Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Love, In Bulk

My friends call my husband "Perfect Husband" and he pretty much is. Why he loves me so much I will never understand. He is patient, kind and soft spoken. He is nice to the cat, works hard and gets me nice perfume for Valentine's Day. He is, generally, perfect. He does, however, have one flaw that many of my friends don't know about.

My husband is obsessed with Costco.

His Costco obsession has caused much consternation in our relationship, especially when we first got married. If you don't live with someone before marriage and then you find yourself suddenly living with and married to someone, that first year can be a little jarring and that year we had some knock down, drag outs over Costco. Since then, I've learned to choose my battles a little better and I know that I will not win against the mighty purveyor of Kirkland, so I surrendered. It just wasn't worth it. Plus, Costco has good cheese and yes, the meat is cheaper.

When Husband and I first met, he lived in San Francisco and didn't have a car. Still, he'd take a taxi to Costco every couple of months. I wasn't around him and didn't think much of it. I was in love so I overlooked the fact that he used the front entry of his studio apartment for storing items purchased in bulk. My love wasn't so blind when he moved here and started using OUR front entry as a storage area for items bought in bulk. I began to find paper towels, 27 rolls of them, under the bed. There were boxes of cereal and granola bars on the book shelves with the books. We even had a ten pound bag of candied almonds shoved under the couch because it wouldn't fit in the pantry. The pantry had long since been filled with fifteen pound bags of rice and restaurant sized spice containers. This was profoundly upsetting to me.

At first he wanted me to go to Costco with him, and I tried but something about those high ceilings, the echoing warehouse acoustics, the swarms of discount shoppers and the row upon three story high row of gigantic products, sent me into a full blown panic attack. This seemed to hurt Husband to his very core. Maybe he had made a mistake in choosing his soul mate. How could he have married a woman who has a serious meltdown before he's even done showing his membership card at the front door?

I began to wonder why this seemingly perfect man I'd married was so fixated on buying huge amounts of nougat, white bar towels, frozen broccoli florets and six heads of romaine lettuce at one time. Why did he need a 30 pack of hot pockets? Where did he think we were going to store this stuff in a 950 square foot apartment? He built shelves in the spare room, but still, there just wasn't enough room. I wondered why he thought we needed so much stuff. He said the deals were better there, that the quality of Costco's products were superior and that he didn't like to run out of things. My counter argument was that yes, there were some good products and yes you could get a decent deal, but how much of a deal are you getting when you end up wasting a lot of good food because two people, one of whom is extremely neurotic about her eating habits, simply can not consume the amounts Costco sells before the food spoils or expires?

But Costco is a good company, Husband argued. They treat their employees well in a way that sets an important precedent for other companies. We need to support that.

No, I'd argue back. Costco causes waste: overspending and overeating. I don't want to support that. Huge companies like Costco that fly in produce and other food items and products from overseas hurt local economies and are bad for the environment.

We went round and round. A few times I caught him hiding his Costco goods in the trunk of the car. Other times he caught me secretly enjoying things he'd bought at Costco and called me out. We were stuck in a vicious cycle, fighting over a bulk warehouse.

Finally one day at the very same time, Husband and I each had an epiphany. We were extremely lucky to be fighting about Costco. It meant that we had nothing real or serious to fight about. We didn't have to worry about finances, infidelity, lies, addiction or any of the big, scary things that a lot of other couples deal with. Essentially we were really fighting about having too much stuff, which is a much better situation to be in than fighting over not having enough stuff. Our life was so full of abundance. There was no reason to fight. Husband stopped going to Costco so much and I started to enjoy the things he bought there. We achieved a balance where we buy certain things there that we know won't go to waste and slowly we fell into a rhythm. Husband does the Costco shopping and I go to the regular grocery store and the farmer's markets. We don't fight about Costco anymore. Still, I think it's really weird that when we travel, along with other sightseeing, Husband likes to check out the Costcos in other cities. I also find it amusing that earlier this year when we were thinking of moving, that we had to research only cities within a fifteen mile radius of a Costco. I wasn't really embarrassed when my cousin wanted to get my husband a Costco tee shirt for Christmas, because by now everyone has just accepted his quirk and we love him dearly for it.

This past weekend something big happened. I returned to Costco with my husband. I went because I thought it might be nice to see what they had. I hadn't been in a few years after all. I like this aged Irish cheddar they have and I wanted a salmon to cook for my grandparents. I thought it might be fun. Miraculously, I didn't have a panic attack this time, not even when I saw the checkout line stretching back to the gallon sized containers of spinach dip and a creepily pink lobster spread. I felt very zen and at peace with the world. I could do this Costco thing and I could do it even more because it meant a lot to the person I love most.

