- As a lifelong B.J.’s member, I’d never set foot in a Costco until I visited for this story.
- I experienced sensory overload – in a good way – and left with food, knickknacks, even clothes.
- The big box store saw major sales growth even as other retailers faltered during the pandemic.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
My first impression was just how warehouse-like the store appeared. The helpful greeter pointed me to the membership desk, where I picked up my new membership card.
On a Thursday night, the store wasn’t too empty or crowded as we made our way through. It pretty much had everything, which struck me as a reason why its revenues were up 10% in 2020 compared to 2019 – it’s a one-stop shop for everything you need.
One of the first stops was the jewelry counter, with bright lights sparkling off the surprisingly affordable diamonds.
We then moved over to the clothes, where I snagged a pair of the brand’s leggings that some devotees have compared to Lululemon and my friend grabbed a Fila windbreaker. The assortment of comfortable, well-priced clothes impressed all three of us.
One sleeper hit? The book section, which was somewhat random but had some good finds, including the buzzy “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid for cheaper than I’ve ever seen it.
Moving toward the back of the store, we found the produce, meats, and cheeses. This is where our wallets really began to hurt.
We then moved over to the famed rotisserie chickens, which seemed to be restocked every 30 seconds by a Costco worker behind the heated shelves.
The produce section, which included its own refrigerated room, was sprawling – with a good bit of organic produce as well.
The bakery was well-stocked, and – perhaps because it was the end of the day – bagels were buy one, get one free.
The famous sheet cakes were tucked by the bakery, which smelled appealing even through our masks.
The meats and seafoods, too, were impressive. They had oxtail, fresh salmon, lobster, and pretty much every cut of steak you could imagine. For a vegetarian who lives alone, bulk-buying meat was not on my list, but my friends picked up some pork belly for homemade ramen.
Perhaps the best part of the experience, however, was the miracle that is the Costco cheese section. The sheer selection of fancy cheeses from all regions of the world – Halloumi to Camembert – and the fact that they weren’t as expensive as the downtown grocery stores made it one of the most memorable aisles.
The freezer section, too, beckoned. We’d heard talk of Costco’s nuggets, meant to taste similar to Chick-fil-A, and stowed some away in the cart.
And how can you pass up 72 pizza bagels? I was in heaven.
The flower section was another hidden gem – with fresh, vibrant colors and a price tag significantly lower than any florist or other grocery store. A dozen roses came in at $17.99.
Toward the back of the store we found the staple products. In a canny bit of marketing used by most big-box stores, customers at my location were funneled through the high-priced, impulse-buy items on their way to pick up paper towels. Knowing that this was a psychological trick, however, didn’t make us any less susceptible to it.
One under-praised aspect of Costco, at least in my research, is the medicine and pharmacy aisle. It was a great place to stock up on decently-priced and useful sundries, from Alka-Seltzer to Advil.
The checkout process was perhaps the most stressful of the whole experience: We weren’t quite sure where to stand, or which of the several lines we should go in. Workers herded customers in a way that felt like were were in line at a theme park. Everyone had carts that were just as full as ours. The customer in front of us had even bought a mattress.
Our last stop was the food court. None of us was hungry enough to eat, plus, a trip to Costco took a lot out of us. But there were plenty of patrons milling around, getting the chain’s signature hot dog and soda combo, or perhaps a pizza.
The food court looked straight out of a bowling alley in the 1950s – all Americana. But I suppose that’s ok, considering their prices match the era.
On our way out, I reflected on how safe everything felt for shopping during a pandemic: I never saw a customer with a sagging mask, and the sprawling warehouse meant no one got within six feet of us. All in all, Costco was an overwhelming and expensive experience, and I can’t wait to go back.