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6 Things I Learned as a Child of Costco-Crazy Parents

In the name of all that is Kirkland, I swear by the quality of KB socks, memories of being pushed on over-sized orange carts, a hot dog and drink for a buck fifty, and the joy of receiving a smiley face on the receipt from the nice lady reviewing purchases at the exit. Why? Because I am the product of true-blue-and-red Costco parents, and I say it loud, I say it proud.

My whole life is in bulk. With parents both part of families larger than eight people, I never stood a chance of knowing a holiday requiring less than three large tables to dine (one, of course, a kid’s table, from which I will never graduate). My parents in turn, Irish Catholics that they are, raised a family of four children in the suburbia of San Diego, California. A family of double-bucklers, room-sharers, and Sorry! team pairs so that everyone could play together. And in a house with three other siblings who know the definition of fair based on the amount of sock pairs retrieved after a laundry load, everyone needed the same things at all times. Luckily, my parents have Costco to thank for allowing them to raise a school of children in a comfortable, economically sound way.

Now, because I Heely’d up and down the perfectly slick floors of Price Club (what the lifers call it) and waited for my parents on a display of a swinging hammock for a’many a’years, I had no choice but to pick up some lessons from the place:

1. Never underestimate the power of a bulk buy. The best buy is the bulk buy. This is the cardinal rule. Yes, you do need a package of toilet paper the size of a sixteen wheeler. It might take few good months, but behold, you will go through it. And besides, if you don’t go through it fast enough, you’ll be thankful you bought it when your daughter decides to start a TP’ing war with the neighborhood kids, and you don’t have to compromise your good parenting reputation by being seen at a Safeway checkout with 20 6-roll packages.

2. Even if a deal is amazing, if you don’t need it, pass it up. When in Costco, not all who wander are lost, nor are they confined to a shopping list. My parents are the largest offenders of this lesson. They love the absence of a “10 items or fewer” line and indulge in whatever their hearts tell them to put on the conveyor belt, regardless of if they have strayed miles away from their original intentions. If I had a dime for every time my parents attempted to go to Costco to load up on staple food items and returned to the car with a new backyard umbrella and a gumball machine, only to then come back the following day to stand in the return line with the gumball machine, I would be able to shop at Dean & Deluca on the regular.

3. Embarrassment of a thrifty-ish lifestyle is a waste of energy. I’m not sure why, but there was a period of my life where I felt Costco was a place for people who needed handouts, as if the mass amounts of free samples were some kind of soup line for middle class families who needed a bit of help. I don’t think I was completely wrong in thinking this because, c’mon, the deals are just out of this world. However, as I grew older, it became clear to me what a large benefit and savings my family made by shopping here. So, now, to the woman in the teal apron, I will be taking that sample of mini chicken tacos with peanut sauce, and that woman over there is my mother who can assure you I do not have an allergy, thank you very much!

4. No matter how far, the strangest associations can transport you back home. You could be in Hawaii, you could be in Nebraska, but it is never your first rodeo navigating inside a Costco, even if it’s your first visit to that specific warehouse. As large as they are, a map/tour guide would never be necessary (although, come to think of it, being a Costco docent would be a wonderful profession). You can count on being greeted by a row of televisions, you can locate the book table (which is as conducive to title browsing as choosing a spork to eat chow mien) in the center front of the store, and the wines will always be tucked in the back right corner by the bakery. As I mentioned, I’m from San Diego, but go to college in New York City, and with a continent between school and my hometown, it’s oddly comforting to know my parents are shopping in a layout similar to the one in Manhattan, assuring me there are things that you can count on in life to never really change.

5. Be thorough in researching all options before committing yourself to something. My father has defended the title of the most indecisive man in the world for far too many years. Yet, because he is my adorable Phil Dunphy-esque father, I love and respect him even if he cannot choose a phone upgrade, let alone a toothpaste brand. Thus, respecting him means that before we buy anything electronic, he asks that we check the tags at Costco before going through with a purchase elsewhere. This was tiresome thing to do, even after years and years of obeying this rules, but due to checking and double-checking, my siblings and I consider a larger scope of options when making decisions large or small, and I am thankful it is now a painless reflex to do so. (The most annoying thing in the world is that my dad was and is usually right. Three cheers to rebates on iPods and Vizio televisions!)

6.  Persevere, persevere, persevere, and push yourself to do the impossible. Somehow, many instances where I had no choice but to buck up, be fearless and make business happen took place in the vicinity of Costco. The common problem I faced the most was the fear of entering a Costco without the sacred, the special, the holy membership card (*gasp*). Yes, yes, I know, I discovered my wild side at a pret-tay young age. But I know you know the exact fear I’m talking about, the terror similar to that of Spy Kids Carmen and Juni Cortez sneaking into Flupo’s castle to rescue their parents. While I temporarily resented my parents for trusting me to finish eating pizza at the outside patio, I knew what I had to do to be reunited inside: I held my head high, walked somewhat close to a mom-looking figure pushing a cart, did not dare creak my neck even a centimeter to see the judging eyes of the man checking memberships (intensely, I’m sure), and upon passing the sweet threshold, I disappeared into the thick of the electronics section never to be caught. If that didn’t make me thirst for adventure and determination to do what I needed to do, I might to this day never really profoundly wondered what was in a wonder ball, bet against eating just one Lay’s chip, or tried to figure out how many licks it took to get to the center of a Tootsie pop.

I feel I sound Costco-obsessed, but what I really am is a member of a family who can’t fit into anything smaller than a minivan or SUV, or ever win a “family 4 pack” prize in a radio contest without exclusion. We are fun sized, but we are not small. To this day I’ve loved every spoonful of swirled frozen yogurt, every mountain of jackets piled with XLs and XXLs to find that one Medium, and every loading of the trunk with random crap purchased at this crazy store that has somehow brought my family closer, and I am better because of it.

By Danielle St. Marie

Feature image via New York Times.

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