We Finally Made it to Costco!

March 8th, 2010 · 24 Comments

Finally made it to Costco!

Finally made it to Costco!

It took us two weeks, and felt like at least 6 more than that, but we finally made it to Costco this weekend!  We picked the one that is closest (according to Google Maps and obviously not the Costco.co.uk site) to our soon to be new flat; it’s the Chingford Costco.  Eventually I’ll probably try to make it to a couple of the other Costco locations, just to compare them and see what the others are like.  But it was like coming home and also totally foreign, all at the same time.

Still about 20 minutes to wait...

Still about 20 minutes to wait...

We decided to go on Sunday, because I figured that might be the best weekend day for my first UK driving experience.  Traffic was pretty light when we left but had certainly gotten more aggressive on the way back.  But obviously we survived and so did the Zipcar…phew.  It took about 30 or 40 minutes to get there, however, I’m sure some of that was down to us completely not knowing where we were going and me driving like a timid 90 year old woman.  I’ll do much better on the next trip, I am sure.  Sadly, because I was paranoid about how long it would take and driving there in general, we got to Costco almost an hour before they opened at 11 am.  But we weren’t alone in the parking lot, not by a long shot.  There were people there even before we got there!  And there was an absolute mob by the time the doors opened finally.  Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in the US, not even around the holidays.  The Costco in Chingford also has underground parking, which is really nice for those rainy days.  Though, it seemed to me that most everyone preferred the surface parking, even though it was really cold, of course it was a really sunny day.  But then, I guess you couldn’t eagerly watch for them to open the doors from the underground parking.

Opening Hours by Membership Type

Opening Hours by Membership Type

I guess the first big difference is in the opening hours.  In the US on Sunday and during the week Costco opens at 10 am and on Saturday they open at 9:30 am.  Here, though, they open at 11 am on Sunday and 9:30 am on Saturday but they don’t open until Noon during the week (for individual members) and 10 am for trade members.  And apparently, even if you are an Executive Member but have an individual membership, you are treated just like the Gold Star members; all trade members get better opening hours (Executive or Gold Star) than individual members.  Though, I wonder how well they enforce that because they seem kind of lax about it in the US.  Also, I wonder where we fall because our card says neither individual nor trade on it.  I just wish they opened earlier on Sunday though because  I think that would have helped alleviate some of the huge crowd but I’m sure they have a reason.

Slowly, slowly filing into the store finally

Slowly, slowly filing into the store finally

When we finally got to go into the store, and it took quite a while to funnel all of those people into the store, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  But similar to our stores, they have the same basic store layout with the fence and those items right there and then the electronics as the first section you see.  Then there are the aisles of  household items along the wall; clothing, shoes, books, DVDs and office supplies and health and beauty items were in the middle; the food was in the back and along the aisles on the far side of the store.   The store was really similar to those in the US, though maybe not as big as some of them, which isn’t all that shocking.  They have a similar selection of household and decorating items, though they certainly had far more major appliances than we have ever had in our Austin location.  They didn’t seem to have much women’s clothing or men’s but more kid’s clothing, I think.  The liquor is mixed in with the food but they seemed to have a nice selection, and apparently they can sell wine and spirits right in the store, no need for either to live in their own separate store which is the case in Texas.  They had a really nice mix of fresh and frozen foods, as well as a good selection of packaged items.  We took so long browsing through the rest of the store, that we didn’t get enough of a chance to look through the stuff in the middle, but that is what future trips are for, I guess.

There were several things that I can’t wait to try out though.  While there is certainly overlap in some of the products available, there’s also a big, big difference in the sorts of items they sell here.  The food section has of course all kinds of new and exciting things to try.  You can really see the influence of Indian cooking on the items in the store, I thought, because amongst other things there were like 4 or 5 different varieties of basmati rice.  Plus, there were big jugs of soups, sauces, and chutneys for making various items as home.  Another nice difference was in the bread aisle you can get the usual sliced sandwich breads but they also have naan, pitas, chapatis, tortillas (which surprised me), crumpets (or English muffins, which didn’t surprise me) and these very cool ready to bake breads.  The ready to bake stuff seems really great to me because it’s French bread mainly, and I’m not whipping that up myself at home but I can pop in the oven for an almost fresh, homemade bread feeling.  They still had the Costco cakes and cupcakes, which made Dave happy.  So, I guess I’ll eventually be trying to find room in my tiny freezer for some frozen cupcakes.  They also had a great selection of fresh fruits and veggies, and the prices and quality both seemed as excellent as you expect from Costco.  They certainly seemed to have a wider selection of pork and lamb cuts available (and I’m not even talking about the 5 or 6 different kinds of bacon you can buy).  And the beef was amazing looking!  It’s all from Scotland and the Aberdeen Angus cuts, in particular,  looked mouthwateringly beautiful.  Oh yes, and while we’re talking about great things from Scotland, they had some nice looking fresh salmon filets that we will certainly be buying in the future.  But they also had a wide selection of smoked salmon.  Yum!

