Saturday, May 31, 2014

Costco Update

Wow!!  Usually no one reads my blog or my crappy little reviews of places I like/don’t like.  Ok, so maybe Ben reads it (mostly because I logged into his email and changed his settings so that my blogs get emailed to him) and usually my sister or mum will read them. 

But gee whiz!!  My thoughts and experiences with Costco went positively viral!!  By viral I mean a few people that I DON’T KNOW read it!!!!  It got shared around a bit because some people found it funny… but I assure you it definitely wasn’t a ‘funny’ experience for me!!

I would just like to clarify that this is only MY experience with Costco and only MY thoughts on the whole paying someone to ALLOW me to shop. 

I have received a lot of comments lately calling me all sorts of nasty names and telling me that I should have done my research before going to the Costco opening.  These trouble me for a few reasons. 

Firstly, they are either coming from Costco employees (who I’m sure could track down all my details as my membership is registered with them) or they are from diehard Costco fans – who do nothing to dispel my suspicion that it is a giant cult.

Perhaps if you lived near a Costco it would be totally worth it for you to become a member because of fuel etc.  Or maybe you have 8 kids who would eat an entire box of Mars Bars every week so in that case it would totally be for you!!  

And perhaps I SHOULD have done my research before I went.  I’m not sure what I could have typed into Google to find out how rudely we would be treated but I’m sure if I spent a bit of time reading I could have clarified those membership rules.  I’m terribly sorry that I did not read the membership rules.  I already admitted in my last blog that I’m an idiot so I don’t know what more they are expecting?!? 

I’m just not used to being subjected to a whole heap of rules when I walk into a store.  Usually I feel like they WANT me to spend money.  I was quite happy to pay for my membership before I went and not opposed to the idea of paying to shop.  I didn’t realise however, that I would feel the way I did when I was there.  It was like some kind of epiphany hit me somewhere between the toilet rolls and my inability to find the 5kg Nutella jar.  I felt like I had been tricked by really clever marketing.  I like being rewarded to be loyal to a company.  For me personally, I don’t like paying to be loyal.  It just does not make sense to me or sit right with me.  Maybe it was because I was made to feel so unwelcome?  Who knows how I work!!

I do have the option of cancelling my membership and getting a full refund, as has also been pointed out.  But you know what?  The thought of going through all the rigmarole to do that makes me want to vomit.  Frankly I would rather pay another $60 than have anything more to do with them.  If they yell at eager, excited customers I dread to think what they say to unhappy ones!  Do I want to subject myself to that? No.  I’m still a little upset by all my haters and the names that I have been called (although secretly a little bit excited to have haters in the first place).    

While there were some employees that were extremely rude to me, I’m not saying that every Costco employee is rude.  In fact, some were lovely!!  The only one who was rude to me, who wasn’t a part of the elite management team, was a checkout boy.  I’m quite partial to the idea of forgiving him because it must have been an extremely stressful day and I would hate to be working under management that has no issues yelling at potential customers.  Imagine how they speak to their staff!!

Perhaps it was just me.  My older sister has always seemed to find that I can be extremely irritating (Love you Nicky!!) as I’m quite sure I can be.  But it is strange that Paul had the exact same issues with management speaking to him rudely (and I was nowhere near by to evoke irritation in them).  I have also been contacted by a lot of people who said they found the same thing. 

I was really let down by the whole Costco experience as I was SO EXCITED in the lead up to the opening.  My friends will confirm that I spent the entire time on our girls night talking about how excited I was and trying to pry information out of my friend who has spent time in America.

I do regret that I may have wrongly assumed that all the management were ‘imported’ because every single one that I had any dealings with had an accent.  It does make sense that Costco would bring management from pre-existing stores in America or Europe to manage their new stores in Australia.   So I apologise for saying that but at the time of writing the previous blog I was sleep deprived and fired up about a crappy experience and a huge disappointment.  I also realise that many Australians have accents so there is a chance that they were newly employed by Costco. 

In conclusion I whole heartedly support the ideas put forward by my ‘haters’ that you do your research before you go to Costco.  You can use my experience as part of your research, maybe you will stumble across a blog someone has written who has had an excellent experience, or maybe you will just read the terms and conditions and compare prices yourself. 

I am so over Costco.  This is my last blog about it.  In future I will stick to boring topics such as campsite reviews and crappy ramblings about cakes I’ve made or the daily chaos that is my life.   

B xx

P.S.  Just a disclaimer… I have promised in the past to not blog about something anymore and then gone back on my promise and kept blogging about it. 

