Reflections on Costco

Over the last couple of months, I've had a lot of book signings and other promotion.

Most of these signings have been at Costco, which is new for me. I've never before had a book at Costco. Some things I've learned:

Many staffers at Costco are the bomb. (South Ogden, Murray, and West Valley City especially rock. Love those guys.)

One Costco, however, has a total loser working the wireless phone booth. (Although he was delightful entertainment to listen to.) Based on a conversation with a coworker (fifteen feet from me, but apparently clueless that I could hear every word), he'll easily get married to a hot chick as soon as he gets a better job and makes more money. So he totally won't be single like, at 35. The hot chick doesn't need to know how to cook more than chicken nuggets.

Some people enjoy striking up the most bizarre conversations. One guy decided to tell me how much caffeine is in chocolate (way more than coffee, according to him, which not even almost true). Then he launched into a speech about how the "hot drinks" section of the Word of Wisdom was cautioning early Saints to not drink soup too hot, because a lot of people were doing that and burning their throats. (Call me crazy, but I'd like to think Joseph Smith and company were a bit smarter than that.)

Finally, he insisted that the only reason tea was added to the Word of Wisdom (except wait; wasn't it soup?) was a tit for tat. If the women hated tobacco so much, then THEY had to give up something too. And of course, ALL the women came from Liverpool (wait; including Emma, born in the STATES?), where they drink, yep, tea. That conversation left my brain going, "Wha-hahaaa?"

Some people forget a writer at a table is a real person with feelings. One woman leaned in, pointed at the book, looked my body up and down (yes, I could lose a few pounds) and tapped the cover, saying, "Don't you know that's fattening?!"

According to totally non-scientific reactions, the book might sell more if it were diabetic/gluten-free/dairy-free/fill in the blank. Since it's not, it's my obligation to write a version like that.

Utah is far more diverse than I ever knew. I expected to see a good Latino population, and I did (but in greater numbers than I expected). But I had no idea the Wasatch Front also had so many people of Asian, African-American, and Polynesian descent. It was downright fascinating. Maybe we aren't so pale and pasty after all!

I can now go into almost any Costco and walk straight to where they hide the table/chair/cloth and (sometimes) easel for book signings.

Most Costcos are set up almost identically. Except in Sandy. That one will totally screw you up if you're used to the regular layout. I got lost there. Twice. In one day.

A shocking number of women wear 4-inch heels to shop AT COSTCO. That's like walking a 5K with knives shoved in your heels. Worse, many of these women, balancing precariously on spikes, are very pregnant. Absolute masochists, I tell you.

One sweet male worker at a Costco I visited several times reminded me of Dori on Finding Nemo. Every time he passed by (several times during each of 3 signings at that store) he cracked the same joke as if it were the very first time he'd ever seen me or the book.

When the former president (George W. Bush) is coming to sign at the same store in a couple of days, a news station will show up, move you over to the clothing section, and interview the manager. It's hard to be offended by getting upstaged by the former president.

In spite of the giant poster with the book cover, cute layouts of the book, and the words "Author Here Today!" people will still assume you're a store employee.

Nothing seemed to be a sure-fire way to sell books. Sitting at the chair and talking to customers sometimes worked, but other times the table seemed like a barrier. Standing and approaching customers sometimes worked, but other times scared people away. I tried all kinds of things, and in the end just talked to as many people as I could, handed out a gazillion recipe cards, and hoped for the best.

(See THIS POST for a few things I just might have experienced over the last two months or so.)

An astonishing number of people previously bought lots of cookbooks but have collections that reached critical mass in 2010; they simply cannot buy one more. (Or they're totally lying to let me down easy.)

If a woman has nothing but bulk spinach in her cart and is so thin I could tap her with a finger and knock her over (and/or is wearing workout clothing, and/or I can see her ribs), chances are, she won't be interested in my cookbook.

A surprising number of elderly people no longer cook. A surprising number also live in assisted living centers. Yet they shop at bulk warehouse stores. A true mystery.

It's awesome seeing people from my past, even when neither of us remembers the other's name and the conversation starts out with stares and pointing and, "Hey, didn't you go to my high school?"

It's the AWESOMEST ever to see people who came specifically to see me and buy a book. Had lots of that and appreciated it every. Single. Time.

Thank you to every single person who came to support me (and those you came more than once). You rock!


T said…
cracking up here about cookbooks reaching critical mass... ManOfTheHouse made me put bakerella's back on the shelf last week for that very reason... I'm going to have to weed out my collection soon!!!

and pffft to the old geezer and his misinformed caffeine knowledge - I've discussed this with MANY people recently when they find out I don't eat chocolate... groan...
Kristina P. said…
Maybe I should have included the cell phone guy on my list of where to go to find a man.
Sherri said…
Thanks for a great Monday morning laugh. Bulk food...assisted living...I'm still thinking on that one! :)
Motherboard said…
Costco is my favorite place to go when I need reminding that I am, indeed, normal.
Collette said…
I'm still laughing - especially about the pregnant ladies in 4" stilettos! I've thought the same thing many times shopping in my sensible shoes, rejoicing at the free cream puff sample.

Sorry about the tacky "this-is-fattening" lady. Sadly, I know you aren't exaggerating one bit for comedic effect. Some people...
myimaginaryblog said…
I've decided that size-intolerance is one of the last socially-acceptable forms of bigotry. Not that it's really socially acceptable, but a lot of people sure seem to feel self-righteous about their skinniness. (Also large-but-dieting people.)

You are so brave. I think I never want to have a book-signing, especially at Costco.
Sue said…
Oh, the memories of book signings....

