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Navigating Costco

I love Costco. I love that you can buy dog treats, towels, a hand mixer, and get your prescription filled while you visit the optometrist and load up on 3-gallon jars of mustard to go with your 65 pounds of lunch meat. Plus, you can snack your way through the store while you’re waiting for your tires to be installed.

But all of the things that make Costco amazing make it suck, too. For whatever reason, when people are in Costco they forget their manners, kindness disappears, and basic rules of the road just fall to shit.

I usually brave Costco on a Saturday or Sunday, which seems dumb because the place is teeming with people. But on weekends I have my husband with me, so we can protect each other and divide and conquer when necessary.

Yesterday I needed to go at lunch because I had to pick up a few things for my office. I didn’t think it would be too bad on a weekday at lunchtime, but it’s actually worse than Saturdays. Old women walk side by side three deep down the main aisle, so Fuck You to anyone else who wants to get anywhere. They stare you down and dare you to cut them off, divide them or otherwise interfere with their leisurely progress. And shame on you if dart out in front of them, hoping to cut across to the other side. It’s like a game of Geriatric Frogger.

Then there are the Stroller Mamas. Because the Old Lady Brigade won’t let me through, I’m stuck in no-man’s land, trying to navigate the cart out of one row and into another. I’m straddling the row I’m leaving and the main aisle I’m trying to cross and the Stroller Mama has clearly had enough of my slow progress, so she lets me know I’m not moving fast enough by repeatedly banging into the back of my ankles with her stroller. Her little monster sweet baby kicks me for good measure (just in case I didn’t get the point).

Side note: In the hierarchy of Costco Shoppers, the Old Lady Brigade yields only to Stroller Mamas.

Assuming I safely cross the aisle (or at least arrived with minimal damage), I encounter the Row Hogger. This is the mindless twit whose cart is skewed across the entire row, all willy nilly. The Row Hogger is about 20 feet from her cart, halfway up the row deciding between the 2-gallon can of olive oil or the 5-gallon jug. If you can’t maneuver around the cart and actually try to push it out of the way, the Row Hogger will scream obscenities at you for touching her stuff. Depending on my mood, I will wait patiently or shove her cart with mine. And my mood depends on how many other Row Hoggers, Stroller Mamas and Old Lady Brigades I’ve already encountered.

Along the way you’ll probably encounter the Grabber. This is the person who grabs whatever you’re looking at right out of your hand. This usually happens in the clothing section. She waits for you to dig out the size you’re looking for and grabs it right out of your hand. The Grabber feigns that she was coincidentally reaching for the same item but instead of being gracious, she grabs the item, shoves it in her cart and takes off.

I’ve always understood that in supermarkets, and by extension, stores like Costco, you follow the basic rules of the road. You knowโ€”drive on the right, stay to your side, don’t make any sudden U-turns, signal your intent and don’t cut people off. I’ve realized that I’m the only one who believes this. Apparently, the aisles of Costco are like Bumper Cars. People “drive” up the center, zigzag across the store, stop abruptly, make right turns from the left, push against the flow of traffic.

Assuming you get out of the store safely, you have to contend with the parking lot, which is quite possibly more frightening than trying to crawl down Talledega Raceway in the middle of a NASCAR event. People will kill each other over parking spaces. When you push your cart out into the sunlight, you don’t dare rejoice in escaping Costco because if you let your guard down, the Space Stalker will run you over. This is the guy who follows you through the parking lot, repeatedly asking how much farther to your car. And if there’s already a car staking out your space when he gets there, he’ll pull up behind your car to let the other driver know to move on because he’s already claimed you. But because the other guy has been waiting he’s stubborn and won’t move. So they have a face-off behind your car. You can’t get out and no one can move. And if you have lots to unload, the Space Stalker will let you know you need to pick up the pace with a not-so-gentle toot of his horn. This is when I suddenly develop a disability that prevents me from lifting more than one item from my cart at a time. This is also when I become very concerened about where to put my cart when I’m done. Just for spite, I will walk it all the way back to the front door.

