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Warehouse Club Secrets: How They Make You Spend and How You Can Save

The Obstacles to Checking Out

Regardless, there are significant psychic costs that must be reckoned with. The most critical is the effect Costco has on their patrons. The madness starts in the perpetually inadequate parking lot with duels over prime spots. It continues inside, where everyone seems stressed and in a rush. I can't recall ever being cut off in a regular supermarket. In Costco it happens on every visit, often more than once. Ugly -- except when I do it, of course.

And heaven forbid you have trouble finding the frozen taquitos. (Shop-floor personnel are nearly nonexistent -- another cost-cutting measure. The only ones you'll find are absorbed in a very specific task and unable to help. I'd have better luck sending up a rescue flare and asking the forest service for directions.)

Then, after you've navigated the obstacle course of odd layouts and obnoxious patrons, and limited yourself to judicious, value-driven selections, you still have to pass through the nadir of any visit: the checkout.

Paying here is more like a border crossing than a transaction. Tons of registers are open, but they are entirely overwhelmed by the massive tide of humanity trying to leave the store with gigantic, overstuffed carts, sometimes two to a person. Entering the area I'm thrust even closer together with my fellow shoppers, all jockeying for position with an aggression that would make a NASCAR driver blush. Not coincidentally, as the lines back up, the sprawl of aspiring payers waits among the first few rows of merchandise, which happen to house the same high-ticket items we passed by when we arrived. You're supposed to salivate on the way in. You're supposed to marinate on the way out. And if Costco can't dare you into snapping up a flatscreen, they're happy to sell you a giant pack of batteries or a gallon of hand sanitizer. Stay strong, friends. Because if you can endure this, you're free. Free to walk the half mile back to your car, pursued by drivers eager for your spot, then make your way home and unload your booty. At which point, for me, it kind of seems worth it.