OPORD: COSTCO (A Survival Guide)

Costco: It’s one of the only places where you can get a TV, a recliner, a rain jacket, organic spinach, 12 pounds of roasted almonds, Viagra, your Christmas card photos, and a hotdog all in one store.  

In other words, the American dream.


Of course, as we all know, “dreams don’t work unless you do,” and Costco is no exception. Going to Costco is a thing. It’s an ordeal. A mission, really. You need to prepare – physically, mentally, tactically. You need communications systems in place. You need a QRF of sorts. You need your TACSOP. You need a civilian guide to translating these abbreviations.  

The one thing you don’t need to worry about is snacks.  Because those sample ladies with the hair nets – bless their hearts – will be coming at you with little paper cups of mini-sausages and crackers and cranberry juice like manna from heaven.

So here we go. This is your Costco OPORD. We’ll walk through the mission step by step, and by the end, you should be prepared to make it through this capitalist mecca with minimal casualties.

Well, except for your wallet. That poor bastard’s on a kamikaze mission.

PREMOB:  This mission, like any other, requires diligent preparation.  You need a list of what you’re planning to get. You need to assemble your team, because this is not a solo-mission. Grab your offspring, spouse, roommate, best friend, or the homeless guy down the street (he’s acting as a contractor here, and must be fairly renumerated with a hotdog and a frozen yogurt).  Assemble the troops and review the OPORD. Don’t forget to hydrate, gear up (you want layers – that refrigerated section is colder than being wedged up in the Abominable Snowman’s asscheeks), and make sure that everyone is up to date on their vaccinations.  

APPROACH THE TARGET: First, there’s parking.  The main principle here is cargo accessibility.  You have legs (or prosthetics, or a wheelchair, whatever you’re working with), so you can hump it half a mile from BFE to the warehouse entrance. What you really need to keep in mind when parking isn’t distance from the front of the store, but how well you’ll be able to access your trunk to pack in the mass quantities of canned goods, frozen meats, and giant boxes of multivitamins and tampons that you will inevitably acquire.  

BREACHING ENTRY:  When you arrive, on foot, at the front of the warehouse, be prepared with your Costco card. This is your VIP card, and also your only way to access the target. No card, no mission. Have that sucker accessible early, and be ready to flash it at the guy guarding the entry (the card, not your tits – this is a bulk warehouse store, not a nightclub in Jersey).

PREPARE FOR ENEMY FIRE: Now, every Costco is different, but one thing you can count on remaining consistent is the barrage of people trying to sell you television and cell phone services within 50 yards of the entrance. This is one of those sure things in life, much like the lithe, black-clad, sexually-ambiguous Eastern European men who come at you aggressively from their shopping mall kiosks, trying to convince/intimidate you to buy the curling iron/cubic zirconia/personalized license plates that they are peddling.  These people do not seem to be as lithe or as Eastern European, and they have less of a predatory vibe and more the approach of an overly-zealous Jehovah’s Witness on your front porch on a Saturday afternoon.  Regardless, you must stay vigilant.  Your best defensive strategy is to circumvent the potential danger by taking a circuitous route that leads you out of range (or at least out of what they believe to be earshot, when they inevitably start hollering at you asking about what television provider you have).  Alternatively, you can also go directly through that enemy territory while acting like you are engrossed in a serious conversation on the phone (the person on the other line may be real or imagined) or with your shopping partner (this one should probably be real, talking to imaginary friends in public as an adult is frowned upon these days).  

ACQUIRING TARGETS: This part seems straightforward – move throughout the store, secure the things you need, and GTFO. But really, it requires strategy, because at some point the bastards in Costco management decided that it was a great idea to move their merchandise around every night. This means that anytime you visit Costco, there’s no guarantee that you will find what you need in the place you found it last. In this way, your Costco purchases are much like the Taliban, stealthily moving between secluded hiding spots under the cover of darkness high in the Afghan mountain ranges.  (No, really. The graveyard shift is the one that moves all the crap around. It’s literally under the cover of darkness.)  You need to be prepared to do some recon, and again, this is why it’s crucial to come to Costco with a team and be prepared with solid comms systems (meaning make sure your damn cell phones are charged). Then you can send people out to do recon, secure targets that may be geographically disparate within the warehouse, and then coordinate pickup with the motherbird (…or, you know, whoever has the cart or flatbed).  

EXIT STRATEGY:  This part is dangerous. The checkout lines will always be long, and it takes an experienced Costco-er to be able to intuit which lines will move faster.  This deduction requires more than merely looking into the carts of those ahead of you in line; you also need to be able to read the cashier at the head of your respective line. Is he competent? Is he efficient? Does he look like the kind of schmuck who will have to call a supervisor every five minutes? Same kind of intel needs to be gathered on the people ahead of you in line. Is that soccer mom the kind that wants to get out of here fast to make it to her hair appointment at 1300? Or is she the kind that will complain about not being able to find her favorite brand of organic milk, request a price check on the premade specialty salads she picked up, and then demand to speak to a manager about God-knows what? These are the things you need to know. Consequences of choosing the wrong line can mean waiting 30 mikes that feel like 50, which also means you risk being lured back into the jungle to “look at” some things. Of course, this invariably ends up meaning that you bring back no less than $50 worth of contraband and possibly malaria and an illegitimate lovechild*.

REDEPLOYMENT: Now you’ve got a giant flatbed or cart packed full of boxes of dried fruit, frozen vegetables, mass quantities of meat, gallon bottles of lotion and multivitamins, and half a paycheck’s worth of impulse purchases.  You made it out safely, and you just want to get your troops home.  At this point, your crucial task is making sure you make it home without leaving any men (or cargo) behind.  Also, if you want your cargo to arrive home untampered with, you’ll need to plan ahead to provisions for the road. This can be pre-packed snacks or as simple as grabbing a hot dog from the food court on the way out the door.  Whatever you do, you don’t want to end up at your home base with half your rations mysteriously gone and a mountain of crumbs and protein bar wrappers in the backseat.  

Of course, once you arrive at your destination, you have to unload your cargo. That’s always a cluster, no way around it.  All you can do is embrace the suck.

Go forth and buy in bulk, comrades.  And remember…

Leave no sample behind.

*Ok, fine, you really only risk the contraband (aka bulk boxes of organic snacks).  This is Costco, not ‘Nam.


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