Monday, 11 May 2009


Scott and I went to Costco in Daegu for the second time on Sunday. We'd gone a few weeks ago with our friends Erin and Paul, but faced with the Dr. Pepper shortage and our ever-dwindling block of Colby-jack cheese, we had to go back.

The bus is really the best way to travel out of Andong, especially to Daegu. It's 7,000 won one way (direct), which is under $7, and it only takes an hour and twenty minutes. To take a train would mean paying extra for a connection because there isn't a direct rail route between the two cities. The buses are like American Greyhounds, but with far more leg room (so far, the four we've been on have also had recliner-like leg rests that you can adjust).

The only concern we had was getting a ticket. My co-teacher Taebun told me on the phone to "just use the machines" when I asked him what to say. Of course, we learned shortly that the machines have no English option, and in fact many Koreans were abandoning them to go to the ticket lines in abject frustration. Oh no. How do we tell them what time we want to go? That we want seats together? What if they send us in the wrong direction?! It turned out all we needed to say was "Dong-Daegu" for the East Daegu bus station.

When we arrived we were scooped up by Taebun, who is in Daegu every weekend. I found out he has a girlfriend there, so it all makes sense now. He had never been to a Costco, and his most frequent word for the day was "why?" as he picked up item after item and stared at it as if it would take over his pantry and hold his other food hostage.

(photo taken from google image search- forgot my camera)

The Daegu Costco is 5 stories tall. Everything above ground level, however, is a parking ramp. There are two levels for shopping that are below ground, which are split between non-food items on the bottom floor (electronics, home items, clothing, and tool sheds that are a curiousity since everyone lives in apartments), and food on the floor above. Escalators with locking grooves for the cart wheels transport you from floor to floor (ingenious).

It is very similar to American Costco- it's the Holy Grail of imported food. Cheerios, microwave popcorn, Nesquick, bagels, cheese, salsa, the works. We could buy Caesar dressing that was made in America by McCormick, exported and labeled in Japan, then sent to the Costco in Korea. And, of course, you could buy all of the Korean staples as well, like kimchi, dried seaweed, rice, noodles, and fish. They also do food demos like we're used to. We were able to sample such things as M&Ms, curry, steak, and cheese balls.

Perhaps one of the best things about this Costco is the cafeteria. They sell pizza, chicken and beef bakes (meat and delicious sauce baked into a giant roll), hot dogs, clam chowder, soft serve, soda and iced coffee. It's not just the food that gets my attention though, it's the condiment station and how Costco patrons use it. Both this time and last time I was here, I saw this happen. The condiment station is stocked with ketchup, mustard, coffee syrup, and a bin of chopped onions with a crank to dispense them. About 95% of everyone will, after they are done with their food, walk up to the onion dispenser and pile about a pound of onions on their plate, mix it with ketchup and mustard, then return to their tables to feast on their free second meal.

It's fascinating to watch. I was waiting in line for a few onions for my chicken bake, and the woman in front of me had a pile bigger than the size of her head. Suddenly, the machine started running low, so she began to bang on it. After a few attempts, she leaned over and grabbed the arm of a nearby employee and pointed to the machine, while balancing her plate in the other hand. I watched in wonder as he too began to assist her in banging the machine. Amazing! It's completely irrelevant that people are cashing in on free condiments.

On the way out, Scott noticed pictures on the wall of Costcos in cool locations. Tokyo, Seoul, San Francisco, various places in Europe, and... Livonia, Michigan. Represent!

I imagine we'll be frequent visitors of Costco throughout the year.


  1. hrm.. onion plate. That sounds.... great...

  2. That's what I thought. Do they really like onions? or was it just the lure of free things that started it? It could be an interesting social study...replace the onions with something else and see what happens.

  3. Hmmm, never been in a Cosco :) Glad they're global! Good ol' american food