The Korean Costco Experience

Just in case you thought all our days in Korea are spent touring temples, eating kimchi and drinking green tea, we wanted to introduce you to a weekend shopping experience we thought you could all relate to.

The other morning I woke up with an urge to, once again, enjoy the taste of Belgian beer. In my half-asleep status I anticipated driving over to John’s Market in Multnomah to pick up a case of one of my favorites, Leffe. Within the next 15 seconds, as the clouds of sleep dissipated from my brain, I quickly remembered that 1) I’m not in Portland, 2) I don’t have a car and 3) I’m not sure where I can get some of that Belgian nectar of the gods. Being the resourceful Samsung man I am, once at my office I called a Belgian colleague who works for another Samsung division to ask where he gets his brew from home. While confessing that he now is into Beck’s Dark, he suggested that old standby, Costco. So, on Sunday morning off we went to that temple of warehouse merchandising to once again surround ourselves with packages of Kirkland this and Kirkland that, ultimately finding success in my quest for Belgian beer but not finding the pesto Tanya was looking for. Oh well.

Costco stores in Korea are practically identical to those in the US, with a couple of notable exceptions. First, they are multilevel. Grocery items are on the basement level, all other merchandise is on the ground level and the upper three levels are for parking. It’s very efficient, actually, with the floors accessed by escalator. Shopping carts have grooved wheels that correspond to the escalator grates so carts don’t go crashing into the other shoppers in front of, or behind you.

The other difference, of course, is the selection of items. The marketing geniuses at Costco seemed to have figured out just the right mix of domestic and imported products to satisfy Korean shoppers. You can find Budweiser beer, Tillamook cheese, and Atlantic salmon, as well as bargain quantities and prices on Korean goods. Of course, you can also get the industrial sized packages of toilet paper, cleaning products and other items that Costco is famous for. Oh, you might wonder how we get our treasures home, with no car. Easy. We take a 15 minute bus ride, then a short 10 minute walk to Costco, use our “Costco Bags” (see the one Tanya is holding above) and then take a taxi home. Voila! It’s actually easier than when we shopped at the Tigard Costco, loaded stuff into the car and then had to haul everything up the stairs from our garage.
Here are photos of today’s shopping excursion for your enjoyment:

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