For the last ten years, I’ve been in a bad relationship. Girlfriend, you know how these things start. Enticed by the usual suspects–looks, wealth, and a really good smell–I have allowed myself to fall, and great has been the fall thereof.
Oh, we have fun in this relationship–no doubt about that–but the fun comes at a high price. Engaging in this tango gives me a short, dizzying high (I’m flung up with the gods!), but it is invariably followed by a plummeting low of guilt and shame. I could blame my partner for bringing out the worst in me but, as with all bad relationships, I must bear some responsibility for choosing to stay in it. I know the time we spend together is toxic; it’s wrangled and warped and removes me ever further from reality. I know that what seems too good to be true–the glamour, the excitement, the smell–probably is. I know that continuing this relationship could very well cost me others (not to mention, a whole lotta money.) But I also know that without it, my weekends and holidays get so long and lonely I can scarce endure them, and My Overall Persona loses that sparkle-and-glow that complete strangers so often compliment me on. (oh they don’t?) And so, though I know many things, of one thing I am certain: it is time to end this relationship. Which means, my dear faithfuls: I’m breaking up with Costco.
The last time I went to Costco, I spent
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two-hundred and seventy-five dollars. Two hundred and seventy-five dollars. What did I buy, you ask? An i-Touch, a patio table, some dweeby but irresistible Tommy Hilfiger sweaters for my husband? (Only at Costco can Tommy Hilfiger sweaters be afforded. But are they really Tommy Hilfiger? I have my doubts.) No, mis vidas, no such luxuries came through the fleeting checkout line as I passed over my debit card, hands shaking and ‘stache sweating. The truth is, I can’t really remember what I bought. And therein lies the problem. I only remember that thirty dollars went to new pillows for the kids (this was the Great Need that justified my trip in the first place), and the rest went, it would seem, to mini-bags of Cheez–its and Sun Chips. I usually don’t buy mini bags of anything, let alone Cheez-its and Sun Chips (too expensive!) But see, Costco had this rockin’ coupon knocking three dollars–three whole dollars!–off their fourteen-dollar boxes of Cheez-its and Sun Chips mini bags. And the boxes were BIG. So big, I decided, that it must be a good deal.
I’m sure there were some legitimate groceries in my cart somewhere. I vaguely remember putting chicken and cheese in the fridge when I got home, and of course the standard four-foot tall bag of corn strips found its way into my pantry. A carton of eggs and a twin-wrapped pack of milk did appear, and surely I brought home the stack of fourteen-thousand flour tortillas my husband adores (he’s made breakfast burritos an art form.) In my defense (see My Standard Line of Defense)*, there were some pricey household items–paper towels, Ziploc bags, dishwasher tabs–all purchased in quantities massive enough to carry us through…drumroll, please…the next month or two. The next month or two? The final price tag would suggest a much longer life for my items purchased. And yet, in a month or two, I’ll be back spending another three hundred dollars on other things I “need” in massive quantities. I know shopping at Costco is supposed to save me money in the hereafter, but the problem is that I need to save money now. Did spending that two hundred and seventy-five dollars today save me hundreds–or even twenty–dollars next month? Somehow I doubt it. Out of discretion, I will not tell you what my monthly grocery budget is, but I will tell you that those Sun Chips and Cheez-its took a heckuva whack at it.
A cold reality remains: I could have gotten all this stuff at Winco, and I wouldn’t have been tempted by the Kirkland Signature Reversible Christmas Wrapping Paper on my way out. (It’s shiny! It’s pretty! The holidays are coming, and the scout motto says, Be Prepared!) I once had a cashier at Winco tell me that Costco reps actually came through their store and matched their prices, since Winco is the least expensive grocery outlet by a margin. So I can get olive oil for the same price at Winco as at Costco, and I don’t have to buy in such volume, which means I spend less in the here and now while still getting the same price ounce-for-ounce. On top of which, I will not accidentally-on-purpose throw a bag of those Dark Chocolate Acai Blueberries (it’s an anti-aging superfood!) in my cart. I can shop at Winco with confidence that I am getting the best price and getting only what I need. Winco is where smart people shop. Winco offers me a long-term, mature, emotionally intelligent relationship.
But here is what Winco doesn’t offer me:
- samples of microwaved bean burrito slices that somehow taste decadent when given to you on a toothpick for free.
- a lunch counter with 60-cent refillable sodas (!)
- a skincare and makeup section with department-store brands offered at “deep” discounts. ($199 is nothin’ for wrinkle-zapping cream that would cost you $250 at Nordies. So what if you have to buy four bottles of it today–it’ll last you into your eighties. Think how hot you’ll still be.)
- fresh flowers, also offered at “deep” discounts ($14.99 is nothin’ for a Harvest Bouquet to grace your autumnal table. So what if you didn’t need it and shouldn’t have bought it in the first place? At Costco, Overspending is Saving.)
- a free, live Juicer! show, performed every hour on the hour by a grown man who…well, I don’t want to be mean. Suffice it to say, the Juicer! show is performed by a grown man.
- dazzling vacation packages, family health insurance, printer cartridge refills, and big black tires for your car.
Do you see what I’ll have to give up? Do you see why it’s so hard? Switching from Costco to Winco is like dumping the Bad Boy for the Nice Guy: it’s healthy but it hurts. Sure, the nice guy will please your parents and give you a long-term commitment, but he’ll never share a romantic evening with you inside the Almost Heaven Outdoor Steam Sauna ($5,999.99), feeding you four ounces of Farmed Russian Sturgeoun Caviar ($249.99) while describing the Metropolis Playset ($17, 999.99) he’ll assemble for the children you’ll one day have together. Can you blame a girl for wanting just one more rendezvous with a chicken bake and churro? I promise it will be the last. What can I say? Love hurts.
*It’s Really Not My Fault.