Saturday, September 02, 2006

I am SO over Costco

Costco, I've grown weary of this love-hate relationship I have with you. I've come to realize that your appearances are deceiving, and I think it's time we go our separate ways.

Your outsized personality amused me at first. It made me think about lively parties, my house full of friends, occasions at which I might serve heaps of bite-sized crabcakes, sheets of moist carrot cake, and table-crowding platters of cocktail shrimp.

I nodded in recognition when I read news articles about how Costco has become the yuppie Wal-Mart. Yes, I prefer Starbucks coffee to Maxwell House. Why pay department-store prices for designer jeans? I thought you were the store for me.

The food samples at every turn, served forth by cheery ladies in white hair nets, were enough to make a meal. I tried things I'd never considered purchasing: chicken taquitos, "energy drink," canned turkey chili, garlic parmesan dip.

There was always something new to discover, something that made me laugh. I never knew what I'd find -- a jungle gym erected atop a mountain of pallets, a digital grand piano, a moonbounce, a tank full of live lobster, or an entire suite of office furniture.

But after a while, this very unpredictability began to bother me. That fresh-scented body wash I wanted would disappear, sometimes for a few months, sometimes indefinitely. I couldn't be certain that the 12-box pack of white-cheddar macaroni and cheese would always be there for me.

Where once I happily carted home 24 rolls of paper towels, pleased that I wouldn't have to add them to my shopping list for months, I began to feel a bit disappointed that I couldn't get the select-a-size brand, which was really more suited to my needs.

Each encounter left me more confused, with more unanswered questions. Is a 48-ounce bag of dried cranberries a bargain at $6.85, compared with the 6-ounce bag I usually buy? If I want three pounds of barbecued pulled pork for a potluck dinner, should I settle for the six-pound package and hope the remainder won't end up discarded, an icy brick at the back of my freezer?

After a summer apart, my perspective has changed. The bounty spilling into those wide aisles looks less like a wealth of possibilities and more like super-sized excess.

Unless you're stocking a soup kitchen or feeding a family of twelve, who needs a can of tuna fish the size of your head? That generous bag of chopped, ready-to-cook broccoli didn't really help me include more vegetables with my meals, not when I ended up throwing out half of it because it spoiled before I could use it all.

My last visit left me feeling exhausted and somehow let down. The scrum around the serving ladies' microwave ovens seemed ridiculous, grown people grabbing for pinkie-sized bagel dogs and morsels of bourbon chicken. An apple pie the size of an automobile tire was vaguely disgusting. I considered and rejected a fruit platter, a bag of coffee beans, a moisturizer. None of it was quite what I wanted.

Costco, it's not you -- it's me. I'm too set in my ways, too inflexible to adapt to what you have to offer. A case of 27 juice boxes, 100% organic, no added sugar -- what's not to love? Yet all I can see is the pile of unrecyclable trash I'd leave behind. You offer a low price on gallon jugs of apple juice, but I'm thinking about the calcium-enriched brand in my local grocery store.

The truth is, we have different values. I don't want a bargain-priced crate of glossy Gala apples; I want to try all the different varieties at the farmers' market, where I can be pretty sure that they've just come off the tree. A freezer stocked with ground beef and strip steaks doesn't appeal to me. I put together menus on the fly, based on what looks fresh, what I want to eat today. I just can't commit to bulk purchases.

With so many admirers standing in line, you'll never miss me.


Petrina said...

Costco may not miss you, but I will miss our trips together. Trying to reconnect in the mammoth store, jockeying for position in the invariably long lines, trying to figure out together who really uses those 10-gallon mayonaise jars...oh those sweet memories.

Petrina said...
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