Costco is the ideal laboratory for conducting social psychology projects, particularly when I can avoid shopping by hiding behind a chart with a hot dog and Mocha Freeze.

RESEARCH QUESTION:

When squeezed together amongst a herd of bargain-hunters, in what manner do couples communicate with one another?

INTRODUCTION:

If you haven’t noticed, Costco is the date place for the “very married.” You find people shopping alone at Home Depot, PetSmart or grocery stores, but there’s something about a smorgasbord of cellophaned items that brings couples together.

Sherry and I arrive at Costco on Saturday around three in the afternoon. As soon as she goes after one of those huge, flatbed, orange carts, I know I need to find an alternative way to participate in this trip. Thus, my research study begins.

METHODOLOGY:

I purchase a Mocha Freeze and a hot dog, grab a spare notepad from the staff area and position myself where I can watch couples going through the seven open checkout lanes. On my notepad, I make three columns: Frustrated/Angry, Disengaged/Bored and Fun/Joyful. I watch the body language of different couples as they exit the lines. I also pay attention to their voice intonations and facial expressions, scientifically marking which column best represents their behavior toward one another.

FINDINGS:

I score the first twenty couples. Six fall into the Frustrated/Angry category, 13 score as Disengaged/Bored and one prankster couple seems to be having a fun and joyful adventure.

Two observations: women tend to show their feelings verbally and for a greater duration; men are best at quick outbursts of emotion, often when their spouses’ heads are turned the other way.

Meanwhile, exhibiting devious smiles, the Fun/Joyful couple is quietly sneaking various hygiene products into other people’s carts.

CONCLUSION:

Costco should open more lines on Saturday afternoons, make smaller Mocha Freezes and couples should invest greater attention and patience in the ones they love.

RECOMMENDATION:

Rush to Sherry with an appreciative smile on my face before she finishes checking out and, in a helpful and joyous fashion, insist I push the overstuffed, flatbed cart all the way to our car.