The Joy of Costco
by David & Susan Schwartz
Genre: Nonfiction / Coffee Table Book
Print Length: 272 pages
Reviewed by Samantha Hui
Beautifully illustrated and just bizarre enough to adorn your coffee table
The Joy of Costco won’t just sit pretty in your living room. It will have you enraptured with fun facts and inspire you to leave right now to buy a wholesale box of cashews.
From Fedco to Price Club to Costco Wholesale Industries, The Joy of Costco takes us through the history of the enterprise that now has 849 warehouses spanning 46 states and 13 foreign countries. Costco enthusiasts David and Susan Schwartz, sparked by their love for the versatile superstore, spent seven years researching the history and fun facts of Costco. They did this by traveling to at least one Costco in each of the 46 states that housed a facility and multiple Costcos outside of the U.S.
The book is in a fun A to Z format, but the alphabetization of the topics is playfully organized, ultimately giving readers the experience of the structured chaos that Costco attendees often feel when roaming the store themselves. The Joy of Costco is engaging for Costco fans and intriguing for those who have never stepped foot in the store.
“Costco was able to bring high-quality products to the Icelandic consumer at significantly lower prices than those offered by Iceland’s own supermarket chains, which drove down their prices – a phenomenon dubbed the ‘Costco Effect.’”
The Joy of Costco sings the praises of Costco’s ethics and their commitment to providing quality products and services at an affordable price. Costco cuts prices without cutting corners.
The history marks successes and failures with the business but suggests that Costco ultimately became the thriving enterprise it is today through patience, perseverance, and commitment to quality assurance. After the history portion, the book takes readers through the ABCs of Costco from “Alaska” to “Books” to “Cashews” and beyond.
“Costco pays its employees better than most other comparable retailers, but not in an altruistic way. Rather, a highly paid workforce is not only happy, but stays on the job.”
The book is filled with eye-catching illustrations that range from the geoduck that can be found in Chinese Costcos to a 53-inch teddy bear that is sold in French Costcos. Each paragraph is separated into easily digestible rectangles on the page. It is filled to the brim with information but remains easy to read and enjoy. Throughout, there are small illustrations of key figures in the creation and maintenance of Costco as well as a blurb that describes their importance to the company.
“Treasure Hunt: The shopping experience at Costco, which often involves looking for ‘Wow’ items – seasonal or unique merchandise that may prompt an impulse purchase.”
I quite love how the authors wanted this book to resemble the “treasure hunt” experiences when walking through a Costco. I’ve always been drawn to the Halloween fixtures and the foreign candies when making my way around the store. While reading the book, I felt a pang of jealousy toward other countries for having such tasty snacks and meals that are special to their store, such as sushi in Japan or the extended collection of cheeses in France.
But what I loved most was the feeling that Costco cares about its customers regardless of region. The price of the food court hot dog has not changed from its original price of $1.50 since 1984. With other companies ready to raise prices any moment they get, the consistency of Costco’s hot dogs is a testament to the establishment’s commitment to its customers.
“In 2008, Craig Jelinek approached Jim about possibly increasing the price, and Jim reportedly replied: ‘If you raise the effing hot dog [price], I will kill you. Go figure it out!’”
I entered this book with no preconceptions and no idea what to expect. I didn’t know much about Costco except for the fact that I’d go in every few weeks to buy fruit in bulk for my children. This book has made me a Costco fan, and I’m sure anyone else who picks up this book will be excited to withstand the treacherous obstacle that is the parking lot just to experience Costco the way that David and Susan Schwartz do.
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