Then I talked to someone in line. I'm genetically programmed to do this. For several generations people in my family have been unable to refrain from talking to complete strangers in checkout lines. Naturally, I had to look in this woman's cart to see what she was getting. The cart was filled with party trays of ham and cheese pinwheels, chicken tenders, cold cuts, huge cookie trays, croissant sandwiches and shrimp cocktail. It looked like she was getting ready for a major celebration.

"Oh, you're having a party!" I said.

"No," said the woman, panting as she heaved the chicken tender tray onto the conveyor belt.

"No?"

"I get these party platters to feed my kid all week," the woman said, wiping sweat off her forehead, "Works great. I never have to cook."

"Ohhh. That's...great."

"Yeah, I tell everybody to do it. If you got a kid this is the way to go!"

And then, miraculously, I managed to shut up. I'm not even going to say anything now except that I reconfirmed exactly why I hate Costco. But still, I will go for the man I love because I made a commitment. And maybe a little bit for the buffalo flavored tortilla chips.

For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health I promise to love, honor and cherish and buy 30 rolls of toilet paper, seven gallons of hummus and crackers in a box the size of a Mini-Cooper.

29 comments:

Missicat said...

Costco makes me twitch all over. I don't know about yours, but the lines at the one near me are sheer hell. Hint:bring War and Peace to read.

A Margarita said...

I love Costco! I miss Costco. When I go back home to Miami, I always tag along with my dad. They have some great deals on wine. Good wine.

CC said...

My parents and I tried the Costco thing recently. We went down there and asked them to let us walk through the store before buying a membership. You know, so that we could see what they had and whether it was worth it.

We all left feeling kind of gross. Aside from buying toilet paper and detergent in bulk (which is dubiously worth the price of the membership), we didn't see anything else we could buy.

We're kind of picky about our eating habits, too. My mom won't eat anything that's been in the fridge or freezer longer than a couple of days (she won't eat frozen or boxed meals either), which means she makes almost daily trips to the market to buy food. I'm afraid I've acquired that same habit. I like freshness. Everything in Costco came in a box, and in bulk. Why would anyone need 15 pounds of tilapia fish? Or 5 gallons of orange juice?

Needless to say, we didn't buy a membership.

kr said...

I love Costco and do most of my grocery shopping there, the lines here are not bad at all (I live in Washington state, where Costco is from). The frozen veggies taste like they are from the farm (I grew up on a farm and I know what they taste like) yes, granted you do have to be picky about what you buy but I have three boys and believe me it helps the budget. I also have a large freezer and always separate the frozen meat into serving sizes for our family so there is no waste.

That Girl said...

I've never been to a Costco, I'm not even sure there is one near me. I had a roommate who shared a Sam's Club membership with a friend of hers and she used to bring home toilet paper and paper towels in bulk. I always wanted to go with, but they seemed to have a knack for making the trips whenever I wasn't around..

Erica said...

I find costco is very good for certain things, like paper goods, individually wrapped snacks like granola bars, and I can get my favorite bottled diet iced tea there. But seriously, some of the people who shop there just need to stop. No one needs that much mayo. Ever.

Also, for those who are so inclined to eat such things, the cakes from their bakery are really good. I'm neurotic about the quality of purchased cakes too.

MtnMama said...

I love Costco. I bought my tires, sheets, household appliances, etc., there. Great prices. But, I did live with someone who would buy produce there for the two of us, and we'd end up having to throw most of it away. I would try to explain why this was a bad idea, but he didn't listen. He also would buy the gigantic container of Teriaki sauce that ended up living in our fridge for over a year. Gross! So I relate to your discomfort with some of it.
I think it is like so many things - moderation and common sense is key. And yes, their liquor prices are fantastic.

JoeinVegas said...

We started hitting the original Price Club when we lived in San Diego. With three kids at home and a big freezer it did work well. Now with the kids gone we just go once a month or so and get the paper stuff, printer inks and vitamins. The frozen tilapia comes in 8 piece boxes, that still goes well and fits in our smaller kitchen.

kerry said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Costco. I love that I can make one trip and get a years' worth of paper towels and tp. I've found some great dried fruit there, and powdered drink mixes for good prices. They carry the dog beds we buy; for our dog we need a large bed and Costco has them for $20 instead of close to $60.

