Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Members Only

When my sister and brother-in-law gave my wife and I a paid membership to Costco for Christmas, I initially thought it was a nice gesture. But then I realized it was not very nice. Not very nice at all.

It was a rainy day last Sunday when my wife and I went to Costco to activate our Costco membership, and to also potentially shop for Costco-related items. I decided to get a shopping cart, because it seemed like we were in for the long haul. I was surprised to realize that Costco shopping carts were much larger than the shopping carts I was used to. Ya’ know, the kind of carts you only see at stores that carry puny-sized items that come individually wrapped, like toothbrushes.

There are friendly “bouncers” at the Costco entrance doors, except they are not very friendly. But what they lack in friendliness, they make up for in body fat. They are there to check your Costco membership card, and if you do not have one, you are s.o.l. They do not accept excuses, like, “I left it at home,” or “I thought this was BJ’s” or “I swear I’m 21.” In fact, it is in your best interest to actually tape your membership card TO your forehead as you walk through, so there is no confusion. The last thing you need is some guy who mildly resembles Kiefer Sutherland jumping out of the bushes with a box-cutter to question your motives.

In our case, the bouncers made an exception, since we were there to GET our membership card. Of course, this didn’t come without a little good cop-bad cop. When my wife asked one of the bouncers - a middle-aged, overweight, disgruntled woman who was sitting in a chair - where we should go, she said angrily, “Over THERE,” as she half-heartedly pointed over her shoulder, while inspecting other patrons’ membership cards the entire time. For sympathy’s sake, I should mention that the “chair” she was in was a wheelchair, but that didn’t seem, at the time, to be an excuse for her rudeness. Then, another bouncer - a middle-aged, overweight woman who was standing up - said, “I’m sorry Miss, it’s right over there,” as if to say, “Don’t mind her - that crotchety, old thang. She may seem tough on the outside, but deep down, she’s a sweet person. But I’ll tell you one thing though - you’re not gonna get past HER without a membership card! No way, honey! She’ll wheel you right over you like you were an empty candy bar wrapper, I’ll tell you that much! But that’s why we love her here. Hey - that’s Barbara, you know what I mean? Ha ha ha! Anyway, you two have a good time shopping at Costco today, and good luck getting your membership card, okay?” Or something like that.

To get to where we needed to go, we were forced to walk against the flow of the oncoming, exiting human traffic, and it was extremely difficult to weave my way through the hoards of unhappy shoppers while wheeling a humongous, empty, shopping cart. So I gave up on the cart. If giving up my shopping cart at that moment in time meant that I would have to instead balance all of our purchases on the tip of my nose, I was fine with that.

While we waited on line at “customer service,” there was some drama going on behind us. Someone had the audacity to ask the lady behind me if she “was on line,” a question that brought the wrath of said woman. “YES – I’M ON LINE – UGGGHHH!!!” I nudged my wife. This was not going to be fun, I could tell. As a side note, the woman behind us, who had slightly overreacted to this rather innocent question, was there to present to the customer service desk a half-used bottle of lotion that, apparently, was not to her liking. “YES I USED IT, YOU IDIOT – BUT IT’S TOO WATERY! TAKE IT BACK!!!” is the only dialogue that, I can assume, ensued. (As a side note to that side note: If my life ever gets to the point where I have nothing better to do than return small bottles of lotion to an extremely large store, where I will be forced to wait in line to do just that, please, at the very least, revoke my membership to that store. Or kick me in the groin. Either one.)

