A gallon of milk on Maui costs $7.99.  That’s right, a gallon of the cheapest locally grown milk at my local grocery store costs almost four times what it would in Minnesota.  And that’s just milk!  Maui is one of the most expensive places in the world to live.  Now you might be wondering – “How do people survive on Maui?”  Well, one word: Costco.



If you’ve ever been to Maui, you know what I’m talking about.  Every weekend, hoards of people cram into the only big box warehouse on the island to get the fabled “mainland prices” on goods.  Milk costs about $2.66, still higher than the mainland, but it’s as good as you’re going to get.


And at the new Costco gas station, a gallon of unleaded costs $3.89 – what a bargain!  It’s about a half-dollar less than my local gas station.  People drive for miles, wasting gas, just to take advantage of the cheap “mainland gas prices!”


Lines are so crowded at our Maui Costco that you can barely get in the door.  Once you do enter, it’s as if you’ve discovered the land of giants.  Huge shelves stacked to the ceiling with furniture, toilet paper, diamond rings, and flat screen TVs.  Moms and their kids walking through in a daze, completely in wonder at all they can buy.  It’s everything you could ever want on Maui, for the absolute lowest price imaginable.


As I was walking through in my own daze yesterday, I began to wonder, who has done more for Maui?  Costco, or politicians?


Certainly politicians claim to do a lot.  They’re smile during the election season, and shake my hand, and promise me that they’ll help.  Sometimes I vote for them, hoping they’ll lower the cost of gas.  But they never do.  Usually, after the election, I never see them again.  Sometimes they vote for a gas tax that ends up raising the cost of gas for everybody (the gas tax in Hawaii is among the highest in the nation).  Sometimes politicians do other great harms that no one knows about.  But they certainly pretend to make life better for everyone.


But what about Costco?


Costco has fed more people on the island than anybody.  They’ve provided clothing, furniture, toys, games, books, and 50 cents for a slice pizza.  They don’t discriminate against race or gender.  All the workers in the store seem desperate to please.  “Can I help you?” they say, “Is there anything I can do?”  They even give you free stuff.  Want to try a free turkey sandwich?  How about a bowl of soup?


Politicians are always asking, how can we help the poor?  But nobody has helped the poor more than Costco.  Even the Salvation Army can’t compare to the service that Costco provides.  After all, do you ever see throngs of people cramming into the Salvation Army on Maui?  Usually it’s kind of empty in there.  All the poor people have gone to Costco.


Even rich people go to Costco.  It’s become a hot destination for tourists visiting Maui.  One of the first things visitors love to do when they first get to Maui is make a trip to Costco.  They want to get some cheap quality snorkeling gear, and a boogie board, and a whole box of chocolates for back home.  Costco even sells diamond rings that cost $450,000.


Whenever the election season rolls around, everyone complains that “nobody votes!”  But almost everybody on the island comes to vote for the giant big box warehouse every single weekend.  They register ahead of time to be allowed in the store, and even pay 50 dollars a year for a membership.  They travel for hours and stand in line just so they can get a glimpse of the oasis inside.  If people registered to vote with the enthusiasm that they had for going to Costco, our political landscape would look very different.


That’s why this year, instead of voting for a politician on Maui, I’m going to vote for Costco.  Maybe I’ll make a sign: “Vote for Costco!”  Perhaps I’ll go door to door asking people to please write in Costco on their ballots.  “Want cheaper gas?  Want to help feed the poor?  Want to help keep our island looking beautiful (with the great gardening tools available for cheap)?  Vote for Costco!”


But if I did that, I would probably get kicked in the rear.  Because as much as the people of Maui have voted for Costco with their dollars, it would be unseemly to actually openly support such a business.  Any business, really.  Most people on Maui hate the idea of business.  A local politician was praised recently as the best council member on Maui for “fighting businesses who want to invade our island.”  When the new mall in Kihei was proposed, hundreds of people protested saying it would cause “too much traffic.”


Even the local Wal-Mart gets a bad rap.  Many people boycott it, along with K-mart.  Whole Foods tried to be the good guy.  They do everything they can to provide non-GMO foods, and provide what people want for a cheap price.  But lately, I’ve even heard even Whole Foods getting boycotted for being too “corporate”.


“Buy Local” is the cry heard over and over.  It’s seen on bumper stickers and signs all over the state.  But if local food were cheaper, they wouldn’t need the signs.  People would just buy local food because it was the best price.


And why shouldn’t it be the best price?  Why is a gallon of local milk $7.99 when the imported milk from Costco is $2.66?  You’d think some politician would be able to figure out a way to fix that.  In the meantime, this election season, when everybody else is voting for the local politician with the best smile, I’m going to write-in a vote for Costco.  It’s at least providing us with some real “change”.