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The Cheapest, Happiest Company in the World
June 6, 2013 9:19 PM   Subscribe

Businessweek profiles Costco [alt link], with emphasis in comparison to Sam's club. via

...Costco pays its hourly workers an average of $20.89 an hour, not including overtime (vs. the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour). By comparison, Walmart said its average wage for full-time employees in the U.S. is $12.67 an hour...
posted by Ghidorah (101 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Back in my single days there was no point in bulk shopping at Costco, but I still kept a membership for political reasons.

I'm paired up now, and there's still not much reasons to shop in bulk, but I easily make the membership cost back up with their gas prices. They're easily 15 cents/gal cheaper than any other station in Chicago.
posted by hwyengr at 9:41 PM on June 6, 2013


I love costco, and not just because I'm clothing and feeding a family of four. Even outside of their stunning labor practices, their products are frequently higher quality than I can find, like, anywhere except the Fancy Store at ten times the price. I love their organic olive oil, for example, and their breakfast sausages, and their mixed nuts. And they will take anything back! Including four pairs of pants that I bought in a size too large and washed and dried!

But really, the way they treat their employees -- and the overwhelmingly knowledgeable, helpful, friendly staff they have as a result -- is the key reason why I shop there. No place else has such helpful service.
posted by KathrynT at 9:44 PM on June 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


We mainly buy a few staples in bulk, but the savings on them along makes up for the membership cost. And, as noted, I'm happy to be a member just to help support a company which is a decent corporate citizen.

I'm also very leery out a "lack of new blood" or "new ideas" being a problem for them. Those "new ideas" 99.99447% of the time are:
  1. Vastly increase executive pay
  2. Hire all their grad school buddies for the new raft of VP positions
  3. Decrease line worker pay, slash jobs, hire contractors, outsource everything they can
  4. Venture off into some stupid corporate acquisition (or acquisitions) which the "outside blood" has a hard-on for but is a horrible fit for the company
  5. Express wonder the above four points have turned a successful company into a bankrupt mess
  6. Drift away on their golden parachute
Not that I'm cynical or anything.
posted by maxwelton at 9:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [71 favorites]


Every single one of the Big Box stores from overseas that tried to make it in Korea eventually pulled out, including Walmart. Tesco only survives here as Home Plus because it's Samsung Tesco, emphasis on the Samsung.

Costco is thriving, though. Sadly, the nearest one to me is a 2 1/2 hour drive away, but plans are afoot to build the 8th or 9th one in Korea about 20 minutes away, by next summer. Although it is being protested by mom and pop grocery stores who misunderstand that the domestic Korean Big Grocery stores pose a much greater threat to them than Costco, I am reasonably confident it will happen. And the best part is that by all reports, they are a company (utterly unlike Walmart, for example) that treats its employees reasonably well.

I am inordinately happy about this. Real cheese! Bacon! Salsa! Bagels! Limes! Ground beef cheaper than platinum by the ounce! Sour Cream! Unsweeted yoghurt! and a thousand other foods that are difficult to get or prohibitively expensive for me now.

I'm going to have to bump up my 40 minutes a day of exercise to 80 minutes to compensate for how damned much I'm going to be eating.

*drools a bit, dreamily*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I love Costco so much my heart swells up an extra three sizes when I pull into the parking lot.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:50 PM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would have liked to see less focus on potential problems with the company and more on the positive downstream econonmic effects of paying a living wage and treating employees like both investments and human beings, but I'm glad that at least the business community might be reading about Costco's success.
posted by clockzero at 9:51 PM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


stavrosthewonderchicken: "I am inordinately happy about this. Real cheese! Bacon! Salsa! Bagels! Limes! Ground beef cheaper than platinum by the ounce! Sour Cream! Unsweeted yoghurt! and a thousand other foods that are difficult to get or prohibitively expensive for me now."

When I lived in Taiwan, Costco was one of the few places where I could find shoes that approached my size.
posted by jiawen at 9:53 PM on June 6, 2013


Shoes! UNDERPAAAAANNNTS!

Note: I do not consider shoes and underpants as members of any food groups.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:56 PM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


I moved to a town with no Costco last year, which made me die inside a little, but there was a Sam's Club, and they had a sale or something so membership was only $25. So I figured it'd be pretty much the same, but it's like going to Costco in some dystopian alternate universe. I'm letting my membership lapse and I'll just make excuses to visit the two cities one hour away that have Costco.
posted by skewed at 9:59 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Costco has also experimented with self-service checkouts, but Jelinek says he’s now removing them because employees do the work more efficiently. “They are great for low-volume warehouses, but we don’t want to be in the low-volume warehouse business,” he says.

Oooh, burn.

Walmart Pays Workers Poorly And Sinks While Costco Pays Workers Well And Sails-Proof That You Get What You Pay For
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:59 PM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I went to law school there. I couldn't believe it either, but my dad was alumni.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:01 PM on June 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


I always managed to find tolerable panties at night markets. Well, mostly. Didn't motivate me towards Costco like shoes did. I think I might've bought ground beef at Costco once, too (for tacos, 'natch).

Anyway, I sympathize heavily, stavros.
posted by jiawen at 10:04 PM on June 6, 2013


Lately I find myself liking the idea of Costco more than the actual shopping experience. I get my gas there but I always wonder whether it's really worth it to wait in line 15 minutes to save a buck or two on 15 gallons of gas. I get my prescriptions filled there and there is always a long line. I pick up a case of protein drinks every few weeks. I'll usually grab a rotisserie chicken when I'm there and/or a couple slices of pizza on my way out. Starbucks Via for camping trips. A bottle of wine. A jumbo pack of toilet paper that lasts almost six months.

Beyond that I'm usually buying food in larger quantities than I can eat by myself, snacks in larger quantities than I should eat by myself, clothes that I probably don't need, hiking and sporting gear that is usually subpar, electronic gadgets, household items, and whatever else seems like a great deal when I'm in the store.