On the other hand, one of our local Costcos tends to make me homicidal. People crowding the aisles, people you can't get past, the loud echo-y space, and the reciept check at the door drives me a little crazy. It's essentially saying we have to prove we haven't stolen anything before we can leave. For some reason it really annoys me.

Aleta said...

We have Sams, not a Costco, but same difference. Greg was the same way, because Sams was closer. Now he shops at the local grocery store, because I live closer to the grocery store than Sams. But... I don't mind buying toilet paper in bulk... can't stand having to go to the store to get toilet paper, so it's easier to buy that in bulk have not worry with it for a time.

Chiada said...

HAHAHAAH! This is hilarious. Yes, "the Costco". It's like a phenomenon. When Hub-E and I go, we're careful to go at times that won't be crowded. Even then, sometimes it can be so crowded in the mail aisles that we veer off the main "highway" to the "back roads" of Costco to maneuver around all those people. You know the ones: the ones who are strolling along, and then suddenly stop to look at something while you swerve or slam on your brakes to avoid crashing into them. Or the ones who slowly weave from side to side, looking at things and you can't get around them no matter what. And then there's the kids that just walk in front of you and expect you to look out for THEM! Um, excuse me? What ever happened to parents keeping hold of their little kids? Sheesh.

So anyways. Yes, we do go there maybe once a month for certain items that we know we'll use and won't go to waste. It's also nice to check out their garden section for me and the DVD section for Hub-E. Other than that we shop at a health food store and farmer's markets.

Anonymous said...

My spare bedroom keeps magically growing extra packages of toilet paper. Hubby buys a giant pack whenever he is there, even if it is just to pick up a prescription. I'm trying to force him to cut back as I cannot think of a reason, barring an ebola outbreak, that will cause us to need over 300 rolls of toilet paper at once. I have apparently not come to the peaceful realization that you have.

Architect Critic said...

Wow, this post was hilarious. My wife and I go to Costco at least once a month. Their prices for salmon and other seafood are great and it all seems very fresh. We have a chest freezer and an entire small room for bulk items. Last month my wife bought 8 lbs (or so) of chicken, cut it up into 1-cup, 2-cup, and 1-lb. portions and froze them. Then when a recipe calls for chicken, just pull out the pre-portioned package.

I don't know if you have this on the right coast, but here Costco carries a pre-marinated tri-tip roast from Harris Ranch that is to die for.

The other thing Costco is famous for is good deals on electronics. They have a two year warranty on things like flat-screen TVs no matter what the manufacturer's warranty states.

At least in our area, some of the produce is locally sourced - especially when it's in season. But you are right about buying too much. As much as I like asparagus or other veggies, the two of us would never get through five pounds of it. You have to be a bit thoughtful about that.

Fancy Schmancy said...

I have a membership to BJ's which I love because they have a gas station that's always at least 5 cents cheaper. The only thing I buy my growing teenager there is bulk milk, OJ and fruit, occasionally a 2-pack of Axe shower gel, and twice a year one of those pub mix things. I'd rather have him go through a case of clementines or 5 pounds of apples in one weekend than the pub mix!

Nana said...

Toothpaste, toothbrushes, anything Kirkland. Even living alone, I need to go twice a year. Much less crowded if you can get there when it opens.
Favorite overheard comment (from one woman pushing a flatbed to another), "... but only seven of them still live at home"

Eric said...

I am a proud Costco Employee. I originally wrote a huge diatribe on what a great company they are and so forth but I deleted it twice.
A couple of points.
Kerry - yes we check receipts. keeps the shrink down which keeps the prices down. You agree to that in you membership.

Aleta - Sams = Walmart = Evil The only Same Same is the basic business model

Architect Critic - You are correct. Our produce is all locally sourced. Or as much so as your local supermarket.

No we are not perfect. But I defy you to name a more socially concious Multinational corporation.
We pay our Employees fairly and make sure most have enought hours for Benefits.
We will not do business with Suppliers that do not follow local labor laws and definatly not from those that use prison labor.
Our code of ethics are:
Obey the law
Take Care of oUr Members
Take Care of our Employees
Respect our Supplieres
Reward our Shareholders

In that order

Anonymous said...

Well, let me suggest Puerto Vallarta as your next vacation destination because we have an awesome Costco. For one, it's always empty. There are never any lines.

Two: there are food and BOOZE samples every single day.

Three: Did you read that correctly? BOOZE - as in tequila, vodka, Kahlua

Four: The food counter has the usual hot dogs and chicken things but it also has shrimp pizza.

