Guest Post: In Defense of Costco

August 19th, 2009 · 6 Comments

[This is a guest post from TampaSlim in Portland, who has been a Costco member since 1991 (impressive, huh?).  You may recall that I mentioned him in my post about the Review Policy.  His guest post adds another voice to the Review Policy discussion and an interesting take on what could be behind the problems.]

Recently I wrote about the Costco Online Review Process telling Costco to step it up and improve this obvious lacking area.   But I think I know why they are lagging behind in the “online review process.”  Giving them the benefit of the doubt I’ve come up with a possible reason.

When you go to any Costco – you get excellent service primarily due to the human interaction, a physical interface. One time I returned an old BBQ Grill I purchased when it started rusting.  I live in the Pacific Northwest and the reason I bought the grill was because it was Stainless Steel.   It was in horrible shape with leftover food particles on the grill and dust and dirt everywhere.  My son was so embarrassed to see me return it, he wouldn’t even walk into the store with me.   But I was upset that the SS had rusted and well…. SS shouldn’t rust!   I wheeled it up to the employee who fought hard to suppress her snickers at my lame excuse about why I brought it back. To be honest, I had trouble keeping a straight face also.  Still they NEVER gave me any guff and treated me in a professional manner.  “Do you want to go get another one?”  Bingo – another satisfied customer!!!

When you order something from Costco, online – it’s a simple straightforward process.  Click here, yes, thank you, now your order is sent to a warehouse where a person packages and sets up delivery.  No human interaction with the exception of handling and delivery.

But when you write a review, someone reads it before posting.  Someone has to make a decision regarding the post.  Is it up to our company standards?  Is it clean?  Will members be helped by this information?  Are there 3 other reviews?  (Horrible idea by the way) etc.

However, I think the snag might be WHO is actually in charge of reading reviews and NOT the process itself.  Sure they can fine-tune it a bit, but here’s my thinking process, bare with me.

By nature, the computer world is a very cold and impersonal world.  Generally you have “techies” running it.  It’s binary (a series of 1’s and 0’s – if yes then this – if no then that.)  I know this world because my son’s (I have three) live in this world.  They run online businesses.  Sometimes, I marvel at their impersonal reply to other online people and they get away with it.  Life skills, which an older generation has honed for years, are sometimes absent.  Common things we take for granted might be lacking in the online world.

When you write it’s very difficult to relay meaning.  Writers are gifted with choosing the right words to inflect a human touch.  This gift however in the hands of a techie or non-gifted writer may short-circuit with the selection of words or protocol that can be misconstrued by the end user.  Not always but sometimes this happens.

The power of Costco is not LOW PRICES.  We have other warehouses that have low prices.  The power of a Costco is MEMBER VALUE.

Member Value is the result of the experience or perceived experience by a member as an outcome of receiving a product. I sometimes call Costco – “COST-MO” because for the life of me I cannot walk out of that place without dropping at least $100 each time. Maybe, I went in to just get a few things and I always seem to come out with a $100 receipt.  Still, I walk out with a smile on my face because I know I got VALUE as a member.  Will I return?  You betcha.

Costco knows about Member Value.  I’m glad they know this because when I walk into my neighborhood Costco, I actually look forward to the smiles, the laughs, the customer service, and the friendlessness of the employees.  I don’t get that level of service from my neighborhood Walmart or Target.  Do you?  Of course not!

But I’m not sure the online area of Costco knows about Member Value yet.  They are still sitting in their dark, windowless basement craters in Kirkland, sipping Lattes and staring at computer monitor screens, living in their binary world…..( a series of 1’s and 0’s – if yes then this – if no then that.)

So it may come as a surprise to all that I wrote something entitled “In Defense of Costco.”  But it’s really small potatoes.  If that is the worst problem we experience with the Costco Corporation then we should all be exhilarated.

Tampa Slim

PS – Now if they’d give me a couple thousand dollars I’d sit down with their techies and “interface” with them and tell them about this life lesson…. (just teasing of course).  (Costco call me……..I need the work)  hahaha


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6 Responses so far ↓

  1. 1 Guest Post: Costco Tires – My Experience | Addicted To Costco! // 2009.09.25 at 7:50 am

    […] in Portland, who has been a Costco member since 1991.   This is his second guest post; his other post was a response to the Review Policy discussion. This is especially timely, since Costco has a coupon this month for […]

  2. 2 Tampa Slim // 2009.09.15 at 10:21 am

    Today I was scanning the “Treasure Hunt.” I searched “Ratings Low to High” and noticed that there was one item with only 1 star. Curious, I clicked on it and saw that a rating was published with only 1 RATING!

    It appears Costco has read this blog and edited there Rating System away from the minimum 3 ratings to allowing members to see ALL Ratings from the very get-go.

    Power to the People!!!

  3. 3 David Gehrt // 2009.08.27 at 8:12 pm

    I started with the San Diego Price Club, a predecessor of Costco, in 1983, and I have been a member continuously since then (there were two briefed periods when I lived in two places which did not then have a Costco warehouse). I agree that Costco treats customers well but I think the reason starts with the fact that Costco treats its employees well.

    A while back I read that the “Wall Street Analysts”, those noted humanists, wanted Costco to employee’s benefits to improve its bottom and and its stock price. Costco refused. Costco also is proud on the length of employment of some employees. I read of one who started as a part timer while in high school who moved up to become a store manager. I think Costco policies, such as on returns and employee benefits, are what allow and encourage the staff to treat us well.


  4. 4 Tampa Slim // 2009.08.20 at 4:17 pm

    I really like this quote:

    “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it”
    Benjamin Franklin

    My hunch is Costco will figure things out pretty quickly and make the needed changes. Experience has taught us that they are excellent at feeling the pulse of their members and then moving to fill those needs.

    If Mr. Costco himself or herself were sitting down over a cup of coffee with me, I’d say this:
    “Relax and Release control of any tight edits you might hold on the Review Process. Trust your Members who have been faithful and loyal shoppers for many years.”

    So I hope they read your blog, Kimberly. It’s excellent. 🙂

    Tampa Slim

  5. 5 Kimberly // 2009.08.20 at 7:15 am

    I really want to thank TampaSlim for such a well written guest post and for reminding us all that Costco really is a stand out corporation because of their focus on the customer.

    However, I really have to say that the review process is letting down, and shows that they do indeed have some work left to do as far as customer focus is concerned. I can’t help wondering if they did any testing on the review system with actual customers and how thorough they were with the testing. But in the end, I probably won’t rely too heavily on the reviews or fill them out myself.

    Obviously, I love Costco, so I can overlook this one small hiccup.

  6. 6 jenna // 2009.08.19 at 10:16 pm

    I think that this writer perfectly described why I love Costco. It IS the people factor. We recently returned a shed that had wallowed in the garage for the entire summer and they just smiled & said thank you (& even gave me cash which isn’t policy but she totally knew I’d spend it there). I drive past WalMart, Sams, & Target to get to Costco and am happy to do it.

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