P.P.S.  Unfortunately I have had to disable comments unless you follow my blog. This is due to all the charming individuals who identify themselves as ‘Anon’ and have been writing nasty things (which have since been deleted).   

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Costco Review – The Only One You NEED to Read

Why is my Costco the only review you need to read? Because I can be an idiot. A crazy, crazy idiot. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. I happily fess up to my own stupidity all the time – as I’m sure you’ve all read about on my share-too-much Facebook posts. Most people don’t. It’s a well proven fact (I promise it’s well proven though I have neither the time nor inclination to reference it – just believe me) that the more you spend on something the more you are going to convince yourself, and others, of it’s value. For instance, if you were to spend a stupid amount seeing some kind of shonky psychic, rather than admit to yourself, and others, that you were an idiot and that they were shonky, you will try your utmost to find meaning in whatever bullshit spewed from their mouth just so that you can justify to yourself (and others) having spent a weeks wages on total utter crap. It’s a huge part of the placebo effect. You need to have an investment and a belief in something in order to trick your mind into believing its validity or worth.

What does this have to do with Costco? Well, Costco employs a cunningly evil but utterly brilliant marketing technique!! They must have psychologists working 24/7 coming up with ways to trick the consumer. Rather than rewarding loyalty with….. rewards, they would like YOU to pay THEM for the honour of being loyal to them. Yes, I happily collect my Flybuys points at Coles and occasionally get to deduct $50 off my grocery bill – gives me a nice warm fuzzy. But Costco? Costco want you to PAY them $60 for the privilege of shopping in their store (this is a yearly cost!!!). Prior to going to Costco I had convinced myself that it was ‘totally worth it’ and that I would ‘definitely get my moneys worth’ but now I’m thinking – I’M AN IDIOT!!!! How on Earth did I think that it was ok to PAY a massive corporation so they would ‘let’ me shop there. It’s like they want you to think that they are part of some secret elite club only for the rich. I mean C’mon….. a $450 000 ring?!? Now, granted, I don’t know anyone rich enough to splash out 450k on a ring and I’m going out on a limb here when I guess that – maybe, just maybe, people who can afford a ring like that wouldn’t buy one at Costco?!?!

It’s like the Costco psychologists think we are all dumb enough to believe that because they have a diamond ring for sale, that costs approximately the same as the average house, then they MUST be a quality shop full of quality products at *special* prices. They are right. We are dumb and idiotic. More than 15000 people in Brisbane spent $60 to become a member BEFORE the doors had even opened (me included). Which brings me to the part of my review that really pains me to write about.

I am sad to admit that I woke up at 3:30 am this morning and dragged my eldest daughter, my sister and my niece 1 hour North of their comfortable beds in a quest to secure a spot in the line to be one of the first people in the new Costco store. How did it end up like this? I’m usually a rational person. I don’t queue up for things, never go to the boxing day sales and generally stay away from large crowds of people for fear of being contaminated with all their germs.

It all started a few weeks ago. My friend Paul and I were discussing the upcoming opening of the Costco store. I had heard a lot of good things about it from friends in Sydney (none of these friends have ever been dumb enough to pay for membership though – they use someone elses membership). Paul and I, both being avid cookers and shoppers, decided that it would be loads of fun to attend the opening day of Costco. Paul enlisted his wife to accompany him and I enlisted Kristy. No matter how much I begged and pleaded with Ben he flat out refused to request a day off work to attend the opening of Costco – I really can’t understand him sometimes. It’s probably just as well, Ben is always a Killjoy when shopping. He would have followed me around saying ‘we don’t need that’, ‘we don’t need that’ and ‘we definitely DON’T need that’. (for the record Ben we DO need 48 rolls of toilet paper because your offspring seem to go through 1 roll a day each!! And we DO need the 2kg tub of Nutella because if that is not available for me to have a spoon of every now and then I might accidentally on purpose lose one of those offspring in a fit of madness).

So Paul, myself and our shopping partners decided that we would all drive to Costco on the opening day fairly early, to avoid traffic, but a sensible hour nonetheless. Being organised people (I mean Paul & Co – not me I’m not organised in the slightest half the time) we decided to go and collect our membership cards at the store a few days before the opening. When we arrived we were told about how busy the opening day was going to be and how many people were going to camp out. We were even told that Costco was going to be feeding the campers at 2am and 4am. Somehow we got all swept up in the excitement and decided that it would be a good idea to bring my caravan to the Costco carpark the night before and sleep in the caravan overnight.

