An Insider Tour Through Costco
My hometown of Seattle is the birthplace of many awesome things: Boeing, Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft and the fabulous Nordstrom, to name a few. Another wondrous Seattle brainchild? Costco! Now you might not have heard of this superb warehouse club. Costco never landed in Oklahoma because of the Jurassic-era liquor laws here. But – you guessed it – Costco just opened its first store in Oklahoma right here in South Tulsa, at 103rd and Memorial.
Costco is sort of like Sam’s Club (I think – I have never been to Sam’s Club). But based on my very unscientific research, comparing the two is like comparing Walmart and Target: one is just a little brighter and happier than the other.
To shop here, you are required to have a membership: you can choose the Gold Star membership for $55 per year, or you can upgrade to the Executive membership for $110 per year. This membership will pay you back 2 percent of your purchases through the year (up to $750, and Costco will refund you the difference if your total purchases don’t earn you at least $55, the difference between the Executive and Gold memberships).
Given my large-ish brood, I buy the Executive Membership, knowing I will probably reap many 2 percent rewards! There is clearly a bit of pent-up demand here, because I am told our Tulsa store set a countrywide record for the most memberships purchased before the store opened.
The Shopping Experience
I am wooed with all sorts of great items — it seems their marketing plan is word of mouth and reaching out to local bloggers (woo hoo! Perks for me!). Costco’s private label, Kirkland (named for a lovely lakeside suburb of Seattle where Costco happens to be headquartered), offers many delicious, bordering-on-addictive items that (like Trader Joe’s) seem to have cult followings. The “Valencia Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets” drive my older boys mad with desire they are so good. The Milk Chocolate Covered Almonds are just excellent. And there is something about Kirkland’s Chocolate Chip Granola bars – they are just so much chewier and sweeter than other granola bars! With these tantalizing teasers, I can’t wait until the store opens.
So on the big day, PVT, baby Francie and I – along with hoards of other Tulsans – first spend about 20 minutes fruitlessly searching for a parking spot. Finally we succeed and march our way to the huge warehouse. We enter in the electronics section, where TVs the size of jumbotrons blare. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but everything is sparkling clean and the employees are all friendly and sharp. In fact, Costco recruits employees from its stores all over the country, so this Costco, besides hiring almost 200 locals, is a little American melting pot.
The aisles are not marked since there is so much turnover in the offerings; this strategy encourages everyone to meander down the aisles, suddenly wondering how they survived without the latest Nutribullet blender. Fortunately, Costco’s return policy is fabulously liberal: if you decide weeks later that you didn’t really need the top-of-the-line karaoke machine, or four-dozen chocolate muffins the size of newborns, you can return it and be credited in whatever manner you paid.
Groceries at Costco
PVT buys a huge box with 100 Keurig pods for his office buddies, and finally we wind our way past porch swings and cookware to what I am really interested in: FOOD. We pass fresh crab legs and crabs that look like they were just plucked from glacial Alaskan waters, and finally arrive at the bakery. Everything here is made fresh daily, and everything, while probably not made out of kale, is absolutely delicious: chocolate muffins, cinnamon loaves, many varieties of breads, and my favorite family tradition growing up, the custom Costco birthday cake! There are cookies, donuts, Danish and desserts galore – all in large palates. I buy several sugar-laden delights for my carb-loving children.
And then, the produce: beautiful crates of fresh berries, grapes, apples. There is a walk-in cooler (it’s cold!) with many organic options (noted with a green tag). We buy berries and bags of broccoli and cauliflower large enough to feed a vegan army. I suppose you need to be careful not to buy so much that you have rotting fruits and vegetables, but these sizes are fine for my family.
And the butcher! Wow. There is a vast array of high quality meats – my husband buys some fabulous looking steaks to grill. And sirloin for $8.79 per pound – seems like a good price. Their deli meats are excellent as well – I love the dual packages of Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken Breast. The rotisserie chickens are a very popular item and just $4.99 — what an easy way to feed a family.
Now I should mention that throughout the store are peddlers peddling tantalizing samples of everything from chicken salad to pizza to frappucinos to lemonade. Francie and I eat our way through the store, while PVT exhibits heroic restraint in adhering to his diet. You could easily eat lunch just on samples alone — or stop by the front of the store for Costco’s legendary “Hot Dog and a Drink” for just a $1.50 — the same price as 1983. (And it’s a GOOD hot dog!)
Paper Products and Frozen Food
We head to the (again, COLD!) walk-in dairy fridge, chock full of milk, eggs, cream and, my favorite, the three-pack of Reddi Whip. Then PVT insists we travel through the detergent and paper products so he can compare prices on items here with stuff he usually orders on Amazon prime. I try my best to be patient while he mentally calculates paper towel and toilet paper prices per unit but end up wanting to scratch out my retinas. I’m a rotten, impatient wife, friends.
It turns out the Kirkland brand is really a great deal on so many items: toilet paper, paper towels, even diapers! Even the frugal PVT is impressed. Then we make our way to the vast frozen foods aisles, where I’ve been told Kirkland’s individually wrapped chicken breasts are a great deal – and 6.5 pounds for $16.99 is pretty incredible! The chicken is high quality and so convenient to have on hand for nights when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
The Costco pharmacy section is large and full of great deals on stuff of which you might need a whole truckload — allergy medicine, for example, which is sold in the bulk quantities needed to survive an Okie spring.
The More You Know…
Now, here are few more notes for those who want to be “in the know.” If you see a tag with an asterisk on it, that means the item is about to be closed out — so if it’s a favorite of yours, stock up now!
And Costco doesn’t just sell “stuff”: you can buy anything from water delivery service, mortgages, identity protection, payroll services and insurance. You can even buy cars through Costco.
Of course, here in Oklahoma you can’t get the fabulous deals on wine and beer that you can in other states, but there is an adjacent liquor store to our Okie Costco should you need to stock up on some adult beverages while you’re there.
Before we get to the checkout line, I buy my girls some adorable $18 Popatu dresses with yards of tulle and my boys some Nike shorts.
Note that your items aren’t bagged at Costco. If you have enough stuff you might end up with a cardboard box or two to help you transport items to your car. We end up with two full carts. Since opening, I have been back every week. And even PVT, who rates shopping somewhere alongside diaper changing, has been back to “check things out” (and spent an impressive amount). I am pretty sure Costco has changed the way we VT’s live.
So, go check out the store. If you aren’t convinced you need a membership, Costco employees can give you a tour first. I suspect that if you are a human being who eats, bathes, and clothes yourself, you will find some great deals at Costco — and will buy your membership on the spot!