BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A border battle is brewing north of of Seattle where some U.S. residents say they’re tired of sharing a local Costco with their Canadian neighbors and are calling for American-only shopping hours at the retailer.
Taking advantage of their country’s strong dollar, Canadians are stocking up on everything from gas to groceries.
“We come down here a couple of times a month and we save a fair bit of money,” said Vancouver resident Rob Weeks.
But some locals are fed up with the cross border bargain hunting. Last month, a Facebook page popped up urging Costco to hold shopping hours just for Americans. The page has received more than 2,900 “Likes” so far. The page includes photos of long lines, bad parking jobs and video of shoppers clearing out several gallons of milk in a matter of seconds.
“...the INFESTATION of Canadians in Bellingham has downright gotten out of control...” one user posted. Another one writes, “I say we boycott Costco until we get the treatment we deserve.”
“I’d say our first reaction to it was a bit surprised,” said Kep Oplinger, president and CEO of the local chamber of commerce. “And then as we read some of the postings rather appalled that people would say some of the things that they have on the page.”
“Watken County’s economy really is reliant upon Canadians coming and shopping and recreating here,” Oplinger said. “We shouldn’t be limiting access to retail stores based on nationality.”
Bellingham’s mayor says the city’s rate of growth of taxable retail sales was almost double the state average from 2010 to 2011 - much of it due to people from Canada.
“To be perfectly honest we would be in a world of hurt right now if we didn’t have the Canadian shoppers down here,” Bellingham resident Jori Hall said. “And I don’t think people realize that.”
Monday, a second Facebook page emerged welcoming Canadian shoppers to the area.
Costco says it’s doing everything it can: hiring local off-duty police to control traffic, beefing up staff and expanding store hours.
“I know it is kind of crowded here I would like for them to expand,” Hall said, “but to have American-only hours kind of sounds a little bit outdated.”
Costco doesn’t plan on changing its policy anytime soon. But the company is in talks with the town to open a new, bigger location.