Tag Archives: Costco

The Problem With Costco? How Do You Get All That Crap Home?

IMG_2885Costco. The mere whisper of its name conjures images of big, bigger, and so-big-there’s-no-way-in-hell-you’ll-ever-finish-it-before-it-goes-bad mega-big. It wasn’t that long ago when in their wildest dreams Americans could never have imagined the wonders of this super-duper-store. Why in the world would you ever need a half-gallon of shampoo, 500 Styrofoam dinner plates and tortilla chips in a bag that’s bigger than your torso? Yet today, we wouldn’t consider buying a single pound of ground beef at Ralph’s when we can go to a mega warehouse and buy the whole cow. You never know when a boatload of your closest friends might drop by unexpectedly and expect you to whip up an impromptu barbeque.

The sheer enormity of Costco hits you well before you enter the store. Costco parking lots are the size of small amusement parks, and still they miraculously tend to fill up – particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Parking vultures will wait 15 minutes hovering over a customer loading up his vehicle rather than hoof it from an open spot that’s so far away it lies in another zip code. I don’t mind the trek, and figure that the walk to and from the warehouse will do me good, burning a few of the many calories I plan to consume from the numerous free samples. You could go to Costco every day of the week, never spend a dime, and still eat like a king – that is if kings enjoy nibbling on a smorgasbord of pomegranate juice, Cajun sausages, waffle bites, and spinach dip.

Samples are a daily surprise at Costco.

Because of my distant parking spot, I’m very appreciative that Costco hasn’t yet installed those brakes that lock the wheels of the shopping cart when they reach the parking lot boundary. Frankly, I’m a little surprised. If I was a homeless person, Costco would definitely be my cart of choice. You can probably hold 20 dozen more cans in its roomy basket, and unlike the carts with the missing bottom available at 2-story Targets so they can travel up their own person-less escalator, Costco carts have big bottom racks that could possibly fit all three of my homeless children in case I needed to transport them up and down the boulevard.

Is it just me, or did anyone else do a double-take over the line big bottom racks?

The Costco powers-that-be were absolutely brilliant in their decision to remove compact-sized parking spots from their parking lots. Have you ever seen a Smart Car pull into the lot? Not very often, if ever. They had better bring along some bungee cords and rope if they plan to strap that 12-pack of paper towels to their roof like a Douglas fir leaving the Christmas tree lot.

There’s a reason there’s no bicycle racks or motorcycle parking, because there’s not a single thing sold at Costco that’s small enough to strap into your backpack, with the exception of a gift card to Spafinder or one of Costco’s special Road Show events selling engagement rings. Somehow I figure if someone’s wealthy enough to afford a fabulous sea salt scrub or planning to pop the question to the girl of his or her dreams, they’re probably not going to do it while riding a 10-speed. However, you can actually buy a bicycle or motorcycle at Costco and park your 2-wheeler in the store while you shop (the motorcycle is on display in the store and available at Costco.com). However, don’t plan to do any additional shopping unless you arrange to pick everything up later in your proper minivan or U-Haul trailer.

IMG_2887There have been days when I have filled up the back end of my 8-person minivan from floor to ceiling and still had to invade the middle row and passenger seat for the rest of my purchases. I start to feel like that classic I Love Lucy episode where Fred loads up the car for the move to California and has to tie golf clubs and conga drums to the hood to make everything fit.

I wish a trip to Costco felt like a zany screwball comedy. It doesn’t.

photoweek114bIt’s not just the 2 hours of shopping and cart maneuvering, retracing my steps to the far end of the store for the forgotten frozen pizzas, the 35 minute line at the register which is so long it snakes into the snacks aisle, the brainpower needed to strategically place all the items in my car so the 50-lb. bag of dog food is not resting on the giant pumpkin pie, or having to drive 15 miles below the speed limit so the entire pile doesn’t entomb me during a sudden stop. Just when I think my long Costco journey is over, I am now faced with the prospect of making 20 separate trips hauling the load from my driveway into my house. Because I hate making multiple trips to and from the car, I turn this job of 20 into just 4 trips, hauling so many heavy items stuffed into my reusable bags across my forearms that the embedded dents in my flesh become nearly permanent.  I place the 80 cup pack of Newman’s Own Keurig coffee cups on top of the 24 rolls of Charmin bathroom tissue on top of the 32-pack of diet Coke, then cradle the triple pack of Kellogg’s cereal between my right elbow and hip, the box of 250 Bounce fabric softener sheets between my left elbow and hip, and balance the entire load like a tightrope walker.

I don’t usually make it to the kitchen without dropping everything, but I keep trying, telling myself that next time it will be different.

After I transport everything into the house, I spend another hour slicing open those plastic containers that are tighter than Fort Knox and ripping apart the cardboard boxes that enclose 90% of everything sold at Costco. Next I have to somehow defy the laws of matter to find space in my refrigerator and cupboards to store everything. My rule of thumb: If it fits, that’s where it goes. Then I slam the door hard before everything falls out.

I’m finally done. Or am I?

