Okay, that might actually be sugar coating it…quite a bit. If you aren’t in the UK, then you’ve probably never looked at the website for Costco in the UK, but go ahead and do it. I’ll wait. Pathetic, isn’t it? And you know, the websites for Costco Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Australia are similarly unfinished, it seems. There is some information on all the websites, obviously, but the thoroughness does not compare to what you find on the websites for the United States or Canada. And there definitely isn’t even a thought about ordering online. The websites don’t even have a good location finding tool. I believe that the biggest reason people probably go to these websites is to find a location and some information, so why do they make it so hard for their customers and potential customers?
I’ll start with the worst part, the most unhelpful part: the location finding ‘tool’. In all honesty, it’s not so much a tool as it is a list of locations around the UK. So, if you don’t actually know which one is closest to you, most likely you still won’t even after looking at this list. And they actually label the drop down: “Find your nearest warehouse”. To me that is totally and completely misleading. Finding my nearest location is actually what made me visit Costco.co.uk in the first place. But I was really none the wiser after my visit. I actually had to go to Costco.com to use their location finding tool to determine which UK location was indeed closest to me. And I really don’t understand this. Why don’t they use the same tool on all of the sites? The tool on the main Costco.com can obviously handle finding the foreign addresses and determining distances for locations worldwide. Other than that, I can’t imagine what the difficulty would be in using this same, useful, tool on all of the websites for other countries. Because yes, they have the same issue on the Japan, Taiwan, and Korea websites too. They have a list and for each location show the little map square (that you can’t zoom in or out on) that possibly, if you knew the area really well, you might be able to determine how close that is to you. On the UK site they still have the list but the map you have to download! The annoyance level of that is not even worth thinking about downloading the map. Though, I am sure far more people would just use Google Maps, because I know I did. Of course, with that method you have to look up each one and get directions to the chosen Costco location to find out how far it is from you. And that is making people work just too hard to come visit your store. In the end, it is best to just go to Costco.com (right from the start since you’ve read this). At least the sites for the Asian Costco stores don’t claim this list will help you find your closest location. And of course, Australia doesn’t suffer from this issue at all since they currently have the single location.
And at first I thought that maybe all of the sites were designed kind of independently, but after looking through them, I don’t actually think that’s true. All of the Asian websites have the same exact look and feel, as well as the same types of information. And while the UK website looks a little different, it does have the same basic information on its site; though far less of it for some reason. Information, and certainly really in-depth or useful information, is kind of thin on the UK site; only slightly better on the Asian sites. The UK site has a F.A.Q but it answers just 4 questions! The F.A.Q. covers how many Costco locations there are, why they charge a membership fee, methods of payment, and whether or not your friends can use your card. They don’t even mention the return or refund policy, for instance. So, now I’m wondering, is it the same or different from the really great policies in the US. Do they have a separate return policy for electronics here? Don’t know. From one of the homepage graphics I guess it is the same electronics return policy as in the US, and they also appear to offer the extended warranty and the technical help concierge line. But to find out what these are really about you have to download a document. Why don’t they just cover that in the F.A.Q? Or maybe they could do it in both places. For what it is worth, all of the other website have much larger F.A.Q.s that all cover the same information and some of the good stuff you want to know, like why you have to show your receipt when you leave, hours of operation, and whether you can bring a friend with you when you shop or not. And yes, there are NO customer support pages on this website (or any of the Asian or Australian sites either), not even a single link where you could pose a question that isn’t covered in the pitifully brief F.A.Q.
There’s also surprisingly little about membership, and you certainly aren’t buying or renewing it online. Strangely, the UK seems to be the only bunch of Costco locations that does not offer a Gold Star Membership (for individuals – I’m thinking I’ll cover this in a totally separate post though), though I think they do but they just don’t talk about it on the website perhaps. Their main demographic must be trades people though, since those are the only memberships they mention specifically. Here at least they do tell you what documents you’ll need to supply to prove your business owner status, as well as a PDF of the application. And shockingly, you can apparently email them to upgrade to an Executive Membership; though they probably just tell you to handle that at your local warehouse is my guess. The only reason I think they have individual membership is because they talk about different opening hours for individuals. Perhaps they could hide that more because it isn’t hard enough to figure out now. And does the UK really not have a Costco co-branded credit card for use in their stores? It seems that all of the other countries, except Australia, offer this so it seems odd that neither of these locations do. Of course, Costco in Australia is new, but there are 21 locations here in the UK, so I’d have expected them to iron this out by now (especially since every other grocery store and retail store here seems to have a branded credit card).
And there are plenty of other areas where the UK site falls down: no information about what will be new in the warehouses this month, no new location information, no product notices or recalls listed, no information about upcoming holidays and holiday hours, no links to the Costco Connection (though this might be because it is so tailored to the US or Canada, I imagine), no rebate information, no links to the information about the photo contest, nothing about special events or roadshows (do they not do that here), no information on Costco stock, and no online employment application process for their stores. However, all of the websites do seem to offer some level of online photo ordering. I’ll have to take a longer look at the photo center websites to see if they are as full featured as they are in the US.
I realize that this is a bit of a rant, and kind of out of character for me with regards to my usual adoring posts about Costco. But seriously, this is a problem that could easily be overcome with just a little bit of thought. I realize that things like Customer Support email forms require someone on the back end to actually answer these questions, but it doesn’t have to be a whole fleet of people, just a few would make this a useful addition to these Costco websites. And the location finding is almost laughable, in that ‘jokes on you’ kind of way, because there is certainly no need to have a problem in this area. Costco has already put together the tool to find locations, all around the world, they just need to roll it out to these other Costco websites. That has got to be the easiest fix of all the poor design and information decisions, really. Most of the other holes are simply about presenting information that I assume they have, or have access to at least, but for some reason they just don’t convey to visitors to their sites. They shouldn’t make it so difficult for customers and potential customers to find information. I’m really surprised by this because it seems so counter to the usual way that Costco operates, I mean, they are all about outstanding customer service. These websites are just letting them down.