We saw this being beneficial for a few reasons. 1 – we wouldn’t have to get up early and battle traffic, 2 – we would be able to fill the caravan up with all our great purchases and 3 – we would ensure that we had an excellent parking spot. The staff there told us this was a great idea and even took us out to show us an excellent drive through spot to park the van.

Thankfully, the next day, Paul rang to check the information we had been given and that it was ok to bring a caravan. He was told that it was no problem to bring the caravan into the carpark – once they were open – but that the carpark would be closed all night and patrolled by security. Paul rang me and relayed the information. Thinking it strange that their staff had such different ideas about what was going on I rang Costco and asked to speak to a manager so I could find out what was actually going on. When I rang the girl who answered said the managers were busy and took down my number, but I had little hope of them ringing back. Wanting to sort out what we were doing I rang the Costco Head Office in Sydney. Head office assured me that it was fine to take the caravan and that the car park would not be closed overnight as they had no means of sealing it off. So plans went ahead.

Later that afternoon I received a phone call from a woman who said she was the store manager at Northlakes. I explained to her what info I was after and she told me that the car park would be open but that under no circumstances were we to bring a caravan. When I questioned her she went off like a rocket. I said something along the lines of ‘I’m just so confused, everyone we have spoken to is telling us different information’. She replied with (you need to imagine this being said with a very thick accent) ‘WELL I’M THE STORE MANAGER AND IM TELLING YOU NO. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO BRING A CARAVAN ON TO OUR PREMISES.’

‘So’ I enquired. ‘If I was a grey nomad passing through Northlakes on Thursday with my caravan I wouldn’t be able to park in your car park as I would be able to at Bunnings…. or anywhere else for that matter?’ “NO!!” she raged “I will have security here and you will NOT be permitted to enter!!”.

This should have been a warning to me but even though I got off the phone with a strong urge to ring head office and complain not once did the thought cross my mind that we shouldn’t go. Funnily enough the same lady rang me back 30 minutes later and said that she had pulled some strings and we would now be permitted to bring the van. She was ever so polite and warm when she rang me back which made me wonder if she either had some kind of personality disorder OR an ulterior motive in mind.

My sister Kristy went with the ulterior motive theory. ‘I can just see it’ she said. ‘We will be stumbling out of our van with bed hair and there will be news crews everywhere filming us’. Good point. I reckon it would make great news headlines – diehard Costco fans camping in caravan the night before opening.

After conferencing Kristy, Paul and I decided to just get up early on opening day to ensure we got a car park. As we were driving to Costco, at 4 a.m. I had this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that it would not go to plan. I was imagining traffic backed up everywhere and us having to park a km away from Costco because we hadn’t camped overnight. Little did I know that there was a far worse reality in store. When we arrived there, 3 hours before opening, we found that there were only EIGHT other people there!!!! The carpark was empty!!! Only one woman slept in her car overnight – not thousands – as we had been led to believe.

It all went down hill from there. Firstly, a manager came out to move the line and to ask us to make new lines. By this stage there were more than 8 people there. When Paul enquired about the new line the manager snapped at him (in a very rude way) ‘would you like me to take my shoes off so you can count my toes – I said FIVE!!!!’. I’m sure I saw some smoke start to come out of Paul’s ears.

THEN the breakfast that we had been promised turned out to be ‘cookies’ which were passed out with….. HANDS!! Yes!! I watched in horror as the same manager that yelled at me on the phone, wiped her nose with her fingers and then used those same unwashed fingers to transfer cookies from one carton to the next. They then passed the cartons around and everyone could take one. I assure you I watched intently and it was impossible to grab one cookie without manhandling 3 others. I dread to think of the spread of infectious diseases!!! Someone needs to give that Costco manager food preparation and handling information STAT!! I was absolutely appalled but nonetheless too invested to opt out now when I was *so* close.

The managers at Costco all seemed to have accents. Either American or Brittish/Scottish. I’m assuming that they thought regular Aussies would not have the required skills to convince masses of people to spend money to be able to shop, so they had to import ones already trained in the brainwashing business. These managers stood around all day and seemed so consumed with their own power that they didn’t need to bother with anything petty like…. customer service. After all they were doing us a favour by allowing us to shop there!! I didn’t see one of them say anything nice, or do anything nice to anyone. I felt like shouting out to them ‘I have a university degree – don’t you dare treat me like I’m some dumb shit’ (although in their defence I did wake up at 3:30am to attend a Costco opening so that really doesn’t speak too highly of my intelligence).

