Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why I don't shop at Costco

Many people think that Costco is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I've had enough experience with them to know that shopping there isn't for me. My reasons are several.

1. I have a philosophical problem with paying admission to get into a retail store. You may not agree, but I feel that an annual membership fee is a payment of admission ("We charge this fee to keep prices low").

2. I hate waiting in line behind 20 other people for the privilege of checking out, and when I get there, they won't provide me with any bags for my purchases ("That's how we keep prices low") and they won't take a check.

3. Often their goods are sold in large units, but it isn't often that I need a 55 gallon barrel of Thousand Island dressing. Sometimes when you are buying for a single household and you buy in quantity, some of the product may go bad before it's used up. That isn't thrifty. Another point to make here is that I'm not used to pricing large quantity grocery items, so I have no way of knowing if I'm getting a deal or not.

4. You have to be a careful shopper at Costco; often their pricing is higher on certain items.

5. Another way you have to be a careful shopper at Costco is to avoid the "I'm getting a special deal here" and over-buy just because you think you are getting a special deal. You may be getting deals, but you also may be buying things that aren't necessary. It's easy to leave Costco with a very long receipt, which makes you wonder, "Did I really spend that much?"

Now, I've got a real problem with buying gasoline from Costco. I've driven by one of the Costco stores near me several times. In the area where they sell gasoline, the cars are lined up (no exaggeration) 10 and 12 deep to get up to the pumps. At present, their unleaded gasoline is about 15 to 20 cents below other retailers, depending upon whether you buy at Arco or Union 76. Let me tell, you, all those loyal Costco customers waiting in line behind 10 cars to save 15 cent a gallon have got to be nuts. No way am I going to wait in line behind all those jabbering, disorganized, pushy (never mind) to save 15 cents a gallon. Think about it; you have to wait for every driver of every car to get out, pay, pump their gas, fiddle-fart around with their seat belts, kids in car, put receipts away, etc, times however many cars are ahead of you. I've got better things to do with my time than that. That isn't saving money, it's wasting time.

I'll leave you with this final thought. If you could drive right up to the pump in some kind of express lane for special people and avoid waiting behind 10 cars ahead of you, wouldn't you be willing to pay 2 or 3 dollars just for that privilege? That's basically what you are doing by going straight on by Costco and going to Chevron (or similar) to buy your gasoline. I'm happy to pay a couple of dollars extra to avoid that jabbering bedlam in the gas pump line at Costco.

If you are looking for bargains in grocery items, you can often save more money at places like Grocery Outlet or Save-a-Lot, or similar discount stores in your area.

Monday, June 22, 2009

How Sexual Predators Operate

Here's a story that I've never told anyone before and I haven't thought about it for at least 25 years. I used to work in a retail liquor store when I was in high school, and once again after I was in the Army and was going to school. The first time I worked there was for three years, covering the full three years I was in high school. I started working there before I could drive and used to walk up Del Amo St. in Lakewood, California to work. On Friday and Saturday nights, I worked there as a stock clerk mostly, but would help the counter clerk on the register when it was busy. During the week, I worked most afternoons stocking shelves and helping on the register when the owner had other stuff to do.

So, there was this customer named Al. I've tried to remember his last name, but I can't. No matter. I would say it was about the first year I worked there that this guy Al started to get friendly with me. Somehow, in a conversation it came out that I was interested in guns. One time he said, "I've got a gun at home; you ought to come over some time and take a look at it." I was about 15 or 16, and having grown up in Lakewood, wasn't too street-smart, and was reasonably trusting. I don't remember the details, but one evening I agreed to go over to Al's home which was on one of the side streets south of Del Amo St. near Palo Verde Ave. He did have a gun, a cheaply-made, older .38 revolver. After showing me this, he suggested that we go for a drive and he'd show me a place that he liked to go or something like that. I can't imagine now why I played along with him, but sometimes young people do things when they are with older people just to be agreeable. Sometimes they get into situations and don’t quite know how to disentangle from them gracefully. I don't know. Anyway, Al drove us up to Signal Hill and parked his car. After we parked, he started asking me a series of uncomfortable questions of a sexual nature, like, "What do you do about it when you all hot and bothered down there?" or something along that line. To this specific question, I remember giving him the lame answer, "Oh, I just take a walk around the block to get over it." He said something like, "Ah, come on, you can do better than that." Well, by now I knew or at least had an idea where he was going with this, and I wasn't going to say something like, "When that happens I masturbate to get some relief" because it would have just escalated the level of sexuality of the conversation and my discomfort with it. We may have had more conversation along the lines I described above, but it didn't get more specific. Somewhere hereabouts Al must have realized that he didn't have a fish on the line, and although I don't recall exactly how we wound this up, he drove back to his place and I left.

For some time after this, I gave a lot of thought to this episode with Al. At that time in life, I didn't have the life experience I got through the natural process later. Even still, I knew that Al had some hands-on sexual activity in mind. As I think back on it, Al was a clever, slippery little perve. First, he knew how to bait the hook by finding a topic that his intended victim was interested in. Second, he knew just how to ask probing questions that, depending upon the response he received, he could either escalate to more specific questions or back out of. It was a lot like smooth male heterosexual predators who prey on young women to receive casual sex. They know the kind of intimate questions to ask to get to succeeding levels of familiarity. Sexually perverse predators have to be even more slippery; they are in some legal danger if caught. From the way Al was approaching me, in later reflection it seemed to me that perhaps he'd had a lot of practice.

Al was a homosexual pedophile, pure and simple. I've no way of knowing for sure which, but he probably wanted me to fellate him, or for him to fellate me. Some of these old male homosexual pedophiles get more kicks out of fellating a young male than receiving their own gratification. It's just another weird aspect of their perversion that most "normal" people don't understand.

After that time when Al would come in, we would still greet each other in the store but I would avoid conversation with him. He'd act friendly and sugary but by then I knew what that was all about. Since he was a customer, I couldn't very well be hostile to him. Beyond that, at that age, I was embarrassed at myself about the experience I'd had with him. I guess I was embarrassed that I'd been so stupid and accepted his invitation in the first place. Even if I'd decided to mention this to someone else, what had Al done to break the law? He asked questions but made no overt suggestions. Like I said, he was slippery.

It has occurred to me that sexual predators use the embarrassment of young victims to mask their activities.

Fast forward to when I worked in the store the second time, after I got out of the Army. Al was still coming into the store. We wouldn't talk more than what was necessary to conduct business and maybe he'd ask how I was doing. I could tell he now recognized me as an adult and not the stupid kid that he'd tried to lure, but he still had a sick twinkle in his eye. When I worked there that time, I was the night clerk and had a stock boy helping me into the evening. One of the stock "boys" that worked with me was a guy named Bill, the owner's nephew. One time when Al came in and Bill saw him, Bill made negative comments about him to me. Every time Bill and I worked together and Al came in, the same thing would happen. I should have, but never did, ask Bill the nature of his animosity toward Al but guessed perhaps he'd been approached by him in a similar fashion.

Well, so that's the story of my own personal experience. It isn't a big one but to me it was a good illustration about just how sexual predators work and how they get kids in a corner, feel them out with questions and see how far they can get with them. It wouldn't surprise me if Al had a police record; sexual predators who keep battering away at the odds like that are bound to get caught once in a while.