The magic that Costco has going for it is in those giant carts lined up outside the front door. If you grab a cart on your way in, you're not getting out without dropping a couple hundred bucks. If you don't get a cart and just go straight for the specific items you need, you find yourself waiting in a long line at the checkout stand, holding your stuff, while everybody else unloads their overfilled carts in front of you. Express checkout lane? Not a chance. So next time you just get a cart, and once you've done that you've committed to the shopping orgy. You can't help it.
posted by Balonious Assault at 10:16 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I might also add that Costco's management team are thoughtful Seattle local financial donors. I've had to pitch to various leaders there, and they have almost always given more than we asked for. Especially for causes difficult to fund, such as GLBTQ youth.
posted by Dreidl at 10:19 PM on June 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


I would have liked to see less focus on potential problems with the company and more on the positive downstream econonmic effects of paying a living wage and treating employees like both investments and human beings

When I worked for a publication aimed at investors, I reported on whether companies w/decent pay+ perks and the corresponding low turnover were actually better long-term investment plays. (Answer: Sometimes, because these companies tended to grow & grow, albeit at a slower rate with more modest margins.)

The pushback the story got, both internally and from readers, suggests that there may be many people out there with money who could not give two shits about treating employees as long-term investments in the company, because so far as they were concerned, the whole point to employees was to squeeze all the productivity out of them before laying them off in the kind of cost-cutting play that boosted stock on quarterly earnings calls.
posted by sobell at 10:22 PM on June 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


There's no room in my freezer. I can eat a dozen bagels before they get stale right?
posted by edeezy at 10:24 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish my Costco wasn't such a hellish shopping experience. Culver City Costco is like trying to jump on that spaceship leaving Earth before worlds collide. I do feel sorry for their photo lab employees. They must throw away more inkjet cartridge refills from irate customers than not.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:25 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Added an alt link, since some folks on mobile couldn't access the printer version.]
posted by taz at 10:28 PM on June 6, 2013


I lucked into moving into the neighborhood of the first store they opened in Japan, and it is astounding what I can get there that I can't get elsewhere. They seem, like stavros said about Korea, to be the one big box company that 'gets' Japan, and they are expanding like crazy. There are something like five in the Tokyo metro area, with at least two more opening this year. The only problem is that it's still (even ten years later) something that (some) Japanese people view as a tourist destination. The other day, when it was insanely crowded, I saw several small groups of people just walking along the aisles, slowly, chatting and oohing over the merchandise.

Fun Japan side-tangent: For Christmas, the done thing here is chicken. Usually fried (KFC does crazy business, including reservations for orders), but lots of roast chicken now. Costco is like a warzone. On a normal day, they'll sell a couple hundred rotisserie chickens. A friend who worked there told me they sell thousands on Christmas Eve alone.

p.s. taz, thanks for fixing the link. I didn't know the single-page view wouldn't play nice on mobile
posted by Ghidorah at 10:36 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I worked for a publication aimed at investors, I reported on whether companies w/decent pay+ perks and the corresponding low turnover were actually better long-term investment plays. (Answer: Sometimes, because these companies tended to grow & grow, albeit at a slower rate with more modest margins.)

The pushback the story got, both internally and from readers, suggests that there may be many people out there with money who could not give two shits about treating employees as long-term investments in the company, because so far as they were concerned, the whole point to employees was to squeeze all the productivity out of them before laying them off in the kind of cost-cutting play that boosted stock on quarterly earnings calls.


It's actually kind of remarkable how many management types love paying shit wages specifically because of how abusive it is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:43 PM on June 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


My office is a short walk from Costco. I rarely go there because I can't stand the craziness that ensues when people start pushing toward the free samples. That's a study in human behavior right there.

That said, I have some cousins who've worked for Costco for years. They love the place and having nothing but good to say about Costco as an employer.
posted by 26.2 at 11:09 PM on June 6, 2013


We love Costco for their labor practices and their giant bottles of bourbon.
posted by rtha at 11:39 PM on June 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


On the plus side - Costco treats their members and employees really well. It's genuinely part of their corporate culture to excel in these areas. But - Costco is hellish if you are a supplier, they will wring every last penny out of you. This may be done in the name of serving their members well - but it does not drive ideal behaviours at suppliers. At the end of the day - you are still buying feedlot meat and clothes made in SE Asia. It's still lowest common denominator mass consumption.

I wish Costo would widen their sphere of good influence out a little wider out along their supply chain.
posted by helmutdog at 11:47 PM on June 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


sobell: "When I worked for a publication aimed at investors, I reported on whether companies w/decent pay+ perks and the corresponding low turnover were actually better long-term investment plays. (Answer: Sometimes, because these companies tended to grow & grow, albeit at a slower rate with more modest margins.)"

Personally, I'm wondering if paying the same person 2x more in one retailer vs another makes them more productive, or if higher wages simply improve the candidate pool. Skimming the workforce cream may be an effective strategy, but doesn't really support the concept of "investing in employees" as much as workforce training budgets do.

The article suggests that it's low prices that combat Amazon's showrooming effect, but I imagine it's just as much a result of their annual fee, via a screening effect compounded with a sunken cost fallacy. If you're gonna buy on Amazon anyways, you'll harass Costco's competitors for showroom service, and if you do purchase a membership, you'll want to use it frequently.

I think the Walmart rep does have a point that historical locations matter. You can't find a Costco in Salina, KS, but you will find a Sam's Club and a Walmart. I'd be curious to see how much the comparison changes after factoring in average cost of living.
posted by pwnguin at 11:58 PM on June 6, 2013


So next time you just get a cart, and once you've done that you've committed to the shopping orgy. You can't help it.

Costco survival tips:

1. List.
2. LIST!
3. Headphones.
4. I SAID LIST DAMMIT!
5. Discipline.

also, hotdogs
posted by dersins at 12:29 AM on June 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


Canceled my membership when I found out Costco was spearheading the death of EFCA. Starbucks and Whole Foods too. F that.
posted by anarch at 12:32 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting to hear the stories from Korea and Japan. I've never been to a Costco, but they have started to appear in Australia (alas, not in Tasmania yet) and I've wondered if the follow the US model, or if they're just taking advantage of a well-known brand.
posted by Jimbob at 1:13 AM on June 7, 2013


They follow the US model pretty closely here, I think, the no-frills nature of which is utterly different from other large retailers in Korea. I'd say it's about a 50/50 split, in terms of packaged food at least, between domestic stuff and imported.

