Made In The USA: Kirkland Signature Socks

Okay, I admit it. As of late, this “Made In The USA” series has been a little bourgeois. And the items that I have coming up won’t do much to address the criticism that’s been repeated by our readers again and again: namely, that this obsession with American-made products is really just another way to spend too much for things, the same way that the “foodie revolution” occurred because you have all these people in cities earning $250,000 a year who literally don’t have enough room in their apartments for a second bicycle but who still want to indulge in copious displays of economic well-being.

To counter this unfortunate trend of $175 extension cords and the like, I present to you: Kirkland Signature Socks. I paid $8.95 for these at Costco a while back. The best way I could think of to torture-test them was simple: use them for a day at work, then an evening at the skatepark, then another day at work, then 35 minutes on the elliptical machine. That’s not really equivalent to a year’s worth of hard use or anything like that, but it’s enough to cause visible wear in the overseas-made stuff you get from Wal-Mart. As part of this comparison, I would then evaluate the Kirkland socks against my limited-run, American-made Flint&Tinder socks, to see which set was better.

Surprise: The Kirkland Signature socks appear to be just as good as the F&T socks that cost literally ten times as much. But, as with everything, there’s a catch.


That “catch” is that you’ll need to be a Costco member in order to get these socks cheap. If you’re not, you’ll have to pay a bit more — $14.08, to be precise. Not to worry. These socks are still a deal at $2.30 a pair.

Costco, of course, is the place where rich people pay less money to buy stuff, because they have the ability to purchase in bulk against future needs and because their budget allows them to buy a membership with no tangible or immediate benefit. Which reminds me of a sad story. My former girlfriend, the inimitable Vodka McBigbra, had lived much of her life on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, often living from week to week on the money she could earn selling cars or dancing in clubs. About three months after she moved in with me, I discovered by random chance that she was taking the grocery money I was giving her and driving all the way across town to the scummy northeast side of Columbus to buy food and cleaning supplies. I should have realized it sooner than that — I didn’t recognize a single brand on anything she brought home — but I’m just not much of a quotidian observer.

When I called her on the carpet about this, she explained that she was doing it to save us money. So I packed her into the lime-green S5 and we went over to the “rich folks” grocery store down the street. The look on her face when she realized that everything cost less in the suburbs caused me to spend three days in a depressive spiral. How could she not have known that the “dollar stores” in lower-income areas prey on people who have no options and no ability to travel?

Danger Girl, naturally, arrived at my home with her longtime-member Costco card clutched in her sinister* hand. She never pays too much for anything; she knows how to price-shop and how to calculate volume discounts and how to consider the present value of a giant container animal-cracker container versus the certainty that I will eat them all in short order. You cannot fool her the way that society fooled Vodka for twenty years.

Over at the dollar stores, socks cost more than they do at Costco. They aren’t nearly as good. And it’s a sharp reminder that the invisible hand of the market is truly beyond such considerations as ethics or humanity. In the end, the market judges you on just one thing: your ability to do better somewhere else. If you have that, then you have options. If you don’t, then you will pay your money and take your chances. You know what would be a true social good? Figuring out a way to open a Costco for the working poor. Maybe give them a free membership and let them split up those enormous pallets of toothpaste or the big sealed containers of fresh mozzarella. But what would it show them in the long run, other than to confirm what they’ve always believed: that the grass really is greener on the lawns of the people to whom God has given a taste for long-term thinking?

*in the classical sense; she is left-handed.

75 Replies to “Made In The USA: Kirkland Signature Socks”

  1. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Costco, B-J’s, Sams club are good for some things. I have no need for a 5 gallon pail of mayo, but for a party the 2lb bag of chips works out. Often times some electronics are a deal, got a 40″ Sanyo flat screen a couple months ago for right at $280.And as we go thru AA batteries like seeds thru a goose in our work, the price on the 32 paks is 2/3 the price of anywhere else local.

  2. Tomko

    I’m a difficult fit in socks. But I’ve had great success with ecco socks in size 40. I bought several dozen of them some time ago. When my wife asked me what I was doing I explained that I was preparing forThe International Year of the Sock. She believed me. I think.

    Anyways, and to your point, the rich get richer.

    I’ve had the chance to be among some old-money wealthy people in my time. And parsimonious they were.

    FWIW my neighbourhood Costco seems almost exclusively populated by Russian mafia and/or foreign diplomats. Best hot dog in town.

