Monday, February 28, 2011

Hatred? Yeah, I've Got That In Bulk.

The one area in which I vastly differ from writer/producer/blogger/man of many metaphorical hats Mark Evanier involves my feelings about Costco.
Mark Evanier is for it. I'm agin it.
And yes,that is clearly the only way in which we differ. In all other respects we're virtually identical.
Or, you know, not.
Still, he's an interesting guy who's led an interesting life, and has had a variety of interesting jobs, but while I have a great deal of respect for him and what he's achieved, I have to very respectfully disagree with him when it comes to his appreciation for the popular chain of wholesale stores.
"But Jon, what do you have against Costco?"
I'm glad that I imagined that you asked, and will now proceed to list the reasons.

Membership Doesn't Have Its Privileges
You have to pay an annual fee in order to be able to shop at Costco. This annoys me. Why? It just does. It's not like you really get anything in exchange for your membership fee other than simply being allowed to walk into the place and buy stuff. Wow, I'm a member of the elite!

Credits And Debits
Like millions of people the world over I have a debit/credit card for my checking account. It's a tremendously convenient aspect of modern life. At most of the places that I shop I use the "credit" option. After all, my bank is rather ubiquitous, so it's not difficult to find an ATM if I need cash, and the only advantage I can see to using the debit option is if you want to get cash back at the register. Given that at most places you actually get charged a fee for using the debit option, it's credit all the way for me. Except at Costco, which does not accept most major credit cards and requires you to use the debit option for your check card.

Savings? Really?
I don't really see the major savings involved in shopping at Costco, though that may be because I'm just...(looks around and counts) one man. Apart from a few household items and some non-perishable (or at least things that have a long shelf life), there aren't a lot of things that I need in bulk. Bulk amounts of food would languish uneaten in my house. So there aren't a lot of things that I buy large enough quantities of in the course of my life to really make Costco's bulk pricing add up to any significant savings. In fact, with the added costs of membership and debit fees, I might not be saving at all, especially since the unit prices really aren't that much cheaper than I could find at other places. Occasionally I'll see a really good deal on something, but most of the time, meh. And I don't understand the people who claim that major electronics are so much cheaper there than they are elsewhere. That's just a bald-faced lie, and if you say it, your face is bald and you're a liar.

Your Papers Please
I hate to Godwin the place, but every time I go to Costco I find myself imagining some jackbooted officer of the SS asking me for my papers when I have to - inconsistently; the people lurking at the entrance don't always look for it - hold up my membership card as I push the over-sized novelty shopping cart in through the entrance. It's even more annoying when I'm finally getting the hell out and I'm stopped so that my receipt can be examined and marked before I'm allowed to walk out the door. There's a sign on the wall that explains why this is being done. The sign says that it's to ensure that I didn't pay for something that I don't have, that I didn't get overcharged, and to prevent the receipt's "reuse." First question: how the fuck am I going to "reuse" a receipt? I realize that this is a loss-prevention tactic - they don't want me sneaking back in, grabbing another package of cheap socks, then idly strolling out the door without paying while waving my receipt and saying, "Hey, I paid for these socks, see?" Even so, the phrasing is just stupid. Also, do you really give a rat's ass if I paid too much for something? I think not.
The worst part is that, much like many Walmart "greeters" who stand there in stony silence, a good percentage of the receipt-checkers don't check shit. They just put their mark on the receipt and send you on your way. If that was all you were going to do, why not just let me keep going in the first place?

The Spice Of Life? Oh, We Don't Carry That
Another thing that really annoys me is the lack of variety. You can get a lot of a few things, but not some of a lot of things. There are a lot of things that I would buy in bulk - Sugar Free Rockstar, for example - if I could, even if I weren't getting significant savings, but I can't do so because Costco doesn't sell them. And some of the things I do buy come in assorted varieties that tend to favor the varieties I like least. So I end up with a lot of something I like, and even more of something that I don't, and that's the only way I can get a lot of the thing that I do like.

Hey Now, Hey Now...
I actually went to Costco today - which prompted this rant - because I had a doctor's appointment this morning and was working from home and I usually take advantage of having some time away from the office on weekday mornings to go to places that are inaccessible on weekends and evenings.
While I was waiting for my appointment with the doctor, Don't Stop Believing came on the office radio, which, of course, made me think of Family Guy. ("Is that Journey? That is Journey!")
That song has a strange effect on people. Most everyone there waiting started singing and humming along, or nodding their heads to the rhythm. It was still playing when I was brought back to the exam room, and even my nurse was humming along as she entered my vitals into the computer.
I only mention this because it amuses me, though it does start, eventually, to lead me to my final point. As I was at the counter making my next appointment and taking care of my co-pay, the song Don't Dream It's Over came on the radio, a song performed by Crowded House, and, after I left the doctor's office and headed to Costco, a crowded house is exactly what I walked into.
It wasn't as bad as it would be during the evening or on a weekend, but seriously, the place doesn't even open until 10, and it was only 10:10 when I got there, yet it was already packed full of people.

"Well if you hate it so much, why do you go there at all?"
Listen you smarmy bastards, if I'm going to imagine you asking questions, you damn sure better imaginatively be respectful. No one appreciates wise asses who think they're being clever by snarkily asking obvious questions.
I go there because while it doesn't have as wide a variety of things as I would like in many cases, there are things that I can use that can be purchased in bulk, some of which actually do save me some amount of money. I don't go there often, I go there only when it's least likely to be insanely crowded, I only go there after having mentally prepared myself for the awfulness of it, and I get out as quickly as I possibly can.
Also, I can get huge packages of blueberries. (Which I have to try to avoid eating in one sitting as soon as I get home.)


Speaking of my doctor's appointment, the doctor recommended that, starting tomorrow, I cut back from taking my medication twice a day to taking it only once a day. The drawback is that I have to test my blood a little more frequently for a while to ensure that my sugar levels don't get out of whack.
Ideally, the endgame is for me to be off medication entirely, and at this point, it looks like I'm well on my way towards that.
I also learned that the key to my frustration regarding my post-workout sugar levels is patience. (It's always patience. Fucking patience.) Apparently I'd be better served to wait a while longer after working out to check my sugar, as the increased activity causes things to spike, and if I waited a while longer before checking they would most likely drop back down.
Evidently, years back, they did a test on some people competing in the Boston Marathon. They checked their sugar levels before the marathon, then checked them again as soon as they crossed the finish line. The second test showed their levels being way up, especially considering that these were people who weren't diabetics. However, they checked them again a half hour later and found that they were actually low or normal.
So...patience. Dammit.


Stardust said...

I hate Costco too. There are people I know who go there to get the free samples..or their lunch as they call it. Really??? There is only my husband and I so there isn't much we can buy in bulk, but there are a few things.

I had read that waiting to check your blood sugar after you work out will likely result in a drop. After reading your blog about the exercise dilemma I thought I'd educate myself. You can't always believe what you read but I guess it's true.

Heimdall said...

Ugh, yeah, the samples.
I didn't rant about those in this post, as I've ranted about them in the past, but - and this applies to places other than Costco, too - I am agin 'em for the following reasons:

1. Giving out samples encourages store employees to talk to me. It's like giving out hunks of kielbasa turns them into carnival barkers ("Step right up!").
2. They encourage other shoppers to stop and congregate and generally be even more in my way than usual.
3. People walking along just idly - and loudly - chomping away as they shop. Yuck.
4. They result in people turning their shopping carts into their personal dumping grounds for their sample-related garbage.