Shopping at Costco is like competing in American Gladiators. First, you have to out-maneuver other SUVs for a spot in the always-crammed parking lot. Next, you have to navigate your shopping cart through aisles filled with a sea of flatbeds and curious shoppers hell-bent on tasting every free item to pop out of a toaster oven, irrespective of the nutritional content or number of processed foods involved. Getting produce means you have to brave the arctic cold of the refrigerated room. And throughout, one lifts 50 lb. plastic jars of mayonnaise and plastic-wrapped packs of 128 rolls of toilet paper into one's cart, usually without stretching beforehand or being equipped with a weight belt for support.
It's a grueling physical process that tests the muscles every step of the way. It's not a shopping experience for the timid or meek. It's the WWE of grocery shopping.
So why, pray tell, is there a person stationed at the exit gate, apparently tasked with auditing your receipt against the contents of your shopping basket? Every visit, said person lifts a fluorescent highlighter and marks one's receipt. But why? What good is gained here? Let's look at the logical inconsistencies embodied by this role:
- 1. Consumers have already passed through checkstands and paid for their goods. There is virtually no way out of the building with a cart without passing through a checkstand properly, so it's not like the highlighter person prevents rampant theft of filled carts.
- 2. There is no realistic way to audit the items of a full and oftentimes overflowing shopping cart against a list of ~50 items documented on a receipt. Children's socks, toothpaste, a bottle of wine? How is someone going to spot those items hiding behind a box of 224 diapers, or a pack of 24 Gatorade drinks, or a 42" Vizio flat screen television?
- 3. Having this unnecessary ritual exist in the first place only serves to slow outbound traffic from Costco, which usually turns into a ten-minute death march just to leave the building. One can literally watch his or her milk spoil before his/her eyes, while waiting in line to exit.
So what exactly does Mr. and Mrs. Highlighter do for Costco? If they're not preventing shrinkage and theft, why bother with the unnecessary ritual of someone going through the motions? Wouldn't this person be better spent "greeting" customers (a la Wal-Mart), rather than impeding their prompt departure from the store?
Does the highlighted mark legitimize the receipt itself, anymore so than the "Costco" logo printed at the top? And if I didn't stop my cart to get the highlighted mark, would I be pecked to death by a barrage of highlighted pens?
I'm sure one of you out there has the answer, why is the highlighter person at Costco in the first place. Please, do tell.