I came. I saw. I Costco-ed.
This famed membership warehouse club has descended upon Manhattan at East 116th Street and the FDR Drive. Dedicated to bringing its members the best possible prices on quality brand-name merchandise, Costco sells everyday items in bulk.
I’d never been to a Costco, so before I went, I checked out the website, where the chain offers everything from cradle to grave. Literally, you can buy your baby’s crib and your grandpa’s casket—yes, you read casket—and everything in between.
I was grateful not to find this breadth of products at the store (I wasn’t in a coffin mood), but they do carry a lot. In fact, this place takes one-stop shopping to a rather bizarre extreme. Steps away from the glass case housing the $50,000 diamond ring was the glass case displaying the fresh fish fillets; around the bend from the Burberry handbags, I found the 200-pack of plastic tall kitchen bags; and no sooner did I say, “Wow, look at those flat panel TVs,” was I face-to-face with a 32-package of toilet paper.
Since so many of the offerings are giant-size, it’s easy to feel like a Lilliputian in Gulliver’s pantry. Even the shopping carts are huge—at least three times the size of the ones at the supermarket. The place may be spacious and the aisles extra wide, but maneuvering the carts has a bumper car quality to it. The words “excuse me” and “sorry” were heard quite frequently. I must say, the people who work there are also very polite and helpful.
And just so you know, you aren’t even allowed inside the airplane hangar, I mean store, without a Costco Card. So if you want in, you need to buy a year’s membership that costs $50 (you get a $10 gift card for signing up.)
Now, let’s talk about what’s really important: Do you save? Yes. I think it’s fair to say you get twice as much as what you’d get in a supermarket at half the price.
That having been said, though, Costco isn’t for everyone. When I was single and lived in a Tudor City studio that my husband, then boyfriend, used to refer to as “Tudor Closet,” I would never have had room for anything in the space-hogging economy size. Also, when I lived alone, chances are the oversized portions of the food products would have ended up going to waste. Now though, with a family and room for many a 30-pack, it seems like a sensible place to shop. There’s even a fleet of cabs readily available to help schlep it all home.
Still, I have mixed feelings about Costco.
I see it as a microcosm of New York City—it has everything, but in the case of the store, I really don’t know if that is a good thing. While it does employ what appears to be a Ben Hur-like cast of thousands, it might put out of business many smaller businesses. Also, the beauty of living in this city is the array of stores and neighborhoods in which all the different goods and services are offered. This gets people out and about, exploring the town.
After I got home and stored my mutant groceries, I went somewhere else that counts me as a member: The Guggenheim, for the Kandinsky exhibit. The artist in bulk, if you will. I left with some items procured with the member discount—just like at Costco—except no one pointed at me, as they did when I was carrying 169 ounces of olive oil.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl’s debut novel, Fat Chick, by The Vineyard Press, is coming soon.
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