Costco’s Viral Loop – The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt

Recently, I took my 91-year-old grandpa and my mom to Costco while I’m in town in San Diego. As someone who normally lives in the bay area, I thought this was a small, fun errand I could run with them.

Growing up, I always shopped at Costco with my family. However, since I’ve moved to the Bay Area I almost never go because they are all pretty far from me if you factor in Bay Area traffic.

In the 2 hours I spent at Costco, I was amazed by Costco’s never-ending aisles and how much money we all collectively spent.

Walking into Costco is almost like entering a scavenger hunt you didn’t sign up for. Every turn in the labyrinth is designed to make you spend money on stuff you really don’t need.

There are:

  • No Aisles
  • No Maps
  • No signs
  • No clear organization once you pass the electronics area

I’ve been going to this Costco in La Mesa (San Diego) for almost 20 years and it’s always changing. Today, on our search for Frozen Ground Beef for my grandpa, we had to go through every single aisle of the Frozen section to try and find it.

In the end, you will probably walk through every aisle of the store looking for that one item you need.

That’s the Viral loop of Costco.

If you look at it from a Product or business perspective, the entire store is designed to make you spend more time to get the items you want. The longer you spend at Costco, the more likely you are to buy food, electronics, or other items scattered throughout the aisles.

The Hunt for Food

Image result for hierarchy of needs

The entire process at Costco begins with someone wanting to buy food. Costco deliberately places the highest value items for food (Meat, vegetables, Milk, Eggs,) at the back of the store. You have to navigate aisles and aisles of electronics, camping equipment, clothes, and office furniture until you reach the deli.

Once you reach the food area, you may have already bought a pillow (in my case) or in extreme cases even a tablet (my dad once).

Locked in for a specific item

The fun part begins when you finish at the meat area and want to continue going down your shopping list. There are no aisles. How do you find where the coffee, your favorite chicken tenders, or even the mango juice is?

With no aisle numbers or signs, you really have to start guessing where it could be.

“Let me go down this aisle”

“Nope. It wasn’t in this aisle”

“Wait, this 5 pack of X looks great. I’ll add it to my cart. I didn’t know I needed that!”

“Nope. It wasn’t in this aisle”

“Ahh here it is. It only took 4 tries to get it.”

What makes it even comical is that I honestly believe they move the aisles around every week so that your favorite item is somewhere else the next time you come.

The Viral Loop for the next Item

Once you find your item, you then repeat this cycle again until your initial list is completed. You may have gone in for just 10 items but you end up leaving with 30 items.

That’s the true viral loop of Costco.

Until next time Costco. ✌️

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