Like every single slasher film ever made, even this is a false ending, because then I have to flatten all those boxes and get them to fit in our over-sized recycling bin. Some trips to Costco take two weeks for the garbage man to finally collect it all.

But the very worst thing about Costco? Getting my Costco American Express bill three weeks later, totaling only slightly less than the gross domestic product of a small country.

You’d think would be the nail in the coffin to get me to quit shopping at Costco… but no.

The last time I went, I noticed that they actually sell coffins at Costco.

I wonder if my car is big enough to get it home.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Family, Humor

Automated Restrooms – Is Technology Going Down the Toilet?

What do my son’s elementary school and our local Costco have in common? They both recently installed automated restrooms.

Gone are the days of catching the plague by handling toilet flushers, sink faucets and paper towel dispensers. Now you can stroll into the public restroom and never touch a thing besides your tender behind.

Automated faucet at school

It feels a lot like zooming into an episode of The Jetsons. You do your business, stand up, and the toilet flushes your remnants to oblivion. Just hold your hands under the faucet, and water magically streams over your soiled fingers. Some bathrooms are even equipped with dispensers that automatically release luxurious foamy soap. Then you just wave your freshly washed hands in front of the powerful dryer and voilà – you’re a vision of sanitary loveliness.

At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

I’m all for automation making my life easier. I never want to go back to driving a stick shift or telling time by sundial, and if my husband had to trim our lawn with a push mower, the grass would be so tall you wouldn’t see our house.

Unfortunately, automation is not an exact science, so sometimes its usefulness backfires.

Automated Costco faucet trough

Take the afore-mentioned automated restroom. Technology has not yet perfected the automatic toilet seat cover, so I have upload that myself. It’s probably a good thing, because it could automatically dispense hole-less sheets of paper, leaving me sitting in a pool of my own excrement. I can see immediate recalls of that product.

So I have to apply my own layer of protection, which is pretty silly since that protection lies in a sheet of tissue paper less than a millimeter thick. One drop of any previous customer’s bodily fluids on the toilet seat will instantaneously be absorbed into the paper and transferred to my own buttocks. Not much protection there.

Next I take a one-minute break from my very very busy life to sit down and have a peaceful poop. This is the time in the day that I’ll tie my shoes. Rather than waste five seconds by stopping pedestrian traffic stooping over to fasten my laces, I’ll sometimes wait an hour until the time I know I’ll be sitting down to use the toilet. This is multitasking at the most insane level. And I pride myself on it. Sick, right?

Automated school hand dryer

However, the brain of my automated toilet senses that by leaning over to tie my shoe, I’m done going number 1 and number 2 and it will automatically flush. My butt is still glued to the sticky seat, and suddenly I’m getting an unwanted bidet of toilet water (not the fragrant kind) intermixed with my urine and feces spraying up my butt and back. And like the flame facing a firefighter’s powerful hose, I am drenched.

After using an entire roll of toilet paper to clean myself, I step to the automated faucets and hold my hands in front of the sensor. Usually one of two things happens. Either the faucet runs. And runs. And runs. And I feel guilty for contributing to the water shortage in Southern California. Or nothing happens. I hold my hands still. I wave my hands wildly. I curse the damn faucet and move on to the next one hoping that it, like its evil twin, does not think I’m invisible. I get enough of that from my kids.

Personally, I love the automatic foamy soap dispenser, but they’re hard to find. Public restrooms have come a long way from the days of doling out gritty Ajax-like soap that makes you feel like you’re massaging sandpaper into you palms. Most of the time you still have to pump your own soap – a task that seems to be too time-consuming for most kids.

Finally I move on to the last step – the automated hand dryer. There are frequently signs posted on these devises, proudly stating that they’ve been installed for your benefit (the restroom consumer, the one who gives away your product for free) so that you will not be contributing to the world’s overflowing landfills. Instead, the dryers are run on electricity, which in turn is generated by dirty coal, so you choose your poison.

The dryers are also governed by sensors, and you have to perform yet another mime act of waving your hands in front of it to make it work. It too has the misfortune of either playing dead or running long enough to blow dry a sopping Australian shepherd. The other problem: the loud noise scares the bejesus out of small children (coincidentally, always the noisiest ones). However, with the sounds of inadvertently flushing toilets, endlessly running sinks, thunderous blow dryers and screaming toddlers, the cacophony scares away those people gabbing on their cell phones as if they’re in their own private powder room.

As far as I know, restroom automation has not extended itself to automatic doors, although I would love to see that invention – particularly in busy restrooms like the mall or McDonald’s. I really hate touching a restroom doorknob and wondering if it’s wet because the previous supplier washed her hands, or because she  didn’t wash her hands.

I hope I live to see the day when public restroom automation includes wiping my butt. Unfortunately, this invention would probably suffer the same flaws as the faucet and the hand dryer – wiping too much or not at all. On the other hand, some people might like the “wipe too much” bug and return to their favorite restroom over and over, whether or not they have the urge to go.

That’s maybe something you’d like to add to the suggestion box at your local Costco.

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Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Multitasking, Parenting, Public Schools