Akihiko goes shopping at Costco

Somewhat desaturated, uninviting photo of the inside of a Costco warehouse. Industrial red metal shelves of boxed goods two storeys high, fluorescent lighting like unnatural stars on the ceiling. White piillars to hold the whole structure up. Everything is designed to just keep you moving.
2020.10.15, with Akihiko, Ansel, Julia, Bedivere, Hellebore, & Blast Ant
Filed under Dialogue, Food, Journal

[Akihiko] I had to go grocery shopping with Ant’s parents the other day. (Don’t ask.) And man, no wonder that kid didn’t know how to fucking grocery shop or food budget. Her parents are fucked. But I think that goes for anyone who shops at Costco.

[Yumeka] Costco?

[Akihiko] It’s a members-only wholesaler that sells a lot of everything. TVs, furniture, soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, clothing, cereal, instant meals and fresh produce. Everything.

[Bedivere] Even toilets?

[Akihiko] Even toilets.

[Bedivere] Hmm…

[Ansel] Membership costs $60 a month. If you pay $120 a month, you get rewards and cashback, which might be worth it if you furnish your home exclusively with Costco furniture. Personally, I can’t imagine spending $6,000 a year on furniture and groceries.

Bedi has a thing for toilets. No, not like that. Don’t ask. He just likes the idea of selling lots of them to make money. Don’t ask.

[Akihiko] There are some people [specifically referriing to couples and singles here] who spend $500 a month on groceries Bro.

[Ansel] Yeah, and I… don’t understand…

[Akihiko] What was that bitch's name? Christina?

[Ansel] Akihiko… She wasn't a bitch.

[Akihiko] Her husband was a bitch. Anyway she had so much fucking meat in her freezer. That fucking cow had so much fucking meat. She had two freezers. What is that? They’re two people, and they have two freezers dedicated to meat, and you think Ant and I have food hoarding problems, well I declare that this bitch never felt hunger in her life. Never! She was so fat—

[Ansel] Akihiko—

[Akihiko] Ant and I have fucking starved before, we know what it’s like to genuinely fear for your fucking life due to starvation, I don’t understand these fat fucks—

[Bedivere] Akihiko.

[Akihiko] Right. Costco.
So the store is just full of fat fucks like her—

[Julia] Is this good for the website?

[Ansel] Actually, I think he’s onto something. One out of every four households and 14 million children can’t afford enough food to safely eat this year as a result of the pandemic. Makes warehouses like Costco all the more striking. I don’t think any of these people [still shopping there] know how to manage their food, appreciate their food, let alone cook their food, and I imagine a lot of it goes to waste. Both in the family fridge and in the warehouse.

That’s like 500 pounds of rice, 250 pounds of pork butt roast, over 1,000 pounds of sweet potatoes when they’re in season, like… every month? What is that, a Catholic family?

[Bedivere] How much food does that store waste?

[Julia] 62 million pounds of food that went unsold went to charity.

[Ansel] That’s just the shelf-stable goods. I don’t want to think about how many bananas they’ve wasted.

[Akihiko] That’s so much banana mochi that could've been made, man.
I think Americans deserve what they eat. I mean, the problems they get from what they eat. I think they deserve that. Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues, gallstones, liver and kidney problems… I mean, they see what they eat, they know this shit’s unhealthy, right? It’s on the box. It’s literally on the box. “This can of soup has 63% of your daily intake of salt!” C’mon…

[Ansel] [Sighs]

[Akihiko] What? You didn’t disagree when Dr N. said, “We should be able to call Child Protective Services on these people.” Five-year-olds with type 2 diabetes and joint problems at the age of five? From morbid obesity?

[Ansel] I just think people shouldn’t have children.

[Akihiko] I don’t think they should either!

[Julia] So, what kinds of things did you see at Costco?

[Akihiko] Five-year-olds with morbid obesity and parents asking them which big bag of chips they want.

[Ansel gets up and leaves]


[Akihiko] And cars.

[Bedivere] Cars?

[Akihiko] Yeah, Costco sells cars. You get an authorization number from them, then you go to the dealership and they sell you that car at that price, no haggling. I think they make like $500 commission per car.

