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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Costco? No, thank you.

Found this locust-like insect on the balcony this morning

I went to the Taichung 台中 Costco branch this afternoon, and came away feeling unimpressed. I had heard great things about the store from several people, and when Pamela was invited to go there by our downstairs neighbor, whose friend has a membership, I jumped at the chance to see what all the fuss was about. Well, I don't think we'll be climbing up on this particular bandwagon anytime soon, for the following reasons:

1.) The sizes
Not of the store, which is big, but of the goods on sale there. Yes, I was aware Costco sells things in bulk, but the Kaminoge family isn't large enough (nor do we have the fridge and shelf space) to store items in sizes that big. And let's face it - I like Eggos as much as the next guy, but do I really want to eat one every morning for the next two months?

2.) The selection
Costco is packed from floor to ceiling with stuff, but there wasn't as much of the kind of stuff I was looking for. To put it another way, while there were a lot of goodies from home, the range and selection wasn't anywhere as extensive as the impression I'd gotten from talking with friends and acquaintances who shop there regularly. The bakery, for example, had a lot of bread, but no English muffins or donuts. The cereal section was a disappointment - while they had Raisin Bran, I didn't see any Frosted Mini-Wheats or Cap'n Crunch. And the choice of beers was appalling, even worse than what you can find at most local supermarkets and convenience stores...with one notable exception:

Le ble d'or, one of a handful of Taiwanese microbreweries, with a couple of brewpubs in Taipei 台北 and Taichung, had a stand selling two one-liter bottles in a cool-looking carrying bag for NT349 ($10.60/¥1000), an opportunity that could not be passed by. But for the most part, the selection at Costco isn't much different from what your neighborhood hypermarket has on its shelves.

3. The crowds
I'm sure it's quiet on weekdays, but today (Saturday) the store was shopping cart-to-shopping cart gridlock. If you like rubbing elbows with your fellow shoppers, go to Costco on a weekend.

So there you have it. If there is something I'm dying for, and I hear Costco has it, I'll ask someone with a membership to either bring me along with them the next time they go, or kindly ask them to buy it for me on their next shopping excursion. Otherwise, I'll stick with the local Carrefour, or the Capita'n supermarket on Chengde Road in Taichung.

Something else happened this afternoon at the store, although it certainly wasn't the fault of Costco. I was pushing Amber in the shopping cart, when she started to stand up. As I was telling her to sit down, the friend of our neighbor downstairs (whose card had allowed us to get inside) came over and picked my daughter up. I told her it was OK, and began putting Amber in a sitting position in the cart when the woman said "Mei guanxi" 沒關係 ("It doesn't matter"), and took my daughter away (to get some kind of free food sample, as it turned out)! The requirements of being a well-behaved hairy barbarian meant I couldn't really do anything, but my poor wife had to listen to a four-letter word-laced tirade when she returned to the cart a few moments later. This isn't the first time this has happened, and it gets more irritating every time it occurs. At the risk of getting a comment or two from some anonymous person in clear need of psychological counseling, accusing me of hating Taiwan and its people, is it normal in this country to pick up someone else's child, even when the parent of that child is telling you not to, and then tell the parent not to worry about it, and walk away with the kid? Or is it only applicable to cute little foreign tykes? Call me a Taiwan-hater, and tell me to get the hell out of this country, but I really think the woman today (whom I had never met until this afternoon), not to mention some of her fellow citizens in the past, crossed some boundaries that she shouldn't have.

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