    • Disinterested-Observer

      The nearest Costco was described by Indian boss as “worse than Mumbai” If the parking lot wasn’t a zoo I might consider joining anyway but since it is a zoo I will just spend a little more at the super target or wal-mart. Still cheaper than the dollar store.

      • VoGo

        Indian? I’ll have you know they’re called First Americans or Native Americans. Or maybe his name is Tom, because, just maybe, he’s an actual human being. But no, you have to go and call him an Indian, a Redskin practically. We get it. We totally get it.

        And calling Costco a zoo? Why – is it filled with black baboons? People who are basically gorillas? Is that what you’re hinting at? You disgust me, you racist. How dare you? And on a Monday.

        Just kidding, Disinterested-Observer, you’re cool. Just wanted to throw out some red meat for the Baruthabees. It’s expected of me.

        • Disinterested-Observer

          7-11, not casino. Actually despite being decade or two my senior, he was American. His parents must have been among the first to get off the boat 747 at LaGuardia.

      • everybodyhatesscott

        When I used to live by Costco, it was great cause I could get in and out in five minutes on a weeknight. Now, I’d have to go on the weekend and I’d rather pay more than deal with those crowds. Plus it’s a 20 minute hike to get there.

    • David Sanborn

      Jack: Made In America is an almost pointless, worthless distinction when it’s stamped on underwear and toilet paper. It actually makes me sad to see that label on disposable products. We excel as a country when the intellectual property was Made In America on things with a long term return in revenue like:

      * Operating systems. The Apple OS, crafted by tens of thousands of American programmers. The thousands of boffins in Redmond churning out code for Microsoft. The iPhone.
      * Pharmaceuticals and medical advances, patented and crafted in America.
      * Semiconductor design and advances in computer storage density.
      * Hollywood films that show us at our creative best.
      * American car design & production.
      * Space exploration: satellites and research.
      * Etc.

      But socks? I’ll pass, thanks.

      VoGo: Sadly, my right-leaning friends would not understand your reference to the high cost of poverty. They imagine that the poor people of America make bank on welfare and have it great at their taxed expense. What I’ve seen after more than a decade in the poorest homes in America working for FEMA contradicts that.

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        I could not disagree more.

        To begin with, most of the work you mention above has been silently outsourced to India (software) or Israel (microchips), or it’s been “insourced” to the ghost army of nobody-will-fucking-disclose-the-real-numbers-but-it-over-a-million H1Bs who arrived here to do American jobs at half price and send 50% of the remittances to India.

        Sock factories hire people, give them a choice and a chance. It’s not glamorous but it’s far more important than the stuff you mentioned above because as we’ve seen with China and the Asian tigers, that work FOLLOWS the manual labor overseas eventually if we don’t do it here.

        • VoGo

          As governments consider how to create jobs, I’ve seen 3 majors themes:
          1. The libertarian/fiscal conservative answer, which is: do nothing. It’s not the purpose of government to provide voters with jobs; that’s what the private market does. I suspect that this solution may be the most efficient in the long term, but politicians who tell jobless voters ‘not my problem’ tend not to stay in office for long.

          2. An alternative is for the government to invest in technologies it believes are the future and will advance the economy as well as provide jobs. This is how we get the internet, GPS, advanced plastics and Tang (the other one).

          At this point in the conversation, my buddies from the right start yelling ‘Solyndra!’ and they have a point. Any time the government places bets, it acts like a Private Equity firm, and like any PE firm, there will be some losers. In addition, it opens up additional opportunities for graft or corruption. Ask yourself, if the US government decided to invest in casinos and gaudy apartments for people with more money than taste, which company would benefit most.

          3. My least favorite approach is to preserve or even try to bring back jobs in failing industries. In the past, Democrats/Labour were typically the champions of this approach, often to curry favor with unions. It does not work, at least not to advance the economy, and any jobs created are by nature subsidized to the extent you might as well just cut checks to your favorite voter block.

          So when you hear a president say he is bringing back coal jobs, keep in mind that coal as an industry is an economical failure, and that any jobs added are costing you money. Bigly.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            If coal as an industry is an economic failure, why are the Chinese still building a plant a week? Serious question.

          • VoGo

            Jack,
            Good point – I was addressing the US market only, and I should have made that clear. I recently read an interesting article about Chinese power investments. Summary: a lot of wind farms are sitting idle because graft in the system favors coal, i.e., the local bureaucrats get paid off by coal mine operators. The other issue driving demand for coal in China is that they don’t have the reserves of natural gas and oil the US does, esp. now that US fracking has made so much more gas economically viable.

