My shopping experience at Costco Melbourne
I set out this morning excited as I’d ever been about a store opening. Costco Docklands being the first store to open in Australia I had no idea what to expect or just how busy it was going to be.
My first warning sign was when I turned into the Docklands Highway and was met with a 1km long car queue waiting to get into the carpark. I lasted about five minutes before deciding to try my luck entering the carpark from the Harbourtown side. This proved ingenious as there was virtually no queue.
The Costco carpark is prone to filling up and they have instructor guys out the front who continually close it up and open it up again. If the carpark is full you’re redirected to the Harbourtown carpark 20m up the road.
Normally parking here is 1hr free and then $5 but because of the demand they weren’t charging. The Costco carpark was that busy they just gave up and left the boom gates open all day.
There is a ticket system setup at the boomgates for the Costco carpark but I’m not sure if you need to pay anything, I couldn’t see a price sign up so I assume it’s free for customers. Maybe you have to swipe your membership card?
Amazingly after taking on pre-memberships there was still a massive queue for membership signup. Like serious outside-the-store-ridiculous massive. Having prebought my membership ages ago I simply waltzed in, although I couldn’t find a trolley anywhere.
Outside the Costco main entrance there are these really long annoying seat things. I don’t quite know what the design function of them is other then to let fat people have a rest every so often as they walk up the ramp to the entrance. Personally I found them mega annoying as with so many people around they just got in the way.
Once I got into the store, it took all of thirty seconds to realise shopping at Costco with anything less then a sedan was a laughable affair. My mini simply wasn’t going to cut it so I headed home for automotive re-enforcements. Armed with a stationwagon I was now ready for the Costco experience.
Walking into the store you have to present your membership card for a check. It was that busy today that you probably had a good chance of getting in without a card, no chance of buying anything though as they do check.
One guy infront of me tried the ‘no speak english’ routine and was told to go signup even though I think he might have thought he was being told to leave. It was kinda amusing.
The first thing you see is the large tv display, Costco are stocking Samsung, Sony and Sharp. They had Sony LCD’s, Samsung LED, LCD and plasmas and Sharp LCDs (I think? I didn’t pay much attention to the Sharps). They seemed to stock all the different sizes from the thirty something inches right up into the sixties.
From there you’ve got the contact lense dept and then the vastness of the store opens up. The aisles are numbered and go well into the 300’s, although I assume this includes the middle bit.
Be warned, put aside a few hours for your first visit as the experience really is quite enthralling. They have such a massive stock range (not so much in variety of the same thing, but in sheer product variety) that it takes you forever to navigate the entire store.
The whitegoods are all name brand, there were a few chest freezers and one of the items I was after – a fridge only came in large sizes starting off at a grand. There’s all the usual stuff there from microwaves to pots and pans, mixers, stoves etc.
Bedding was a few mattresses around the $1000-$1500 mark, some nonames but also a few Sealys. I’m not sure how successful they will be as I for one won’t buy a mattress without trying it first and they were stacked sideways on a shelf.
Petfood seemed to be pretty cheap. A giant bag of whiskas was like $30 something. They have th upmarket stuff but I wanted to check the prices at my usual store before buying (I feed my cats a 50/50 mix of cheap food and expensive food). Litter comes in a 15kg Catsan box, it’s the clumping clay (?) litter that you buy in the supermarket.
The produce section is massive and cheap. Some stuff is bulk but some is manageable. Watermelon for example were $5 each, onions came in 5kg bags, zucchinis 1.5kg trays, basically only the larger items are sold separately everything else is either trayed or bagged.
Meat was hit and miss. The mince I saw was roughly the same price as a butcher, the chicken breast was $10 (on special) a kg and thighs were $9 which was good, Vic market hovers around $12-13kg, the supermarkets $15-16kg and my local butcher about $11-12kg.
They also had a large fish section but I don’t know anything about fish to comment. It’s there though if you’re keen.
