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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.