T1’s trip to Costco

29 Aug

When a co-worker mentioned she’d purchased the $60 membership to Costco and on doing so was allowed to take guests (officially up to two, though there’s plenty of evidence of members taking more than two), I couldn’t help but jump at the chance.  We headed down to Majura Park (on the way to the airport) one work day lunch time for what I termed a ‘browse’, given I was insistent on just looking and not purchasing, no matter the temptation…

The store itself is imposing.  I’d heard of the huge rush on its opening day and the days thereafter, but was quite surprised to see a packed car park on a Monday lunch.  Costco says it inspects your membership card on entry, but this didn’t happen; instead, we ran a gauntlet of pesky people trying to hand us flyers with specials. Specials? At Costco? Isn’t that tautological?

If I thought the store seemed imposing from the outside, it was overwhelming on the inside—not least because of the oversized trolleys and sheer number of them. For a ‘browser’, it was difficult to know where to start, so we trailed around the edges of the store, bypassing the majority of larger ‘kitchen’ type products but pointing out large screen TVs and ovens. I’m not sure why, but my impression of Costco was something along the lines of a very large ‘cheap’ store which wouldn’t stock the major brand names.  This impression is completely wrong and I had to revise it after seeing numerous Sony TVs.

Costco has a large range of things. TVs, ovens, alcohol, a bakery, a fresh food section, a dairy and eggs section, outdoor equipment (kayaks and playground equipment, including a two storey cubby house with slide and swing set attached), books, KitchenAid mixers, candy, an optometrist, Swarovski crystals, alcohol, jewellery (including engagement rings and Tag Heuer watches; a Christian Dior watch was advertised at $6449.99) and its infamous ‘café’.  In addition, there are plenty of little kiosks offering samples—on the day we went, samples were chocolate coated ice cream pastry puffs (devilishly moreish), and (oddly?) rice on its own (to which you could add salt to taste…) and a small paper cup of trail mix.

While you can get most anything at Costco, the range of brand choice for an item is extremely limited and I personally find this to be quite a negative. You can get olive oil and glad wrap in almost any size, but just a few brands. For some items (maple syrup) I could only see one item.  Frustratingly, a lot of items were packaged together, sometimes unnecessarily—I expect to buy a box of 20 45g chips, yes, but every bottle of juice seemed to be attached to another.

Not everything in Costco is extraordinarily cheap; there were a number of items where I was quite aware that the item was cheaper at or at least comparable with Coles (and came in my preferred brand!).  And that’s important to keep in mind—Costco is cheap, but it primarily markets itself as a one-stop shop experience.

Costco kind of feels like a warehouse of Living Social deals, where you’re constantly tempted to purchase things – in bulk, no less – which you probably don’t really need.  I’m also not sure if the store layout makes a lot of intuitive sense, and nor is the signage useful—or existent, for many of the aisles.  Perhaps that’s to ensure you go through it thoroughly: increasing the likelihood and temptation of purchasing additional items.

Indeed, seeing a 1.58 kilogram packet of Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups ($14.99 for apparently 180 individual pieces, or 8 cents each—quite the bargain) persuaded me that I wouldn’t really be having the entire Costco experience without buying something.  It was fortunate I only spotted these as we approached the exit—I can see it being all too reasonable to figure you might as well pick up just a few more things if you’ve been tempted into buying something. Kind of like a gateway drug! The website explains that the entire reason it doesn’t have express lanes is it expects people to buy a lot of goods.

Costco’s website also states that while members can bring guests, the member must pay for all the goods. This wasn’t the case. I wasn’t offered a bag for my (rather hefty!) purchase, but the large receipt was placed on top and I was instructed to show it on my way out.  This is apparently for inventory purposes, and to check you didn’t over or under pay. I’m glad I just had the one item to have them check off—others were standing patiently with trolleys full of goods having each item purchased checked off at the door.

Would I go back? Yes. Will I buy a membership? I think I might. Membership is expensive, and I don’t have a large family which I think would be the primary demographics to benefit from the bulk offerings. But I do think you could easily ‘regain’ the $60 you spent on the savings you make, through the purchase of just a few items.  And the Reese’s peanut butter cups were incredibly good value…

Date: Monday, 1 August (~12.30pm-1.30pm)
Attendees: T1
Cost: Free (as guest of member, who had paid $60) + $14.99 in purchase
Location: Costco Warehouse, Majura Park, ACT
Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile
Want more? http://www.costco.com.au/index.shtml

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One Response to “T1’s trip to Costco”

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  1. Why I’m a Belconnen candidate in the ACT election | In The Taratory - August 22, 2016

    […] it would serve as a bank of memories for us. We posted a Welcome entry followed by a review of my first ever trip to Costco (replete with mobile phone […]

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