Monday, August 17, 2009

Wholesale Therapy

Big news today: Costco opened its first Australian warehouse in Melbourne today! That’s right, the American institution of purchasing stuff in packs of 50 right off the shipping pallet, all under an expansive industrial roof, has finally reached across the Pacific to this corner of the world. I know they have locations in Taiwan, Korea and Japan, but as arguably the most Americanized countries in the Asia-Pacific region, it is high time for Australia to finally have a Costco.

For people who are not familiar with Costco, it is a completely different shopping experience than any other place. The biggest difference is that it has done away with the whole pretense of presentation: aisles are flanked not by shelves, but by pallets on which items on offer are shipped. The whole place is a steel-and-concrete warehouse; there’s no pop Muzak playing in the background and no shop assistants helping you trying on the shirt you want to buy. What you see is what you get. Items range from clothes to diapers, from groceries to pet food, from toiletries to cleaning supplies. You won’t find fifty varieties of canned tuna, but what you do find comes in packs of thirty. Want to get some toothpaste? There are packs of five on sale. Toilet paper? How about the packs of fifty? Want some apples? They have 10-lb bags. The big draw is that, per item, the prices are usually quite a bit lower than what one can find in retail shops. Obviously, you don’t go to Costco to pick up some bread and milk, because you will invariably come out with a hundred other things and $300 poorer. It is a boon for budget-conscious and well-disciplined people, heaven on earth for hoarders, but a giant sink hole for the impulsive shopper.

Now, Australians, or rather Melbournians, at least for now, will be able to stock up on a year’s supply of toilet paper and laundry detergent in just one trip. Apparently, there was a two-hour wait for the checkout today. People everywhere just love a bargain.

I wonder when they will open one up in Sydney.

Thirty-roll packs of toilet paper on sale at the Livermore, California, Costco. I had this picture taken to show my friends in Australia because I didn’t think they would ever see such a sight.

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