most people that line up for samples probably have not eaten for five minutes, or less. It can also be quite suspenseful as people lick their lips in anticipation, watching as the food server first cooks the food in a microwave oven, then takes out the food, cuts it into acceptable portions, and then puts it out for the starving hordes to enjoy. I have frequently have been in the position of being second in line, for about four portions, with only one person in front of me, and then, as I get ready to reach for my sumptuous burrito slice, defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory, as the person in front of me grabs four portions, hands two to his obese six year old, one to their rather well-fed wife, and grabs the last one for themselves, leaving me to merely salivate and dream of the one that got away. Just like reaching for the American dream: oh so close but ever so far away.... No problem though: the solution is to walk up to another counter, where something that the masses don't covet, like strawberry sorbet, is being offered, and take one for oneself, and then, just to get even with Mr. Greedy who took four pieces for himself a few moments ago, you come back and go for seconds. (Oliver Twist is dead, so you don't even have to say, "Please Sir, may I have some more?")The best part of all this is that the hapless Costco employee will start on their spiel about how this fatty cholesterol-laden product is good for you , and, they will continue on their dissertation long after you have walked away, and end up talking to the air about a product that probably few people would ever eat...unless someone offered it to them for free.
You've got to love it. Shop 'til you drop!

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