Why the Eastside Rocks: #4 Costco

You can read the general introduction to this series here.

Why the Eastside Rocks #4:

Costco

CostcoThere’s nothing like bulk goods at warehouse prices… from appliances to office supplies to clothing to food, food, food… anyone who’s serious about saving money has a Costco membership.

There’s really no comparison to anywhere else. Need a gallon of yellow mustard? 8 pounds of frozen burritos? 3,000 multivitamins? Costco’s the answer.

Seriously, though, Costco is great, especially if you have a family and you’re buying in bulk already. But it’s not just about food—don’t forget they also have a pharmacy (which is usually cheaper than the others in town), a vision and optical center (with an optician on staff), a tire service center, and a food court with some amazingly cheap meals ($1.50 on average). It is totally worth an annual membership fee.

A drawback? You often can’t get out of there for under $100.

8 thoughts on “Why the Eastside Rocks: #4 Costco

  1. Another drawback? Not supporting local business and contributing to the big-box-ization of America.

    In 20 (maybe 10) years, when only Gap and Banana Republic can afford rents in downtown Bend, and our downtown looks like every other downtown, this will be why.

    And we’ll no longer have places like The Grove and Super Burrito and Hans and … oh, wait.

  2. Disagree with you Jon, I was just there the other day and my bill was $30 and change. Swear to god.

    I do agree that it’s well worth the membership. I shop there so often that I ended up getting the Executive to get 2% back (plus early entrance).

    I disagree with the anonymous comment. The idea that you have to support local businesses is silly. Local businesses need to figure out a way to compete. Why would I buy a product from a smaller local business that is going to cost me more, possibly have a smaller selection, and an difficult location with limited parking vs going to Best Buy or Target to get the same item cheaper? You mentioned Gap and Banana Republic downtown but they are kicking out restaurants. It’s not really a good comparison.

    Now if Olive Garden were to go downtown kicking out Stacatto and Giuseppe’s, then you have a complaint. But it appears that the downtown restaurants are being put out for different reasons than us going to Costo instead of Super Burrito.

    I love Olive Garden breadsticks.

  3. Anonymous: your point would be valid if, in fact, Costco *was* a "big box store" and harming local business.

    BOR: Yeah, I’ve been in and out for under $100 too, but sometimes it ain’t easy.

  4. You guys aren’t serious, are you?

    To BOR: You don’t *have* to support local business. It’s just that you should. When you buy locally, you support other local businesspeople and your money stays in your town. You strengthen your local business climate, which often leads to more and higher quality local businesses. And most importantly, your town retains the culture and diversity that comes with a thriving local business scene – and NOT with a Gap and Costco and Wendy’s and Home Depot on every corner, and no other options.

    Which would you rather have: That scenario? Or a Bend with Blue and Nature’s and Pilot Butte Drive-In and whatever that little, beloved, downtown hardware store was called. (It closed, remember? And now I have to drive halfway to Redmond for a hammer.) Give me the latter. And we’ll only save what’s left of it in Bend by passing by Wendy’s and their $2 burger for Pilot Butte and their $4 burger. It’s a hit to my wallet, but one I’m willing to take.

    Don’t you guys see? This is just like the conglomerization of record labels and radio stations and newspapers and so on and so on. Without the local, independent businesses, the big dogs take over, and we get fewer and fewer choices, and we end up buying what *they* want us to buy.

    (Finally, BOR, the point is not that the Gap is a different business than Super Burrito. No, they are not competitors. But in a downtown with rents like Bend’s, only the Gaps of the world can afford it. The Super Burritos can not. And like I said, once the Gaps can afford it and the Super Burritos can not, our downtown looks like every other downtown in America and we’re all wearing the shirts Gap thinks we should wear and eating the food Wendy’s thinks we should eat and swinging the hammers Home Depot thinks we should swing. Sad.)

    To Jon: *That’s* your argument? Really!? You’re going to lean on a strict definition of what Costco is (i.e. warehouse vs. big box)?? C’mon, man, I hope you’re smarter than that.

    The point is exactly the same: Costco is huge and buys huge quantities, and therefore can purchase products for cheaper, which allows them to sell them cheaper, which draws in more mindless Americans, which pulls them out of the local businesses, which eventually runs most of the local businesses out of town. It doesn’t much matter whether they’re a big box or a warehouse, the effect is the same.

    You can see that, right?

    Oh, and I appreciate you tossing out that Costco doesn’t harm local business. Can I see some evidence to back up that claim?

    Really, guys, I mean no disrespect, but these kinds of attitudes are at the core of America’s bullet-train toward suburbs and strip malls, and it’s really, really sad. I can’t believe neither of you have given this any more critical thought than it appears you have.

    I mean, you’re both active bloggers. Does no one read Duncan McGeary’s blog??

  5. Jon, I just went to Costco last night for eggs and parmesian cheese…it cost me $156. I’ll stand corrected.

    Anon, I am still going to disagree. Your idea of supporting local business because you don’t like Wendy’s food or the clothes Gap produces does not bother me one bit. No one can tell me what to eat or wear just because they want to have a restaurant or retail store in the "downtown" that I live in.

    I choose Pilote Butte (actually I choose Dandy’s) over Wendy’s cause Wendy’s is discusting. I shop at Ross (dress for less effing rules) instead of Gap cause I don’t like Gap’s clothing and their sizes are all jacked up.