            Today in the US, coal is the most expensive way to generate electricity. You will not see another coal plant built, unless it is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. For the medium term, natural gas is cheapest, but the rate of cost reduction and efficiency improvement in solar cell manufacture puts it on course to be cheapest nationally within 5 years. Wind is increasingly viable in certain parts of the country. In parts of the southwest, solar is already cheapest, even without government subsidies.

          • Will

            Coal is not a failure at all; it’s only failure is that it’s not as “clean” as others and the enviros want to make it a failure. We would have cheap energy if we allowed the plants to exist and could wean us off of oil.

            Rememeber, the EPA shut down the last lead manufacturing plant in the US. We have to either import it or recycle old car batteries.

          • VoGo

            Will,
            Just think about it. Even excluding environmental concerns. Coal you have to dig out of the ground or strip it – an expensive, dangerous process. Hundreds of coal miners die every year, globally. Then you transport it to an expensive power plant. Then you burn it (we’ll ignore the carbon and poison emissions for now) to create electricity. Then you transport the electricity over an expensive infrastructure to get to your home. Repeat that every single day you want electricity.

            In comparison, you can put a solar panel on your house once, and install a battery, once. And they’ll last you decades. And both of these devices are half the cost they were 4 years ago. Do you see the difference?

          • jz78817

            If coal as an industry is an economic failure, why are the Chinese still building a plant a week? Serious question.

            they have a lot of it (though not as much as us) and have been willing to pretend that whole “air quality” thing is a foreign concept. Coal is cheap when you don’t bother to clean up after it. but like diesel engines, once you start having to mind what’s going out the tailpipe/up the stack, it’s no longer cheap.

          • rpn453

            “Today in the US, coal is the most expensive way to generate electricity.”

            I didn’t expect to hear that. Electricity generated from coal is very cheap here in Saskatchewan. It was under 3 cents per kW-hr when I was working at our main plant. Slapping another turbine into our natural gas plant is a fairly inexpensive way to meet occasional peak loads, but you wouldn’t want to run it as a base load like we do coal and hydro. Wind power is a feel-good project here but wouldn’t have been implemented if cost were a factor. The payback period was over 25 years, if all goes well, while projects to make our coal units more efficient with ROIs of seven years were rejected to pay for the wind turbines.

            I’m also surprised to hear how dangerous it is. I’ve never heard anyone refer to the surface mining here as a serious hazard, like drilling for oil and natural gas is.

            To me, natural gas always seemed like far too finite and valuable of a resource to be burning for stationary power generation beyond peak loads. Even our coal units from the fifties seem clean enough now that they have electrostatic precipitators.

          • VoGo

            rpn,
            From wikipedia, re: coal mining deaths:
            According to one source, in 2003 China accounted for the largest number of coal-mining fatalities, accounting for about 80% of the world’s total, although it produced only 35% of the world’s coal.[26] Between January 2001 and October 2004, there were 188 accidents that had a death toll of more than 10, about one such accident every 7.4 days.[26] After the 2005 Sunjiawan mine disaster, which killed at least 210 miners, a meeting of the State Council was convened to work on measures to improve work safety in coal mines. The meeting’s statement indicated serious problems such as violation of safety standards and overproduction in some coal mines. Three billion yuan (360 million US dollars) were dedicated for technological renovation on work safety, gas management in particular, at state-owned major coal mines. The government also promised to send safety supervision teams to 45 coal mines with serious gas problems and invite colliery safety experts to evaluate safety situations in coal mines and formulate prevention measures.[27]
            In 2006, according to the State Work Safety Supervision Administration, 4,749 Chinese coal miners were killed in thousands of blasts, floods, and other accidents. For example, a gas explosion at the Nanshan Colliery killed 24 people on November 13, 2006; the mine was operating without any safety license and the Xinhua News Agency claimed the cause was incorrect usage of explosives. However, the 2006 rate was 20.1% less than 2005 despite an 8.1% increase in production.[28]
            The New York Times reported that China’s lack of a free press, independent trade unions, citizen watchdog groups and other checks of official power has made cover-ups of mining accidents more possible, even in the Internet age. As a result, Chinese bureaucrats habitually hide scandals (such as mine disasters, chemical spills, the 2003 SARS epidemic, and tainted milk powder) for fear of being held accountable by the ruling Communist Party or exposing their own illicit deals with companies involved. Under China’s authoritarian system, superiors reward subordinates for strict compliance with goals established by authorities, like reducing mine disasters. Indeed, should a mining accident occur, the incentive to hide it is often stronger than the reward for managing it well, as any disaster is almost surely considered a liability.[29]