Five: No lines means you can park at the front door, even on a Saturday.

Sixteen Chickens said...

Once a year a great pilgrimage is made to Costco for the one item a woman should never run out of... tampons.

alissa said...

ROTFLMAO!

Lynette said...

We have something similar here in South Africa, Its called Makro, we always go, pack a trolley full of stuff ( mostly paper goods, nappies and other household items), by the time we get to the check out lines, I give up and leave my trolley just there. Every time me and the man swears NEVER again but it happens at least once a year. lol

Jeannie said...

It's funny - I detest the gigantic grocery stores that have grown up here - I hate shopping in general yet I love Costco. I have the executive membership now so really, they are paying me to shop there.

Renee in Seattle said...

I once had the great privilege of listening to Jim Senegal, founder of Costco speak. I will forever be impressed by him and his business policy. Wall Street doesn't like him because they pay their employees too much. He is the lowest paid CEO around. They hold firm to their profit margins (i.e. only add 3% or whatever) which makes their prescriptions a fraction of the cost at another pharmacy. He loves local businesses and is responsible for the success of many entrepreneurs in Seattle and elsewhere (i.e., he liked a cookie, found out who made it, asked them to be a supplier).

As far as overspending, it is marketing GENIOUS. However, the intelligent shopper can, like in any store, shop smart and save a fortune by shopping there.

Alright, I'll step off my soap box now. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

I hear you on Costco - bulk buying, and I am not kidding you,
we have ended up with a cart full of nothing and the price tag always is around 500.00 - I remember one Christmas in particular, and my other half went
Costco crazy - one cart, not even filled, just covering the bottom,
and we were at 900.00 and worse,
I can't think of one thing that we
purchased.
I do agree with perfect husband about one thing - I love, love the fact that the owner of Costco
cares. I know I wouldn't be shlepping into my stores if I were him, (labelled under things I know) how ever, with the Walmartians taking over the planet,
and bulk stores in there, I would
choose Costco over Walmart any
day - and the employees that I've
talked to (I have that habit too)
all seem to like their jobs.
The one thing I do not like is that the year goes fast, and I can't remember what kind of membership we have, Super Gold
something or other, but the few times I've been with a friend,
it's always expired. haha.
Funny or not ? I think you need a lot of space to be a good Costcoite. Okay, now I'm just being ridiculous. You asked. Or did you ? :)

kerry said...

Eric, thank you for the voice from the inside. I had heard Costco is socially responsible, and I'm glad it's true. There are many good things about Costco, definitely. Good products, good prices, good locations- absolutely.

I know checking reciepts help keep down shrink, I just feel dirty stopping at the door. I want to wear a sign that says "I am not a thief".

Amy said...

My husband also loves Costco. I went with him a few times, but the crowding makes me nuts, and the concrete floors kill my joints.

We have a bathtub full of toilet paper and paper towels. All our vitamins are in huge bottles. This summer we're going to put in huge shelving to accommodate the bulk purchases, and we're planning on getting a chest freezer. I figure if he's willing to do the shopping (and the cooking) I'll go with the flow.

He does visit Costcos in other places when he travels. Ours don't carry alcohol so he'll pick up a case of my favorite wine.

jmm said...

I'm there with your husband. I'm not obsessed, but I do make it there every couple of weeks. Its the place to buy nuts, cheese, supplements, coffee, smoked salmon, you know the staples. My Dad is obsessed, they know him by name there.

Modern Philodoxos said...

i like costco. i went for the first time last week. i bought in bulk what i couldn't buy cheaply other places: out of season blueberries, asparagus and feta. it was exciting. i spent $15 for what would have cost me $40 in a regular store. still. i don't like big stores like that either. wal marts upset me the most. my boyfriend is a wal mart shopper. i am a super target shopper. he doesnt understand that i will pay 5 cents more for an item if my mental health is not compromised.

Aynur said...

Love your post!
We used to have a memebership to Costco (and Sam's), but we didn't renew it. It wasn't worth paying the membership when it was only for 2 of us. Now with 2 kiddos, it's still not "worth it" (IMO) ... and we always ended up buying too much that we couldn't use.
I can't believe someone would feed their kids off the party platters ... but I guess that's better than not feeding them at all! :D

Green said...

I went to BJ's when I lived in FL - I think it was in Parkland. I liked buying the big container of animal crackers. Once I bought a big package of paper towels, and then didn't have to buy any more for a year after that.

There is a Costco in SF. You know, just in case ...

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