    Obviously you would like downtown to remain how it was a few years ago. But why do you have to hate on the success of the large corporations. If Duncan (who’s blog I read regularily) had 10,000 stores across the country, would you not want his conglomerate in downtown?

    I always find it funny that people hate on the Starbucks, Microsofts, McDonalds, and Gaps, yet isn’t it the dream of any small business owner to be a huge success? Isn’t it the small business desire to expand, opening up more and more restaurants, book stores, retail shops. Yet when a company that has already done so comes to town, we hate them and don’t want to support them.

    I love to support local businesses when they have a better offering than a major chain. I rarely eat at chain restaurants. I love to dine at the local restaurants as my blog clearly demonstrates. But for shopping, I can’t see spending 50% more for the same product at a local computer shop then at Best Buy. You compared a $2 hamburger to a $4 hamburger. You waste more in gas going from Wendy’s to Pilot Butte than you do on the price difference of beef patties.

    I support local restaurants cause they are better and I’ll drive to their location if it’s worth while. But I have no problem shopping online or at Best Buy or even BestBuy.com if I know they have what I need at the best price.

    I say you make a new downtown with rents that SuperBurrito can afford. Invite all the "2001 downtown" businesses to come back and then everyone will be happy. Sure you wont have MirrorPond or the Tower theatre, but you’ll be way out on the east side past Big Sky park. Call it the Shops by Big Sky. Resist the tempation when Gap and Red Robin throw money at you to let them pay you high rents. Then you can be #5 on Jon’s list as to why the East Side rocks.

    -BOR

  6. No, I’m not "leaning on a strict definition" of what Costco is to define the differences between it and the Big Box Stores, I’m basing my "definition" on personal experience and actual observation of the differences. If you truly think Costco and Wal-Mart are the same type of store, I highly doubt you’ve been to one or the other. The fact that giant *retail* behemoths like Wal-Mart that undercut local markets with cheap goods and cheaper prices is not even debatable, and a quick walk through them reveals that "mindless American" attitude you point out.

    But being "huge and buying huge quantities" is not always a bad thing and does not always lead to the same chain of events that you describe; that’s a gross generalization that’s disingenuous. See, the thing is, Costco is NOT the same; one of their key demographics is, in fact, *business*–when they started, you could ONLY get a membership as a business–and they serve many of those local (small) businesses you’re claiming they destroy. I’ve seen this firsthand: daycares, small restaurants, office-based businesses–all local–get a lot of their supplies/food/whatever from Costco regularly. They save money by doing that, which (last I checked) helps, not harms, them.

    It’d be helpful if you could point out some specific instances of Costco harming local business, or even driving a local business out of, er, business. I’d be interested in investigating and blogging about that.

    This is not even touching on the way Costco treats its employees–another way they differ widely from the Big Box Stores. They pay them better, give them better benefits, and get accolades for being a great company to work for. Higher salaries means more money goes back into the local economy.

    And the fact is, people shop at Costco for different reasons that they shop at other local businesses. Costco is not for everybody, whereas, Wal-Mart (and the like) TRY to be for everybody, and they’re cutthroat about it.

    Now that I’m done expanding on my Costco screed (heh), let me address the other point…

    Yes, I read Duncan’s blog, and I consider Duncan a friend and talk to him every time I *buy comics* at his store–every two weeks or so. How much money have you spent there, a longtime local business?

    I love local business. I (and my family) actively support local business–we have been for years and years. My mother even owned a retail shop downtown for a number of years that I helped out with from time to time (at no charge). When it comes to keeping our money local, we do our share:

    * Like Pegasus Books–as I mentioned, I spend money there several times a month. I also patronize The Book Barn, the Open Book, the Bookmark, and the Paperback Exchange (when it was still in business). I’ve spent more money at local bookstores than at Barnes and Noble.

    * We eat at local restaurants (we just ate at McKay Cottage today). We *love* local restaurants, especially the good ones like McKay, Victorian Cafe, Pilot Butte Drive-In, Hans (sob), etc.

    * We’ve bought cars through the years from Bob Thomas, rather than over in the Valley.

    * I like to shop at Newport Market, from time to time, and have been known to shops at Devores and Natures as well.

    * We love to hit the Farmer’s Market when we can. We make it a point to buy something local every time we’re there.

    * We drink plenty of local beer and wine. And I just bought supplies for making beer from the local (and only) homebrew shop today.

    Now, I’m not going to claim that we never spend money at chain restaurants, or larger, "non-local" stores either–we do. It’s unavoidable. We need to buy school clothes, we check Gap Kids or The Children’s Place or JC Penney or Sears or Macy’s–because those are the realistic options we have available to us.

    (Here’s an interesting question for you though… does JC Penney qualify as "local"? Because it’s been here longer than all the rest–it used to be downtown many, many years ago, and when I was a kid that’s where we did a lot of school shopping for me and my brothers. But really, it’s a chain store. So where does it stand? Does my patronization of a longtime business like that not count in the "local business" terms?

    Or, what about the Library? I frequently check out books from there… am I undercutting the local bookstore business when I do so?)

    But even for all that, "local business" is not sacrosanct, as BOR points out. That’s reality. Regrettable, sometimes, but true, and it’s naive to think otherwise.

    And patronizing both local businesses and Costco is not mutually exclusive, much as some people would like you to believe otherwise.

    (BTW, the downtown hardware store you were thinking of was Masterson St. Claire. You know, the St. Claire building. We used to shop there, too.)

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