Prices aren't actually all that great for domestic products, but imported stuff at Costco is much cheaper than anywhere else outside of Seoul. The big draw for most I think, is a) beef and other meats that are reasonably priced (Australian beef, mostly, and American when bans aren't on, which is most of the time, b) cheeses other deli items that are still damn near impossible to find outside of Seoul, and c) imported foods in general, which are gaining a much bigger audience here in recent years as tastes get a bit more globalized.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:35 AM on June 7, 2013


In Japan, at least, things are pretty cheap, but they aren't always the cheapest around. One thing I've noticed is that they are absolutely brutal when it comes to things that don't sell. If something isn't ring bought, they'll discontinue it immediately. When the first store opened here, they sold all manner of things (I'm looking sadly, longingly at you, hard shell tacos) that the Japanese customers didn't really know what to do with, and therefore didn't buy. I imagine Korean Costco just as different from US Costco as the Japanese store. Different cuts of meat is one of the most glaring differences, and butchered differently (to match local cooking styles). Foreigners were definitely some of the most early adopters here in Japan, but at least they (unlike a lot of businesses that have failed here) realized that the foreign population isn't nearly enough to keep the company afloat.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:54 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The emotional connection I have to Costco is surprisingly huge. Growing up, there was one across the street from my parents' business, and I spent an enormous amount of time there: scarfing up the free samples, staring into the forest of TVs, yearning for whatever fancy toys or playhouses they might be displaying that week. When I was a little older, dad would use us kids as shopping cart mules, and we would push around huge flats of cleaning supplies, water, and whatever other crazy items that caught his fancy that week, struggling not to hamstring the poor souls that happened to be in front of us. I wouldn't be surprised if I was approximately 30% hot dog as a kid. Dad knew a bunch of the employees there, and we were constantly running into people we knew, so it functioned a lot like the town square in our very car-centric little city.

When I moved across the country, going to the local Costco was almost like visiting home. Unlike the supermarket where even the things I knew seemed to be hiding behind new names, there was the old reliable Kirkland brand along with most of the other products I loved (minus a few of the more esoteric Asian items that were staples at my hometown store). My husband, who hadn't grown up with Costco, was entranced. I once found him paralyzed by the wall of bread, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of baked goods. Several moves and years later, Costco visits have become an infrequent, but homey ritual for us, anchored by cheap gas and an abiding, childlike delight in free samples.
posted by Diagonalize at 2:07 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ghidorah, I live in Nakameguro now, as I mentioned at the last meetup, and it's kind of a trial for me to find someone with a car that can take me out to Kawasaki, but it's still a mostly joyous occasion. I become genuinely sad when the last slice of my Kirkland pre-cooked bacon goes on that bagel (or English muffin) breakfast sandwich. The sausages are amazing.
I inwardly chuckle when I hear people talking about going to Tokyo Disneyland and think "fuck that, a trip to Costco is about the same price but WAY more fun and delicious!" I may never be able to forgive those bastards for when they stopped carrying tater tots. Only an ex-pat can understand what I'm talking about, I would think.
I guess the only problem I have is that the Japanese shoppers do, as you said, seem a bit more oblivious about shopping etiquette when compared to my memories from America. I hope to always fondly recall the first time I ever accidentally and inconsequentially found myself irritated with my lovely Japanese girlfriend; she kinda sucks at fording the river of shoppers and using her cart in an aggressive, efficient manner. That's gotta be a pretty cute "first irritation" story, right? Maybe I'll tell it at our wedding. I'm proposing at the end of the month.
posted by GoingToShopping at 2:07 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I hit Seoul Costcos a couple times a month and used to live 5 min walk from the one in Youngdeungpogu.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:34 AM on June 7, 2013


I hit Seoul Costcos a couple times a month and used to live 5 min walk from the one in Youngdeungpogu.

I hate you man.

It is a hate born of envy, I admit it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:45 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was fifteen minutes away by bike for eight years, now, it's more like 30-40 minutes. The problem, though, is the return trip.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:23 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


A Costco would do well in Asheville.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 4:11 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, I have a love hate relationship with Costco. They have a couple of products that make it worth the membership for me. But the rest really is crap. A lot of cheap chinese imports, dressed up with a free accessory pack.

And the packaging! So, so wasteful.
posted by gjc at 4:13 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Accompanying my mother-in-law to the Gangnam Costco last year was one of the more amazing couple hours of my trip to South Korea. It's just like an American Costco, frequently down to the same products with the same English-language labels -- but it's Seoul-ized.

For starters, it's bilevel. There's an escalator which runs the length of one wall on a very gradual slope, for people to move with their shopping carts between floors. The inventory sells bulk goods, but the packages tend to be smaller. There's also more emphasis on somewhat higher-quality dry goods like luggage and shoes.

And the crowds. Wow.

I was told later that specific Costco location is the most profitable building in the whole corporation.
posted by ardgedee at 4:19 AM on June 7, 2013


We love Costco. After 2 years in China, we got a new membership the first month we were I'm Canada. I won't touch Walmart with a barge pole due to their labour practices, but the way they treat their employees and the quality of products mean I'm a fan. Great to see they are a success on their own terms.
posted by arcticseal at 4:28 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you grab a cart on your way in, you're not getting out without dropping a couple hundred bucks. If you don't get a cart and just go straight for the specific items you need, you find yourself waiting in a long line at the checkout stand, holding your stuff, while everybody else unloads their overfilled carts in front of you. Express checkout lane? Not a chance. So next time you just get a cart, and once you've done that you've committed to the shopping orgy. You can't help it.

The "you" in your comment is certainly not me. The only time I've spent over $200 in Costco (or in BJ's, where I also shop) was when I bought a mattress or tires, and the time I bought a shed. I'm not buying for a family of five, but the receipt is almost always under a hundred. Maybe I'm more resistant to buying something I wouldn't have wanted at all if it didn't look like such a bargain, or maybe because it's fairly close, I can easily go there more often and not feel that I have to buy survivalist quantities of everything.

The Costco and BJ's are both in Nashua, NH, and something over a mile apart. From the customer side, they're very similar places to shop. There's a really noticeable difference in employee attitude between the two places. The Costco people generally seem happy and not bothered by customer requests, while the BJ's employees exhibit more of the modern retail worker's mostly-repressed resentment at their lot. It really makes for a different shopping experience. Why do I belong to both? Because they have a different selection of brands for a lot of things. There's also a Sam's Club about the same distance from both, and I belonged to that for a year some time back, but it was really inferior to either BJ's or Costco.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:32 AM on June 7, 2013


These are the things I buy at Costco. They more than justify the membership cost: toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, milk, butter, eggs, coffee, sugar, crackers, hot dogs, bacon, t-shirts, underwear, laundry detergent, and printer paper.