[Bedivere] Huh. I can’t imagine my greengrocer selling a, what is it, an “SUV”…

[Akihiko] [proudly] I judge people by what kind of groceries they by, just like Bro. Someone buying two cases of bottled water and two cases of soda… [shakes head] That’s just not right, man. That’s fucked up.

[Bedivere] Aki—

[Akihiko] You know what it’s like to not have enough food?! To think that you might starve to death in the next few days because you’re that hungry?! And these motherfuckers are spending shit on WATER THAT’S FREE and on top of that SODA—

[Bedivere] I think this interview is over.

[Akihiko is escorted out of the room]

[Hellebore] …So, Ant. What did you see at the grocery store?

[Ant] Umm. Well, the ceilings are really tall. They’re really high! It’s just like a warehouse.

[Hellebore] It is a warehouse.

[Ant] Right. So there’s concrete flooring, and bright fluorescent light everywhere, and you don’t talk to anyone working at the butchery, they’re all behind this massive glass pane and you see them working with machines to package and cut meat very fast. The displays, which are really more like giant troughs full of packaged meat, have a constant thermometer on them. For some reason biodad says “buying meat is cheaper at Costco than at the grocery store” but I didn’t see it. I know the prices by heart and the only thing different about Costco is that you can only buy them in bulk. Like, you have to buy four pounds at a time. That’s it.

People at Costco are like people at Wal-Mart. No one makes eye contact, no one sees or pays attention to each other, if you’re in the way no one asks you to please move and no one says pardon me or anything. It’s all very machine-like, all very robotic. I get that no one’s there to make friends but the whole design of the store is very dehumanising. Nothing is human scale and no one acts human. I like the butchery store where we go to, the butcher knows my name, and I like the panaderia we go to, with the girl that Ansel has a crush on.

[Hellebore] [chortle]

[Ant] What?

[Hellebore] You’re not jealous?

[Ant] No, why would I be? She’s cute, he has good taste.

[Hellebore] Hahahaha!

[Ant] They have pet beds at Costco and big bags of dog food, kitty litter. I was just thinking, “Wow, this is a terrible sensory experience. Obviously anyone who goes shopping at Costco isn’t autistic. They couldn’t possibly be.”

[Bedivere] Actually, that might explain why Aki was so agitated…

[Ant] Bedi? How is he?

[Bedivere] He’s outside. Frustrated he can’t do push-ups because he donated blood recently.

[Ant] Ah, right.

[Bedivere] So what do you think of Costco?

[Ant] I think it’s a brutalist nightmare that encapsulates some of the worst aspects of capitalism. Fantastic global logistics like Amazon, yet despite necessitating this vast concentration and specialisation of human labour, there’s nothing human about it, and in the end the distribution of resources is anarchic and irrational. If it weren’t for the microwave, I don’t think Costco would survive.

[Bedivere] The microwave?

[Ant] Most of what they sell is processed, frozen food. Like their chicken bakes, and Jimmy Dean’s breakfast croissants. I like those, but they’re not healthy. I remember being depressed when I read the backs of those boxes and then never eating them again. My biological mother was so confused.


[Ant] I… I like cooking, I like learning how to cook, and cooking with other people. And eating other people’s cooked food. If you shop at Costco, you’ll never learn how to cook. You’ll never learn how to connect with people like that. Did you know my biological dad didn’t know you could freeze eggs? He takes pride in cooking and is actually a good cook, but he doesn’t cook at all. He buys frozen garlic toast… I actually pity him, because Ansel has taught me so much about cooking, that I’ve far surpassed him [my biological father], and all he can do is recommend frozen bulgogi to me instead of teach me anything.

[Bedivere] He gave you a box of frozen bulgogi?

[Ant] Yeah, they’re… a bag of potstickers, with beef bulgogi in them. I like the gyoza that Akihiko’s kaa-san makes better. I always thought he was very lucky. I wish I could cook with my mom like that.

He probably… He probably is very depressed by that. Seeing entire families that don’t cook together.


[Ant] He probably hates them for that…

[Hellebore] Yeah…