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The rules of shopping at big box discount stores

Marketplace Staff Dec 11, 2010

The rules of shopping at big box discount stores

Marketplace Staff Dec 11, 2010


Tess Vigeland: If you shop at Costco, I’m guessing you’ve had a run-in or two with buyer’s remorse. How many giant boxes of Triscuit can a person eat?

It takes a certain level of consumer competence to understand how to shop at a big box discount store. For those of you lacking that competence, commentator and New York Times columnist Ron Lieber has a few choice words.

Ron Lieber: Every time I’m at Costco or Sam’s or BJ’s, I find myself maneuvering around the lost tribes of the warehouse: people without a shopping list or any palpable sense of purpose. They veer and meander, as if this were a locus of comparison shopping.

No. Please. Go home. This form of consumerism is like the expert level on a video game, and there are rules here, lest the quest take an entire afternoon.

What, you didn’t know? Well, let’s dispense with the rules then and get you briskly through the aisles, shall we?

First, leave your kids at home. I have a kid. I love kids. But Costco is dangerous, with its giant boxes and heavy carts. And no, don’t let your kid stand up and ride in one.

There are lots of food samples, and you are morally obliged to try every single one. But park your cart flush with the displays first so the cart does not block the aisle. And park yourself out of the thoroughfare too, as you blow on your soup or await the next batch of dumplings.

Also, thou shalt not hold a place in the cashier line for someone else. You may get in line with your cart while someone else brings a few more items by hand. But you can’t bring another cart or carts into line with you, no matter how many children you may have.

Some customers seem to think that the opening of another lane is an occasion for a demolition derby of sorts, with people from three lanes over trying to jostle into position. No. This is how it will go: The people who have been waiting longest in the lines on either side for the newly opened aisle get to fill in the new line first. Then others from two lanes over can move to the newly shortened lines that were there before. And so on. No bumper carts, O.K.?

It sounds a bit exhausting, right? But it isn’t supposed to be fun, unless you find one of those cheap diamond rings that everyone is always talking about.

But you can soothe yourself with this one final thought: if you buy enough paper towels and peanut butter now, you won’t have to come back for a good long while.

Vigeland: Ron Lieber writes the Your Money column for the New York Times. Got your own suggestions for fellow shoppers? Comment on our Facebook page or here.

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