Privilege Blog

Why Is Shopping At Costco So Difficult?

Costco overwhelms me. Walmart? Never even attempted. This has nothing to do with my recovering snobbery. It’s a failing and I take full responsibility.

Oh I can buy, for example, gum at Costco. Something I know I want, with, most importantly, known variance. Constrained choices. I can handle the difference between Cinnamon, Wintermint, Bubble Gum, and Peppermint. Even Fruit, which, of course has no acquaintance with anything that grew in an orchard.

I can sort of handle these kinds of choices. Something I didn’t know I wanted, i.e. a cornucopia of holiday skirts for little girls. At least all choices are visible. I can stand in front of this rack and reconcile my kindled desire with the possibilities. Decide, in the end, which one a little girl might like best.

But browsing Costco? Makes my eyes roll into the back of my head. Am I alone in this?

I am convinced that this is why I am a Sturdy Gal. Despite my Grande Dame skills and habits. The Grande Dame? Learned over years of corporate life and Thanksgivings with High WASPs. The Sturdy Gal? Innate.

What? Sturdy and fainting in a warehouse store in the same sentence? How can sturdy people suffer from Stendhal’s Syndrome?

Here’s my theory. The Sturdy Gal chooses clothing for comfort, not because she has no imagination but because she has too much. Where others look into their large closets with glee, choosing and re-choosing their clothes for the day, we suffer. Permutations and combinations are particularly tough. We like to know that we wear the pink silk cardigan with the gray pants. We don’t like to wonder about the possibility of rust with gray, of worsted with woven, of belts over shirts. Belts, for those with too much imagination, go in belt loops. If we have to think about belts over shirts? Over sweaters even? All we can say is, Michelle Obama deserves to be First Lady for her sheer courage in the face of belts.

So the next time you see one of us, flat shoes, no prints, absent any pieces of cloth artistically tied to anything else, remember. Compassion. And maybe find us some goggles for Costco.

A little treatise on High WASP Fashion Archetypes

33 Responses

  1. I have never understood Costco. We have gone in a couple of times inquiring about membership only to leave empty handed because who really wants to eat bulk food and wear bulk clothes etc. I know I am not the "norm."

  2. I have VERY similar feelings towards Costco. I also hate to waste food, so I never really caught on to the buying in bulk thing. Too much of a good thing can be, well, a bad thing.

  3. I've never been in a Costco, but entering Sam's Club induces a similar response in me. So I don't go in very often – I sort of like my eyes looking out of their sockets because I tend to trip over flat surfaces anyway and if they're rolled up in my head I become a danger to everyone, not just myself.


    As far as prints go, this sturdy girl likes stripes and polka dots, but usually only on her blouses, that she wears over her plain, solid color cotton t-shirts that usually match her slacks. And flats. Because heels also make her a danger to herself and others now that she's over forty.

  4. The few times I've been to Costco at your end of the world, I had the same feeling. But that might not be Costco's fault… I am the same way with most stores other than a bookstore. I go in, get what I need, might browse a bit, but tend to get overwhelmed very quickly, then I check out.

  5. I love Costco, but it is overwhelming at times. Also, I've noticed they are not carrying as healthy of foods as I would like. They do have Fage 0% yogurt, and by purchasing it there, I save a fortune! Also their berries! And lettuces. sigh! It is a new building and for some reason they have made it very cold (YES, I understand that it is a 'warehouse', but what does that mean??! I've asked if heat could be put on and an assistant manager just looked at me strangely and politely said, 'I'm sorry mam'am, we just don't have the capiblity….' I wear a coat or jacket and glove and scarf now.

    I'm soooo anti-Walmart, I just pretend it doesn't exist. There is a Costco and Walmart across the street from my office and I have been in Walmart 1 time in 12 years – it is just horrid – quality, presentation, I left wanting to slit my wrists, it completely depressed me (almost on level with fainting?!) Coworkers like to go there, but they know not to tell me!! haha

    There is a Target a few block down and it is wonderful! Great presentation, well set up, helpful staff, heat!

  6. I hate Walmart and I love Target. I don't go to Costco, I order from them online. We bought two of those massive outdoor heaters. I was looking for bronze. Frontgate had them for around $300. I found them (the exact ones) at Costco online for $130 and THEY DELIVERED!! What's not to love about that. I don't do crowds. I get more overwhelmed by all the people than by all the choices.

    Frito's rock, Chica!

  7. I don't know, I don't think of myself as a Sturdy Girl, but Costco definitely makes me swoon! But then, I moved to an island, so what do I know? Maybe I need to look at your diagram again; I may overlap more than I'd previously assumed…

  8. Swoon in a good way? Or pass out like me…I love Fritos. And Target. Just that living in California we are sort of in the land of if you didn't find it growing within 50 miles of your house you can't eat it.

  9. I am afraid that I just do NOT understand Costco… there was much 'fanfare and to-do' in Melbourne earlier this year when the first one in the City opened and along we all trooped to see what it was about…. NOTHING was laid out in any logical sequence it seemed to me, i.e. there were face cleansers next to peanut butter next to flip-flops!! I was completed confused and vowed that I would not be hurrying back! So sorry, count me out too….

  10. Gleeful consent! Had a post ready on Costco and abandoned it. The store is enervating. It expects you to buy in vast quantities, which a family of four doesn't need. It's clangy and joyless. If I am to "lay waste my days getting and spending", I am not going to lay waste there.

  11. My in-laws love Costco from the bottom of their little old yankee hearts.

    FIL – do you know where I got this cashmere sweater???? Costco!

    MIL – do you know where we got this 50lb can of beets???? Costco!

