"I Went To Costco And Survived" - that should be made into a t-shirt I think.
As you may have heard, Costco has recently opened it's first store in Australia. The media buzz surrounding the opening of the store was phenomenal. I must that admit that at first I didn't care too much but by the time it actually opened, I too was caught up in the hype. As has been written in countless articles, Costco is a US bulk retailer that sell a variety of products. It has single-handedly brought the masses to the previously derelict Docklands area. Who'da thunk it that a US store could do what hundreds of millions of development couldn't do and bring people of all sex, race and religion flocking to one location. I guess the message that Costco shouts out loud and proud is "WE ARE THE CHEAPEST".
It is true that Costco are cheap, but as Duncan has written, will it actually save you money? Before you can even begin to buy anything, you need to sign up for a membership of $60/year. There already is an outlay that you need to recoup.
My experience of it on Saturday was chaotic to say the least. Getting there is a bit of a travel as I live in the south eastern suburbs. But to get a car park was pure hell. I assumed all the traffic was for the footy match at Etihad Stadium, but I was to be proved entirely wrong. Again, who'da thunk it that so many people would turn up.
Once we did get inside, my head started to hurt immediately. The foul smell of pizzas and hot dogs from the food court hung in the air, just to make you feel even worse. It was sensory overload as the shelves were stacked so high it could have been a factory. Everything was oversized, from the trolleys to the products. Now I know how it feels to be a person of unusually short stature (ok I mean a dwarf) in the normal world.
If I take away all the frenzied people and chaos, would Costco actually be somewhere I would shop? I would say, yes but extremely infrequently. It would be more like if I happen to be in the area, I might drop in, but not as a purposeful trip. The mere fact that you need to buy in such large quantities makes it unviable I think. Unless you're Octomum and have eight children to feed, I can't seem this style of buying working well for most families.
Let me take some examples. The alcohol that was supposedly cheap (the newspaper picked a bottle of Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon 06 as an example) didn't really turn out to be cheap. I'm partial to a nice drink so go to Dan Murphy's regularly and look at the prices. Costco is no cheaper and obviously has a much smaller range.
The denim jeans, which were my main reason for wanting to go, turned out to be old styles and in very extreme sizes (very small in this case). The rest of the clothing range was outdated off items that you wouldn't really buy.
I didn't get round to looking at the electronics, but again, unless the one you wanted just happened to be there, the choice is limited and you would be better off going to a normal store and bargaining for the price.
I concentrated mainly on the food items as that's my interests. The usual brands of snack food that we are used to were there, but who can seriously consume a whole box of Tim Tams or Snickers bars. My favourite chocolate Lindt balls were cheap, but a saving of about $1 for a 150g equivalent pack is not worth buying a kilo. I love Chupa Chups as much as anyone and will consume on average one a day, but 1000 of them for $189, how will I ever get through that.
The deli department had a range of pre-packed cured meats as well as items like this huge pizza. A 1.4 kg pizza is extremely large and as Duncan wrote, would hardly fit into your oven. There was a glass windowed area showing all the pizzas and other similar items being made on the spot, so possibly it is of decent quality.
The bakery area smelt quite nice to be honest, with the smell of cakes wafting about. However, looking at the products just reminded me of the hideous creations that I love to read about on Cake Wrecks blog. How would you like a 1 kg Tiramisu, or maybe three loaves of butter cakes take your fancy, or better still, 24 of the largest cupcakes you've ever seen all clinically wrapped in plastic for your easier convenience. To top it off, all the baked goods has used by dates that were only 5 days away. Unless you got a birthday party for those octuplets, it's going to be hard to consume so much cake (I would try but they just look unappetising).
As Duncan noted, the cheeses and butters did look good. I was temped to get some Victorian Goats cheese and some Lescure butter. Again, the large quantity would be a problem and I would have to purposefully eat those items more, thereby counterbalancing the saving as I would consume more than I normally would. Cheeses were sold in blocks of 1 kg, cream cheeses 2 kg, caviar by the half dozen jars, white anchovies in 1 kg tubs and the list goes on.
The meats and seafood section looked like that from a supermarket, supersized. Care for 3 kg packs of rib eye steaks? How about a couple of kilos of lamb, or maybe a whole salmon takes your fancy. I think you get the point by now. You gotta buy a lot at once. Otherwise, the selection does look quite decent and there is a saving.
The fruit and veg section was a sparse selection of items. The strawberries smelt really sweet, and I would normally buy a kilo at once, but I would have to transport them in a hot car a fair distance home. Other fruit and veg were sold in fairly generous quantities, but nothing as shocking as the other items in the store.
Well, I guess that sums up most departments in Costco. Despite my headache getting worse and worse the longer I stayed there, people were queueing up for miles to pay for their massive trolleys of items. I'm not sure if their mentality is more "since we're here and paid our membership, we might as well make it worth it" or "we use this in these quanities anyway so this is great". I can only guess and I think it would be more of earlier than the latter.
I shall not be going back to Costco too soon as its currently too crazy for me, and the membership and savings does not justify buying such excessive quantities. However, it may work for some families and they may genuinely cut down their food bills.
Have you been to Costco? What do you think about it? Will you be shopping there regularly?