“What? YOU went to Costco??!?” Ana texted me back.
Which made me realize that I haven’t yet outed myself as a megastore shopper. Yup, for all of my talk of minimalism, I’ve been walking around with a CostCo card in my wallet for the past ten months.
It all started because my brother David and his partner Ami had a membership. They often borrowed our car to go shopping and brought us a box of Aussie Bites as a thank you (these things are delicious and the marketing makes you think they’re good for you).
On a Saturday morning this past winter, Axel, Little L, David, and I found ourselves at Costco. It was a big day. We were going to become members.
“Yeah, sure, we can do the Executive Membership,” I heard Axel saying.
As David stuck “negative space stickers” on Little L in the cart, I turned my attention to what was happening at the Customer Service counter. “We were just going to do the cheaper membership,” I reminded Axel.
“But you get two percent back on everything you spend! And they comp you the difference on next year’s membership if you don’t spend enough.” Axel loves a good deal.
“But David is buying this for you as a gift. We weren’t going to spend any of our own money…”
With Axel buying that argument, I filled out the form and checked the “Basic Membership” box.
I handed the paper to the woman behind the counter while my brother placed bears and Ls on Little L’s pink jeans.
“So you’re doing the Executive Membership then?”
“No, the Basic,” I said. Like I wrote. On the form.
“Oh, no, you’ll want the Executive. As a family, you will definitely be spending enough to make it worth it to you.”
Axel’s interest piqued again. I was about to give in.
“Plus, if you don’t spend enough to make it worth it in the first year, we’ll chip in for your membership for the second year!” Ms. Costco had just sealed her fate. I HATE pressure, peer or commercial or otherwise.
“No thank you. Basic membership please.”
A couple minutes later, after much babble about how much she herself spends on diapers, she agreed to ring up the Basic Membership.
“Plus, it’s a gift from my brother,” I said. “And he wanted to get us the Basic.”
“Oh, but I can ring it up with two credit cards!” This woman was desperate. And really good at her job.
After we had paid for the Basic Membership, been photographed, and were free of her clutches, we set out about our inaugural shopping trip as Members. We’d tagged along before, but now we were legit.
I should mention that we were shopping at the new Business Center location near us. The best thing about this location, besides being able to buy 13 printers or a giant paper shredder, is that there are not that many people there.
Enjoying the empty space in the wide aisles, it was time to do the math. “So you get two percent back on your purchases if you get that higher membership. And it costs 120 dollars and the normal one costs 60. So…”
After some mental calculations we concluded that it would be $3,000 that we would have to spend in order to break even on joiner’s fees if we got an Executive Membership for the year.
“We will not spend that much on Aussie Bites and blueberries and artichoke hearts,” I said. We were only going to make sporadic trips for an item here and there.
At least that was the plan. Until the following Saturday, when I asked Axel what he wanted to do.
He wanted to go to Costco.
“For what?” I asked. I hadn’t even opened the gallon-size container of hummus; we had a loaf of bread still frozen, and the artichoke hearts remained in the cupboard untouched.
“Well, I thought we could get some Aussie Bites,” he said. Ever since Megan and Cameron passed them off to us as breakfast on a visit to Portland, we were hooked.
“Are you just trying to get us to spend $3,000?” He’d devoured last week’s Aussie Bites at a quicker pace than was usual.
“Yeah, I’m gonna go in and buy a palette of peanut butter, seventeen garbage cans for $10, and a box of ten pizzas.”
After a trip to the park, we stopped by CostCo. Little L, getting sleepy, had removed both of her teal mittens and one hot pink shoe.
“Why don’t you guys are just wait in the car?” Axel suggested, jumping out of the car and readying his Costco ID. I was so relieved.
Little L watched the passers-by and their carts, pointing and saying “Baby.” As in, take this baby in that cart! Perhaps CostCo was growing on her too.
Axel returned carrying a giant bag of blueberries – were we even done with last week’s bag? – and an enormous bottle of pomegranate juice.
“They didn’t have the Aussie Bites?” I asked.
“Nope,” he said. “So I got more blueberries.”
“But why do you have that juice?”
“It will be delicious!” he said, smiling.
As our year of membership nears its end, I have not yet done the math to see how much we’ve spent. I don’t think it’s near $3,000, and so, I’m hoping that we have stuck it to the CostCo woman who so much wanted to upsell us.
But then again, we do have a few months left before the year is up, and Axel has been saying we should go this weekend.