If you are buying outside of this class of product, the "I will be buying it somewhere, no matter what" class, I think you're doing it wrong.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:56 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


We have a Costco and a BJ's within 2 miles of the house. However the Costco is attached to the mall and the PITA factor and crowds pushed us to BJs years ago. Anybody know how BJs compares to Costco on the employee treatment scale? There does not seem to be much turnover there, and the employees are always friendly, so I assume it's a decent place to work.
posted by COD at 5:06 AM on June 7, 2013


Enormous bags of frozen organic veggies keep us coming back. But for some reason no store near us has the peas lately. Has there been some sort of pea shortage of which I am unaware? Baby wants her peas. (And our son wants peas occasionally too.)

Every time our freezer gets mostly empty, we do another Costco run. There are a lot of fresh items there that are too much for our family of three, but anything that has good shelf life or can be frozen for the future is fair game. The fact that they treat employees as I they were human is just icing on the cake.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:07 AM on June 7, 2013


The Costco here in Sherbrooke, Quebec is inexplicably staffed on the odd Sunday by nothing but beefy muscular young men wearing tight t-shirts.

It's surreal. But it's always more crowded than usual that day.
posted by Kitteh at 5:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "It's actually kind of remarkable how many management types love paying shit wages specifically because of how abusive it is."

To paraphrase Townes Van Zandt ("shame that it's not enough; shame that it is a shame"), it's remarkable that you find it remarkable. I've met a lot of people who actively enjoy being dicks to other people for the sheer antisocial joy of it.
posted by notsnot at 5:24 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obligatory: WelcomeToCostCoILoveYou.
posted by arzakh at 5:41 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just got my first of two Hepatitis A shots yesterday because of this.

I got two robocalls about this, and it seems like Costco has been all over it, to the extent of funding a lot of local government health depts. to cover the costs.

I love them no less, for my trouble.

(And I feel fine. Thank you for asking.)
posted by Danf at 5:48 AM on June 7, 2013


Here's a tip: check out Costco's prices on contact lenses. My lenses are $13/box cheaper than Sam's Club's sale price.
posted by workerant at 5:48 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in academia: "Zeynep Ton, an adjunct associate professor of operations management at the MIT Sloan School of Management."
posted by kewb at 5:57 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't like to shop and I find shopping at Costco to be really calm and pleasant. I think it's partly because the employees are all competent and nice, and partly because the absence of sales/coupons/bargains means that shopping takes up less of my mental space. Anyway I'm a big fan.

(And I also like having hot dogs with the kids under the inexplicable indoor umbrellas.)
posted by gerstle at 6:07 AM on June 7, 2013


(Although now that I have posted that it occurs to me that they do have sales and coupons. Which I occasionally use. Maybe it's having fewer brands of everything? At any rate, it tires out my brain less to shop there than other places.)
posted by gerstle at 6:14 AM on June 7, 2013


We just got a CostCo membership. I'm still sort of meh on it - we'll need to get a deep freeze to make it worth it, I think (So we can spent our savings on a freezer! And the electricity on which it will run!), but at the same time, a membership breaks down to $1/week, and their glasses section and selection are intriguing.

However, it gives me a weird feeling to go there - we live in a city with a relatively large population of Native people, and damn, I do not see a lot of them when I go to CostCo. Not CostCo's fault, but it weirds me out. Also, the people who are there, of any ethnicity or background, seem uniformly pushy yet unfocused. Drives me nuts.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:50 AM on June 7, 2013


Printer cartridge refills are amazingly cheap ($7-9!), and so are their prints ($0.13 per print, cheaper than any other brick-and-mortar place I've seen, unless you get a coupon, and then you usually need to buy 50+ photos to save anything).

If you eat lunch meat often enough, or have a few people who eat it with some frequency, you can save quite a bit. And cheeses! Oooh, so many tasty cheeses, and so inexpensive!

But if you're looking for bread, Trader Joes is better, with a wider selection, and you can get good, inexpensive loaves for less than most bread at CostCo.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:05 AM on June 7, 2013


Costco is such a great example of "you get what you pay for". I've never seen such focused and courteous retail employees.

At our house, we've re-arranged meal plans and other things to best jive with what's available at Costco. We put a bookshelf pantry in the basement for the overflow and have seldom had to waste anything. We also eat a tonne of more vegetables because holy shit those bags of broccoli florettes are the size of my pillow and nom nom nom nom.
posted by Theta States at 7:20 AM on June 7, 2013


Go on non-weekends, unless you enjoy being run over by those families who like to bring everyone from Great-Grandma to the latest newborn when they go shopping for some damn reason (I leave my one kid at home, because the whining, my God).

Have a list.

Keep an eye out for new possibilities; I had no idea you could buy 30 Brita filters at one go! That was a satisfying score. Also, those "180" GF almond-rice-blueberry snack things. And a year's worth of allergy pills for 12.00.

But I usually get out of there for around 100, most of it staples.

The liquor store is kind of terrifying, unless you are having a hell of a party or are actually opening a bar. I had no idea they made Bailey's bottles that big.
posted by emjaybee at 7:21 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Keep an eye out for new possibilities; I had no idea you could buy 30 Brita filters at one go! That was a satisfying score. Also, those "180" GF almond-rice-blueberry snack things. And a year's worth of allergy pills for 12.00.


The brown rice/quinoa mix was a revelation. The Aveeno moisturizer bottle packs are cheaper than what you pay in a pharmacy for only a single bottle.
And what I save on frozen berries alone pays for my membership.
posted by Theta States at 7:24 AM on June 7, 2013


Eighty percent of its gross profit comes from membership fees; customers renew their memberships at a rate of close to 90 percent, the company says.

Wow, that's kind of astonishing. What an interesting model, verging on co-op.
posted by Theta States at 7:28 AM on June 7, 2013


I was totally sold on CostCo from my first trip, when I bought a $10 bottle of oregano. That same amount of oregano would have cost me over $100 if bought at any other supermarket here in Tokyo. One single $10 product offset the membership fee for the entire first year.

