Socks that suck: the Costco diatribe

This is what I hate about Costco, and our consumer culture in general. Most of the time I wear plain black socks, OK? I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is.

A couple/few years ago, I bought a package of “Gold Toe” black men’s socks at Costco. The price was not slap-your-mama low, but it was low enough to entice me to try them.

Mofos wore like iron, yo. I’m still wearing some of those socks.

So, about six months ago I went to Costco to buy the few food items I get there. But often I can’t resist shopping the merch aisles, too.

And I remembered that some of my original Gold Toe socks were faded, and of course I’d lost some, etc., etc. Time to buy myself some new socks!

So I bought a package of socks identical to the first one.

But, as shown, these socks SUCK.

Price was the same (or close enough), package was the same, socks looked the same.

But I’ll be damned if every one of those socks didn’t blow out before the 10th wearing, and some much sooner. They all wear out at the ball of the foot. I started noticing how thin and flimsy they feel after just a couple of washings. I could put on a hole-free sock in the morning, and by the afternoon it had a quarter-sized hole in it.  

What I think happened—but I can’t be sure, because I’m not in the habit of saving my sock packaging—is that Costco moved their black men’s sock contract to a factory in a less developed country. Squeeze a little more profit out of those socks. Maybe even lower the price a little.

Because, hey, socks is socks, right? And if these socks don’t last quite as long, well, that gives consumers an opportunity to buy something sooner rather than later.

See, I think we as consumers are part of the problem here. We too often value bargains and “shopping opportunities” over quality. It sounds pathetic, but I’m sure at the time I got some small pleasure out of restocking my sock drawer. I’m sure I told myself I “deserved” new socks.

A public company like Costco has to continually increase per store revenue to keep its stockholders happy. It’s hard to keep people buying socks if they buy a pair that lasts forever. With other kinds of clothing, it’s easier, because the fashion industry drives style changes that make people want to discard old for new—which I also, unsurprisingly, have big problems with.

But men’s black socks are men’s black socks are men’s black socks. To keep sucke—I mean consumers buying them, you have to give them a reason. And there’s no better reason to buy new socks than having holes in your old ones.

Now, do I think there was an explicit sock conspiracy at Costco HQ? No. I just think the imperatives on big corporate merchandisers—keep prices low without changing how the product looks—make this problem inherent in the process.

Probably quite a few people went back to Costco with their holey socks, their 2-month old sock packaging and their receipt and demanded refunds. Most people probably just grumbled and bought another package of socks. Me, I ranted on the internets about it.

And I kinda feel better.