          • CJinSD

            A Wikipedia article about China trumps someone’s real life industry experience in what sort of argument exactly? You’ve just been schooled Vogo, but instead you’re dragging out an irrelevant article that admits its sources are conjecture about another country where life is cheap. Coal isn’t expensive because of mining or energy production from coal. It’s expensive because the country was run by a traitor for eight years. We can fix that.

          • VoGo

            CJ,
            rpn wrote that he was surprised to hear how dangerous coal mining is. So I supported my assertion with sourcing. If you think that coal mining is free of danger, I encourage you to pursue a career in it.

            Facts matter, whether or not CJ or the Propecia President care to admit it. If you had any facts or value to contribute, you wouldn’t need the ‘you got schooled’ chants.

          • rpn453

            When it comes to China, it would only surprise me if there is any industrial work that isn’t dangerous. They seem to value human life differently.

            Potash mining is a relatively dangerous one here. It’s difficult to eliminate all the hazards of working in tunnels deep underground.

            Anyway, I don’t see the logic in eliminating a primary source of reliable, long-term, base-load power generation not subject to commodity market fluctuations, for the sake of carbon emissions, while we continue to live otherwise ridiculously wasteful western lives. Things like air travel for pleasure; building vehicles, houses, and consumer businesses that are unnecessarily large and luxurious; and massive consumption of products and resources indicate to me that we only want to pay lip service to the concept of CO2 reduction rather than be inconvenienced.

            I’m a cheap bastard who wastes little but doesn’t care where the climate is headed aside from the angle of scientific interest, watching those who claim to care rip out perfectly good kitchens for aesthetic reasons.

          • Tietonian

            Coal is not economically viable in the US because our abundance of natural gas due to fracking. Gas power plants are also more efficient and can be turned on or off relatively quickly depending on grid usage. Non-particulate-emitting coal-fired power plants are completely feasible; the current state of the energy industry and fear of CO2 make them unnecessary.

            At the moment solar is also unfeasible due to the low power yield of polycrystalline silicon PVDs. The more efficient CdTe PVDs are much too expensive for widespread use.

          • rpn453

            It will be interesting to see if natural gas prices can remain stable with everyone assuming it will remain cheap for the foreseeable future. Spot prices fluctuated dramatically in the early to mid-2000s after everyone began implementing it as a convenient way to generate power.

        • Aleksey

          I agree, Jack. Which is why part of Trump’s immigration reform should include curtailing or even ending H1-B visas. I know you’ve been writing about it for years, and I follow it closely.

  3. jz78817

    *in the classical sense; she is left-handed.

    https://xkcd.com/214/

    “dexter and sinister” has kicked off a clickfest and as of now I have tabs open for Impalement, Escutcheon, and Edward the Confessor. Further down the rabbit hole I go.

  4. Chris Tonn

    “how to consider the present value of a giant container animal-cracker container versus the certainty that I will eat them all in short order.”

    Jack, please apologize to my daughter for the Brussels sprout that was laughed into her mac and cheese.

      • jz78817

        They’re actually really good if you toss them in olive oil and salt and roast them in the oven until the outer leaves are just crispy. Most people who hate green vegetables do so because they’ve been forced to choke down ones which have been boiled until brownish-gray.

          • One Leg at a Time

            Yes!

            Dice bacon, and fry until it is about half-way done. Add quartered Brussels sprouts and cook until they start to caramelize (bacon will be done at the same time). Add a quarter cup of real maple syrup (if you have it – honey if you don’t) and remove from the heat while stirring to coat.

            My wife says that i have destroyed the nutritional value of eating Brussels Sprouts by cooking them this way. I argue that I am eating Brussels sprouts and being happy at the same time.

          • Deadweight

            Matty Matheson (former chef of Toronto’s Parts & Labour) has the best brussels sprouts recipe – I detest cabbage and brussels sprouts usually, but will gladly eat these.

            Never mind that he is a rather obese, heavily inked, former cocaine/alcohol/everything-fueled tornado of a Canadian person who lived so hard he suffered a massive heart attack at the ripe-old age of 29.

