Really, Costco? Really?

Bigger paper towels? Does this help anyone?

Bigger paper towels? Does this help anyone?

I have  a love/hate relationship with Costco. In many ways it represents everything that is evil about American capitalism: driving us to buy more than we need, buying cheap crap from China that we don’t need, buying more than we can afford on impulse, feeding the bigger is better crowd with the mentality that they should fill up their SUVs to the brim then store this crap in their own homes for future use, thus turning into their houses into mini-Costcos of their own. I much prefer the European model of picking up what you want to eat for dinner THAT DAY on your walk home from work. People laugh at tiny European refrigerators, but those people aren’t giving away free warehousing for a store. It’s a true just-in-time model.

I also hate the experience of shopping at Costco, with the overcrowded parking lot, idiots stopping to gape in mid-aisle and the moronic crowds circling around the endcaps for a mini-bite of frozen waffle. So far I have restrained myself from ramming anyone, which I think is a point in my favor.

On the other hand, a trip to Costco can be a money-saving experience. And the company has very progressive (by today’s standards) of worker treatment and fairness. They also tend to buy relatively high quality merchandise and have a great return policy.

We’ll typically do a surgical strike maybe four times per year and bulk up on certain essentials. But you have to be careful. Case in point: Costco’s paper towel selection.

During a trip to Costco last week, I found this abomination: new, larger paper towels. This is one of those cynical capitalist gimmicks that is so frustrating. Do we really need the actual towel to be larger? Obviously this is geared at making us use more paper towels!

Fortunately we don’t use many paper towels. But they’re occasionally handy. Main uses are wiping up cat puke, covering food for microwaving (although we rarely use our microwave) and cleaning something that I need to keep relatively germ-free (where a sponge is a bad idea). Even when we do use them, however, I almost never need a full normal-sized towel. Often I’ll just tear one in half and use the other half later. So when select-a-size paper towels came out, I was fully on-board. But none are available at Costco. Just ginormous paper towels. See, I don’t care what the cost per “roll” is: I care what the cost per “wipe” is. So I aborted and picked up a similar-sized pack of select-a-size towels from QFC. Oh, and if I happen to need a larger one? Guess what, I’ll just use 2-3 of the smaller select-a-size towels.

Which is my overall point about Costco: it can be awesome and handy, but don’t assume that just because you get something there (or anywhere), it’s a better deal. Do your homework.

What bargains or non-bargains have you found at Costco?

Update 9/11/13: Just a quick update to mention that I was in Costco recently and they have surrendered to the will of Pretired Nick and have added select-a-size paper towels to their offering. Another win for me!

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8 Thoughts on “Really, Costco? Really?

  1. The commentary on paper towels is something I have actually thought of too. Why are they so big? It is ridiculous waste.

    I don’t normally do the shopping, so I’m going to tell the wife to be on the lookout for the smaller ones.

    “the moronic crowds circling around the endcaps for a mini-bite of frozen waffle”

    Oh man, this cracks me up too! Folks will hover around the sample lady like starving vultures, waiting for the taquitos to come out of the mini-oven. Then, they pounce like they haven’t eaten in a year. I’m convinced that one day, there is going to be a “cheese stick sample stampede” at a Costco. It wil resemble a Who concert or Walmart the day after Thanksgiving. Keep your young ones close people!

  2. Pretired Nick on April 15, 2013 at 8:41 am said:

    LOL – totally! Somehow I sense these taquito mini-bite vultures are not on the path to early retirement!

  3. OK…so I found this post late but I have to comment.

    We buy the Kirkland paper towels that are huge and I tear them in half. Yes, it is a pain, but they are really high quality paper towels. I do wish they were perforated, but they tear pretty evenly. Those towels won’t work for everyone, but we have a working farmlette (smaller than a farm, bigger than a garden!) and the larger, heavier duty towels are a huge help. They are overkill for most household uses, though.
    Betsy Muse / CollegeMom recently posted…Best Gas Reward Credit CardsMy Profile

    • Pretired Nick on May 21, 2013 at 6:39 am said:

      More comments is always better, Betsy! We tried that as well, but don’t find they tear evenly and we’d always end up stuffing the torn-off piece in the top. But if that works, it’s great. But what really bugs me is the way they pretend they’re doing us some favor by tricking us into using more product. Frustrating!

  4. Diane C on May 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm said:

    HaHa! I’m even later than Betsy…
    I love, love, love Costco. I adore that they treat their workers well and pay them fairly. However, for the many, many, many years that I was single, I never purchased paper towels there. A single select-a-size roll would last me months and months, Now that I’m both newly married and retired, I pack my husband’s lunch every day. He came with a pre-existing supply of Costco paper towels, so I use them in his lunch box. Every few weeks, I cut a bunch in half and then in quarters, depending on their intended purpose. I, too, wish they made a select-a-size option. I’d happily pay more, because I’d use less.

    • Pretired Nick on May 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm said:

      Ha, you’re welcome to comment anytime! Thanks for endorsing my opinion. I always wonder if I’m the only one thinking this stuff sometimes!

  5. Rezdent on October 28, 2013 at 6:22 pm said:

    I absolutely stumbled on this one late. I found your blog and liked it enough that I’m reading all the posts in order 🙂
    I’m looking at getting rid of paper towels completely but the family keeps vetoing the idea. I hate buying something just for the purpose of throwing it away. Oddly, I am totally ok with toilet paper, it’s paper towels that irk me.
    We buy the select-a-size rolls. Then we carefully cut them (bread knife does a perfect job) in half up to the cardboard insert. Pop a rubber band on one side and use just half at a time.If you need more than then just pull more off. We have really cut down on the amount used this way and working on zero use for the future.

    • Pretired Nick on October 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm said:

      Thanks so much, Rezdent! Glad to have you aboard!
      I love your tip for controlling the paper towel burn rate! Paper towels are totally absurd. Every time I use one, I try to think about what they did before they existed. We use very few these days.

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