Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Perverse Need to Belong

Let's talk about Costco, shall we? Against my better judgment and after having resisted the overtures of Costco salespeople trying to sign up my company for a corporate account for years, I finally succumbed to the ministrations of a Costco representative and signed up. I can only say that it must have been the donuts that she brought. I become weak and malleable when presented with sugary baked goods. Had she brought me coffee as well, I might have made an offer to buy the entire Costco chain. Of course, I would have looked the fool while trying to pay for all the tendered shares out of my son's piggy bank, but I have looked the fool before. I'm an expert. I'm used to it.

Now that my company is a full-fledged member of Costco, my having paid for the privilege and honour and having posed for a mug shot and signed my life away on some sort of secret oath, I regret it.


Well, let's see: Who in his right mind would pay, via a membership fee, for the privilege of shopping at one particular store, when other competing stores, with more selection and more convenient locations, are free. The free stores have foodstuffs in convenient size. At Costco, many of the things that I might actually buy come in quantities so large that I would have to bring a company fork-lift and a cube van transport them. And that's just for the cereal! And the selection isn't all that great at Costco either.

Security staff guards the entrance to the store, checking Costco credentials. Don't have a Costco card? Go to the customer service desk, pay your membership fee and sign up. Otherwise, get out. Security staff is also at the exit, checking that you actually paid for what is in your cart.

Is it normal to willingly flash identification to gain entry to a store? To root through lots of stuff you would otherwise never purchase, just to get that one bargain that you can't live without? Some people must think so, because in the four times I have been at Costco the place has always been busy. Very busy.

I don't get it. I won't be renewing my membership. I have no need to 'belong.' Just sell me good stuff at a fair price and I'll come to your store. Don't make me pay for the dubious privilege of shopping there. There is no special cachet that comes with Costco membership, something special that makes me a better or more responsible person.

I don't care how many donuts the salesperson brings next time, I'm standing firm. No membership!

Why doesn't Costco (and Sam's Club, for that matter) simply charge a few pennies more for the goods they sell and do away with the membership cards and fees? They could then fire all of the annoying people who stand at the doors checking credentials. That would save five salaries (based on the store I went to today) times however many shifts there are at that store. They could then hire me or anyone else who has ever shopped anywhere, to redesign the checkout area, so that customers could pack their own goods instead of having an extra packer at every register to perform the function. And where, by the way, is the wisdom of spending all this extra money on personnel and not offering bags to the customers to put their purchases in? Maybe they have bags for sale under the counter or somewhere. I don't know. I don't care. I doubt that I will be inside a Costco store again.

Oh. One more thing. We did buy something at Costco today. It was wireless telephone set, made by a well-known company and offered at a good price. We weren't going to buy it at first. But then my wife pointed out to me that our other alternative was to get a similar set at Canadian Tire. We looked at each other in mock horror and I picked up the set and put it in our cart. Canadian Tire is even worse than Costco, if for somewhat different reasons.

On the way out, we ran the security gauntlet again. My hand still hurts from pulling out my wallet with the membership card so many times. My dignity is hurt too. Poor me.

Costco doesn't care about me. It cares about those people who need to belong, to feel like they are a part of something special. Look at me, I'm cool, I have Costco card.



  1. First of all, MANY Many thanks for not following the herd and using HaloTard...I mean TardOScan...I mean HaloScan for comments.
    Second, thanks for the heads-up on Canadian Tire. I doubt seriously I would ever shop there unless they open a store in Fort Wayne, IN but the behavior you described is somewhat similar to that I experienced at Dimension Ford (I call them "Dimensia" Ford), where the typical, union-labor mentality of behaving as though it is some sort of privilege for you to be able to go there and pay over-prices is on display.
    BTW: Isn't "belonging" like being owned? Just a thought.

  2. You sure called the shot on Costco. On my return from there recently I heard a reporter announce,"Well they done it now. In a decision to cover all the bases, Costco has decided to offer its members the chance to purchase low cost coffins." I was imagining seeing a darkened area in their warehouse store with shrink wrapped caskets, three in a package. That takes care of you and the missus, and I suppose the third one goes to your lawyer when settling your will.

  3. Shrink wrapped caskets at Costco? That's funny. Do they come in a ten-pack?

    Imagine if they had one of those 1-800 commercials, with the loud, annoying announcer talking at about 1000 words per minute, selling caskets. I can hear the TV commercial now. "Get your Krazy Kasket now, for only $999.99. And, if you act now, you can get a second casket for half-price. That's right. Half price. And, if you act within the next 23 hours, 23 minutes, and 15 seconds, you will get a FREE URN!! AMAZING!!"

  4. You guys kill me. Ooops, I don't mean that literally, of course. Whether they come from Costco or elsewhere, I have no desire to visit the interior of a coffin, not for a long, long, time!!

  5. Cosco, I LOVE Cosco

    But I use to hate it. My sister has had a membership with Cosco since it's arrival to London. I had gone with her a few times and was just as angry as you. Why a membership, why should anyone pay to belong to a retail store. I thought it was crazy and swore I would never join. Although I did enjoy the store and always bought something. I found items I would not have never seen in other stores, and items much cheaper than in Zellers or Wal-Mart. I use to think my sister was crazy, why buy 5 of the same thing all at once. She would spend much more than I would have ever spent on a weeks groceries. But shops less than I do, or did.
    Well, this is my third year as a member.
    I joined because, well quite frankly you can save money. The membership is small compared to the money I have saved. Would it be nice if all stores would offer lower prices, instead of a membership fee. Maybe or maybe not. I only go to Cosco when I am sure I need something and have at least $200 to spend. I can't seem to go in without finding something I would like, and at Cosco they have trained us consumers to get it while they have it. When it sells out, it's gone. (gift items that is, not food items)
    The other thing that lured me to Cosco is the sense of feeling special. When I arrive I like showing a membership card, it means I have paid for something (saving money) I don't get a discount when I pay my hydro bill and in the bottom corner I see how much I have paid to the retirement fund of it's employee's. They dont even send me a xmas card. But Cosco does. I like the idea of walking around and tasting the food I may purchase. I never get samples at A&P. They do provide bags for items I purchase, but charge me much more than I would pay at Cosco. HMMM bags or cheaper prices, I choose cheaper prices.
    I also love the security guard on duty as I arrive and I leave. Shopping at Cosco with your children is a treat, they can have lunch on Cosco, play games on Cosco, even watch TV
    What I love the most about Cosco is that when my youngest child (a boy) chooses to run off and stand on the automatic door opener. A security guard stops him and I am requested to the customer service desk to get him. To this day there is not another store that has done that for me.
    If my daughter thinks she can sneek back to get another sample of pizza, the pizza lady tells her she has to be acompanied by her parent. Cosco has trained my children that they must stay with me to enjoy the samples and free play time at Cosco.
    So it's confirmed, I must be out of my mind because


    By the way, the nice packaged items we are giving out for Christmas to our customers, were purchased at Cosco.
    I saved you saved alot of money $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    So would you mind if I continue'd with a company Cosco Card ?

    I just thought, Hey isn't Cosco like most service industries.
    You pay for what you get.
    You pay for better service, you pay less for less service.

    With a Cosoc's membership you pay for the opportunity to save money and find unique item's.
    That's why I joined.
    It's definitley a personal choice.
    And I choose Cosco, but have never been to Sam's
    Hey Seig should I give them a call and invite them for coffee and donuts.

    Have a good trip

  6. Well, I guess they aren't completely bad. I just like to keep things simple.