Toilet paper was a big seller, everybody seemed to have it in their trolley. It comes in these gigantic horizontal stacks and the 3ply are 50c a roll (Sorbent I think?), sold in 30 pack lots. In otherwords over a year’s supply for the single male! I’m going to let my current 2-ply supply dwindle before stocking up.
Toilet paper doesn’t go off does it?
The fridge sections at Costco are hilarious, you literally walk into a giant room sized fridge. If you think the fridge aisles at supermarkets are bad BRING A JACKET. Seriously the temp in these rooms is cold and you feel it very quickly.
The grocery aisles are what took the most time for me to navigate, so many different products I was familiar with – but in weird arse size bulk lots. One thing that annoyed me was COSTCO DON’T STOCK MILO!
I was so looking forward to coming home with a few 44 gallon drums of it but alas, while they stock 85 different types of coffee from countries I’ve never heard of – NO MILO. I couldn’t find any chocolate milk stuff so maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough.
Migoreng made an amusing debut competing with your standard Asian grocery store @ $10 a box. I’ve seen $8 a box but you have to travel to Box Hill for it.
The middle of the store seems to be the random stuff area. There’s camping gear (THEY HAVE CANOES LOL!), some toys, books and a few dvds.
I was interested in the bicycles they had (out of curiosity) and it seems Costco Australia have gone with Schwinn. They had some decent looking commuter bikes for $450 (womens) and mens ($500), a bmx style as well as a dodgy looking dual suspension model.
No race bikes though so that was a bit of a shame. Although at those price points probably a good thing.
Costco alcohol was a bit of a disappointment and not much cheaper then Dan Murphy’s et al. Basically it seems to be the same price DM etc. have when stuff is on special, but at Costco it’s the regular price. I saw a lot of people walking into the alcohol area but not too many walking out with alcohol.
The confectionary section of Costco is something that will test your nerves of steel. You basically walk up and down the aisle trying not to throw every second bulk box you see of chocolates into your trolley. At $30 or so a box you can easily drop $100 without blinking an eye.
They had these awesome 1kg lolly jars for $10 which was OH SO TEMPTING. I managed to walk though, I think it was not having the Milo that got me through it.
Clothing was alright, I probably wouldn’t wear any of the jeans etc (couldn’t see any change rooms to even try on stuff) but I did buy a 6 pack of Champion ankle socks for $17 in black which will make perfect bicycle socks.
The queues in the AM and early afternoon were roughly a two hour wait t get out of the store (I’m not kidding). By the time I’d finished at around 4’ish though it was only a 1-2 trolley wait.
Like Ikea Costco have a food area where we got a meat pie for $2 or something. We were kind of in a rush to get somewhere else so I didn’t take a good look but it seems to be on par with Ikea; cheap quick food.
All up I spent about $150 without even trying. Costco will seriously test your impulse buy urges, its insane. You’ll contemplate buying stuff you’ve never even used before just because the price sounds really good.
MAKE SURE YOU BRING A CALCULATOR! My mobile phone got a workout and a half doubling as a calculator as I tried to work out cost comparisons on tons of stuff between Coles and Woolworths.
Entertainment wise there was some old guy walking around going ‘KMART HAS THAT FOR $8 EACH, WHAT A RIPORF!’ really loudly. I’m not sure if he was a secret undercover mole but he was hilarious to listen to. I think he might have been slightly drunk.
Then there was the trolley fights, later on in the day one of the tire changing guys (we got a spare for the stationwagon $100 fitted) told us that there was an punch on in the morning over a trolley. One guy came into the tire area and said he’d been assaulted. CRAZY!
At the end of the day though I’m a ridiculously happy customer. As stuff runs out here I plan to restock from Costco and enjoy the bulk life, finally a store with decent prices off the shelf.
So long Coles and Woolworths, apart from random minor things I’m never doing a big shop there ever again. Poor Aldi’s probably going to be cut out of the equation too eventually.
Oh well, viva la low prices!
If anyone’s got some more specific queries about something Costco related feel free to ask and I’ll try and answer.
Got Costco membership questions? Why not have a read of Costco Australia membership – all you need to know.