Even I don't always agree with my opinion


A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet…

Posted February 28, 2009 by jim young in Business

(William Shakespeare)
…but no-one would know what the hell you were talking about!

– by jim young

A lot of my stories these days seem to start with “Back when I…”

I don’t know when I started that but I think I learned it from my father. All of his stories started out that way.

But back when I was working at Costco there were no scanners. It was 1993 and Costco opened up in Barrie, Ontario just before Christmas.

I was hired as a caller. Callers were the people that transferred everything from a full cart to an empty cart, calling out the product codes to the cashier to punch into the register. We were kind of “human scanners”. And after calling product codes all day, as you might expect, the product codes for some of the more common items were soon committed to memory.

Callers were always paired up with a cashier, usually for their entire shift. And as often happens in these kinds of relationships, a caller and cashier would develop a special kind of bond.

This is my Costco story.

A Costco caller and cashier are going to lunch together. (Costco callers and cashiers do everything together, with the exception of going to the washroom; unless they are both women, in which case they would go there together even if they weren’t a caller-cashier team.)

At any rate, a Costco caller and cashier are going to lunch together and both decide to have a hot dog from the hot dog stand. (Well they’re not going to get a hot dog from the membership desk now, are they?)

Both know that they will be eating a 167 or 169 on a 49227. That’s a caller-cashier code for a wiener or polish sausage on an egg-hotdog-bun. Of course Patti and Wanda who run the hot dog cart, have their own code for the 167s and 169s but that’s another whole story.

The caller says to the cashier, “What do you want on your hot dog?” (There’s no single code for the wiener/sausage combined with the bun.)

The cashier says, “I’ll have some 1252” to which the caller replies, “You’re out of luck, there’s only 2900 left!”

That became the newest Costco joke I would tell at parties. I made it up and I think it’s hilarious – but unfortunately, it never seemed to be as funny to others as I thought it should be. That could be because only a Costco caller or cashier would know that both 2900 and 1252 are codes for French’s mustard – one just comes in a larger container. (Technically of course, Patti and Wanda would never have 2900 as 1252 mustard comes in the larger container. And besides, they would never run out of 1252 in the first place.)

To be quite honest, not even most of the callers and cashiers, with whom I shared my joke, found it very funny. Perhaps it was just me and the joke was not all that funny after all.

Nonetheless, Costco callers and cashiers do have a jargon of their own, made up of these product codes.

Here are a few examples:

Caller-Cashier Phrase                                   Interpretation

“Take it with a grain of 9831”                         “Take it with a grain of salt.”

“Do you think 224 really murdered his           “Do you think O.J. really murdered his wife?”                                                              wife?”

“Doesn’t Earle drive you 1279?”                      “Doesn’t Earle drive you crackers?”

“He’s a real 588 off the old block!”                  “He’s a real chip off the old block!”

And for the caller or cashier that’s still stuck in the 60s, there’s always:

“Love, peace and 11965!”                              “Love, peace and flowers (flour)!”

“and when a caller shouts ‘21061!’ you          “and when a caller shouts cashew you
just might hear the cashier instinctively          just might hear the cashier instinctively reply with a ‘bless you’!”                                 reply with a ‘bless you’!”

One morning while having breakfast with my kid sister Gina at our family cottage, and after asking her to pass the 910 for my 21748 and 667s (pass the ketchup for my bacon and eggs), Gina commented that she supposed my favourite television show would be “90210” while my favourite movie was likely to be “9 to 5”.

It should go without saying that “409” by the Beach Boys was a much-loved tune of mine from the 60s, followed closely by Walter Murphy’s “A 5th of Beethoven” in the 70s; “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon in the 80s and Prince’s “1999” for the 90s.

This “cutesy” lingo however, doesn’t always take the 23014 (cake).

I pushed it to the limits when I asked Gina if there was any “580 to melt on some 46538 on a 3209” (cheese to melt on some back bacon on a Kaiser bun). Fed up with my cryptic questions, Gina told me if I didn’t quit this “Costco” nonsense, I would soon be in need of some 911.

And that brings this editorial to a “30”. That’s not a Costco caller-cashier expression – but rather “The End” in newspaper lingo.

– 30 –


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