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May, 2009:

#13. Costco

Costco Sign

The only way to fully appreciate the greatness of Costco and its contribution to America is to remember what came before it.

IN THE BEGINNING, man lived in a dark, dreary world completely devoid of retail options. He was forced to hunt his own food, gather his own berries and spend the rest of the day fashioning his own tools by hand.

Life was hard and God noticed.

ON THE FIRST DAY, God saw how much time man was wasting crafting his own weapons and tools and decided to make man’s life a little bit easier. So God said “let there be someone who travels across the land peddling useful tools, clothing and house wares;” and it was so. God call this person the itinerant salesman. Because of the itinerant salesman, man no longer needed to spend all day fashioning a crude ax.

Life was slightly less horrible.

ON THE SECOND DAY, God looked at his creation and saw man still struggling with day-to-day life. The itinerant salesman was unreliable and his wagon had a very limited selection of goods. So God said “let there be a stable place where man could regularly go to buy tools, food stuffs and other wares;” and it was so.

God called this place The General Store.

ON THE THIRD DAY, God looked at the world and saw man’s life was getting better. However, the General Store had a very limited selection and rather high prices. Man still spent much of his time growing his own food and sewing his own clothes. So God decided to act. He took the General Store and made it much bigger and stocked with previously unknown varieties of clothing, house wares, tools and food.

God called this place the Department Store.

ON THE FOURTH DAY, God watched as man went to the Department Store for an after Christmas sale. God saw that man didn’t like driving downtown to the department store and was frustrated with its high prices, poor layout and pushy salesmen. Man wanted more options and convenience, so God created the Mall and the Strip Mall. Now man could drive his SUV to a nearby mall that boasts ample free parking and have easy access to all of the stores and restaurants he could need.

Life was definitely getting easier.

ON THE FIFTH DAY, God looked at his creation and saw that life still had some inconveniences. Malls were full of many different stores, and man had to check out multiple times and deal with several different vendors just to fill an everyday shopping list. God saw that he simply had not been thinking big enough and resolved to act. So God said “let there be a massive store with ample free parking, a grocery section, a Starbucks, a bank and steep discounts;” and it was so.

God called this place the Supercenter.

ON THE SIXTH DAY, God got caught up in the boom. He figured that his whole bricks-and-mortar approach to retail was outdated, and that what man really needed was the ability to buy everything he could possibly need at any hour from the comfort of his own home. So God said “let there be a vast array of websites selling good to fulfill each of man’s desires;” and Netflix, Amazon, and others were created. Man signed up with the new e-commerce stores and he liked some of them. Books and movies, it seemed, were great things to buy and rent over the internet. But man was not so keen on having cat litter and groceries delivered by UPS.

E-commerce did not live up to the hype.

ON THE SEVENTH DAY, God sobered up from the excesses of the bubble. He saw that what man really wanted was a one-stop shop where he could buy anything he needed—from Crispix to cars to cruses to caskets—under one roof and for reasonable prices. Never mind shopping malls and supercenters, what man needed was quantity and value. So God went back to the drawing board. He said, “let us eliminated bags, slash prices, and sell everyday items in massive quantities so that man will get a better deal;” and it was so.

God called this place Costco, and it was good.

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