1.24.2006

Costco is not for me

Last night I went to Costco. It was a wonderland.

It wasn’t the first time – I used to go with my mom when I was a kid. I liked it because there were always nice ladies with little samples of food, and giant shopping carts, and because it felt like a big playground full of hilariously humongous stuff. I especially loved the monster-size Hellmann’s mayonnaise and the double boxes of Cheerios.

And now, going back as a shopper, I am even more aware of Costco’s smart retail strategy. If you make it bigger, people will buy more.

So Costco negotiates special deals with all of its suppliers, in order to get “exclusive” products. Not new things, just bigger things. Like the 3-pack of Oil of Olay bath soap for $9. Normally one of those bottles would be $6, so it’s obviously a great deal. You just have to have the space in your bathroom.

But therein lies the problem: you have to have the space in your bathroom. Or your kitchen. Or your garage. For a city-dwelling, apartment-residing Chicago yuppy like myself, Costco’s sizes are just too big. I can’t fit 40 jumbo rolls of toilet paper in my small cabinet in my single bathroom. I won’t eat 30 slices of muenster cheese before they go bad. I definitely won’t finish 36 chicken sausages - even if I freeze them, I'm only one person! I’ll get sick of them after eating four!

Which leads me to a sad yet inevitable conclusion: Costco is not for me. I don’t eat a lot, I don’t store a lot, I don’t consume a lot. I don’t need anything bigger than it already is. I am not a small business owner, nor am I a mother of four living in a McMansion in Schaumburg. Costco is just not for me.

But why can’t I be content with this conclusion? Because it’s not fair. I want to pay 30 cents an ounce for soap, not double that.

I would like Costco to set up a store-within-a-store. Similar to the sample section in grocery stores. Except instead of tiny containers of band-aids or bugspray, it’s just normal sizes. Just regular, average-sized bottles and boxes, but at Costco’s low low prices. They’ve got the negotiating power with their suppliers to make it happen.

However, here in America, I worry that this might serve a market of one: me.

Does anybody else wish they’d make things smaller? Might Costco be missing out on a huge revenue opportunity with the smaller-home, smaller-diet, smaller-consumption customer? (They could call it Costco City!)

Right now, I would be totally willing to pay the $45 a year to become a member of their store. But I won't, because right now, Costco is not for me.

7 comments:

Elliott said...

I would probably buy the big soaps and things, but not the food, if I could GET to Costco. Costco is also not for the public-transit users of America.

fueledbycoffee said...

Agreed-- Costco embodies all that is NOT urbanism... massive structures not integrated into the cityscape, HUGE parking lots, impossible-to-store-product-sizes, impossible to carry-home-unless-you-own-a-car, far from public transit (which can't be used anyway if you buy more than one thing), and on and on!

Now "Costco City" could be on to something... I imagine they take over an old warehouse in the city, and give a twist to their current store aesthetic (which is none).

sam said...

Perhaps young yuppie urbanites could band together for once or twice monthly Costco shopping trips. "Group purchased" multiple packaged items would then be split up. It could be a fun outing with a friend or friends. Of course one of them would need a car but you could also do other errands, like lunch.

Steve Portigal said...

Classic Simpsons:

Homer - "Ahhh... 64 slices of American cheese... 64...63... 62... 61... (9 hours later)...3... 2... 1..."
Marge - "Homer! Have you been up all night eating cheese again?"
Homer - "(slurred)I think I'm blind..."

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Academy/2229/64cheese.wav

Mike said...

If you want low,low prices and not have to buy big sizes, it's called Wal-Mart.

Setting up a store within a store would completely defeat the purpose of their model.

Amanda said...

You COULD shop with a friend and split the stuff. Just a suggestion :D

Anonymous said...

Dumb-ass, the prices are cheap because the sizes are bulk. It is a w-a-r-e-h-o-u-s-e, for small businesses, offices, large families etc.