I don’t get it. Maybe people walk in with the best of intentions, but lawn furniture, pianos, new books and the abundance of mayonnaise must derail that. We become crazy with the thought of buying 652 rolls of toilet paper that we have nowhere to store.

Whatever it is, I will never go to Costco alone again.

Trust me, I'll use it.

Trust me, I'll use it.

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13 Responses

  1. When I get old and grey, I’m going to shop there every day.

    All day.

  2. You are not the only one who feels this way. I’ve gotten to the point of being unable to shop anywhere because I’m forever fighting the urge to scream things like, “Stay on your side of the aisle! This isn’t Britain!” or “Don’t enter through the exit and then get pissed that I’m, yanno, EXITING THROUGH THE EXIT!” or “I hate all of you people. ALL. OF. YOU. Unless you read my blog, then you get a pass, but why are you being a douche? Only awesome people read my blog.so now my brain is about to explode. Thanks, possible-reader-who-is-acting-like-a-douche.”

    Y’know, stuff like that.

  3. I concur. Only awesome people read Steph’s blog. Also, considering the breakdown of societal law that occurs within Costco’s walls, it’s acceptable to kick babies, especially if they kick you first. It’s in the membership orientation kit.

  4. Now I’m skeered to try out our Costco, it’s on the rich side of town… hmm wonder if that improves the attitudes any… NOT. Actually the Walmart I go to is the exact same way and yes.. I don’t shop alone, I bribe my husband Vic with toys if he goes with me ๐Ÿ˜‰

    OMG, I loved this post!!!

  5. Costco and places like it are the modern day Lord of the Flies islands. Those who value their sanity and civility should not go there. Those with nothing to lose, do. Rational human beings who are interested in preserving that which is best of our humanity should make a point of never shopping in big box stores for they are inhuman; they cater to and/or turn us into greedy consumer-machines; they are a blight on our urban infrastructure; they maim and destroy not only wildlife, but also small business — the heart and soul of the country. Where do their deeply discounted goods come from? How many third world people are exploited so we can save 35 cents on shoes? Who’s cashing in? But, neh… that’s just my opinion.

  6. Mo…I am dying reading this. You need to write a book about the Costco Etiquette…it could turn into the new sex and the city for the Costco set. Thanks for the laugh.

  7. Geriatric frogger! Hilarious!

    I don’t think we have a Costco around here. Just super Wal-Marts and those are indeed scary!

  8. You absolutely nailed it! I never go alone either. The Lion and I have a fairly good system. I stand off to the side protecting the cart, while he swoops through an area, and loads up what he can in his arms. Then we move to the next section and repeat.

    My biggest peeve is the free food offerings. Dear god, do people not eat at home first? Or is it just because it’s free they all have to try it. Why oh why do they put the free food carts at the end of aisles so that you have to plow through all those sharks in the throes of a feeding frenzy? Seriously, nobody actually buys the food being hawked, so why eat insist on stopping to eat that 1 cm square of processed fake food?

  9. I have never even set FOOT inside a Costco. And now, I apparently never will!

  10. I adore Costco. But going on a weekend, makes me hate humanity. Worst one ever is in South San Francisco. I have bruises from being in there on Sunday. The sea of asshats pretty much cured me from every stepping foot in that one again.

  11. I HATE Costco, more so than Wal-Mart which also has it’s fair share of old granny’s and screaming kiddies…if you’re husband doesn’t have your back I’ll come along with a wiffle bat.

  12. What I truly can’t stand about Costco is the people who don’t park, but stop in the middle of everything to let people out and then wait as long as possible before horns start tooting and then the idiot drives around the parking lot once just to go back to the same spot until he gets honked at again. I’ve played betting games on this guy. John owes me a frozen ice cream treat AND a hot dog combo, I’ve won so many times.
    Great post! You’re linked!

  13. We don’t have a Costco here — but maybe that’s okay!

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