            It’s really simple (brussel sprouts, bacon, juice from fresh orange, salt), too.

            https://munchies.vice.com/en/recipes/crispy-bacon-brussels-sprouts

            Remember, kids – fat and even cholesterol is NOT unhealthy (assuming one is approximately burning somewhere near the calories per day that they’re consuming).

            Sugar, flour, highly refined carbs & processed/packaged foods are the enemy (fats & cholesterol from clean meats, cheeses, dairy, seafood, etc. are actually healthy, and they are super-nutrients in comparison with sugars, flour, refined carbs, processed shit – RESEARCH GARY TAUBES.

          • rwb

            “rather obese, heavily inked, former cocaine/alcohol/everything-fueled tornado of a Canadian person who lived so hard he suffered a massive heart attack at the ripe-old age of 29.”

            My people. I will grant that Vice has some good food shows.

            Also I will 2nd your endorsement of high-fat low-refined-carb, particularly on grass-fed beef and butter. Heard an interview with Taubes recently and his claims align with my experience. Doesn’t work for all, some run well on bread and pasta, but I can cut crazy weight on a keto-friendly diet. Gets weird though after a while, sometimes you really do need some pizza and beer.

        • hank chinaski

          Yes, that way, but add red onions and cubed pancetta or prosciutto. Everything is better with bacon.

          That said, it was apparently Chris’ offending sprout in the child’s M&C. Does the 2 second rule apply? Judges?

  5. VTNoah

    The key to Costco is targeting their loss leaders. For example, their Rotisserie Chickens at $4.99. They lose money to the tune of several million a year on them but they place them at the back of the store hoping you walk by a more profitable item that catches your eye and gets you to drop the cash. But like you said, it all comes down to if you can pony up for the membership and can plan your shopping ahead. Also, I will always love the $1.25 hotdog soda deal. Goddamn they are good.

    • ZG

      If I recall (and since this is an internet post, I’m damn sure not looking it up!), Costco basically breaks even on selling stuff. The profit is all from the membership fees.

      • Tyguy

        It varies, but they shoot for around 11% on the products and get another 1-2% of the membership fee and credit card. The Chickens and the Hot Dogs are sold at a slight loss.

        • CJinSD

          They’re only starting to take credit cards at my Costco, and just Visa at that. They’ve been cash and debit up until now.

          • rwb

            That sounds odd, until switching to Visa they accepted AMEX at every location I’ve been to, and offered a co-branded card. I didn’t think this was regional.

          • Tyguy

            They issue there own credit card via Citi now. Hence wahy they take only Visa. Before they had one via Amex, why they used to take only Amex. Essentially you get a pretty good credit card that includes the costco membership for around the same fee as a membership alone. They get a massive cut of it. To give you an idea of it’s scale, 20% of Amex cards where Costco co-branded when the switched to Citi.

  6. Aoletsgo

    I shop there 1-2 times a week, usual on my lunch hour. I buy gas, organic blueberries, organic bannas (once a week), and a slice of pizza or hot dog. That’s it.

  7. -Nate-Nate

    Animal crackers in my soup……..
    .
    Back on topic : I wonder if those socks are made by Wigwam ? .
    .
    I bought a pack of Wigwam ” boot socks ” OnLine and received thin dress socks that my old battered feet hurt in yet they simply refuse to wear out .
    .
    Recently I found these same socks in black @ Sam’s Club (COSTCO never seems to have them in black), and bought a big package, they’re wearing like iron .
    .
    -Nate

  8. 1A

    I don’t think this was a long enough test–wash them a few times and see how they hold up. Elasticity on socks today is one thing that wears out after just a couple of washes. The price seems a little too good for Made in USA…?
    If you weren’t aware, you don’t have to be Bill Gates (world’s first trillionaire?) to buy Kirkland items–they sell some on Jet.com (my Bezos replacement)–amazing service, amazing delivery, etc.!

  9. MrFixit1599

    I received these socks for Christmas. So far I am very pleased. They are definitely thicker than my regular cheap socks, and therefore provide more cushioning. Now if I could just get the wife’s dumbass dog to stop stealing them, that would be great.

  10. Deadweight

    I posted about this once before, but will do so again:

    Costco’s Kirkland Signature Vodka is better than Grey Goose OR Ketel One (IMO):

    Try a truly blind taste test and I dare anyone to either pick KSV as the lesser, and would be surprised if most don’t pick it as superior.

