Since Costco first opened in Melbourne, I have been subduing a secret desire to visit this shrine of consumerism. On one hand there is the anthropologist in me that wants to see the depths humanity can plunge into; on the other hand there are the lingering thought on what magical items that Lost Ark containment hanger like shop may be holding? Could they, for example, already have retina display iPad Minis in stock?
Thus far that desire has been subdued by access and parking issues around the single Melbourne location. And that $60 admission price. However, watching Chuck the way we have been lately, with its Buy More and its Large Mart, does wet one’s appetite. Let us not forget the irresistible slogan behind Buy More:
When you buy more, you save more. And when you save more, you can buy more. And when you buy more, you save more. It all starts when you BUY MORE.This last weekend, having watched The Watch – a film that, in many respects, revolves around Costco – was a tipping point. I haven’t stopped nagging the wife to approve a visit since.
Things, however, are not that trivial. Costco does represent a lot of the worst of consumerism. To put it in other words, the satire that is Buy More is there for a reason. Does anybody really need giant sized everything? Cheap stuff – is it really good for us, given the damage that the “use once, then throw away” culture does to the environment? And what about local shops, many of them lack the power to fight off this supersized rival?
All are good arguments, but I can argue in favor of Costco too. The supermarkets of Australia are dominated by two companies of no lesser clout, at least in this continent, than Costco. Woolworths, for example, also happens to be the number one operator of gambling machines. Do not tell me they beat Costco in the ethics department.
And what about the market for white goods? I know where to shop around for computers, I know where to shop for groceries (Aldi), but what about a fridge? In that realm, the Aussie shopper is limited to the likes of the devil and/or the devil.
I am pointing a finger at that class act of Australian shopping, Harvey Norman. Shops where the salespeople never fail to not know much about the products they are selling, be it a TV or a table. I am using personal examples here: we recently bought a dining table from Harvey Norman, and it turned out the salespeople misled/lied to us regarding its country of origin and the trees used to construct the table. Just the other week we visited a Harvey Norman to look at Dyson vacuum cleaners; we were interested in the product, but the salespeople treatment we got was enough to drive us away. And what about that two faced puritan ruling the chain?
My point is simple: if the ethics are questionable, the service is bad and the salespeople ignorant, I might as well buy my stuff for less. I might as well go Costco.
Who knows, one bad weather weekend day we might just drop by for a visit. Unless our TV or fridge break down first.
Image by KMJPhotography (TillyDog), Creative Commons license