  12. Oh I hate going to Costco or Sams Club. The store makes my head hurt. I have run in for one or two things. I go in as if I were wearing blinders, but otherwise it is too. much. stuff. Worse, it is all aimed at getting people to buy as much stuff as possible in huge quantities as if it were the last chance to buy. The place seems meant to make one feel, small, insignificant, and powerless.

    I would rather spend my money elsewhere. I would rather spend my time elsewhere.

  13. Want to join in but have no sense of this place, except a vague sense of doom, but that's normal for me at this hour these days! I generally find these places overwhelming and have to enter the like with a more practical, systems-minded person. My friend is great at finding the right thing among the rest, whereas I start to stare at the people in there. Never browse, I always go in with something I need and then look for those items, and usually have a thing in mind that I want to rip-off (ie buy the cheaper version of). Finally responded to your tagging!

  14. You have to know what you want before you enter Costco: goat cheese, blueberries and vitamins. And free samples.

    It's not like Target, where you wander around, thinking, Maybe there will be serendipity: cool underwear with fish on them, or a deep red throw pillow with gold threads woven throughout, or dark chocolate with a flavor I've never thought of, like cardamom and it will even be on sale.

    Target exists to delight and surprise; Costco exists to teach us patience.

  15. LPC, with this post, I feel like you really get me! I've wandered around feeling lost and incompetent and that's simply no fun. The layout, the choices, the massive quantity, the sheer size, the illusion of saving just don't appeal. I prefer to be in and out of a store in just a few minutes and there's really no way to do that in Costco.

  16. I love some of what can be bought at Costco, yet I feel horrendously overwhelmed just walking around in there.

    Now Trader Joes on the other hand…despite the narrow aisles and crunchy granola crowds, I will suffer these for my Niman Ranch bacon, frozen Frenched Rack of Lamb, and Just a Handful roasted unsalted almonds.

  17. this made me laugh really loudly because I wore beige and grey to work today- GASP! it looked okay though and I totally know what you mean about just needing to know what "goes"

    ps- if you need help with that gum, it's my fav'!


  18. Target is great and Wal Mart is a horror, but I live in a very small town in the mountains and Target isn't here. They just built a new Wal Mart with stone trim on a neutral exterior and none of that awful blue color in sight.

    The inside is much nicer too – the new stores have a whole new layout. Even the landscaping and parking lot is nice. I figure if Wal Mart ever goes out of business, at least in this town they'll leave behind a really nice retail site for a change.

  19. There are lots of good reasons to go there, but I avoid it like the plague on weekends – large families, large carts, all moving very slowly. It's not a luxe experience, but I don't feel nasty about the experience either (like I would Wal-Mart).

    On the other hand (and on weekdays), I buy TP, dishwasher soap etc. in quantity just so I don't run out. I live in a house with room to store that kind of stuff, so I only have to go every 3 mos or so. Also great for large parties where I don't want/need to make everything – frozen appetizers, cheese, good prices and selection for beer, wine, and liquor. Ditto for a few staple food items – frozen fruit for smoothies, berries in the summer (but not worth a special trip for), printer cartridges, and I do check there before I buy electronics.

    Also, can't say enough about their hearing aid department – my parents have both gotten great service, prices, follow-up, and the refund policy if you are not satisfied is really good. Also – check the prices on disposable contact lenses.

  20. Costco is vast, the lights are intense, it is cold and noisy, the carts are hard to steer, it is very impersonal. I rarely go. ( I feel stressed when I am there) My home is small and has very little storage space so it doesn't really work for me. I shop at a small neighbourhood grocer that specializes in organics, and specialty items. They have won awards for several years as the top independent grocer. Shopping there is a pleasant experience, simple.
    Costco is like a large walk in closet with too many "patterned garments" …the mind reels….Sturdy gals might faint!

  21. I think that I suffer panic attacks in those big box stores–it's so easy to get lost. That said, I've never been to a CostCo, though Target has proved useful for school supplies (if you can find them)!

  22. Camilla and Charles are visiting soon…Canada, (not Costco) where does Camilla fit in with your Venn style…Sturdy Gal? Grand Dame? Artsy Cousin?

  23. Well, you know I'm very involved in my local Slow Food convivium…so please keep my frito loving secret to yourself!

  24. You just put words to why I am incapable of shopping outside my label comfort zone. I want to be able to walk into Anthropolgy and out with a flirty dress (as the bff does so well) but, it is not in the talent hand i was dealt. I am, however, of Olympic caliber when it comes to a Ralph Lauren or Belgian Shoe store. Chalk me up with the rest of the sturdys…XXOO

  25. i love that diagram…it has been too long since i have been able to indulge in some hot tea and soak in all your wonderful posts…i am interested in finding where i stand in that diagram. have you visited this often? i MUST find time to read!! i don't know if i am a sturdy girl…perhaps not…i don't know…

  26. I feel faint just thinking about Costco / Sam's Club / Walmart. Too big, too much stuff, too many people. Any money I save is offset by the pain of the experience.

    And about Camilla… she is Sturdy Girl all the way. I've been following their trip to Canada and her practical, Sturdy Girl clothes. Day two, for example: grey wool coat with olive green suede boots and pearl earrings. She may be Sturdy Girl leaning toward Artsy Cousin as she adds taupe gloves???, brown reptile clutch???, and grey herringbone hat trimmed with fur??? Even if she becomes the Queen, I don't see Grand Dame in her future.

  27. Yes, I agree. Camilla is Sturdy Gal with Artsy aspirations. Perhaps we can locate some pictures from this trip to Canada?

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