The American membership warehouse club Costco Wholesale will open a store in Hiroshima on March 23 to crowds of eager Japanese consumers longing for giant bags of tortilla chips or jars of pickles bigger than a human baby.
As excited as people are to finally have a Costco in the Chugoku region, there is one aspect of the new store that is taking consumers by surprise: a whopping 3,000 yen (US $32) fee to park in the Costco parking garage.
The high parking fee is claimed to be a last resort effort to combat traffic congestion at the popular store. The parking area is located on the second and third floors as well as the roof of the Costco building and can accommodate 1,050 cars. Customers who make a purchase of 5,000 yen (US $53.50) or more receive one hour of free parking, and two hours of free parking with a purchase of 10,000 yen (US $107) or more. This means that customers must spend at least 5,000 yen (US $53.50) per hour during their visit or face a parking fee of 3,000 yen (US $32). Does anyone else think this is crazy?
Actually, a lot of people do. Many customers are concerned that the new parking fees will take away from the Costco experience. “Now I can’t bring my kids to the store and shop leisurely,” complains one Costco fan. “This parking fee is unheard of even at the Tokyo Costco,” commented another.
Normally, Costco patrons drive to the store, and as a general rule parking is free. However, Hiroshima store officials are concerned about the inevitable congestion that the popular store will cause. They are also concerned that because of the close proximity of the Mazda Stadium, baseball fans may try to park in the Costco parking lot. In an official statement from Costco, the manager of the Hiroshima store explained that although the high parking fees may seem extreme, the store was forced to create a disincentive to using the Costco parking lot. He also expressed concern regarding a decrease in customers as a result of the high parking fees.
Costco Hiroshima does offer a parking option for customers planning on staying for less than an hour, inviting short time patrons to use the nearby parking meters for 100 yen (US $1.07) for 10-20 minutes.
But really, when has anyone gotten in and out of Costco in less than an hour? Between the rows upon rows of oversized boxes of food and the long lines of people at the checkout counter, by the time you navigate the labyrinth that is Costco, two (or three or four) hours have already been wasted away. Forget stopping by the food counter to pick up one of Costco’s delicious hot dogs or pizza slices. That extra stop could set your parking time over one hour; a costly mistake because even one minute over the 60-minute mark will result in an additional 3,000 yen (US $32) charge.
Yikes! That’s one expensive hot dog!