In the debut edition of our new feature, Asked & Answered, we find out what happened to Tom Goessman, who could tell you what you paid at Costco Warehouse with just one look.
Just one look. That’s all it took for Tom Goessman to know what you had just spent at the Costco Wholesale in South Seattle without even looking at the receipt.
He could get within $10 of your total, ask you why you hadn’t bought anything healthy and, if you had a kid in tow, do a little embarrassing doodle of you. All in a matter of moments.
This is why Costco members would happily get into a longer line to see him — and why Costco CEO Jim Sinegal once called him “our goodwill ambassador.”
But several weeks ago, Goessman, 56, disappeared from his perch at the door of the Fourth Avenue store, where he had stood in an upright wheelchair at the chain’s first store since 1994, and at the current, larger space since 2005.
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Where, one reader asked, had Tom from Costco gone? It seemed the perfect query with which to kick off our occasional feature, “Asked & Answered.”
We tracked Goessman down to Glendale, Arizona, where he moved a few months ago for the warmer climate. He contracted polio as a child, and Seattle’s cold, wet weather has been difficult and painful.
“Every winter I get really bad infections,” Goessman said the other day, “especially in late October.”
Last year, he met a Seattle Costco member whose son is also paralyzed, and who spends every winter in the dry climes of Arizona. He invited Goessman to visit, stay a while and see if it helped.
“I went last year and this year and the infection was gone,” Goessman said. “That was the answer right there. I had to do it.
“A lot of people were kind of freaked out, thinking I was just talking,” he added. “But I’ve got to watch out for my body.”
So Goessman transferred to the Glendale Costco, where the $4.99 rotisserie chickens fly out the door and the snowbirds fly in.
He misses living by the water. Riding his bike on the beach. And the Costco members who got to know him and made him feel like a part of the place. That meant a lot for a man who was adopted from Korea at age 11 and built a life and a community.
“People in Seattle are more openhearted,” Goessman said. The snowbirds are from all over the country, he said, and don’t have that Seattle Something.
Still, enough people recognize him from his old perch that Goessman still feels connected to this place.
“A lot of people say, ‘You’re in the wrong place!’ ” he said. “Other people are just trying to figure out who I am.”
Give them time — and your best guess. They’ll come around.