[This guest post comes from a Costco employee and a frequent commenter here, Brittney in Aloha, OR. Brittney's been a Costco employee and member since 2003, but Costco runs in her blood. Her family had a Costco membership and were employees back in the very early Costco years, way back in the late 1980s. It is really nice to get a bit of the inside scoop on what it is like to work at Costco.]
Costco: An employee perspective
I come from a Costco family. I mean that in a general and literal sense as my mother worked for Costco for 18 years. I can still remember riding on the flatbeds and watching the cashiers type in each item number with lightning fast fingers. My parents actually forgot me at Costco once, on my birthday no less, so it was my home for a few short hours. Now I work for Costco and have become one of their “low turnover” numbers. And Costco is still family; the people I work with today are some of the same people my mom worked with. My history with Costco is not special, as there are numerous workers there that grew up with Costco, work for Costco, and have family members working for the company as well, and so its easy to see where the family feeling comes from. Most employees do not share that experience, however, and yet still consider Costco as a part of their family.
I wanted to write this post because I know there is a growing awareness of where we, as American consumers, are putting our money. The company scandals, failures, bailouts, and investigations of recent times has turned a big spotlight on the integrity and ethics of the companies still in operation. I wanted to answer that question from my own perspective as a Costco employee.
“Costco is a good company.” This is always the next statement I make when someone finds out I work for Costco, and I believe it. Costco is a good company, both to its members, and its employees. A lot of companies have mission statements and standards, but fall short of actually following them. Costco is not one of those companies. Costco’s mission is lived in the employees that work there, and the standards are at the forefront of every managers thoughts. We are treated well by the company, and treat each other and our members well as a result.
And, yes, we get paid well for our industry. We have benefits – good benefits – even for part-time employees. We have 401k plans that Costco contributes to, stock options, life insurance, and a short-term disability program. We have a program called CARE that we can call anytime for assistance with life issues such as divorce, death, or even just stress. CARE team members help us find people to talk to, lawyers, funeral coordinators, whatever we need all at no cost to us. Our employee handbook makes company policies clear to each of us, and they are generously in favor of the employee. We even have a physical therapist that personally visits our store twice a week to observe working ergonomics and give helpful advice to employees experiencing pain or discomfort. Costco is incredibly supportive, just like a family ought to be.
Costco’s standards are high, not only in benefits, but also in employee expectation. We work hard for our money, as the song goes. Almost every employee is on their feet all day running from one job to the next. Although its not in the handbook, it is part of Costco culture to work hard, do a job well, and put in an honest day’s work. When we’re on the clock it’s “showtime” and we get the job done. Not to say that there haven’t been bad apples in the mix, but as soon as their rotten spots are exposed they are quick to be cut off the branch. Costco does not tolerate a lack of integrity in employees or management. Luckily it is pretty rare to see this kind of action need to be taken. In my seven years at the company I have seen it a couple times. The type of people that are attracted and succeed at Costco are good, honest, and ethical people because the company itself rewards and reflects that standard.
Obviously, I love my company. But I also recognize that Costco certainly has room to grow. I am nervous about what will happen to our integrity when Jim Sinegal, our founder, decides its time to leave. I don’t agree with the relatively large male manager population in our stores. I think we should have signs. I think we should train people and listen to our members more. I tell you all this because being realistic is important. Costco is not perfect and I know that (no one gets a “5″ as they tell us in our reviews). But they are doing an above average job and should be applauded as such. With the standards and integrity that Costco cherishes and fosters, they are worthy of your membership. It is my hope for those who read this that you will be satisfied that your money is going to a good place, to good people, and a good cause. Thanks for being Addicted to Costco!