My recollections are not as sweet as your wonderful chocolate creations, that's for sure...

Krista said…
Annette! I'm cracking up! Oh, the memories you can snicker at for years to come! Priceless. Even in bulk.
Sadie said…
I actually really wanted to get to one of your book signings. Are you having anymore? Sorry about all the crap you had to deal with. People are pigs... and stupid too. I actually just picked up your book at Seagull Book today! I was ecstatic. I'm going back to buy a few more for Christmas presents.
DeNae said…
Please tell me you were kidding when you said that George W. Bush was going to be signing books at Costco. Frankly, I think you're too talented to be signing books at Costco, and HE was the leader of the free world for crying out loud! Could you imagine Thomas Jefferson standing there next to a copy of the Constitution, and having folks walk up to him and say, "You know, Democracy's all fine and good, but it has way more caffeine than coffee."
Cynthia said…
People are so interesting! I see authors at Costco all the time. It's fun to hear about the experience from the opposite side.

I read over the weekend that our State ranks 8th Nationally in terms of racial integration. I guess we may not have as many people of color here but those we've got are firmly woven into the fabric.
AzĂșcar said…
I wore 4" heels to Costco all the time!

(Because I was on my way home from work.)
kbrebes said…
lol! Just ordered HOUSE ON THE HILL. Can't wait 'til it gets here!
Michele Holmes said…
Thanks for a great morning laugh! Too funny and too true. You're obviously a writer, oh observant one.
Kim Coates said…
This is hilarious! It's amazing how crazy everyone (except us, I mean!) can be. Maybe you could start a "People of Costco" to replace the "People of Walmart" email that goes around.

Have a great Christmas!
Charlie Moore said…
Good post, Annette. But, I'm reasonably sure the most important reason for entering any Costco is the partaking of free samples. For a true Costco experience you need to visit one in the Seattle/Everett area. They're really crazy up there. Down here they're kind of lame in comparison.

L.T. Elliot said…
Costco is both a blessing and testament to bad behavior among humans. From the parking lot to the produce section, it's survival of the fittest. I admit, I love a lot of things from there but I have to "gear up" before I go. ;P

Glad the signings are going so well, though! (Despite the oddities.)

Merry Christmas, Annette!
Kimberly said…
Sounds like a fascinating, and exhausting experience! And I bet there's some good book fodder in it all!
I really, really don't want to do book signings (although I'm grateful I even have the opportunity). But I wouldn't mind the uninterrupted people-watching time.

Btw, a girl from ward pulled your cookbook off my shelf the other day. She leafed through it going, "Amazing!" So that's good.
Lara said…
I just wish I had a Costco within 5 hours of me. But even more, I wish that you would be IN that Costco doing a book signing. :)
wendy said…
That was pretty funny....and you can bet I would never wear 4 inch heels to Costco....I NEVER WEAR 4 inch heels anywhere.

albeit cool that you can write books and must be grueling sometimes to sit through book signings and listen to the whack-o comments from some people.
Heidi said…
I enjoyed reading about your experiences. I agree, people don't think of authors as people a lot of times. It's weird. Have a very Merry Christmas, Annette!
If I had been in Utah, I would have loved to stop by to see you! That would be awesome!

Loved reading about your weird/wild days of book signing. If I ever become published, book signings are the one thing that would create some real fear for me.
Lynda Scott said…
Great lessons for those of us who aspire to follow in your footsteps and sell books at Costco. And, nice to be able to find humor everywhere!
charrette said…
I spent the last month-and-a-half doing book signings too. (Although, lamentably, not at Costco.) Much of this rang all too true. The recipe cards are a great idea! (If only my book had any recipes...) :) And I agree the absolute best part of it all is reconnecting with people I haven't seen or heard from in ages, and the singular joy of having people go out of their way just to see me and buy (sometimes a whole stack of) my books! Love!
charrette said…
p.s. Are you sure that guy debating the caffeine wasn't my SISTER? (haha --NOT the one I bought your book for; the other one!)
Oh my. I think you just put the fear of Costco signings into me. Yikes! And seriously, the woman you looked you up and down, then pointed out that your book was fattening, needs her lip fattened. Really. Have some class people.

And just one more point, as a mom of a milk-allergy kid, when I saw you book, I did not once think "Annette should write a milk free version" I thought "FREEDOM! Something for ME for a change!"

Merry Christmas, Annette!
That has to be an ultimate people watching, being in such a crazy warehouse and all.
I can't wait to give away your book on my blog. I'm hoping to get it up in Jan! :)
Cheri Chesley said…
I'm annoyed I missed this post before. 10 of my 11 signings this month have been at Costco Stores. I love the Murray and Orem stores for their staff and customers. I like signing at Costco, but I have nothing really to compare it to, yet.

I can back you up though. It's great for people watching. There is a surprising ethnic mix. People will monopolize your time with information they are CERTAIN you need to know (today I got a history lesson on the ancient queen Bouddica, simply because my book has the word "queen" in the title). The do occasionally forget you have feelings. And I got something great out of each and every signing I did. :)
Tami Waite said…
4" heels at Costco especially in snowy weather cracks me up. 4" heels at Disneyland...very entertaining, makes me laugh each and every time.
amelia said…
Heels were totally at the Sandy Costco, weren't they? I usually shop at the one by our house (Salt Lake Costco), but occasionally go to the Sandy one if I'm visiting family out there. I shouldn't be surprised at the customer difference...but it's funny to see the amount of moms completely dolled up for a trip to the Sandy Costco. They're all hippies at the SLC one.
Annette Lyon said…
Amelia, The heels were at EVERY Costco I went to. So. Odd.

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