Clean carpets, thanks to Costco

Clean carpets, thanks to Costco

There were so many things to see that I could ramble on all day probably.  But I won’t.  There were a couple of things that we were really glad to see there, like Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate Brownie mix.  They have a lot of the same Kirkland Signature items too that we use all the time, though I didn’t see the liquid laundry detergent.  And they have Bounce, which makes me very, very happy (laundry woes of non-soft clothing currently).  Plus, there were a couple of things that we don’t buy all the time but will be picking up on our next visit (once we have moved to our permanent flat) including a set of 6 Global knives and a Dyson vacuum cleaner.  Plus, they have German Black Forest ham!  We totally fell in love with it when we were in Germany and you really can’t get it in the US, so I’m looking forward to trying that.  Heck, we might even try out the haggis too!

All in all, it was a successful shopping trip to our first UK Costco.  We did buy a few things, but that’s a separate post, and would have stayed to try out the food court but just ran out of time.  Next time, I’m going to be sure to allow enough time to deal with the crowds of people and still get a hot dog and a soda.

Does anyone know if the coupon books in the UK are mailed out, or do you pick those up in the stores?  We found one in our basket so we were curious about how to get one in the future.


Tags: Food · General · Household Items Share

24 Responses so far ↓

  1. 1 A Stewart // 2010.05.05 at 9:19 am

    Jacqueline, I’m afraid you’re wrong. The legislation is called the “Sunday Trading Act 1994”. According to westlaw, it’s still in force although some sections have been repealed and some exceptions are possible. “Large shops” defined in the act (280 square meters of trading space or larger) can only open for 6 hours, opening no earlier than 10am and closing no later than 6pm.

    Wikipedia has a great summary here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunday_shopping#England_and_Wales

    As I said, it applies to England and Wales and only the larger shops – hence generally smaller shops like the co-op can be open but bigger stores can’t be.

    You can see the legislation at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1994/plain/ukpga_19940020_en

  2. 2 Jacqueline // 2010.05.05 at 9:05 am

    There is no law on what time stores have to close on a Sunday. There is a Co-Op down my road that I open from 10am-11pm on a Sunday. It’s more of a tradition. You’ll find that sone older family run stores still close quite late on a Thursday as that is when the “shopping day” used to be.

  3. 3 A Stewart // 2010.04.30 at 5:54 pm

    One of the reasons they only open 11am to 5pm on a Sunday – England (and I believe Wales too) have a really old law saying that big shops can only open for 6 hours on Sundays! It’s why you have 24 hour Tesco’s that are open 24/6 – and then 6 hours on Sunday… Only applies to larger stores though, so smaller local shops can open longer. Up in Scotland, the stores are open a bit longer, for 7 hours – 10am to 5pm. You’ll find most stores in England are 11am to 5pm, 10am to 4pm, 12 noon to 6pm etc…

    Hope you are enjoying your time in the UK!

    • 4 Kimberly // 2010.05.05 at 2:44 am

      I didn’t realize there was a law about how long stores can be open. Good to know. We’ve been amazed at how early a lot of the places close here, like the bigger grocery stores all seem to close much earlier than we are used to in the US.

  4. 5 Kerri // 2010.03.25 at 1:39 pm

    I believe thats the norm. The books come every month to every other month depending on how busy they are (but the books always stretch between these periods, if that makes sense) Ive never noticed the expiry date as cnat get as often as we’d like – atm is about once a month or so. Costco the only store that really does coupons here, so I havent noticed if theres any difference in expirys or not.

  5. 6 Kimberly // 2010.03.25 at 5:15 am

    Kerri, I do have one question for you though. Do they always have a continuous stream of coupon books here? In the US, you know, they have a week or two in between the coupon books where you’re shopping without discounts (the horror of it). But I noticed that here in the UK the one coupon book expired on a Sunday and the next one became valid Monday (the next day). I was just wondering if that was the normal way it worked or was a unique situation for some reason. Thanks!

  6. 7 Kimberly // 2010.03.25 at 5:12 am

    Thanks for the offer Kerri! When we were at Costco this weekend I was able to pick up the current coupon book. I want to get it scanned and up here, but my scanner is giving me attitude. So, I’m trying to work that issue out, but in the future I’m hoping to be able to have the UK coupons online too, as I do with the US coupons.

    Evan, I don’t know how I managed to wait so long in between Costco trips either. It’s really been killing me! But we went this past weekend, so I’ve gotten my weekly fix at least.

  7. 8 Kerri // 2010.03.24 at 4:23 pm

    BTW until you get your UK ones, I can try to scan mine?

