Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Definitely not Costco, but still... (Or why I cried tears of pure joy today)

A few weeks ago, in the Jerusalem Post I came across an ad splayed across two pages from Supersol EXTRA Deal (emphasis on EXTRA because the Supersol I usually shop in is just plain "Deal"; nothing extra about it). The ad said, if I remember correctly, "Costco in Israel". Costco, as many of you know is one of those giant warehouse shopping centers in the US where you can buy a 5 gallon jug of milk and a package of 300 rolls of toilet paper. Size matters at Costco. You buy in bulk and if you're smart about it you often save money. Most Americans I know living in Israel miss it.

The buy-in-bulk phenomena has not as of yet penetrated the Israeli psyche. On a practical level, Israeli kitchens and homes are generally smaller and do not have much space for storage (although this is changing somewhat). Mostly, though I think Israelis are very much live-in-the-moment people. (When an Israeli friend recently told me she found Purim costumes for her kids for the ridiculously low price of 9 shekel, I asked her if she bought some for next year as well. She answered, "I should worry now for next year?", which is perhaps the quintessential Israeli response).

My friend Tammy saw the ad as well and when we discussed it, we both snickered, "Costo in Israel? Yeah right". But we decided to put our cynicism aside and today took a trip out to Nes Tziona (about 15 minutes from Modi'in) to check things out.

I should mention here that two weeks before Pesach, or Passover, the entire country is in a frenzy. Everyone here, religious or not is getting ready for the holiday. People are cleaning and redoing their homes and there is an orgy of cooking happenning everywhere. I really didn't want to be in a supermarket this time of year, but there is no choice; I, too, have to get ready for the chag.

And so the parking lot was crazy. It's a good thing Israeli drivers are so polite or we would never gotten the spot we did. We then went over to get a shopping cart, which were the big "Costco-style" carts. The carts were not locked in and no coin was necessary to free them of any chains. Tammy and I each took a shopping cart, paused, and looked at each other in disbelief.

This is where the tears of joy came. If you have ever shopped in a supermarket in this country, you will understand. The back wheels of the shopping carts were locked. The cart could be steered left or right, according to MY will.

Dayenu. If that would have been the only positive thing about the experience, it would have been enough. But it wasn't.

We found some really good buys at Supersol EXTRA Deal. Items were not larger-than-life-sized, but rather what they do is give you a better price if you buy three of an item. So for example, a box of Honey Bunches of Oats Cereal was 19.99 shekel instead of the usual 24 or more shekel--but you had to buy three. (One Israeli woman said to me--what do I need three items for? This is a stupid store.) Even singly, many of the items were lower priced than the regular Supersol (except fruits and veggies; those seemed to be more). The store also had greater variety than in the supermarket, a really nice home goods area, a pharmacy, electronics, and (coming soon) an organic food section. Workers milling around were very helpful. It was also fun seeing everything stocked up way high, just like in Costco.

There were some negatives: like Costco, the store was huge and it took forever to shop and wait in line. This store in particular seemed a bit shabby, although it was clean. But overall it was a pretty good experience and we saved some money.

Only things missing: free tastings and blueberry muffins the size of my head.

That would have been perfect.


Commenter Abbi said...

Now i get it. I really hate those organic sections popping up everywhere. What a waste of money. I'd rather they spend the money on better customer service.

SuperRaizy said...

I love Costco. Shampoo bottles as big as a car, toothbrushes 24 in a pack, 2 dozen rolls of toilet paper at a time. It makes you feel rich even though you're not.
Glad you got to have a little taste of it.

Gila Rose said...

You had me at shopping carts that turn. What was it like, not having to walk sideways pushing your cart?

Isreview said...

I heard about the new "EXTRA" stores, I was planning on going to check it out myself too but was thinking after Pesach would be a smarter time so I can stock up and not feel like I need to finish things before chag.
Thanks for the review I look forward to checking it out too:)

OneTiredEma said...


You had me at hello.

Batya said...

Sounds good. We no longer need such quantities, but I'm glad there are options. Rami Levi is also mobbed and will only get more crowded next week. I like quiet stores. the noise bothers me and I get distracted.

ilanadavita said...

It seems it was a trip down memory lane. And a good one too.
Happy Pesach to you too!

Mrs. S. said...

One Israeli woman said to me--what do I need three items for? This is a stupid store.
LOL! :-) And that is everything you need to know about the cultural differences between Israelis and Anglos על רגל אחת. All the rest is commentary. Go out and learn... :-)

Anonymous said...

Sigh. I'm crying. Tell us about the food court? There WAS a food court, wasn't there?????

mother in israel said...

LOL about dayenu.
I have to admit I'm with the Israeli lady. :) Baila, have you checked the calendar? I'm curious to see if that bargain will be around in a few weeks.
Most Americans who buy bulk at Costco end up throwing a good chunk of it out. I would worry about being tempted by all the extra departments.
Abbi, just a reminder--they have the organic department to MAKE money, not to provide a public service.
Cranky and cynical
Cranky and cynical.