The service isn't up to that of a Japanese supermarket, but, hey whatcha gonna do? I don't go there for good service, I go there for the low, low prices, and for all the different foods you can't get anywhere else in Tokyo without paying an arm and a leg.
posted by Bugbread at 8:11 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


We just got a CostCo membership. I'm still sort of meh on it - we'll need to get a deep freeze to make it worth it, I think (So we can spent our savings on a freezer! And the electricity on which it will run!), but at the same time, a membership breaks down to $1/week, and their glasses section and selection are intriguing.

However, it gives me a weird feeling to go there - we live in a city with a relatively large population of Native people, and damn, I do not see a lot of them when I go to CostCo. Not CostCo's fault, but it weirds me out. Also, the people who are there, of any ethnicity or background, seem uniformly pushy yet unfocused. Drives me nuts.


I notice that too where I live. The Costcos are always in richer areas, and it makes me laugh to see people wearing really expensive jewelry and clothing trolling around for the free smoked sausage samplers.
posted by gjc at 8:41 AM on June 7, 2013


Costco recently changed their hotdog+soda deal from Coke to Pepsi. A little part of me died that day.
posted by samworm at 8:49 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The brown rice/quinoa mix was a revelation.

Huh. Is the brown rice par-cooked or something? Because those two things have VERY different cooking times.
posted by dersins at 8:51 AM on June 7, 2013


Costco recently changed their hotdog+soda deal from Coke to Pepsi. A little part of me died that day.

Agreed.

I'm in NW North Dakota and the nearest Costco is either over the border in Regina, or a six hour drive to Fargo or Billings. Needless to say, when we do get there, it's $300 or over. And I am fine with that because the only big box close to me is WalHell. In fact it is the WalHell of Williston ND, the worst WalHell on the planet. To say that I kiss the shiny floor in a Costco is not far from the truth.
posted by Ber at 9:00 AM on June 7, 2013


Eighty percent of its gross profit comes from membership fees; customers renew their memberships at a rate of close to 90 percent, the company says.

Wow, that's kind of astonishing. What an interesting model, verging on co-op.


What that tells me is that all of their great "values" aren't really all that great of a value. It sounds like they are still making a pretty good margin on all that stuff they are selling. If their stuff was really as good of a value as people like to think, ALL their profits would come from the membership fees.

Put another way, it sounds like they could be profitable even if they didn't charge a membership fee.

Another random rant: why must everything be in funny sizes? How can it possibly be cheaper to buy special Costco sized packaging for commodities? Why is Tide detergent in the 1.65 gallon containers? Regular Tide comes in gallon containers for what, $20 a piece? So sell me a two pack for $35. How the hell an I supposed to know whether 1.65 gallons of Tide for $32.74 is a deal or not without a calculator? I don't need a gallon of mayonnaise. It's going to go bad. But I'd buy a four quart bundle. And how in the holy hell is it better for anyone to package things like pens in those giant clamshell things, when they can just buy the standard dozen count boxes from Papermate and shrinkwrap three of them together? I get that they aren't a discount store, as such, but it almost seems like they go out of their way to confuse people.

(And just to be clear: I'm criticizing because they could be so much better, not because I hate them.)
posted by gjc at 9:04 AM on June 7, 2013


gjc, my costco DOES sell double-packs of dishwasher detergent and 4-packs of mayonnaise. Very few of the things I buy there are in packages larger than are in the grocery store.

Addressing something helmutdog said upthread: Costco is the only retailer in my area who has negotiated the right to independently inspect slaughterhouses and meatpacking facilities. That gives me a boost in confidence in their meat, for sure. Yes, it's still feedlot meat, with all its attendant problems, but at least they aren't just taking the supplier's word for it that they're following regulations.
posted by KathrynT at 9:27 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


We have long shopped at Costco in support of their fair labor practices, and it is the $100 Dollar Store for me, and I love them. Totally worth it for the cases of San Pellegrino dry sodas - the mixed cases of lemon and orange, and the WHOLE cases of blood orange. If they'd do cases of grapefruit soda I'd be in heaven. Cases of tomato paste whose ingredients are: tomatoes, big bags of pine nuts and pecans, really great, fresh meat and cheap store brand medications.
posted by ersatzkat at 9:41 AM on June 7, 2013


gjc: "What that tells me is that all of their great "values" aren't really all that great of a value. It sounds like they are still making a pretty good margin on all that stuff they are selling. If their stuff was really as good of a value as people like to think, ALL their profits would come from the membership fees."

Twenty percent of profits being retail markup doesn't imply a margin of twenty percent. Indeed, their operating margin is 2.91 percent margins. Overall. Which, when combined with 80 percent figure, suggests they're marking goods up a half a percent. When compared with the competition, they seem to stack up nicely.

Maybe you believe people think they're actually losing money on sales?
posted by pwnguin at 10:00 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


RE: Packaging / sizes

A lot of what Costco is doing with the packaging sizes and shapes is attempting to reduce waste and to fit more on a shipping pallet. See the square milk jug.
posted by curse at 10:19 AM on June 7, 2013


Macadamia nuts. Macadamia nuuuuuuuts.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:24 AM on June 7, 2013


I was fifteen minutes away by bike for eight years, now, it's more like 30-40 minutes. The problem, though, is the return trip.

I met a woman recently with an electric-assist cargo bike, and she specifically mentioned its utility for biking home from Costco.

I will say that it was a little troubling how much money they dumped into ads for a liquor-privatization initiative here last year. ($22mil, apparently some sort of record)
posted by epersonae at 10:34 AM on June 7, 2013


Another random rant: why must everything be in funny sizes?

gjc, having worked on the club store team at Kellogg's HQ in the early noughties, I can speak to that a little bit. "Funny sizes" are packaged that way by the manufacturer at the insistence of the warehouse club store. This is so the difference from what's available at a traditional grocery store gives Costco a "unique selling proposition." The idea is that the larger size is more appealing than the usual size because of both the perception of greater value and the thought that you can only get it at the club.