  8. 9 Evan Brom // 2010.03.24 at 3:44 pm

    How can you go so infrequently I must be there every other day some times two times in a day!

  9. 10 Kimberly // 2010.03.11 at 3:23 am

    Sadly, the Costco that we went to did not automatically discount the coupon items as we found out when Dave forgot to give them the coupon. So, I guess I’ll just have to try to always get a coupon book from the Customer Service desk.

  10. 11 Kerri // 2010.03.10 at 6:12 pm

    Costco mail out coupon books, but it takes some time to get them. I think it took me about 6 month or so to get mine once I transferred my US membership over to Costco UK. I never bring mine to my local Costco (Sheffield) as they always give me the discounts at the register (just like back home!)

  11. 12 Jacqueline // 2010.03.10 at 4:41 pm

    I wish I could say the same, but I think the produce is better in California. Especially at the farmer’s markets.

  12. 13 Kimberly // 2010.03.10 at 12:54 pm

    Oh yeah, I’ve been to the Harrods food hall before, it is really spectacular! And I must admit that so far the average grocery store here does seem to have better quality produce and fish than the average store in my area of Austin.

  13. 14 HotWasabiPeas // 2010.03.10 at 12:50 pm

    Honey you are going to love living in the UK. The quality of the food alone will make you never want to come back to the USA. Next stop for you should be the food hall at Harrods..it’s to die for!

  14. 15 Jacqueline // 2010.03.09 at 9:24 am

    I’ve actually not tried the cupcakes, I’m more of a brownie type person. I will be trying them soon though.

  15. 16 Kristine // 2010.03.09 at 6:38 am

    So– welcome to the world of Costco outside the US! 🙂 I have been doing the happy dance since the 1st store opened in Australia in August…I am an expat living in Melbourne since 2003, and it has been great finally having a Costco here! It is fun to see what does make it over here, and to see what is different for the Australian market. Good luck getting all settled in! (Love the website and I look forward to hearing more of your adventures!)

  16. 17 Kimberly // 2010.03.09 at 2:00 am

    At the Costco we went to this weekend they had 3 different Ghiradelli mixes: brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and cupcakes. I had seen the brownie and cookie mixes, but never the cupcakes. Is the cupcake mix good or not as spectacular as the brownies?

  17. 18 Jacqueline // 2010.03.08 at 6:34 pm

    You’ll be glad to know that they do sometimes stock the Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate Brownie mix. I’ve never gone to that Costco, but I have bought it at the Thurrock and Croydon Costco. I think they may have replaced it with the Chocolate Cupcake mix. I have, however seen it in stock again after there was none on the shelves. As far as the coupon books, they do mail them out automatically when you have the UK membership. At the Costco in Croydon they have a table full when you walk in. I’m not sure about Thurrock. The member services may have some spare ones.

  18. 19 Kimberly // 2010.03.08 at 4:27 pm

    I’m a big supporter of anything I can eat with Nutella!

  19. 20 Justin // 2010.03.08 at 4:14 pm

    The mcgriddle was more a texture difference as opposed to a flavour comparison. A hot crumpet, toasted in a toaster, with butter and jam, or butter and honey, or butter and nutella. Goes very very well with a cup of tea or coffee

  20. 21 Kimberly // 2010.03.08 at 4:11 pm

    Good to know! It sounded really good until you said ‘mcgriddle’. LOL But I’ll have to try them anyway. Do you eat them with just butter or jam? I did notice that the cheaper brands of crumpets we’ve seen at some of the grocery stores look more like English muffins than do the nicer ones, or the ones at Costco.

    Now, I feel like I need to run out and buy some to give them a try.

  21. 22 Justin // 2010.03.08 at 4:07 pm

    from: http://www.worldwidewords.org/topicalwords/tw-cru1.htm
    It is true that English muffins and crumpets are related things, though neither should be (or could be) confused with an American muffin, which to British eyes and taste buds is a sweet-tasting cake. Both muffins and crumpets are flat discs about three inches across and an inch or so deep, cooked in a pan or on a griddle. The main difference between them lies in the composition of the mixture used, which makes muffins feel and taste rather more like bread; in addition, muffins are baked on both sides, so they must be cut in two before they can be toasted. With crumpets, the cooking process generates distinctive deep dimples on one side.

    They taste totally different and have different textures. An English muffin eats more like toast, a crumpet is more like a crispy pancake or to use a crappy mcdonalds reference, a mcgriddle.

  22. 23 Kimberly // 2010.03.08 at 4:03 pm

    Well, if you’re from here you might think that but they look pretty much exactly the same to us. So, what’s the difference? Because crumpets honestly do look like what is known as an English muffin in the US.

  23. 24 Justin // 2010.03.08 at 3:50 pm

    crunpets and english muffins are two different things entirely

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