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Costco, I May Love You

A few years ago, a neighbor at a New Year's Eve gathering, was waxing enthusiastic about the wonders of shopping at Costco. Proudly, she displayed a large container of chicken soup she'd brought for the potluck feast for all of us. Another neighbor, tasting the soup, now in a large bowl with the container nearby, remarked how wonderful it was and asked if she made it. "Oh, yes," she responded in her usual plucky fashion, "I always put a barcode on everything I cook." Loud laughter followed.

But recently, a friend asked if I wanted to accompany her on a trip to a Costco market nearby and, since I wasn't a member, I agreed. Not ever having driven with her as the driver, I must admit I had a bit of trepidation. A man, who parks his car next to her in their condo's garage, told me she is a terrible driver as well as a terrible parker. The stage was somewhat set, but I forged ahead.

Ride, unremarkable. Driving, fine. Parking also fine. Entrance into Costco was like a kid going into a huge playground for the first time; it was overwhelming. OMG, how much merchandise, but where's the store directory, the map which tells you where everything is? No directory. It's a trip of discovery and that can be wearisome. "Ask someone in a red vest," a kindly shopper suggested and so I looked for one. None in sight.

I felt like I was in a blend of Ikea, Home Depot and a warehouse. Stock went up to the ceiling, but there was also the enticing scent of cooked foods and the charming sight of people sitting down and eating as others zoomed by with oversized shopping carts. Did I say oversized? These carts could fit a small adult in them. Yes, I know the merchandising angle here.

Luckily, my savvy friend had suggested we meet in one hour in a set location and I set my cell for an hour and off I went. Did I find the four things on my list? Yes and I picked up an impulse item; organic pretzel chips, giving sodium no thought at all.

Went to the membership area, got my photo taken in front of a green screen and I was in as a qualified shopper. While waiting for my friend, I found that shoppers were eager to engage in any kind of discussion with me without a signal from me.

A man with a 65" TV stood waiting for his wife. Wasn't it heavy, I asked. "No, it's not heavy," he said, "and for $650, how can I go wrong? If it doesn't fit in the car, I'll take all the wrapping off it. Look at what you get for that money." Here he pointed out its many features, even though it wasn't a brand name. He was extremely pleased.

A woman eagerly opened her purse to show me all the money she'd saved by shopping here and even had a $350 rebate check for all her shopping. She was going to cash it right in the store. The conversation continued but I remember little of it other than that she used to have a "business" membership card. This little detail allowed her to segue into remarking on the huge palate-like carts where people were buying paper towels and assorted disposable eating ware. "They own restaurants," she said in a conspiratorial tone.

Suddenly, my friend popped up on line and we made our way to the parking lot as I made mental notes about my next trip. Yes, there will be a next trip, but I'm making my own store directory with each trip via my trusty cell's video and photo feature.

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