The cost per ounce for club sizes is generally less, of course, but the funny sizes (rather than just shrink-wrapping two packages together) also are meant to make direct price comparisons a little more difficult. The hope is that you'll buy trusting you're getting a value rather than by calculating the price per ounce, comparing it, and possibly deciding that it's not worth paying the extra dollars to buy and then use extra space to store a larger package.

In addition, if you happen to have both a Costco and a Sam's membership, you might notice that even if they have the same thing for sale (say, Frosted Flakes), the packages will be different sizes. This is another spot where the club stores don't want to make direct comparisons (and thus the need for price-slashing competition) too easy.

On preview, while curse is right that packing as much on a shipping pallet as possible is part of what manufacturers are trying to do for the club stores, remember that they do that for regular grocery stores too. But for club stores, there's also a balance to be struck between creating an attractive pallet and packing a full pallet. In a club store, the pallet that you see, oftentimes with individual packages in a tray, is designed to be the best, most eye-grabbing billboard possible in order to slow you down while you are cruising down the aisles, as compared to totally utilitarian pallet's worth of cereal that goes to the grocery store, in which the display boxes are contained within a plain carton that you never see on the sales floor.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:36 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


A lot of people who shop at Costco seem to be mom-and-pop restaurant owners. They may not do enough volume to order from Sysco, but they still need more pickles and ketchup and napkins etc. than a two-person household. I see the guys from the sandwich shop around the corner from me unloading their clearly bought-at-Costco items from their cars all the time.
posted by rtha at 10:38 AM on June 7, 2013


Here in the land that birthed Costco the mom&pop restauranteurs seem to shop at Cash & Carry. It's pretty much a one stop shop for running a small restaurant. One assumes they treat their employees well, too, because there are very few of them, but they're cheerful and helpful. It's a fantastic shopping experience if you need a 10 or 20 lbs hunk of beef or 50lbs of good bread flour.
posted by wotsac at 10:50 AM on June 7, 2013


I feel compelled to comment on this; I was a 13-year employee (up until last fall). This might at times sound like a bitter ex-employee talking, but I'm not. I still have fond feelings for Costco, especially as a member/customer. I go there all the time!

While I agree that there are many reasons to appreciate the way Costco does business (their code of ethics, their rate of pay, the quality and price of their goods and services), there are cracks in their veneer that might only be visible to long term employees. These cracks make me nervous about the company's future in the next 10-20 years.

I was an employee at a warehouse and in their corporate office, and I can tell you from experience that for many/most people this is a great employer to work for. By many people, I mean those with high school educations and retail management aspirations only.

The problem is that when you hire almost exclusively high school graduates, and promote 90%+ of employees from within, what you end up with in a very short time is a management structure of people who have lived their entire lives within the Costco bubble. I'm definitely not advocating for the influx of a bunch of MBA's, but what I'm saying is that for every desired executive/management trait that is positively characterized as "folksy" in an article like this, there are just as many who have incredibly poor organizational, leadership and emotional qualities that end up having disastrous effects on their employees, their warehouse locations and departments.

That's because education is not a valued asset at the company. College graduates apply for jobs there all the time, and are told that it isn't be possible to become a manager without first working on a warehouse for a year. That's a tough sell for someone who graduated with a business degree, or human resources, or graphic design to tell them they have to pull carts for a year before ever having a chance to be a manager down the road.

Add to that, the company doesn't lay anyone off who isn't a seasonal employee and is reticent to terminate anyone for any cause OTHER than theft. So while an article like this lauds the job security of working for a company that strives to retain employees, the flip side is that this is a company that is happy to rotate poor managers to other buildings instead of demoting or removing them, and move incompetent executives to other departments for a fresh start instead of doing anything to improve their performance. With no turnover at the management level, this also causes a logjam at levels below, where employees with managerial ambitions are more numerous than available jobs. It's a constant source of frustration to have the ability and ambition to move up, but see job postings for management go to someone rotated in rather than a promoted employee.

Finally, the most egregious thing is something that even the most diligent reporter would have a hard time digging up: the company used the economic downturn to run lean on purpose. The employee population at the warehouse is roughly 50% full time and 50% part time. In order to save on payroll, warehouses cut back on the part time hours (this varies from warehouse to warehouse). The hourly wage is a celebrated part of Costco employment, but when an employee's hours are cut from 38 to 24, and there's a policy in place preventing such employees from picking up shifts from others, that is a huge hit to a person's budget. These employees WANT to work more hours, but cannot. When they ask for more, the message from management is "the economy" and "we're all just lucky to have a stable job." Competitive hourly pay is great if you actually get the hours to earn it.

I left the company in good standing, and enjoyed much of my time there for reasons stated in this article and more. I just resent reading things about it that say, "It treats its employees well in the belief that a happier work environment will result in a more profitable company."

The happy work environment is an incidental consequence to certain policies - it's not anywhere near the primary motivation.

In that way it's just like any other public company.
posted by apranica at 11:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


My partner and I love Costco, but some of our most predictable quasi-marital tensions come from there -- namely, the argument over whether to drive out of the way and spend 15-20 minutes in line there to get gas just because it's cheaper, and negotiating who's going to break down the pile of boxes that ends up outside the recycling bin, since we never remember reusable bags.

That said, I love Costco for its generic Zyrtec alone, which is $16 for 365 pills. The name brand stuff at CVS or anywhere else is $18 for only 70 pills. That's a year's supply of Zyrtec for seriously cheap!

It was also awesome of them to call about the berry thing. One question, though -- did they call all members, or did they know that my partner purchases those berries regularly? Because the latter might be slightly disturbing, maybe.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:11 AM on June 7, 2013


mudpuppie, remember how they scan your card before you purchase? All your purchases are linked with your account. A FOAF is a vice cop, she busted a marijuana distribution ring by calling Costo and asking if they had one or two customers who bought way more baggies than anyone else.
posted by KathrynT at 11:15 AM on June 7, 2013


A FOAF is a vice cop, she busted a marijuana distribution ring by calling Costo and asking if they had one or two customers who bought way more baggies than anyone else.

