I am a dual citizen, which is something that not many people know about me. My dual citizenship can be challenging, as when competing loyalties come into play. But most of the time I enjoy the fruits of two similar but distinctly different cultures.
Wait – did you think that I am a citizen of two separate countries? No, nothing like that at all. I have memberships at both Sam’s Club and Costco.
We started out at Sam’s, which had only recently taken over what used to be “The Wholesale Club”. With a young and growing family, the chance to save money by buying diapers and toilet paper in big quantities was attractive. We were the people who bought milk six gallons at a time. We had the room to store the extra stuff and a big van to tote it all home in, so all was well.
Then I saw the pickles in my kitchen. As in a one gallon glass jar of them. “A gallon of pickles? Who needs a gallon of pickles?” My Mrs. replied by telling me that the warehouse club Gallon ‘O Pickles cost only a teeny bit more than the normal jar from the grocery store. I hate it when logic actually makes a gallon jar of pickles make sense. But it was true. So . . . we ate more pickles. The second half of the jar always tasted better because they were free.
And then Costco came to town. My Mrs. checked the place out during its Grand Opening. I was preparing to have the discussion that started with something like “so which one of the warehouse clubs should we belong to.” This, I soon learned, was the wrong discussion.
“They each have different things” was the beginning of the discussion that we actually ended up having. The discussion ended with the idea that we could save even more money with two memberships. And again, she was right – in a way. Once we signed up as “Exectutive Members” (which earn an annual rebate based on purchases) and resolved to buy most of our gasoline at Costco that extra membership cost little or nothing. So, yeah.
There have turned out to be benefits of our dual citizenship. When we travel, odds are that only one of the two will be represented where we are going. So if there is a need to buy a thirty-two pack of bottled spring water or a monster sized box of Fruit Roll Ups, we will be covered wherever we go. I like to think of it as consumption insurance.
The two chains have also shown their distinct personalities. When I want to put my Allen County Indiana persona on, to Sam’s Club I go, where the parking lot is full of Ford F-150s and Chevy Suburbans. Sams’ emphasis has been on down home shopping for down home people. Do you want Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise? You’ve got to go to Sam’s.
When, however, I am feeling all enlightened and upper middle classy it just has to be Costco. Where I would never even thinking of looking for Miracle Whip because it is just, so, well . . . . At Costco my poor Kia minivan feels a little out of place from the Infiniti and Toyota SUVs all over. But I have managed to become comfortable parking without the need to wear sunglasses. As soon as I am out of the car I can blend in. When I am holding my case of craft beer or cage-free eggs I blend right in with everyone else. Until I suggest to someone next to me in line that I still miss buying my eggs in cages, which are so much more durable than those plastic cartons.
It really is true that the personality of the two stores is very different. I have toyed with the idea of testing this theory by wearing a “Make America Great Again” t-shirt. I suspect that I would get sneering looks at Costo and pats on the back and invitations to backyard barbecues at Sams.
There are some disadvantages, though. The biggest one is that I have a hard time ever finding anything. Is the soup I like at Sam’s or Costco? And where is it. I am not a guy who supports extra government regulation, but some basic standards on where stores stock stuff could be helpful. The only response now is to go methodically in my set pattern, from the beginning to end at each store. So, of course, I buy more than I intended to as I remember all of the things that didn’t make the list.
The cost of those impulse buys can add up. In calories, if nothing else. A bag of kettle corn or a container of chocolate-dipped caramels may not be that much of a commitment at the regular grocery, but at SamsCo such an impulse is tantamount to signing up for an extra 15,000 calories.
The amazing part is that we have kept up both memberships even after the kids have moved out of the house. Really, does this make sense for just two of us? On one level, yes. We will use 128 rolls of toilet paper eventually, so why not save some money by buying it all at once, so long as we have the ability to store the extra?
And if we were to drop one, I really don’t know which one it would be. Sam’s is a better location for us, has early morning hours (for we business members) and has a phone app that allows me to self-scan as I shop, thus avoiding the line at the check-out. But Costco sells a much better tasting brand of breaded mozzarella sticks. And with Lent coming, well, this is important for those of us who are not seafood lovers.
So I guess we will just remain dual citizens for the foreseeable future. Can I offer you a pickle?