At Costco, no one expects or needs much assistance while shopping. Everyone knows how it works.
They sign, ticket and present their merchandise clearly and correctly. Rarely is there a need to ask an employee a question regarding general merchandise.
If you do need help, their staff are always willing to assist.
I don’t believe I have ever had a pricing or scanning issue upon checkout and I shop at Costco quite a lot.
They have it figured out chainwide. It’s a retail juggernaut…a well oiled machine, for sure.
Good for them.
Here’s what happened:
I almost always have good things to say about Costco…they are an excellent retailer.
However, on a recent trip to my local Costco, things went off the rails for no good reason at all. It was very upsetting.
As usual, I presented my Costco membership card at the checkout. It was the same card I have been using for years, by the way.
The cashier took the card and proceeded to scan my items.
The person who was packing the items, who I pegged to be a management trainee, asked me if I had considered upgrading to an Executive membership.
I replied that I was already an Executive member but just hadn’t had a new picture taken yet, so no new card has been issued.
The story should end there, but it doesn’t. No, the employee was not prepared to let me get away with using my old card.
A little background information for you…
I have shopped at Costco many times using the same card. Their system clearly and instantly identifies me as an Executive member.
I receive their magazines and coupons regularly. I also receive a rebate check every year as that is a main benefit of paying extra to become an Executive member.
I should also mention that the attempt to upgrade my membership was appreciated. That was the appropriate thing for an employee to do. But, only once.
So, what happened next?
The employee, whose name I will keep confidential for the sake of her privacy, proceeded to tell me that I should go and have my picture taken after finishing my transaction.
I thanked her and told her I didn’t have time today.
She continued pushing the issue. She told me I really did need to get a new card because I might not be asked for my coupons.
I assured her I didn’t have any coupons at the moment but, if I did, no one would need to ask me for them…I would present them.
Clearly not happy with my reply she went on to tell me, again, to get a new card.
I asked her why she was bothering me with this. Was there some new rule that said I was no longer allowed to use the card I was using?
She said there is no rule but “we won’t honor your coupons.”
Now, that got my attention.
What do you mean, you won’t honor my coupons? Of course, you will certainly honor my coupons. What a ridiculous threat.
What is an employee doing threatening a customer, anyway?
She said it again. Unless I had a new card, they would not honor any coupons that I presented.
The transaction was over. The cashier (a very polite young man) handed me my receipt and card and I walked away…angry.
I stopped at the Customer Service desk and asked to speak to a Manager or someone I could talk to about what just happened.
A young woman came out from behind the counter immediately and said “you can speak to me.”
I told her the story and as she was apologizing and telling me that there would not be any problem with honoring coupons (if I ever used any), the offending employee came over.
She made yet another attempt to encourage me to get a new card. She denied having said that Costco would not honor my coupons.
At that point I simply told her that whatever else happened, she should, at the very least, be honest about what she said.
There were plenty of people around who heard her. Anyway, I noted the name on her badge and then walked out of the store feeling angry and frustrated.
That incident won’t make me stop shopping at Costco.
Their merchandise is good quality, the pricing always reasonable and the efficiency of operations always evident.
I’m a grown up and I can handle the odd run-in with a misguided employee with a bad attitude.
She wanted to force me to do what she wanted me to do and used threats and intimidation to try to make me capitulate.
That Costco employee is a bully, plain and simple.
I am not the first person she has tried to intimidate or threaten, of that I am sure.
The employee was trying to upgrade the membership – something that is expected of most employees – and when it wasn’t working out, she became pushy due to embarrassment, frustration or lack of coping skills.
Whatever the case, she should have known better. Things didn’t need to end that way.
Based on our past experiences with Costco, the employee in the story won’t last long as she really doesn’t represent them well.
It was a hiring mistake that wasn’t fixed fast enough.
Costco didn’t become a retail juggernaut by allowing substandard employees to jeopardize relationships with their customers.
They’re just too good for that.
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