Wait, seriously? Are you sure that's how it went down? Because that is deeply fucked up, like on the level of "if it's not illegal it should be" kind of fucked up. Are you sure it wasn't a request (possibly accompanied by a court order) for records of a particular customer or customers rather than a randomly speculative fishing expedition?
posted by dersins at 11:42 AM on June 7, 2013


gjc, having worked on the club store team at Kellogg's HQ in the early noughties, I can speak to that a little bit. "Funny sizes" are packaged that way by the manufacturer at the insistence of the warehouse club store. This is so the difference from what's available at a traditional grocery store gives Costco a "unique selling proposition." The idea is that the larger size is more appealing than the usual size because of both the perception of greater value and the thought that you can only get it at the club.

The cost per ounce for club sizes is generally less, of course, but the funny sizes (rather than just shrink-wrapping two packages together) also are meant to make direct price comparisons a little more difficult. The hope is that you'll buy trusting you're getting a value rather than by calculating the price per ounce, comparing it, and possibly deciding that it's not worth paying the extra dollars to buy and then use extra space to store a larger package.


A corollary to this tends to show up in the electronics area as well. In the past I've noticed that TVs (for instance) sold at Costco often have model numbers that are unique to Costco. E.g., if the Sorny FOO-990 is the TV model being sold at Best Buy, A/V stores, online, etc., then Costco will carry the Sorny FOO-991, which is exactly the same as the -990 except for a slightly different color of trim, and a lower price than anyone sells the -990 for. My assumption has always been that the manufacturers do this to prevent price-matching. If you go to Best Buy and try to get them to price-match the FOO-990 with Costco, then they can refuse "because Costco doesn't sell that model". Which is technically true, but seems weaselly on the manufacturers' part nonetheless.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 12:06 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


the square milk jug

We got these at our Costco for about a month before they reverted back to the traditional jug. I assume that people hated them. Certainly I found them to pour a lot less well. (Gently, gently, gently -- GLUG -- damnit.)

A lot of people who shop at Costco seem to be mom-and-pop restaurant owners.

Costco usually also has one "business" warehouse per region -- a lot of the same products, plus even bigger sizes, plus a restaurant-supply area that is good for cheap utilitarian kitchenware.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:26 PM on June 7, 2013


Are you sure it wasn't a request (possibly accompanied by a court order)

That's how it was relayed to me. And yes, it definitely came with a court order, and named a dozen people whom they suspected were involved but couldn't prove it, and the request was limited to those dozen people only.
posted by KathrynT at 12:52 PM on June 7, 2013


> mudpuppie, remember how they scan your card before you purchase? All your purchases are linked with your account.

Which is fine with me; I got the call a few years ago telling me to throw away my peanut butter, but didn't get a call about the berries (because I haven't bought them). It makes returns easier, as you don't have to have the receipt.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:39 PM on June 7, 2013


the square milk jug

We got these at our Costco for about a month before they reverted back to the traditional jug


WHAT

i want regular milk jugs
posted by gerstle at 2:14 PM on June 7, 2013


It was also awesome of them to call about the berry thing. One question, though -- did they call all members, or did they know that my partner purchases those berries regularly? Because the latter might be slightly disturbing, maybe.

Mudpuppie, if you think that's slightly disturbing, then take a look at this: How Companies Learn Your Secrets.

tl;dr: Target can figure out if you're pregnant based on your purchases (tracked using things like your credit card number), and then sneakily send you ads for baby and pregnancy things appropriate for how pregnant you are.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:30 PM on June 7, 2013


Here's an example of "Costco Corporate Culture" (I think)

Costco Offering Free Hepatitis Vaccines To Customers Who Purchased Recalled Berries
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:55 PM on June 7, 2013


We're suppose to get a Costco in our area. BUT only if they get some sweet tax abatement deals for the land they want to use. So while they may pay well, they should also you know pay their taxes like everyone else.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:04 PM on June 7, 2013


apranica: "Finally, the most egregious thing is something that even the most diligent reporter would have a hard time digging up: the company used the economic downturn to run lean on purpose. The employee population at the warehouse is roughly 50% full time and 50% part time. In order to save on payroll, warehouses cut back on the part time hours (this varies from warehouse to warehouse). The hourly wage is a celebrated part of Costco employment, but when an employee's hours are cut from 38 to 24, and there's a policy in place preventing such employees from picking up shifts from others, that is a huge hit to a person's budget. These employees WANT to work more hours, but cannot. When they ask for more, the message from management is "the economy" and "we're all just lucky to have a stable job." Competitive hourly pay is great if you actually get the hours to earn it."

This seems like a very reasonable way for an ethical company to manage a down turn. I'm not really sure what Costco employees do or how the volume of work changes in a down turn but I'm guessing if sales are down 20% then there are 20% less things to be put on shelves; 20% few people to check through; 20% few loaves of bread to be baked; 20% less dirt to be swept and 20% less cash to be counted and deposited. As an employer they have a choice of laying off 20% of their staff or having their existing staff work 20% less. Obviously that blows if your hours are reduced but the option seems to be going to work and thumb twittling.

The policy preventing people from picking up missed shifts is a painless way of reducing staffing levels. It's what my employer does when work slows down; they make it known that we can feel free to take a day or two off. But if voluntary reduction doesn't reduce staffing levels below available work they'll tell people to stay home. For a large employer they can count on a certain percentage of people to call in sick on any random day and they can use that to adjust staffing levels. Allowing people to cover for other people thwarts that voluntary reduction.
posted by Mitheral at 12:10 AM on June 8, 2013


We're suppose to get a Costco in our area. BUT only if they get some sweet tax abatement deals for the land they want to use.

This is standard practice for large retail and manufacturing businesses. They hold out whatever alleged benefits their presence would bring as inducement for giving them a tax break. Walmart is famous for extracting the best deal they can get by playing one town against another. This doesn't work as well for them in places like VT, or if residents have time to mount an education campaign, but it's always part of their business plan. Sometimes an established business will threaten to take their marbles and move to somewhere else if they don't get a deal, like Raytheon or your local professional sports franchise.

My point is, it's not wonderful that Costco does this, but as a for-profit enterprise, they'd be ceding a big advantage to their competitors if they didn't. The real culprits are the governments that allow these kinds of deals.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:37 AM on June 8, 2013


College graduates apply for jobs there all the time, and are told that it isn't be possible to become a manager without first working on a warehouse for a year. That's a tough sell for someone who graduated with a business degree, or human resources, or graphic design to tell them they have to pull carts for a year before ever having a chance to be a manager down the road.

