Costco’s Math Smoke and Mirrors

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Time to come clean. I’m addicted to these.

It started innocently enough in Chengdu, China in 2003. Each week while grocery shopping I was intrigued with all the Chinese women who would gather around the giant pistachio bin and fill their plastic bags with the very best one or two hundred. After spectating for a few weeks, I joined in. This brought furtive glances and embarrassed smiles.

How was I supposed to know real men don’t pistachio shop? Upon returning Stateside (love using that term, makes me feel cosmopolitan), imagine my delight when I learned Costco had picked them out and packaged them for me.

I can be too frugal for my own good. Given that, it’s nice there are at least two products for which I’d spend almost anything—iPads and iPistachios.

This theory has been tested lately as Costco’s California pistachios have skyrocketed in price. $14.99 for 4lbs, who cares, toss em’ in. $15.99, $16.99, $19.99. Yikes, now they’re just taking advantage of a helpless addict. The price increases have probably had little to do with supply and demand. More likely, they’re a Schwarzenegger state budget screw up surtax.

When I glanced and grabbed last week, I did a double-take. What?! $14.99?! Sweet! The last time they were $14.99 the President had stolen the election. Then, a second later, “What the hell, that’s a 3 pounder!”

Here’s how I imagine it going down at Costco headquarters in Issaquah, WA. Executive Meeting. Agenda item: Pricing limits of California pistachios. A suit does a quick PowerPoint presentation showing a precipitous decline in sales of California pistachios at the $19.99 pricepoint. What to do? Discussion ensues. The consensus, instead of selling 4 pounds for $19.99, let’s sell 3 pounds for $14.99, and hope people don’t really notice the math smoke and mirrors. Brilliant. A collective sense of accomplishment descends and the meeting is adjourned.”

It might just work. No, it will work on whomever lacks numeracy. And on addicts like me.

Bonus picture. What a minimalist, who asked for nothing, received for Christmas.

Perfect Christmas

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