It all started when a Bellingham resident, frustrated at the lineups at the local Costco and the number of Canadians in those lineups, decided to vent online.
The unnamed person was feeling frustrated about the rudeness of the “milk piranhas,” the less-than-affectionate phrase applied to Canadian Costco shoppers who can reduce chest-high pallets of inexpensive American milk to nothing in a matter of seconds.
So on July 19, that person created a Facebook page, called “Bellingham Costco needs a special time just for Americans.”
“Them Canadians can be rude,” the site description said. “The lines are crazy. We aren’t on a vacation and have an RV to hang out in like those Canadians.”
The result was an explosion of irate commentary from indignant Americans and Canadians.
“The infestation of Canadians in Bellingham has downright gotten out of control,” said one.
“I say we boycott Costco until we get the treatment we deserve,” another said.
Ticked-off Canadians objected to being portrayed as ill-mannered. At least one filed a “hate” page complaint to get Facebook to pull it, while others returned fire online.
“I would suggest that you thank your lucky stars and stripes that Canadians are pumping the amount of money into your local economy keeping many of your businesses afloat,” Michelle Carduner wrote.
Other Canadians were more tongue-in-cheek.
“America is poor, Canada is rich,” wrote Shane Fraser. “They bought Alaska in 1867 for $7.2 million, so given inflation I suggest we offer $220 million for it which would be a 100% profit for them. It’s a fair offer, eh?”
Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was busy telling anyone who asked that the page did not represent the feelings of the border city.
Then other Facebook pages started appearing.
“Bellingham Businesses and Residents Welcome Canadian Shoppers” went online Monday: “Let’s show the world that Bellingham isn’t overrun with ignorance and hate!” Around the same time, someone else satirized the whole dispute with a Facebook page titled “Bellingham Costco needs a special time just for Canadians.”
The pro-Canadian spoof page is heavy on humorous videos aiming to explain Canada to Americans, along with a few apologetic comments by Americans like Kimberly Cancelosi, who writes “most of us in Bellingham are very embarrassed by this whole situation. A few idiots have made us all look bad.”
By Tuesday, the original page that had started the whole controversy had disappeared.
It reappeared Wednesday, with the administrator suggesting both sides need to calm down.
“I must say that some of you have blown this way out of proportion,” the administrator wrote. “This goes for both American and Canadians.”
Bellingham residents have nothing against cross-border shoppers, the poster noted: “We welcome Canadians to our little town.”
By then, the page had attracted 4,272 “likes.”
The debate continues to rage, with new Facebook pages appearing, among them “boycott the Bellingham Costco,” “build another Costco in Bellingham Washington “and “stop rude Canadians from invading America.”
Costco, which has been keeping a low profile during the kerfuffle, has said that it has no intention of changing its policy that anyone with a Costco membership can shop at any Costco in the world.
The company noted it would like to expand its Bellingham outlet.
– with files from CTV news