    We drink vodka mostly, because it’s neutral (good for cocktails), clean in the sense there is less of the particulates and impurities in vodka than in other alcohol such as bourbon, scotch or whiskey, etc., which leads to less hangover pain, and is particularly good when it comes to cold, citrus-based cocktails in summer heat.

    https://rebelbartender.com/2011/07/14/review-kirkland-signature-vodka-or-is-it-or-is-it-not-grey-goose/

    The kicker is that KSV is $27 for a 1.75 liter bottle, which is a bit less than what a 750ml bottle of Grey Goose costs.

    Also, I’m going to defend Costco here. They have a great return policy, they carry high-quality food and durable good items, their CEO/Founder is not some hypocritical, all-about-self-enrichment asshole, who actually was among the first too pay retail workers decent wages ($17 to $20 per hour for entry level employees) and provide good benefits to them, so I feel waaaay better shopping there than Sam’s Club or some other scumbag store.

    Also, we are very lucky in that my job provides outstanding health insurance as, which we do not abuse, by the way; we actually make conscientious efforts to stay in shape, take the preventative care benefits – better for insurance company bottom lines, and we shun expensive tests such as CT scans or MRIs, or even expensive full blood panel tests, unless we really weigh the necessity of these and decide it’s more necessary than not.

    However, Costco has prescription meds that are often 20% to 40% less than the Walgreens of the world, and they also have over the counter meds generic meds like generic flonase, as an example, made in Israel (inhaled intranasal corticosteroids, for outdoor/indoor allergies) for $5 for a month’s supply (in a 5-month supply pack for $25). If we were to get a prescription from our doctor for this, which many people still do, it would cost the insurance company approx $78 for the exact same medication, let month. The $5 purchase price is actually less than our Rx co-payment of $8 (again, even though our insurance company would pay $78 for the same month’s supply if we filled this Rx).

    • rwb

      Costcos near me have an attached “KH&H Liquors” which does not sell Kirkland products, but I suspect their “Harvest Moon” vodka is Kirkland with another label because it only exists in the same buildings as Costco. It’s very good.

    • Scotten

      DW and I agree on something?! 🙂

      Near me, the Costco employees are some of the best in retail (I think REI has them beat, but it’s a totally different store). I know the Costco-ians are worked long and hard, but they almost always have an awesome attitude and pretty enjoyable to talk to. Contrast them with Sam’s Club… Sam’s basically hires WalMart people. They don’t care if they force you to wait 10 minutes to make a return, even though there is no line.

      • 1A

        I went to Sam’s once without anyone who had a membership. Some broad stopped me at the front door hollering asking to see my membership ID. I said I didn’t have one and that I’d pay the 10% or whatever fee like I usually did. That must have changed, because she was furious and said that wasn’t possible. Another shopper walking in was so shocked at the way the guard-dog accosted me, she had all kinds of recommended stores that were willing to take my dollar. You can bet I haven’t been back since. Bet the other shopper repeated the story a few times too.

    • jz78817

      Costco is also good for “second generation” antihistamines. Rite-Aid an the like still want usurious prices for 24 tablets of name brand Zyrtec, while Costco gives you 300 “Allertec” (generic cetirizine) for like $25. It’s nice being able to be outside for most of the day and not either 1) pay a mint for the privilege or 2) get knocked on my ass by Benadryl.

    • faygo

      Costco & Trader Joe’s comprise the bulk of our (my really, my wife hates to shop) grocery shopping. I tend to eat the same things in stretches, so if I find something I like at Costco, I stick with it for weeks/months until I get bored and move on. big quantities work out fine that way.

      I’d read about how well they treat their workers in the past and once you shop at the same location for a while, you notice the long-term employees. people with 15+ years at the location I shop at are pretty common – not quite like the people with 25+ you used to see at Hudson’s but in today’s economy, noteworthy. employee treatment was also noted by elderly relatives who were very lefty – they drove to Costco ilo the new Meijer a half mile away when it opened up at 8/Woodward for that reason.

      I will have to check out the generic Flonase – I stocked up the last time the 3-pack of 120-shot non-generic was $15 or $20 off. anti-meth cooking pseudoephedrine laws mean Costco also forces me back every 2 weeks for my re-up of generic Claritin-D, which is cheaper (less than $6/15). I have a small network of smurfs to help me build a supply as well 🙂

      interestingly enough, organic milk at Trader Joe’s is 25% cheaper than Costco. I am a bit more of a free trader than Jack, but have drawn the line at a lot of the frozen pizza from TJ’s as I just can’t see how the universe is served by buying a $5 frozen pizza which was made in Italy and imported to Michigan. I know the margins are slim in grocery and the economics complicated, but that supply chain just seems loony.

