posted by Matt W on April 10th, 2013

There it is, right in front of you, a 4-pack of a product that you typically use one of every 6 months or so at a piece price that seems too good to pass up. The decision process commences.

“Well dear; do we really need that much ketchup? It’s enough to last for the next couple of years now that our sons have moved out of the house.”

“It’s organic and it’s hard to even find organic in the supermarket, let alone at that price. It’s a really good price.”

“Really? Is it?”

“I’m pretty sure.”

“You choose. I’m going to get another cheesecake sample.” Seriously, if it wasn’t for all the food samples, I don’t think I could put up with the constant stress of shopping at Costco.

Costco is a good idea. They order large quantities of products, and sell them in large sizes at wholesale prices. Theoretically. I say “theoretically” because I always feel like I’m getting ripped off.

So, first there is the whole “can I really use that much product?” question. Secondly, there is the “what is the unit cost of the size that I would typically buy in the store?” question. And third, there is the “what do I usually pay for that item in the regular store” question.  Costco thrives because it’s really hard to answer all the above questions on each and every item so many times over the course of a typical Costco visit, that you just take a mental mini-vacation (usually to sample something with bacon in it ) and the product in question just ends up in your basket. A week later, you find yourself asking, “Why did I buy 3 pounds of smoked salmon spread?” The bonus question after you have finally answered the first three is, “Would I even be considering buying this item if I wasn’t in Costco?” Seriously, do I really need a “plug-in and battery operated” for on-the-go bicycle pump or a twenty-five piece sample pack of all the different cheeses of Europe? I wouldn’t have thought so before I stepped into Costco.

So even if the answer to all of the above questions leads you to believe it was a “good” purchase, once you get home, there is the follow-up issue of, “did the product end up going bad because you had to buy such a huge quantity of it?” Even I have a hard time getting through 3 pounds of smoked salmon spread before it goes bad. (OK, who am I kidding? With a box of wheat thins and a 2 liter Diet Coke, I’d make it through that bad boy by half-time.) Or the equally as important question of even if it doesn’t go bad, do I really need two years worth of toilet paper filling my upstairs hall closet to save a nickel a roll? I usually find the answer is no. And yet Costco continues to thrive because we all feel like if we quit, we would be losing out on a great deal when in reality we probably aren’t. That’s what keeps my wife coming back, for me it’s mostly the samples.

File Under Jack of all Trades