In our experience, Costco employees are an enthusiastic, hard-working lot who genuinely want me to find what I need when I shop where they work. And generally speaking, I do.
I certainly don’t shop for everything at Costco, just those items that I think of as “Costco items.” For example, I can find real Reggiano Parmiggiano, the Parmesan cheese from Parma, for about half the price it sells for at the supermarket. And if I want to peel curls of that cheese over some killer sun-dried tomatoes, I can find those in the grocery section. I can snare some good imported olive oil and balsamic vinegar there, too.
Costco has become my personal shopper. I do some research, then I buy what they sell. Like all discount chains they have professionals working full time looking for deals/quality. But what I like about Costco is their niche — which is my niche. They consistently find a bargain in the “highest common denominator” bracket. What they seem to aim for, and what I am happy with, is the highest quality common quality. Not the very best, not the cheapest, and not mediocre either, but a good brand-name bargain in the high middle. They consistently deliver a great price on a very popular and competent item. It’s neither optimization (the top model with the most features), nor is it minimization (cheapest per feature) nor plain thriftiness. Rather Costco aims for some sort of consumer satisficing, to use Herb Simon’s term: a high quality that is just good enough, but at a low-end price.