Canberra mum Nicole Romano has managed to turn her regular shopping trips into a popular online community. You might know her better as the Costco Mum.

“We moved to Canberra about a year and a half ago,” Nicole explains. “My brother’s a member, and he was always talking about ‘Costco this’ and ‘Costco that’, so yeah, he took me to Costco. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, I love Costco!’ I told my husband he had to go, and then we joined.

“Costco’s very different to other shops because it’s more of a shopping experience. They’ve got anything and everything, including the literal kitchen sink. There’s just so much there, it’s so big, and they’ve got the American brands, so it’s different. And where else can you buy a $150,000 necklace? That was the first thing my brother showed me when we got in there. He just said, ‘You’ve got to see this’, and he took me to see the necklace and the rings and stuff. Now that’s the first thing I show people when they go to Costco.

“Well, anyway, I really liked Costco, and because we are buying in bulk and we were buying products we didn’t know, I thought it would be good to have a page where we could talk about different products and do product reviews.”

Nicole’s Facebook community now has almost 13,000 members, many of whom actively contribute by posting their own reviews and tips and answering questions from other members.

“It’s helped me in the past,” Nicole laughs. “I’ve posted things on there and asked ‘Yay or Nay?’, and people have come back with really positive reviews, and I’ve gone and bought the products. So it helps me, too. I’ve got some people who are really good, who comment constantly, and I almost feel like I’ve got a little bit of a friendship with them, because they’re always helping out and commenting.

“When Costco North Lakes started, oh gosh, I picked up a thousand followers in one week or something. It was going off. Queenslanders are mad for Costco! The majority of my followers shop at North Lakes, actually. Unfortunately, when North Lakes opened, that’s also when a bit of the nastiness started.”

Yes, that’s right — it seems we Queenslanders are a little too passionate about the pros and cons of Costco. And if there’s one product in particular that’s guaranteed to stir up the Queensland crowd, it’s Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate.

“I don’t know why, either,” Nicole laughs. “I mean, it’s just hot chocolate, but people go nuts for it. And it’s always the Queenslanders who really go berserk! They’re always sold out completely, and we’ve got loads in Canberra and at the other stores. It’s a surprising one, that one. On the Costco North Lakes page, there’s only one thread where you can post about Swiss Miss, because otherwise it’s all anybody talks about! That’s a really strange one. I don’t know why Queenslanders love it; I really don’t understand it.”

Our eccentric taste in hot chocolate is one thing, but when conversations get really heated, Nicole has had to lay down the law.

“I have blocked people,” Nicole says, “but I prefer to just ask people to think about what they’re writing, because what I buy and what you buy are very different. I follow a Paleo diet, so most of the things that people buy there, I would never buy. That’s alright, because we’re all different. That’s what makes life go ’round. We can’t all be the same, and we all choose different things.

“A lot of people have been on my page going on about ‘Aldi this’ and ‘Aldi that’ because Aldi’s cheaper, but you’re not comparing apples with apples. If you compare Costco with Woolworths and Coles, and I’ve got a couple of readers that have physically sat down and done that – one woman’s done it twice to prove a point to her husband – Costco is cheaper.

“But if you’re comparing it to Aldi, which stocks no-name brands, of course Aldi will be cheaper. I like brand name products moreso than no-name products, so that’s a big factor for me. So it’s a hard comparison, and when people make it on my page, I just ask if they’re really comparing apples with apples, because if they’re not, it’s very unfair to be writing what they’re writing. They’re obviously just people who are down on Costco or down on life, anyway.

“I do like a positive page, and I try to keep it positive, so if people say mean things about what people have bought, or just unfair comments, I do block them. I really do try to keep a positive page, because my gosh, it’s just shopping. It’s not brain surgery or anything like that.

“It’s meant to be fun!”

You can swap tips with Nicole’s community here.

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