First came the two kids. Then the house in the 'burbs, with fearsome, ass-clenching mortgage to match. The stationwagon sidled right on in, to our lacklustre, resigned welcome, as is its wont. The essential finished basement, replete with computers and toys and completely unnecessary full bath "for resale value," lurched into existence to help contain the morass. Two pets, one for each kid, jumped into place.
Could bulk shopping be far behind? It could not. And hence our first family trip yesterday to check out the closest BJ's, to succor The Dude's recent cost-cutting mania.
Despite the huge parking lot, where we narrowly avoided being backed into by an SUV (Why does this always happen to me? Is it just because I'm short, or am I marked for death by them, in some kind of cat-piss territorial manner?), it wasn't bad, as shopping experiences go. Big, bare-bones, well-lit, clean. I'm here to buy kitty litter, so it seemed just the place.
The thing is, the stuff people were piling their carts with? They didn't need 30% of it. Bottled water; paper towels; canned soup; boxes -- boxes -- of candy; -- soda; juice boxes; paper plates. Another 30% consisted of huge packs of factory-farm meat, milk and cheese, containers of phthalate-laden shampoo, corn-syrupy cereal and catsup and the like. While I don't discount the need for hard-up families to buy essentials this way and these days, this is just the kind of crap, and crappy habits, we have to shift away from in the long-run.
And, seriously, who needs to buy 20 washcloths? An eight-pack of antibacterial wipes?
I compared a few prices of other items from their Web site to what I could buy online elswhere. Neutragena oil-free moisturizer for sensitive skin. BJ's price: $14.99. Drugstore.com: $12.99. Mango Tango Pet Carrier: $39.99 plus $8.99 shipping at BJ.com; $30.99 plus $11.63 shipping at Amazon.com. A huge wooden swingset by Adventure Playsets: Same at BJ's and Amazon.
The stuff I got was, I thought, an o.k. buy. Kitty litter; cat food (albeit in eco-nasty individually packed cans), paper napkins for school lunches; a three-pack of Starbuck's Breakfast Blend. Then, lo and behold, I find in my local A&P napkins on sale for a good $1.50 less (for two packs) than what I paid at BJ's.
And some people even buy a membership to shop here, $45 for a year, $85 for two, for extra savings and "rewards" (we got a free Household card). Add to that the huge amount of heated/cooled house space needed to store all this stuff, plus the fact that many people, especially me, will forget they have a hidden store of unused paper goods and simply go out and buy more.
The Verdict: BJ's blows.