      TJ’s is interesting in that they run with almost no inventory of a lot of things. I believe our location (Woodward in Royal Oak) gets 2 deliveries/day – if they miss one, you see shortages on the shelves of things. noticed lack of a few things once & on exiting the store, chatted with the dude unloading a replacement truck into which the day’s supply had to be re-packed when the truck flipped over/was in an accident and was delayed.

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        If the $5 pizza supply chain is crazy — and it is — then what does that say about the $2 baby food from China that weighs just as much?

        • faygo

          good point. I’ve never purchased baby food (big people food gets mashed up and fed to them) so haven’t been exposed to that. I’d have to do the math on the volume vs weight tradeoff one would have to make in a container. the dumb guy in me says that frozen pizza is light enough that it probably gets traded off against something heavy which doesn’t efficiently use the entire volume. so it may be a free rider in some way. baby food is probably on the other end of the equation. also, not doesn’t have to stay cold, so could ride with almost anything list.

          the Shinola super-plug post made me thing about how much I would pay for such a thing. the orange one is really quite sharp, but I think I’d want a couple more USBs and to pay something like $50-$75 to not fee completely absurd about it.

          I noticed the Shinola store in AA the last time I was visiting my parents. interesting that there are such high ceilings in the basement – my stepfather used to work across the street to the north and while not low ceilinged, they didn’t have that much room.

        • Deadweight

          Most stores that carry Dr. Bronner’s soap (the mint liquid stuff in the huge bottle with the blue label with all the religious and hippie passages) are alright in my book (though I think Target does, now, too – and Target is the new Kmart with disposable Chinese everything).

          But I dig Costco and Trader Joe’s.

  11. Joe

    My Snap On tool dealer gave me a pair of crew socks, best damn socks I have ever worn, a little expensive but worth every cent, wear like iron and comfortable, made in the U.S.A.

  12. rpn453

    Hey, my Walmart Hanes socks are made in USA, and my large collection of logo-free Walmart Penman’s $7 T-shirts are made in Canada! I actually tried some Mexican-made Fruit of the Loom socks from Walmart last year simply because I prefer not having any visible brand names on anything I wear – and I think they may have had a slightly higher cotton content – but they fell apart at the heel almost immediately. So I’m back to my Hanes’. They’ve been good in the past, and they’re even cheaper than the Kirkland socks after the currency conversion. I’ll have to check what the Kirklands are here and maybe give them a try if they’re mostly cotton. I’m not fond of synthetic fabrics against my skin.

    I don’t think I’ve ever worn a single pair of socks for that long without washing!

    The best thing about Costco is their tire service. At $15 a tire for install and balance, they’re half the price of any decent tire shop around here, and close to a third of the price of the Mr. Lube at Walmart. I wanted to get it done in the evening and they’re close by, but $40 per tire was just offensive, so I walked away. The Costco employees are even friendly and seem to care about their work. Amazing what a decent wage can do.

    The worst thing about Costco is the hot dogs. They’re cheap and tasty, so I often get sucked into buying one. Then, for a few hours after, I have disgusting burps and feel gross.

  13. Duong Nguyen

    Costco: The leader of selling things people think they need but ends up collecting dust in the garage.

  14. Ronnie Schreiber

    I once asked a manager at JoAnn Fabrics what percentage of their customers buy more fabric than they could possibly sew, and she said at least a third.

    My guess is that a measurable percentage of the customers at Costco and Sam’s Club have some from of OCD, either compulsive shopping or hoarding (or both).

  15. Paul

    I love Costco. My recommendation is buy paper towels, Kleenex, toilet paper, spring water (40 for $5). If you have the space those save money. And wine! And TVs! Fresh breads, croissants, no antibiotic Atlantic Salmon yummmmmy.

    Another thing, their cashiers are so good and motivated and work hard. Compare that to no brain zombies at Walmart which I think hires lowest IQ people to work as cashiers. I read somewhere Costco pays highest to their cashiers, health insurance, and their CEO take ridiculous low salary. Always gives them thanksgiving off.

    As flong r membership fee, if you spend enough they return a coupon to ymake u at end of year that can neutralize your membership fee (may apply to executive members which costs $100).

