Amid the assortment of eccentric theme camps dotting Black Rock City, the temporary metropolis in the Nevada desert where Burning Man takes place, one sticks out like a fur jacket at a nudist resort. The instantly familiar red and blue Costco sign is jarring at a festival that lists decommodification among its 10 principles, but closer inspection of the sign reveals an intriguing subheading. Soulmate Trading Outlet.
“Costco is not an af—king dating service,” reads a sign in the entrance tent, where a handful of staff (camp volunteers) in red Costco polo shirts greet a stream of visitors. “If you can’t get laid without Costco, you won’t get laid with us.” I’m not discouraged (unlike many, I’m not feeling particularly libidinous while coated in days-thick layers of dust and sweat), but it’s good to see the camp’s intentions laid bare. Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet is about facilitating meaningful connections with strangers, not about hookups or romance. Both are possible, of course, but that’s not the objective here.