Attention Canadian Shoppers: Mind your manners!
That’s the message residents of Bellingham, Wash., have for Canadians who have been pouring across the B.C. border to shop for bargains at the local Costco.
A Facebook page called “Bellingham Costco needs a special time just for Americans,” has drawn local and international attention, garnering more than 3,000 likes and hundreds of comments since being created July 19.
Whether it was started in earnest or as an inside joke by a few Bellingham residents, as claimed by one poster pleading for peace, it’s managed to raise hackles on both sides of the border.
Canadians are being admonished on the Facebook page for littering, bad parking, cutting off other drivers, pushing past other customers to grab merchandise and clearing Costco shelves of milk.
“It’s not Costco, it’s everywhere!!! I feel like I’m in Canada anytime I drive anywhere in Bellingham. I wouldn’t have a problem if they were considerate people … but they are the rudest people I’ve ever encountered,” according to poster Julie Lawson.
It’s that kind of ire that inspired Todd Smith, 25, of Coquitlam B.C., to launch his own Facebook page: “Canadians invade Bellingham Costco,” inviting Canadians to shop the Bellingham Costco on Saturday, Aug. 18.
Smith says he and his partner make the half-hour drive across the border weekly, not only because gas, food and clothes are cheaper in the U.S., but because stores there offer greater variety. About a dozen people have said they’re interested in the shop-the-Bellingham-Costco event.
“It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but we do go down there quite regularly and we might go down Saturday,” said Smith. “I find it kind of odd that these people would take such trivial things out of context. Have they not stopped to consider that we’re supporting their economy?”
Many of the posters to the Facebook page leapt to the defence of Canadian shoppers. “I want to apologize on behalf of Bellingham for this page,” wrote a poster identified as Ali Taysi. “Your shopping provides invaluable tax revenue for our community.”
The administrator of the site did not respond to an email request for an interview.
On June 1, duty-free limits for Canadian shoppers in the U.S. were raised to $200 from $50 for a 24-hour stay and $800 for visits longer than 48 hours.
A BMO report in May predicted that cross-border shopping would boom as a result, particularly in border states.
Statistics Canada figures on travel and net expenditures abroad have not yet been released for the period, so it’s too early to say what impact the changes to duty free have had so far, said BMO deputy chief economist Douglas Porter Tuesday.
Matthew Davison, a spokesman for the Peace Bridge, said traffic volume was up 2 per cent in June, and is up a total of 1.3 per cent for the year to date. But traffic was down in July over July 2011.
Davison said traffic at the border is driven more by events and currency changes than it is by changes in duty-free limits.