Monday, June 29, 2009


There seems to be an elevated courtesy aura at Costcos.

Most grocery stores operate at an elementary school playground mentality. The bigger kids who can run faster are the ones who determine what games get played, and who goes first.

To me, the most insulting practice is refusal to make eye contact. Instead of politely asking if you can get over to the baking soda, people suddenly concentrate their attention, as if their life depended on it, on the bags of whole wheat organic flour that you simply know this overweight, middle-aged man with twelve six-packs of Budweiser in his cart is not the least bit interested in.

However, at the Costco on the west side of Tucson (my closest Costco... three hours away from my home), the polite and gracious responses seem to rise to rise to the level of a high-class social event, complete with a never-ending buffet of drinks and hors d'oeurves at the end of every aisle.

And since everyone is either pushing a massive shopping cart or moving dolly, and there is a real danger of losing personal extremities by an enthusiast customer purchasing an entire living room set of furniture, a wall-mount computer screen, and every sale item in the bakery mistakenly running over your foot, out of necessity, life seems to be taken at a slower pace.

It may also help that I usually shop Monday morning, where the majority of consumers are over the age of 65 and are as likely to be riding a motorized cart as not.

But conversations are easy and open - you pass the same people going to the opposite (read that "wrong") direction on every aisle, and can openly remark, "Did you know there is lite Miracle Whip in 75 lb. containers over by fresh produce?" - you become familiar with the same harried mother with four children under the age of four who is feeding her brood completely by samples of taco sauce, chocolate muffins, and Monster energy drink - you can even have the same employee who was climbing agilely to retrieve a 50-pack of Betty Crocker Super-Duper Brownie Mix for a gentleman in a wheelchair check your receipt and look under your cart for illegal medications, crack cocaine, empty vodka bottles and corn dog sticks.

The only place where tempers rise and personal behavior does revert to adolescent level is at the check-out area.

Suddenly there you become the ENEMY when, with 152 items in your cart, you try to edge into a line with the clear sign "150 ITEMS OR LESS". The scooter with an 85 year old woman steadily plows into your row, and you contemplate whether is is worth sneaking up in back of her and turning off her oxygen tank. And do you dare risk amputation and jump into the metal crash-cart-roller-derby of an new register opening?

The important part today for me was getting up there before the monsoon rain hits, and driving home fast enough that I didn't now have to put tie the tarp over my open truck bed..

(I also made certain I purchased only items that were firmly and completed surrounded by four layers of plastic).


MyKidsMom said...

I love CostCo! Your observations are right on. By the way, I'm the harried mother with 4 children that is feeding them completely on samples:) It's worth the trip to Tucson. I have heard that they will be breaking ground on the Sam's Club here in town. I think that we will have to say good bye to our CostCo membership at that point.