The difference between shopping at COSTCO in Japan compared to the U.S.

COSTCOWent to COSTCO the other day to do some stocking up on whole foods (unprocessed) and met some Americans newly arrived in Japan who were at COSTCO having a look around for the first time. With a COSTCO membership card, a member can shop at any of COSTCO‘s stores worldwide, however, if the membership expires the membership has to be renewed in the country the membership was originally purchased in. While standing in line the American couple who I struck up a conversation with,  asked me to have something to eat and drink with them at the restaurant inside COSTCO. Certainly, I said, that would be wonderful. So after we paid for our items, we took the carts over to find a place to “park” them while we had lunch. After parking the carts containing our purchased items, the American wife asked her husband to get them something for lunch while she “guarded” the products they just bought.

shopping at COSTCO“Guard the carts,” I thought to myself? This is COSTCO Japan. What are you talking about, “guard the carts?” At COSTCO?! I wasn’t used to that kind of an approach to shopping at COSTCO in Japan and reassured them not to worry; items would not be stolen out of their carts and if they were, it would be extremely rare in Japan. The American couple insisted one of them “guard” the shopping cart while the other went to buy lunch. They were astonished that Japanese would leave their shopping cart full of purchased merchandise while they left the cart unattended to go off to eat.  Finally convinced them it would be perfectly fine to leave their merchandise where it was in the cart since it was quite a distance from where we would go over to the line at the restaurant and then find a table to sit at. After eating and a nice conversation, they were astonished everything remained in the cart and nothing was stolen when we went back to get the carts. Unsurprisingly, they told me that if they left their merchandise unattended in a cart at a COSTCO in the U.S., the merchandise would more than likely end up getting stolen. Well, like the sign reads: welcome to the security and honesty of the Japanese while shopping a COSTCO.