Why do libs hate Wal-Mart and love Costco?
How is it that Costco escapes the sniffery of snobs? There exists a peculiar form of haughty disdain poured out on Wal-Mart, that Costco seems immune from. A quick trip inside a Costco reveals a utilitarian storefront with less charm and shabbier decor than one finds at the average tire warehouse. It’s a place that sells mayonnaise in five-gallon drums and ketchup in gallon sized squeeze bottles. Landfills bulge with the Styrofoam cups and paper plates that Costco sells in unit sizes that probably exceed Wal-Mart’s monthly sales of those items. Costco contributes to global warming by selling gasoline at prices below any competitors. Without a doubt, Costco imposes enormous strains on nearby mom and pop stores. And yet, when a snob like Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards needs to establish his elitist bona fides, he tells a story about how his son ridicules a classmate whose parents bought shoes at Wal-Mart.
Except for some core staples, Costco’s inventory is not especially predictable. One gets the impression that much of their stock is purchased opportunistically from wholesalers who could found themselves with more merchandise than their customers could move.
And Costco’s prices are so low that the store undoubtedly places a great deal of profit strain on surrounding businesses. One can actually measure the influence of Costco by noticing that the price of gasoline rises as one drives from Costco.
I happened to be in Clarkston the other day and as I usually do when my proximity and time coincide, I went inside and searched for bargains. I can almost always use a new pair of pants or a fresh shirt and nowhere do I find prices as low on those necessities than Costco.
I have heard comedians make fun of the typical Wal-Mart customer as an overweight hick. Well, I will say this for Wal-Mart. At least I can always find pants that fit there. My waist size fluctuates between 30 and 32 inches. Very often I can sort through an entire table of Costco clothing without finding a single example of pants that come within 6 inches of fitting me. The same thing obtains when I look for a shirt. Costco offers an awful lot of XL and XXL sized shirts, but darned few mediums. Surely Costco buys inventory that serves the preponderance of their customers and it would seem that very few Costco patrons could fit into their high school prom dress or tuxedo. Based upon the size offering found in the clothing section, the average Costco customer would seem to fit the caricature of the Wal-Mart shopper whom the snobs poke fun at, more accurately than the average Wal-Mart shopper.
Certainly one reason that Costco escapes Wal-Mart’s condemnation is that Costco contributes almost exclusively to Democratic political candidates, while Wal-Mart’s top executives are big Republican donors. Wal-Mart is pro-free trade while Costco favors protectionism. In addition, one can buy $1250 purses and $1700 shopping bags at Costco. I suppose that’s the sort of extravagance that Costco can afford by not keeping 30-inch waistline pants around for the infrequent customer who could squeeze into them.
In truth, I like both stores. I like stretching my dollars. Having a Wal-Mart or a Costco conveniently located nearby is like getting a raise as the dollars I earn can buy more at either of those storefronts. If Costco’s chief executive Jim Sinegal wishes to donate $2000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, I’m not going to harm my pocketbook by boycotting his store. If Democrats choose to spend more than they need to by avoiding Wal-Mart because they disapprove of its executives’ politics, then that’s their foolish choice.
Although, it’s worth noting that when John Edwards wanted to get a Nintendo PlayStation3 for his children, he tried to arrange a backdoor purchase from his neighborhood Wal-Mart so that he wouldn’t have to wait in line like commoners. Snobbery only goes so far. Even the super-rich like to stretch their dollars.
In spite of the lowbrow austerity that Costco presents, it occupies such a favored place in the hearts of the elite that the state of Washington actually subsidized construction of a Costco in Covington to the tune of millions. Is Costco like NPR?
I can’t help but wonder why John Edwards does not boast that his children make fun of classmates who come to school wearing Kirkland Select blue jeans.
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