Shoppers at this morning’s grand opening of Washington’s first Costco got a little more than they bargained for: A sample-tasting, high-fiving vice president of the United States.
Joe Biden tried on watches and perused pies during his morning outing, intended to draw attention to middle-class shoppers whom he contends will have “a big problem” if Congress doesn’t act to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.
“All these folks in the store here, it’s going to make a difference,” he said about the automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled at year’s end. “Take $2,200 out of their pockets next year, you have a big problem.”
Biden, greeted by Costco CEO and co-founder Craig Jelinek, co-founder Jim Sinegal and dozens of excited customers, entered the 154,000-square-foot store while proudly showing off his Costco membership card — which was renewed yesterday.
“I wanted to get my wife’s card and she said, ‘No, no, no, go get your own,”’ Biden told the crowd.
The famously friendly Biden was on his game as he traveled through a maze of aisles crowded with surprised shoppers and local reporters covering Costco’s opening. He slapped hands, joked with employees and gave one woman a hug after she threw her arms open and shouted, “I’m from Wilmington, Delaware!”
Later, as Biden neared the store’s auto-parts section, a man shouted, “Hey Joe, over here!”
“Hey man, I don’t need tires, I don’t drive anymore,” Biden shouted back.
After choosing a large apple pie to kick off his trip, Biden stopped in the childrens’ book area. He quickly chose at least a dozen books, including one about Olivia, the fictional pig. He told reporters he purchased the books for his wife’s Delaware charity, Book Buddies, and that he selected books “based on things I know my grandkids like.”
He shook more hands and navigated groups of shoppers before stopping at a jewelry case to look at watches. Holding two pink roses, he took a moment to examine the case, which included brands priced at $1,199 and $299.
Then, he asked an aide for his phone.
“I’m getting some guidance,” he said to the crowd as he dialed his daughter Ashley.
Once on the move again, Biden’s staff corralled onlookers, many blocking aisles to whip out camera-phones, in order to clear an area where the vice president could check out.
“Now you know why my wife doesn’t let me shop alone,” Biden said after he’d paid.
He paused next to his cart, loaded with a 32-inch Panasonic television, to speak to reporters about the impending fiscal cliff.
“I think it’s important Congress acts now, I mean right now. All it has to do is take a single vote to extend the middle class tax cut,” Biden said. “We’re fully prepared to work with our Republican colleagues to make sure we deal with the rest of the cliff. That would take $900 billion off the cliff right now.”
Before heading out to his car, Biden stopped to talk to Ivey Stewart, the Costco employee who steered his cart and accompanied him throughout the store.
As Biden spoke on Stewart’s phone, apparently to one of her relatives, Stewart wiped tears from her face.