Let me just mention that before we got out of the car to enter Costco, my wife flipped down the sun visor, and took out her pocketbook, so she could do her makeup again. When I asked her why, she said she wanted to look good for her Costco picture. If anyone sees my wife, please do me a favor and ask her to see her Costco membership card. Her picture looks like a police fingerprint, with hair. It’s black and white, and about .006 centimeters large. Mine doesn’t look much better, except that my mouth is wide open. I’ll explain. While my picture was being taken, there was more drama going down in the ever-increasing customer service line. This time, a grizzly-old woman, who was wearing a Calvin & Hobbes sweatshirt, was yelling at the woman who had asked the OTHER woman if she was in line. The only thing I managed to catch from the entire incident was the woman wearing the Calvin & Hobbes sweatshirt screaming, “He TOLD you he was SORRY – what the HELL ELSE to do you WANT!” Then, and I’m not even kidding, they had to be separated. Now I didn’t know what to think. The woman who I thought was innocent before was now involved in another altercation. But, in her defense, the other woman WAS wearing a Calvin & Hobbes sweatshirt. I don’t know. Anyhoo, I was laughing at the whole fiasco while my picture was being taken. They also cut off the top of my head, which was amazing considering they asked me to squat down for the picture. There I was, in the middle of Costco, squatting down like I'm taking a dump with my clothes on, while two strange woman were on the verge of coming to blows.

I found another cart, and our shopping excursion began. It basically went as follows: My wife would say to me, “Do you think we need (fill in the item),” to which I would reply, “I don’t think we need 48 gallons of (fill in the item),” to which she would reply, “Ya’ know what? Fine. You do the rest of the shopping,” to which I would reply, “Okay, let’s get (fill in the item).” This went on for a few hours.

I have to admit; I just don’t understand the concept of Costco. I mean, I understand that it’s a store where you can by items in bulk, and everyone has taken their turn making fun of that (“Who needs that much mayonnaise? Ha ha ha ha ha!”), which is fine. I get it. But I don’t understand the utter randomness of it all. I think I saw a guy exiting the store with a mattress and bag of Tostitos. I noticed that there was a section of the store where you could get an eye exam. Not an EAR exam (Costco says, “What do you think we are, doctors?”) – an eye exam. There is no rhyme or reason to it. My wife told me that they sell caskets, but not AT the store – only on their website. Because when it’s time to buy a casket, that’s something you want to do from the comfort of home. I thought I was going to get a t-shirt at the end that read, “I went to Costco to buy tires for my truck, and all I got were these lousy grapes.”

So we bought our stuff, and now we don’t have to go shopping again for approximately six years. At least not for Handi-wipes. And as we were leaving, I was informed that you have to display your receipt to one of the workers, so they can check your goods and make sure you’re not trying to steal anything, like a casket. At that point, their retina (remember – eye exams are IN-house) scans the receipt and matches those items to your shopping cart in a magical 2.3 seconds (they are the same breed of special humans who check bags before baseball games).

Anyway, as we approached, I noticed a woman wearing a Costco apron who was covered, head to toe, in mini-stuffed animals. Some of the stuffed animals, like the ones on her head, had springs attached, so they bounced around joyously whenever she moved. My wife then excitedly turned to me, and whispered loudly, “She’s famous!” Now, I assume that she meant “famous” in the context of, my mother-in-law and her friends are aware of this woman, and often mention her when the topic of “Costco” arises, and not “famous” in the context of, “Crazy Costco woman caught canoodling with Brad Pitt! Witnesses say the bulk-item bombshell gave Pitt one of her stuffed animals. What does Angelina have to say? Find out next, on E!” Regardless, she retina-scanned our receipt, and we were on our way home.

Unfortunately, it was raining at the time, and because Costco’s items are so ridiculously large, they don’t offer bags. So some of our stuff got wet on our way to the car. All I’m saying is, I hope our lotions didn’t get watered down.

Cause I will NOT hesitate to bring them back.

5 comments:

CMB said...

What a riot! Does this mean you won't help me shop at Sam's for the superbowl?

Anonymous said...

I did not redo my make-up, I only put on lipstick. And...that stuffed animal lady really IS famous in Hazlet!
That recount was absolutely hysterical!!

Mom Mom & Gramps said...

Check you next blog for our comments on this one. Sorry.

Judy said...

I'd like to order one of those T-shirts but they only come in boxes of 50, size XXXXL.(Hmmm, maybe I'll start my Christmas shopping early!)

Anonymous said...

What are you trying to say, you DON'T like the Christmas gift that Joe and I got for you? Just wait until the FOUR of us have to do our shopping together...it may turn into another Calvin n' Hobbes production! (On a side note, very funny!)