    • rwb

      Also, Costco beef is excellent, Costco gas is excellent as far as I can tell, the paper towels are the best, though the toilet paper sucks (but that’s only because they chose to be better than Scott instead of Charmin. Pretty much all of the food products they sell are excellent, and if there’s the option of a Kirkland-branded product I’ll probably choose it. Special shout outs to the rotisserie chicken, thick cut bacon, Teton Waters grass-fed jalepeno-cheddar brats, and cheap, fresh fruits and veggies.

      The only problem is that on weekends, you have to be one of the first through the door to avoid being crushed to death by the overwhelming masses of humanity that clog the place. I haven’t been to Mumbai but the comparison sounds apt. Weekdays aren’t so bad.

  16. Lucas Zaffuto

    We go to Costco because we have three dogs. Their dog food is excellent quality and much cheaper per pound than pet stores. Also, we need paper towels in bulk because a lot of times we go through an entire roll for one mess, and sometimes two rolls for one mess. The other cool stuff they have is just a bonus. Pro tip: the chicken bakes and yogurt at the food stand are super cheap and really, really good.

  17. CJinSD

    This article reminds me that I really do need to get around to cashing in the free pizza coupon that came with my membership upgrade. Saving money by shopping at Costco does only occur when you conserve the things you buy there though. I used to have a roommate who could make Costco sized packs of toothpaste and deodorants disappear between shopping trips. He traveled a lot, and apparently no tube of toothpaste or stick of deodorant ever left a hotel room with him. Other items were consumed in acts of gluttony or simply shared with visitors. “Here, have a gallon of extra-virgin olive oil and a quart of agave syrup for the road!

    In California, Costco gasoline is best avoided. In Virginia, it is marked Tier One and performs as advertised. It’s also dirt cheep.

      • CJinSD

        That’s great news! I ran two tanks through my car consecutively of what Costco was selling on the other side of the five a few years ago, and it took to stalling and then resisting restarting. One tank of Shell was enough to put things right, but I hadn’t even glanced at their SD pumps since.

  18. rwb

    Lost in the Costco love-in is the idea of catering to groups who don’t have the luxury of spending a couple few hundred at a time to save long-term.

    Morally it’s great, and in theory I could see it working using a community group buy sorta model, where staples are procured in bulk and split among a relatively very small number of “member” families in a given area. But it breaks down quick because the scale probably wouldn’t support a price point that would be competitive with the dollar store for a single short-term haul of groceries.

    The fundamental idea bears resemblance to a community owned co-op food market, which is not a new thing, but as far as I can tell these tend to be in wealthy or gentrified neighborhoods, and thus offer bougie products and decent but unremarkable values to people who care deeply about probiotic kombucha and organic ginger rather than soap and bread.I don’t know that I’ve seen a community-owned market oriented towards providing wholesale-priced quality goods in low quantities to consumers.

    I’m not sure where you’ll find the combination of capital and altruism required to create such a business and sustain it against the momentum of dollar stores and bodegas that the residents of a neighborhood may feel some connection to, despite selling crap.

    • Davis

      Well our store ys not community owned as its my wife and I that own it. But we do what basically amounts to a smaller version of Costco with custom meat cutting in our inner city.
      It isn’t exactly making us any money yet as this business is high volume low margin. And the 10% quoted for Costco profit is right on the money.

      We cater to low and high income people. The middle class almost totally ignores us. It’s amazing how much we can save low income customers on the basics and how they didn’t understand just how much they were over paying before.
      Perfect examples are things you see at walmart. Go to the meat counter and ground beef is $5 all these people see is the $5 sticker. They don’t think in terms of price per pound or anything.
      Once you take the time to explain that we charge $3.29/lb for lean ground beef and walmart is in effect charging $5 per lb you can see the fog lift and understanding develops.
      People and more importantly low income people are being trained to look at price but not the real cost.
      And of course we can see it in car sales as well they look at payment only. Not total cost.

      • rpn453

        We have a local supermarket called Superstore here that typically has Costco matched for value but sells in smaller quantities and specifies the price per gram/ml/unit on every tag. It has become the favorite spot for recent immigrants, who obviously value their money. Anytime I go anywhere other than there or Costco I’m shocked by the prices. Typically only the items that are published in the flyer as “on sale” are competitive.

      • CJinSD

        It’s no accident that teachers unions don’t want to teach math and that pop culture ridicules people who can use it.

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