I never thought I’d grow an attachment to a Big Box store—the kind of place where you can buy drums of mayonnaise for the same price as a pack of smokes down at the Kwik-e-Mart. But I have. I love Costco.
No, not only because they carry some of the best beef around (sneak a peek at the packaging surrounding just about any caterer’s fillet, and you’ll find a Costco wrapper) or that I can get a darned decent slab of pepperoni pizza for next to nothing or that—unlike other Big Box stores that shall go unnamed—Costco pays their employees a living wage and provides them with benefits.
No, I love Costco because, when it comes to technology, they mostly get it. They stock good recordable CD and DVD media, offer removable media cards for digital cameras, USB flash drives, tape for DV camcorders, a wide variety of inks for popular inkjet printers, photo-quality paper for many of those same printers, plus printers, computers, cameras, camcorders, monitors, even TiVo , for heaven’s sake.
And best of all (for our purposes, at least), they now carry iPods and much of the gear necessary to have the complete iPod experience. Let’s take a look:
Over in the computer section of my local Costco, they stock the 20GB iPod + HP model for $279.99 (that’s $20 off the list price). This is a standard 4G iPod that happens to be formatted for Windows. As we mentioned in
A Tale of Two iPods: iPod vs hPod, there’s very little difference between an iPod sold by HP and one sold by Apple—mainly you’ll get support from HP rather than Apple and HP won’t support an iPod that’s formatted for the Mac.
A shelf below sat a good assortment of iPod accessories. There I spied JBL’s
On Tour portable speakers. These speakers normally go for $100 but Costco has them for $70. Next to the On Tour speakers were Altec Lansing’s cool
inMotion iMplus fold-up portable speakers for a cool $120 (normally they run $150). These speakers also include a pair of Altec Lansing’s IM202WHT earphones.
And then there’s Belkin’s $60 On the Go bundle, which includes Belkin’s
Backup Battery Pack (which sells for $60 all by itself), a perfectly reasonable case, a set of headphone, and an audio splitter cable.
In the automotive section were boxes of VR3’s $25
VFM7 MP3 FM Modulator. I don’t know where Costco got a line on these things, but they’re interesting. It’s a doodad that plugs into your car’s power port and, like any number of FM transmitters you’ve heard about, broadcasts whatever audio device is plugged into its audio input port to one of seven FM stations (from 87.7 – 88.9). It has its faults—it doesn’t remember which channel you’ve selected after its been powered off and the station display is so small that only a keen-eyed ant could read it without squinting.
But it also has a feature I’ve never seen before. It includes a USB port into which you’re supposed to plug a USB keydrive. Place MP3 files encoded at 128kbps or less at the root level of the keydrive, plug the keydrive into the VFM7’s USB port, and you can play the songs on the keydrive using the VFM7’s Play button. It’s not sophisticated enough to shuffle your tunes—it will play the files alphabetically—but you can skip over songs you don’t want to hear by pressing the device’s Next button. Reception isn’t outstanding, but no worse than your average FM transmitter.
Finally, should you care to shop Costco from the comfort of your home, you’ll find that its online arm offers
additional iPods and peripherals at great prices. If you’d like to save some money on an Apple-branded 20GB iPod (with 15 free iTunes downloads), an iPod shuffle (512MB or 1GB), an iPod mini, a 30GB iPod photo (again, with 15 free iTunes downloads), Monster’s iCruze CD Changer Interface Module of iPods, or the Logic3 iStation portable iPod speakers, give Costco.com a whirl.
(Hot dogs and big ol’ pizza slices not sold online.)