Feeding Time at Big-Box Nation

You always knew Costco was the best.

I had a nightmare the other night. I was trapped in a maze, surrounded by Swedish furniture and Kent residents with fat asses and giant shopping carts. The floors were filled with arrows and hairpin turns, supposedly leading me toward the exit. But the exit never came. Psych! This was an actual trip to the Renton IKEA. I used to laugh when my stay-at-home girlfriend said she got panic attacks in big-box retail outlets. But after shouting "Get me the fuck out of here!" following lap 354 of the IKEA 500, I'll never tease her again. It's worth noting that we ended up purchasing a very nice bed there. Their furniture is fine; it's the floor plan that's fascist. Once we actually made it to the doors, there was a giant hot lunch counter with ballpark-variety food. When m'lady returned the next day to pick up our bed, she had a hot dog and Coke for something like $2, which she said tasted awesome. I'll have to take her word for it. I'm never going back. IKEA's not alone in its commitment to re-fattening shoppers after they've worked off a few thousand calories navigating the seemingly endless labyrinth of big-box aisles. Target, whose box is littler than IKEA's, has a food counter as well. I ordered what appeared to be the most dynamic item on the menu: a smoked turkey and provolone croissant sandwich. What I got was a cold, soggy, airline-caliber concoction that almost coaxed the prior night's libations out of me. Always one to grant a second chance, I sent a research assistant back to sample something different. Here were her thoughts on the experience: "Target is great for folding chairs and detergent but not for in-store dining. I had all intentions of ordering anything but that premade sandwich you told me to avoid; however, I didn't have a choice. My first order was the chicken tenders meal (came with a drink) and BBQ dipping sauce. I placed my order and was to wait 4–5 minutes for them to be ready. Not so fast...they were out of tenders. So I ordered this nice salad, but they were out of that, too. I then ordered a breakfast sandwich: out of eggs. I settled for the croissant, brought it home, and put on mayo and mustard. I picked up the sandwich and the bottom was wet: not soggy or damp—wet (I squeezed water out of it). So I took a few bites, but not enough to get food poisoning." Thank goodness, then, for Costco, our big-box beacon of sound employment practices that's offered a plump Polish hot dog and soda for the past 20 years without once jacking up a price ($1.50) that'd be tough to beat at a Little League fund-raiser. So popular is the SoDo Costco's food court that lines have been known to snake to the store entrance. Besides some strange-looking cinnamon twists, the most popular item seems to be the 18-inch combo pizza. At $9.99, the most appropriate way to measure this pie's worth is to ask oneself the following question: "Should I have ordered Domino's instead?" And while the Costco combo is far from mouthwatering, the answer to that question is a definitive no. mseely@seattleweekly.com

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