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October 29, 2006

Costco Shopping

My favorite essay in Before the Mortage is "Costco-Obsessive Disorder" by Carson Brown, who made me laugh out loud with her description of her mother's addiction to shopping at Costco. As far as large corporations go, Costco is a pretty good one. It is a socially responsible company that engages in fair labor practices. In fact, Costco's CEO has even been criticized (by shareholders) for caring more about employees than shareholders.

Furthermore, Costco does offer good prices -- if you are shopping for an army! Otherwise, shopping there falls into the category of "spaving" -- spending money in order to save money. At Costco, the unit price is much less than at the grocery store, but you have to buy much more of whatever it is than you actually need in order to get that savings. For example, if you buy a pound of salad at 3/4 the price of a pound of salad somewhere else, but you can only eat about half the salad before it wilts, you really haven't saved anything. Studies have also shown that if people buy food in larger quantities, they will eat the food in larger quantities because they don't want to feel as though it is going to waste. With Costco-Obsessive Disorder spreading rampantly, it is no wonder we have an obesity epidemic!

Of course, there are plenty of things that one can safely buy in large quantity, such as toothpaste, toilet paper, and paper towels. When Costco opened a store about twenty miles from us, David and I thought about joining for just this reason. But we quickly scotched the idea when we found out that they don't carry our favorite brands of toilet paper and paper towels (Kimberly Clark should really be paying me for this advertising).

Despite our distaste for spaving, however, David and I did spend one memorable afternoon at Costco with my friend Sara. Sara is a notorious spaver. I have seen her buy clothes several sizes too big because they were on sale but sold out of her size. Sara lives in West Lafayette, IN, and happened to visit us on about the worst summer day of 2005. Not only had the temperature topped one hundred degrees, but it was also thunderstorming. A proud Costco member, Sara suggested that we hang out there, where at least it would be air conditioned. Because David and I didn't have any better ideas, we agreed. And we had a marvellous time. The store is full of free samples. We all managed to eat lunch there without spaving a cent! I did, however, succumb to the spaving impulse by buying a case of Pepto-Bismol to take with me to Africa. I had heard from so many people how sick I would get there, and I wanted to be prepared. Eighteen months later, I think I still have about four packs left...

Posted by eklanche at October 29, 2006 11:38 AM


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