January 23, 2014

HUFFPOST: "Costco: Bonding With a Box Store"

The person serving mini-tacos samples showed complete politesse when I circled back for the fifth time. My love for box stores was sealed. Who knew Costco could be so inspiring?

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                  Costco: Bonding with a Box Store

While driving the back roads of Connecticut recently, I noticed my car was hydroplaning on muddy surfaces. This indicated a few things. Either:

1. I’m a lousy driver
2. Mud is the new ice
3. I’m driving too fast
4. I need new tires.

Bingo. Serve it up on #4. After many exciting miles of wear from my house to the supermarket to the tailor, and the cleaner, my tires were bald.

Selecting new ones was an interesting process, mostly because I don’t know squat about tires. With research and guidance, I landed on the ones with optimum all-weather traction that create a solid tread block for an exceptional combination of handling, steering, comfort and tread wear. Oh yeah, and not to forget the importance of sidewall durability

The order was placed. I received a call that the new tires were in the shop. Be there at noon. Convenient enough.

“We’ll call you when the car is ready,” said the mechanic when I dropped it off.

What to do sans wheels? The age-old question.

I wandered into the neighboring Costco, the big box store that I usually tear through with fortitude and focus as I troll the aisle for the usual. (Paper towels, cleaning stuff, etc.)

It was strange not be in a rush and to truly embrace the magnitude of excess that the store exudes. Gigundanormous everything. And here I had a bulk of time until the car was ready. We were the perfect match.

“I’ll just shop a little until they call me,” I thought.

So I wandered the aisles for two hours with an acute sense of purpose and direction at first (it’s so empowering to know where the frozen pineapple is) and then re-tracked... especially when there was a good freebie. The person serving mini-tacos samples showed complete politesse when I circled back for the fifth time.

Hours passed, I was stuffed and the shopping cart was spilling over. I tried calling the garage to see if my car was ready but there was no pick up.

“Maybe they’re too busy working on my car,” I thought. (I’m striving to be positive in the New Year.)

I returned to the Vitamix demonstration on aisle 12. It’s a cool “blending system” that will totally crush anything else you’ve ever tried in a blender. With turbo-force, you can have soups, smoothies and juices, butters, purées and sauces within seconds. Did you know there’s a whole book with more than 300 recipes? I sampled at least 10 of them during my Costco tenure this afternoon. Hot taco soup, apple banana ice cream. The blender is amazing!!!

Finally, I broke free from the hypnotism of the in-store demo and headed to the checkout line. Item by item I emptied my shopping cart. Buyers’ remorse began settling in, and I hadn’t even left the store.

“Sorry. We forgot to call you when the car was ready,” the tire guy said as I stood there with a splash of Cold Nectarine Dessert Soup on my jacket and an obvious Costco bonanza behind me. “We finished about an hour ago.”

He went on to explain that the new tires had a five-year warranty. By this time, I felt like I had used up half of it.

As I drove away, I torqued into reverse and gave a quick glance into the rearview mirror. The backseat looked like a bodega. Amongst the many (many) items, I was stuck with enough cereal to get us through 2014, five pounds of Brussels sprouts, two crates of Clementines, a colossal-sized bag of fresh spinach, a jar of mustard big enough to feed my town and a gigantic wedge of Gorgonzola. I found self-solace knowing that at least I had shown restraint by not purchasing the $500 blender.

The other small grace was that my car had revived buoyancy. It’s called “new tires.” They were the purchase that would go the distance ... that and the memory of spending an afternoon at Costco and bonding with a box store.

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