It's lunchtime. You have one dollar, seventy-eight cents to your
name. You're starving. Where do you go?
|What Exactly is a Costco?|
Costco Warehouse is a membership-only retail warehouse selling
mostly bulk product primarily to small businesses, large families, and anyone else with an
abundance of storage space. Costco is a direct competitor to Sam's Club, and similar to Makro or some consumers' cooperative supermarkets. In the US membership is available to individuals, but in some other countries memberships may be restricted to business members or members of certain professions only (like care workers or government employees).
So, what kind of merchandise can you find at Costco? Probably it
would be shorter to list the things you can't find
there1. To give
an idea though, a partial inventory would include big screen
televisions, computers and peripherals, cameras, luggage, appliances,
mattresses, hardware, household goods like lightbulbs and batteries, office supplies, bicycles, outdoor
furniture, toys, clothing, linens and towels, books, computer software, game consoles
and accessories, baked goods, fresh foods, meat, produce, frozen and
dry goods, paper products, cleaning products, health and beauty
products, and in most locations alcohol and
|Who Said There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?|
While it's true that you need to purchase a membership to buy
merchandise from a Costco Warehouse2, it's also true that with a little bit of canny
maneuvering you can indeed score yourself a free lunch without the benefit of a membership card.
There will be a greeter at the door who checks for membership cards as shoppers enter. If it's possible to look like you're with someone else you can slip in with no hassle. On the other hand if the greeter does ask you for a membership card you can say that you are headed for the pharmacy (because US federal law
prohibits restricted access to pharmacies). Head off in the general
direction of the pharmacy, then go find the food! Or, for a totally legitimate experience, you could stop by the courtesy counter and ask for a day pass. These are usually available to encourage prospective members to experience the store before committing to a year-long membership.
Every day during peak shopping hours you can find dozens of samples
throughout the warehouse. Not like the unattended tray of chip crumbs
you find at the supermarket, no - these are first quality, top notch
samples served up fresh and hot (when appropriate) by a demonstrator.
The selection varies from day to day, but usually include some variety
of meats, breads, pasta, dips, cheeses, crackers, fresh fruit,
frozen items and entrees, combinations of different products, and
beverages. For example, you might one afternoon have a quarter of a
veggie burger, possibly on a bread, a few bites of pulled chicken in
barbecue sauce, a slice of cheddar on a multi-grain cracker, a few
sips of soup, a couple of crisps with
hummous, a wedge of apple, a slice of pepperoni pizza, a bit of berry smoothie, half a popsicle,
a chicken nugget, a lobster-stuffed ravioli, some yoghurt, a swig of
coffee and a swallow of
cranberry cherry juice. The next day you will have something
And you still haven't spent any money... yet. If you still have
that dollar and change you can stop by the snack bar - which also does
not require a membership card - and get yourself a snack. For a dollar
fifty or less you can have a hot dog or
Polish sausage with a soda, a 16-ounce fat-free frozen yoghurt, a
berry smoothie, a frozen mocha latte, a chocolate-dipped ice-cream pop
or a cinnamon & sugar churro3. Refills on the soda are free during your visit, so if you get the soda first you'll have plenty to drink as you snack your way through the rest of the store.
|A Word About the International Experience|
While it's true that Coscto is an international company with locations across the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Mexico and elsewhere, it is possible that the free lunch described in this entry may not be available everywhere. The free samples should be on offer in most locations as it is part of their business model, but means of gaining access to the store may be harder to circumvent in countries or markets with more membership restrictions. In general this entry holds mainly true in most US locations. Good luck, and bon apetit!