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White board sign

Return to Costco

Photo by Leslie Easton (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Leslie Easton (Creative Commons License)

Last weekend I went to Costco with my white board sign to pick up a prescription for Rosie the basset hound. The staff was obviously alarmed by the fact that I was carrying my white board sign. (My behavior otherwise was completely innocuous, quiet, and polite.) The clerk escorted me out of the store after I had completed my transaction. Non-members of Costco are allowed to use their pharmacy and to purchase alcohol; however, the staff member told me that next time I needed to inform the clerk working the door of my non-member status so they could escort me in and out of the store.

That made sense. I can understand why Costco only wants people who have paid for memberships in the store, eating the samples, and making purchases.

Fast-forward to this weekend. Rosie needed a refill for one of her other prescriptions (it’s hard to predict when you’ll run out of doggy eye drops) so I returned to the same Costco as before – this time sans white board sign. I presented myself to the greeter and told her (with my best British accent) that I was not a Costco member and that I wished to use their pharmacy. Without hesitation, she pointed toward the pharmacy and let me proceed unaccompanied.

Photo by Mike Mozart (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Mike Mozart (Creative Commons License)

The pharmacist said it would take approximately 15 minutes to fill Rosie’s prescription and he handed me a larger Costco pager device that would ring, vibrate, and light up when it was ready. I was allowed to walk through the store to observe the other patrons and their carts piled high with large quantities of goods. The idea of buying such large quantities of one thing in a single transaction baffles me.

When the pager went off, I returned to the pharmacy, completed the transaction, and walked out without incident.

Costco Lessons to Date:

  • They don’t want you to be in the store with your whiteboard sign.
  • They will allow you to be in the store unaccompanied when you don’t carry a whiteboard sign.
  • They will allow you to be in the store unaccompanied if you use a fake British accent.

Hmm…do you think they’ll let me use the pharmacy if I walk into the store wearing fairy wings?

Kicked Out of Costco

Ignite Phoenix 17 Speaker's Bootcamp by  Brandon Larkin (Creative Commons License)

Ignite Phoenix 17 Speaker’s Bootcamp by Brandon Larkin (Creative Commons License)

My friend Alan made me a white board sign – it’s two small white boards screwed to a stick of wood. It’s basically a reusable protest-style sign. I love it. It’s a fun way to make a statement without saying a word.

(I’ve been saying for years that I need a shirt that creatively conveys the message “Stay away from me” for the days that I had hate everyone but have to leave the house but it’s so creative that people want to talk to me about my shirt. Now I have a customizable sign that I can use instead.)

Rosie needed a refill on her glaucoma eye drops and our doggie ophthalmologist said that Costco pharmacy had the cheapest price, so off I went with my sign to get her meds. I don’t need to buy anything by the vat or gross, so I’m not a member of Costco. It’s a warehouse of consumerism that I usually find overwhelming. (You can use their pharmacy even if you’re not a member.)

I walked in a 9:30am when they opened to drop off her prescription. The front of my sign said, “I bite. I really do.” My friends wrote that on my sign and I left it there – but it’s true. I do bite. The back said, “Be Awesome to Everyone.” It’s always fun to watch the reactions when you violate social norms. I walked in, dropped off Rosie’s prescription, and walked out without incident.

Fast-forward three hours when I returned to pick up Rosie’s meds. It was high noon at Costco – the peak of free sample time. By then I’d changed my sign to say, “Stupid should hurt” on one side (hat tip to Improv AZ’s Fake Protest Flash Mob) and “Stop doing things you hate” on the other (hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk). Based on the parking lot, I should have written “Cool kids return their carts.”

As I walked through the door, I think someone said, “Do you have a membership card?” to me, but I was completely oblivious to the staff. I was on a mission to get Rosie’s meds. One of them caught up with me at the pharmacy where I’d lowed my sign and was politely waiting for the tech. I think she thought I was “special needs.” She was very deliberate with her words and explaining that the store was private property and when non-members use the pharmacy, they need to be escorted, but that I couldn’t bring my sign in the store again. (She had no clue that I’m the lawyer who literally wrote the book on flash mobs and pranks.)

I finished my transaction and she escorted me out of the store. She even carried my sign for me. She seemed to soften a bit when I said I was there to get my dog’s glaucoma medication.

So now we know – when your awesome friend makes you an awesome white board sign, stores may not appreciate it as much as you, even if you’re quiet, polite, and legitimately there to make a purchase. And they might suspect you have a mental disorder.