Buying in bulk is a phenomenon of soft wonder and hard math.
Yes, going to a Sam’s Club or a Costco kind of reminds me of my parents taking me shopping when I was a tyke. I remember looking up to the many shelves that I could not reach and thinking in awe, “Wow, do giants shop here?”
Then I became an adult and started to shop at those membership-only wholesale mega big box stores and I said in awe, “Whoa! Giants do exist!” Of course, that’s what you get when you eat free mushrooms growing out of the cracks of the sidewalk in front of the nearby “incense” shop that plays Bob Marley’s greatest hits on a loop.
Just as a side note, I always have a fear of walking down the beverage aisle because I always think that’s when a pallet of ultra-large containers of tomato juice is going to topple over and flood everything like the bloody-elevator scene in “The Shining.” Again, don’t eat the mushrooms on your way to the store.
Anyway, the purpose of such retail businesses is to save money when you buy in bulk.
Every time I’m there, I try to figure how I’m saving money by doing math in my head, doing math on my cell phone’s calculator, asking my phone’s electronic assistant to do the math, then calling my engineer brother on how to correctly ask the question to my phone’s assistant and then my brother just telling me how the savings work because, unlike me when it comes to math, he knows a thing or four.
Basically, in most cases, you’re purchasing two and a half things at the price of two things, so you get a half of a thing for free, and those half things add up to big savings...although it doesn’t seem that way at first.
That’s because when you’re shopping, you’re in the zone and every time my wife or my kid picks up an item, I say, “Yes, we save money when we buy in bulk,” over and over again like it’s a cult — a CostCoCult!
Also, you try to stick to your list, you try to stay within your budget, but then you see an actual barrel full of peanut butter for sale and caution is suddenly thrown to the wind.
Then, after you push the mountain of goods in your shopping cart to the checkout line, you begin to panic as the cashier shows you your total, produces a hacksaw and asks if you prefer spending the arm or the leg.
However, once you get over that hurdle, you can bask in the bubbling emotions of the accomplishment of coming home after the supply run and getting to see your fully-stocked bunker of wholesale goods.
I remember standing there all proud that not only did I theoretically save money, I also have one less thing to worry about when the zombie apocalypse happens as I have enough food to last at least three years...five years, if I decide to eat my family early on.
Then that wife of mine came downstairs to inform me that we still have to go to the grocery store to get “a few more things.”
“A few more things?” I said, holding my arms out at the bounty before me. “We just bought all the things!”
However, she was right. Some things you can’t buy in bulk. For example, if you have three people in a house, there’s little sense of purchasing a crate of string cheese, a baker’s dozen of cheesecakes or a 5,000 count box of suppositories...well, after all that dairy consumption, maybe that last purchase makes more sense.
If it seems like it’s a lot of money being spent with no savings in sight, the savings will appear in the long run as buying a crate of toilet paper costs you $20.03 now, but if you buy that same amount of toilet paper in increments, you end up spending $21.62, so when you factor that in along with other stuff you’ve bought over time — like your lifetime — the cost savings would be simply astounding.
However, using toilet paper as an example, you need to take into consideration the Law of Displaced Goods.
To better explain, say you purchase 100 rolls of toilet paper, your mind believes that you are set to not buy any more toilet paper for at least seven months...four months if you can’t stop eating Tex-Mex fast food.
Of course, you didn’t consider how much toilet paper you use on a daily basis and now that you have an abundant supply, you start to use toilet paper a little more carefree, you encourage guests to take toilet paper home, you start using toilet paper as napkins and washcloths and decorations, you start giving rolls as last-minute gifts, you’re going as a mummy for Halloween and the next thing you know, you’re staring at a dangling square on the last empty roll a week later, wondering how you let you life get so out of control.
Again, don’t eat the mushrooms.
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. He hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available on Amazon.com.