Anyway I could rave on all day about their rude and self important behaviour but I won’t. I will cut to the chase… are the savings worth it?

There were a few things that I thought were a good buy. In a similar way that Aldi also has good specials and cheap prices on certain things. I took in a list of price per kilo of my most used foods and found that in approximately half of them, Costco was somewhat cheaper. There were things there were exceptionally cheaper. Toilet paper being one of them. I do not think I saw a single trolley exiting the store without a giant pack of dunny rolls. There were also things like coconut oil, agavae syrup, maple syrup and baking flour that were significantly cheaper. Their meat, fruit & vege plus bakery were not all that cheap and their non food items were a novelty, but not really lower in price than other places. Kristy was going to buy a Samsung Galaxy S5 but their *special* price was only $8 lower than Office Works regular price. The giant block of Cadbury that everyone had to take a selfie with was 50% more expensive than the normal price per kilo of regular Cadbury blocks at Woolies. If you are thinking ‘but they do have to make a special mold to make that 10kg block of Chocolate’ – STOP. I’m almost quite certain that if you opened up that 10kg block you would find it filled with smaller blocks.

What I really liked was that they had different products there. We don’t have a great deal of variety in Australia so it’s always exciting to see some new stock come into the country. I marvelled at the shower caddy (although I didn’t purchase it as it was $55 and not even rust proof!!) and eyed off the bamboo draw inserts but did not purchase a single non consumable item. And certainly not through lack of trying. I just couldn’t find anything that I thought was good enough or worth the money.

Which brings me to the next unpleasant experience that Kristy and I faced. As we went through registers side by side I was informed that Kristy could not use my membership card. Kristy had not had a chance to get one herself and I was told that with my membership card I was allowed to invite 2 guests to the opening. The cashier sighed exasperatedly and said ‘if you look in the fine print it says that no one else can use your card – you will have to pay for her items and she can give you cash later’. As Kristy had an $800 phone in her trolley plus hundreds of dollars in groceries I whispered to her ‘Give me your card and I’ll pay on that and transfer you the funds’. The cashier, having heard what I said told me ‘We’ve been doing this for ages we WILL be checking that the name on the credit card matches the name on the membership card – NO EXCEPTIONS.’ (I’m not sure what he meant by ‘doing this for ages as the shop had only been open for hours).

Suffering from fatigue, buyers remorse and surrounded by crowds of people Kristy and I chose not to argue. Kristy begrudgingly handed back the $800 phone and went in search of an ATM to get cash out for the rest. HOW BLOODY RUDE!!!! They tell you to invite a friend but leave out the tiny detail that this friend would not be allowed to purchase anything – unless they too paid $60 for membership.

I walked out feeling utterly deflated. What a waste of a morning and now I have a huge conundrum. Every urge in my body is telling me that I need to keep going back to Costco this year to ‘get my money’s worth’ of the membership. But deep down in the pit of my stomach it’s all just a ploy to get me hooked. What will I do?!?

I am completely disgusted with them on so many levels that I think it would be stupid to go back there. Unless of course I am in the area…. and only buy things that are significantly cheaper…. and death stare all the management there for being rude obnoxious pigs.

So here are Bianca’s top Costco tips:

  1. Don’t pay for membership
  2. If you have paid for membership don’t go there to ‘win’ your money back
  3. If you have a baby take a 2nd person with a pram. No trolleys with the baby capsules.
  4. Yes, the giant marshmallows look cool but they are not worth $6 a bag.
  5. I was told they sold everything but tobacco, alcohol and coffins. I beg to differ. They hardly had any toys, had only token camping and tool items (you couldn’t even call it a range) and sold bits and bobs of other things but nothing really special.
  6. Do not be lured in there under the false pretences that you will find a 5kg tub of Nutella (as advertised on the front page of their brochure). This item no longer exists. You can only buy smaller ones.
  7. Prices may be cheap but do you really need that many? There is no option to select a small amount of anything. I bought 3kg of tomatoes for $3.33 a kilo (what a bargain!!) but didn’t really need 3kg and ended up having to spend $10 on tomatoes!

I’m quite sure I have more tips but will have to add them in later. I’m tired and over talking about Costco. I am erasing them from my mind for the next few months and heading back to a place where I feel welcome, a place that is owned by Australian shareholders, a place that employs Australian managers and a place that doesn’t treat you like they are doing you a favour just by letting you shop there.

Costco – Just say NO!!