As a college graduate and an individual who has done her fair share of front line customer service work over the years, I don't see why this is a problem. I'm all for a business structure that requires educated management employees to reconcile theory with practice.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:55 AM on June 8, 2013


Walmart is famous for extracting the best deal they can get by playing one town against another.

Funny when the Sam's Club and Walmart expansion came, there was no tax incentives given. So at least in my area, it's Costco ( and Whole Foods as well ) who want to not pay taxes for 10 years so it makes 'sense' to build.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 12:07 PM on June 8, 2013


theBigRedKittyPurrs: "As a college graduate and an individual who has done her fair share of front line customer service work over the years, I don't see why this is a problem."

The problem is explicitly stated in the sentence preceding the sentence you quoted. "I'm saying is that for every desired executive/management trait that is positively characterized as "folksy" in an article like this, there are just as many who have incredibly poor organizational, leadership and emotional qualities that end up having disastrous effects on their employees, their warehouse locations and departments."

Do you actually mean you don't see why that's a problem, or are you trying to say that you understand those problems, but think those disadvantages are outweighed by the advantages offered by this approach?
posted by Bugbread at 5:25 PM on June 8, 2013


Huh. Is the brown rice par-cooked or something? Because those two things have VERY different cooking times.

I just toss it in my rice cooker and it comes out perfect!
posted by Theta States at 6:10 PM on June 9, 2013


What are those people at the exit doing when inspecting my receipt?
posted by Theta States at 6:11 PM on June 9, 2013


Making sure that everything in your cart is something on the receipt.
posted by KathrynT at 6:37 PM on June 9, 2013


I may have read something in apranica's comment that was not there, specifically "education is not a valued asset" as college graduates "are told that it isn't possible to become a manager without first working on a warehouse for a year."

I don't see, in the specific example cited by apranica, why requiring a college graduate to work in the warehouse for a year before qualifying for a management position is an issue, it seems to be more the cost of admission to be expected to start at the bottom, even if you hold a business degree
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:22 AM on June 10, 2013


theBigRedKittyPurrs: "I don't see, in the specific example cited by apranica, why requiring a college graduate to work in the warehouse for a year before qualifying for a management position is an issue, it seems to be more the cost of admission to be expected to start at the bottom, even if you hold a business degree"

It's only an issue if you want to recruit talented management. Few people are going to quit a well paid job to work in a warehouse at warehouse wages, or refuse an offer from a competitor in favor of Costco's. Sure, there are companies that only hire management from within, but that's different than hiring clerical line staff from the warehouse.

However, I'm not sure I believe apranica's claim; it seems unlikely that costco.com is written and run only by former warehouse staff, for example.
posted by pwnguin at 9:12 AM on June 10, 2013


"Most employees begin their careers in the warehouse setting, becoming experts in Costco merchandising and operations."
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:33 AM on June 10, 2013


As a college graduate and an individual who has done her fair share of front line customer service work over the years, I don't see why this is a problem. I'm all for a business structure that requires educated management employees to reconcile theory with practice.

I spent years in those front-line positions as well, and I appreciated leaders who knew what I was up against and were able to make educated decisions based on that experience. If it's advantageous at the retail level, why not reconcile theory with practice at the corporate level as well?

"I don't see, in the specific example cited by apranica, why requiring a college graduate to work in the warehouse for a year before qualifying for a management position is an issue."

Yeah, pwnguin gets my point, and it's something you see in the interview process. Candidate A is a great fit for this job! But Candidate A has questions about upward mobility later on down the line. Now witness Candidate A become crestfallen at the notion of having to go back to the warehouse later on if they want to be a manager at a later date.

It's hard to hire the best employees the roadmap you give them for the future has a big arbitrary speedbump in it.

I'm not sure I believe apranica's claim; it seems unlikely that costco.com is written and run only by former warehouse staff, for example.

Costco.com's is produced using a mix of long-term costco employees and hiring contract writers. The ones I interacted with were good people.
posted by apranica at 9:46 AM on June 10, 2013


What are those people at the exit doing when inspecting my receipt?

They're definitely looking for theft, but they're also double-checking the receipt quantities to make sure you weren't accidentally double-charged for anything. A couple times when I've had a full cart and everything wasn't easily visible I've had them ask me "Did you purchase 2 $PRODUCTs?"
posted by contraption at 10:05 AM on June 10, 2013


On the other hand, this IT management posting doesn't mention any such requirement. In fact, it seems to practically scream "please bring your current team full of non-Costco staff with you ASAP."
posted by pwnguin at 10:21 AM on June 10, 2013


I think the work up from the warehouse thing applies to front end retail people that want to be department or eventually store managers. I seriously doubt they expect a software engineer to spend a year pushing pallets around the warehouse before he or she is welcome to apply their professional programing talents for the benefit of the company. That would be monumentally stupid, not to mention make it virtually impossible to hire any talented IT people.
posted by COD at 11:21 AM on June 10, 2013


There are exceptions to the rule, pwnguin & COD, especially in specialized trades like legal, IT and such.

I used a generalization because for the vast majority of the employee population, it applies.
posted by apranica at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2013


Starting people on the floor is a wise policy. In years of corporate jobs and consulting I've learned that when leaders deeply understand operations they are better, smarter leaders.

When I worked for FedEx everyone helped out during peak. I was an IT manager, but during the peak holiday season I unloaded freight. Our CEO and founder, pulled on the orange jumpsuit and worked the Memphis ramp. Lots of people had worked their way into a FedEx IT or admin job through a few years as a driver or ramp agent. It was an respected and honored way to become part of the organization.

The company benefits when everyone understand ops. You want to develop a usable checkout application? Go work the checkout line for a few weeks.

This makes me like Costco more.
posted by 26.2 at 3:26 PM on June 10, 2013


College graduates apply for jobs there all the time, and are told that it isn't be possible to become a manager without first working on a warehouse for a year. That's a tough sell for someone who graduated with a business degree, or human resources, or graphic design to tell them they have to pull carts for a year before ever having a chance to be a manager down the road.

I worked as a bookseller at Borders for several years and after watching the company get run into the ground by management that had never sold books before they joined the higher ranks, I can tell you that Costco is wise indeed to make it a requirement for managerial candidates to spend some time in the trenches
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:13 AM on June 12, 2013


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