Tuesday, 26 January 2016

ms-havachat rediscovers shopping at Costco

Have you ever been to Costco?

What did you think?

For expats, Costco, like Ikea is exactly the same the world over, and because of that, memories of past homes and friendships flood back just by seeing the signage. On my drive with MrsC yesterday I bored her with stories of mornings that started at Starbucks, where one mention of "anyone need anything at Costco' resulted in a convoy of cars filled with friends going shopping for the day.

This American retail giant is now a global juggernaut with 674 warehouses (they don't even call them shops) in several countries.

I first experienced Costco when I was in Atlanta many many years ago, staying with friends.

I remember the hugeness of the hanger space this 'supermarket' was housed in; the volume of product; rather than shelves, items were on pallets that were easily moved when emptied and replaced by full ones in a matter of seconds; the range of products from diamond rings to soap; the enormous size things came in.

Why did my girlfriend and her husband need to buy 50 packs of toilet paper at once? Pounds of meat or chicken? Why do you buy a watch or diamond ring from a supermarket and not a jeweller? It was so new and fascinating I still remember it all these years later.

It was too much!

Move forward a few decades and Costco Japan was a saviour for all the US expats (bless Kirkland brand) and westerners alike who preferred certain foods over what was available in the local supermarkets, or because of larger families needed to buy larger sizes than traditional Japanese offerings.

My buddy-family-mum took me to Costco a few weeks after we arrived. The visit was hilarious and it's one shopping experience I will remember f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

We needed a multitude of electrical products (sold everything in Ireland), as well as starting over with fridge/freeze/pantry/laundry products.

I filled two trolleys (see my photo below of the trolley bay and you'll realise just what two Costco trolley worth shopping means) and as it was going thru the checkout out I realised it wasn't fair to try to stuff it all into my new friends car, so separated what could be home delivered and what I needed to take with us (frozen/fridge items)

Well, my new friend forgot to tell me they only took cash ..... I had very little on me and was planning to pay by card which is why I went bonkers p'n'down the isles.

When the total was rung up, I handed my credit card to the cashier who shook her head NO.

It took a few minutes of charades before I understood they didn't take cards, only cash.

I had very little can on me.

Once I made myself understood, the cashier was very understanding and started to put back the more expensive electrical items to reduce the bill to meet my cash; I however, wanted to keep these items and put back the food. We were living in Chinatown so food was not a priority.

She would remove/debit the electrical appliances, and I would put them back and swapped them with food. Eventually someone who spoke English came over to help translate what was happening and why. The cashier laughed with me and allowed me to remove most of the food, pay by cash and we went home .... and ate out for a few more nights til I went again with another friend, this time with cash in hand.

I continued to shop at Costco while living in Japan, and having it home delivered simply because we didn't have a car and it was actually easier to buy things in bulk and leave only fresh food items for the daily/weekly local shop. I honestly haven't missed it at all since leaving.

But I digress .................. and went yesterday with MrsC.

Now, this is NOT an advertisement for Costco, merely a chat about a shopping experience in a few countries and how it is very de javu in experience.

While you can definitely shop in the UK very easily, and supermarkets are competitive, shopping in bulk does save you money and time, and heck, who am I kidding? Costco is just pure retail fun!

Like Ikea, it's amazing what you think you need when you see it.

Here's a pictorial visit to Costco UK - see if you can spot any differences to Costco where you are. I could not find one difference (layout was a bit different, but all-in-all, not much)

MASSIVE shopping carts and
LOTS of them. This was but one area of
carts waiting to be pushed around the store. 

On entering the warehouse I smiled and remembered.
Everything is HUGE! The isles are wider than wide; the products
are stacked high, and there's so much of everything!

Ribbons! I really wanted to buy some, but
I don't need any so I didn't but
WOW, just look at the colours and how pretty they are.

Top Left: One section of Cheese.
Top Right: One section of frozen food.
Bottom Left: Preparing fresh salads and sushi
Bottom Right: Supersize pizza's

Gotta love the stationery isle. I remembered fondly the
packs of coloured paper, and sticker sets and pen sets
I bought for MissM to do craft in Japan.

Not a fan of the lunch menu, but many are as the tables were full
of lunch time noshers.

The famous pallet loads of
paper towel and loo paper.
Small retailers would buy these and decanter them
and sell the packs of 4 individually. 

Yes, we have a slab worth of loo paper and a slab worth of paper towel in the garage; 6 rolls of Scotch tape; totally filled the freezer with food (decantered each slab of meat/chicken into 'meal size' freezer bags - a very good suggestion from MrsP in Japan) amongst other enormous quantities of stuff.

I came home with a whiteboard set for our home office and left behind a plastic floor mat for the chairs to glide on; also decided we didn't need new fry pans, or a tiny pan for the perfect fried egg (at least til next shop)

I thought shopping at Costco was fun cos it was a novelty in Japan but I was mistaken.

It's just pure fun because it's so over the top, expansive, enormous and completely unnecessary on so many levels.

Are you a member of Costco?
What's the craziest thing you've bought there?
Do you buy the loo paper and paper towel?
Any tricks to share?

With friendship


  1. *LOVE* costco.... my sis and her hubby, no kids, shop there all the time - well, actually occasionally as they buy in bulk! We used to split the shop when I lived in the US, but now that I'm in the UK, it's unclear if I can be a family member - it seems that any payment has to be made on her account. So I'm guessing NO. I've bought everything from coats, socks, and daily clothing to spectacles to TP to bisquick (giant size). And let's not forget wine, fresh meat, seafood and more. If you are having a party it is SO much better than a local high street chain platter. So, Ms Havachat, let me know next time you are going and I'm all over that!

    1. Sorry for the late reply @margarita. I've only just seen this (how odd).

      YES! DINKS shopping at Costco is odd unless you have oodles of storage space. Even for us as a family of 3, it's not always convenient for a lot of the fresh food, but pantry items, laundry etc it's great if you've the space to store things.