Love it or hate it, Costco has become a phenomenon in many ways. A big warehouse filled with produce, dry goods, and frozen food. And that’s just the beginning. You can get books, clothes, computers…and even glasses when you visit these stores.
I just yesterday visited a local Costco on it’s very first day in business, basically it’s grand opening to the public. Now, it wasn’t my first trip to a Costco; I had visited several other stores multiple times. In fact, I was once a member. This time, I visited the new store with my father.
This particular experience was especially interesting, due to the opening of a new Costco location. The place was absolutely packed. There were shopping cart traffic jams everywhere, as people tried to make their way through the store. Picking up bits of conversation along the way, it was clear that there were some first-time Costco shoppers there.
Along the way, I had two major observations:
1) Many people go absolutely hog wild over the samples.
While of course most people were civil and normal, there were some people who were swarming over the sample tables like hungry wild animals going after raw meat. I don’t know if these people were new to Costco, or were there partially (primarily?) for the samples, but they went nuts. I saw a few adults walking briskly, almost at a jog, to get to the next booth of goodies.
There were tables with chips and salsa, cookies, bread and olive oil, pizza, meatballs, chicken, Korean beef and rice, prosciutto, coffee, cranberry juice….you get the idea. Lots of stuff.
One woman and her daughter rushed over to a booth where they were handing out shrimp, only to be told that they were out. The mother’s reaction was: “You’re OUT! Awwww….!” It reminded me of seeing a little kid get disappointed that she couldn’t find a toy at a store.
I was at another station where they were cooking chicken, in preparation for putting sample pieces in these little paper cups with a plastic spoon. I stopped there too, and paused to look at the others waiting. There were probably 8 to 10 people there, all staring at the lady prepping the food. Their eyes seemed glazed over as they just waited for the food to be ready. They looked like zombies. I quickly realized that I was one of them if I stuck around, so I grabbed my cart and moved elsewhere.
Getting free stuff really brings out interesting behavior in people. Those of you who are regular readers probably know that I get a kick out of such observations, as seen in the Squirreling Gone Wild series.
2) Impulse purchase opportunities abound
There are so many things that one sees at Costco that you just won’t expect. Whether it’s “specialty” products (such as seasoned quinoa/rice packs), or regular products (such as tortilla chips) at low prices, it’s easy to get carried away when you go to the warehouse.
I once couple carrying 5 or 6 giant bags of the aforementioned tortilla chips. It made me wonder: just how many chips are they going to eat? Maybe it was for family that would be visiting over the holidays. Who knows?
Anyway, I think shoppers at Costco need to be careful with such purchases. It’s easy to get carried away and buy more than you really need, just because the per-unit cost is low. This can actually be costly, if perishable food is purchased. For example, I saw an absolutely enormous tub of yogurt for sale. Unless one has a large family, or eats mind-boggling amounts of yogurt, some of that is at risk for spoiling.
So, how did we do at Costco?
Well, the good news is that we walked out of there with just a few purchases. Bought a big tray blackberries, a 12-pack of single-serve Greek-style yogurt, and a small toy for my daughter. And that’s it. Impulse purchases were successfully controlled, except for that toy for her. Really, I just wanted to check out the new store, and I came out of there unscathed.
As far as the samples go….well, let’s just say that I walked in a little bit hungry, and I walked out with no hunger at all:) Yes, I had good intentions of not having any food there, but gave in to a cup of salted, mixed nuts. Then some pasta. Then a sample of pizza. Then….well, you get the idea. There was a little bit of “Squirreling” going on. I almost became one of those people - but hey, I was civil and polite about it.
In other words, I wasn’t like the ravenous wild animals I described earlier. Maybe you could say I was like a hungry, domesticated pet instead:)
So, do you ever shop at Costco? How do you approach your shopping experience there, or at other warehouse stores for that matter? Please feel free to share stories and even advice.