Friday, October 3, 2008

Costco The Best Retailer By Far...

Many that have been reading my blog have discovered that there are some companies I really love and some, well, I don't.

We all know that Costco is one of my favorite retailers because of their wonderful warranty and return policies on all the products they sell. Often, I think they are too liberal and I have seen a number of situations that have really irked me. Once I saw a woman return a dead bunch of cut flowers and receive a refund. Recently I saw a customer return a dead tomato plant in September that she had in a flower pot and enjoyed during the summer growing season.

I actually witnessed this abuse of their return policy and just couldn't stop myself from opening my big mouth. I know many of the people that work at Costco in Hazlet, New Jersey where I live because they have been there for so many years, this tells you something too, doesn't it. Costco and Home Depot are my two favorite stores, hey I am a guy where else would I shop?

For this reason, I just couldn't stand there and let this person abuse one of my favorite stores. After watching this return take place I decided to step in and say something. Hey, Costco employees can't say a thing even though it must kill them when they have to abide by the rules and take the return without question. They have to be nice to all of their customers, but I don't.

When my buddy John, the sales associate, came over, I decided enough is enough. In a some what loud voice, standing right behind the woman making the return, I asked John if I too, could return my dead plants. I continued that I didn't realize that the Costco policy would allow a return on a dead tomato plant at the end of the growing season. John gave me a wry smile, he knew me well and knew what I was doing.

The woman who was making the return and knew she was trying to pull a fast one on them, turned around and told me to mind my own business. Of course she was talking to the wrong guy...I never back down from people like this, I said, well, if you can purchase a seasonal plant and return it at the end of the season and get your money back, then I suppose I should be doing the same thing too.

I assume I got my message across and even if Costco didn't give her a hard time, she will think a bit more before pulling another one of her scams against my favorite least I would hope so.

Frankly, it thought it WAS my business to say something...for two reasons. I have been a Costco shopper for many years and over those years have been a Costco stock holder, so I feel an attachment to this company and its employees. I don't want them to have to change their policies as many companies do because of too much abuse. I must assume they have the cost of these returns factored into their prices and they must have a relationship with their vendors to expect a certain percentage of returns too. I also know that this really does bother some of their employees, but because they have been trained to deal with customers a certain way, they can't say anything negative for fear of antagonizing a customer.

I also realize that on some items they may not have the lowest prices in town. Maybe that higher price helps them maintain a profitable business, even with what has to be the high costs of running their exceptional return policy and offering world class customer service.

I have purchased cameras and many electronic items at Costco and paid a bit more for some then I might if I bought on the internet or from the cheapest dealer I could find, but frankly, it is worth the extra money to buy it here. You can't purchase a camera anywhere, try it out for a month or two and then find it is not what you expected and return it. Many stores and internet dealers will charge you a restocking fee, refuse the return entirely or in the case of an online retailer, will make you pay for the shipping both ways...Costco online lets you make your return to any one of their stores and even refunds the shipping costs you paid when you ordered the item...Who Does This? No one I know....

Let me give you a real example of this benefit, so you can understand why I prefer to buy as much as I can at Costco...Go and purchase a $1,000 camera or computer at a Best Buy or an online retailer and attempt to return it. Not only would they give you a hard time if it wasn't in pristine condition with everything in place as if it were never opened, but they might hit you for a $150 restocking fee (15% seems to be the norm) if they will take it back at all. If it was bought online, you can figure another $30 or more, for the back and forth shipping costs too. So if I paid a $100 more for that camera at Costco then the cheapest retailer I could find, I might ask myself, is it really worth the small savings buying elsewhere?

To me the answer is NO. I would rather pay a bit more (on some items) and buy it at Costco. I feel that the small extra cost is the cost of my insurance that will enable me to evaluate the product to make sure I will be happy with my purchase. How many stores ask you to take their optional insurance on a product and charge you another 10% or more for Costco it is free and in most cases goes way beyond the normal manufacturers warranty period.

Here is another example of their wonderful return policies.

I had a power washer that I bought last summer 2007, used it possibly 4-5 times for maybe 5 hours of total use. This year, when I attempted to use it again, it just wouldn't work. I brought it back to Costco, and they refunded my full purchase price, no hassle, no problems. Any other store might have told me to contact the manufacturer and deal with them. In many cases that might involve shipping this heavy unit back to them at my cost or dealing with their parts department and trying to do the repair myself.

On a side note...Home Depot is pretty good as well on returns and customer satisfaction. I especially like the fact that I don't have to find my receipt to make a return. They can do a look up taking my credit card (that I used to charge the item on) to determine when I bought it and the purchase price.

Imagine what our world would be like if every company followed Costco's lead? If they did...Would they all go out of business? Would the world come to an end? Or would manufacturers simply have to make a better product to live up to their claims?

If we bought a product and it delivered what the manufacturer promised we wouldn't have to return them, thus saving the company money on repairs or replacements. We would be happier to buy that brand again, because we would get what we expected. The manufacturer of course would be rewarded by increased sales from a strong and loyal customer base.

Not everything you buy should be dictated by price alone. There are a number of companies I have found that believe in the same philosophy as Costco. Please go to my two posts in this blog, one on Grohe and the other on Levolor to see two such manufacturers. I can think of some others too, Lexus, Apple (computer) and USAA (United Services Automobile Association),
These are three other companies that I rate 5 stars out of 5 in producing products and services that are second to none.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention some of the people that have given me the exceptional service and now friendship at Costco, Hazlet, NJ. I truly feel we have become friends over the years. Frankly, I see these people more then I do my own family.

A Big Thank You Goes Out To These Hazlet, NJ Costco Employees

My friend Geri, John, Becky, Karen, Pam, Ann in marketing, Amanda, Tracy in Tires, Debbie the manager and so many others that I can't come up with their names right now. I promise to expand this list the next time I am there and will write their names down. After all at 65, I find it hard to remember where I put just about anything, so names are always a challenge :-)

It is all of you and the Costco policies, great products, value and guarantee, that have prompted me to not only acknowledge your hard work and your exceptional devotion to customer care, in this blog, but because you are all the products of the vision of your co-founder and CEO, Jim Sinegal.

Please take a moment to read more about this remarkable man (center, shirt open) and how he differs from many of the greedy corporate executives we have learned to loathe at this link. I am a true believer that people like Jim and their strong commitment to their employees and customers have made Costco the largest and best retailer in the country.

Thank you Jim, for passing your passion and great work ethics to all of the good people that work for you. Keep up the good work and try to teach some of the other CEO's and politicians how they too can become winners for both their companies and for their country.

By the way, doing a search for the Costco Logo art you see here, I found a site that shows that Costco rated number one in customer service...doesn't surprise me, I knew this already.


  1. Great post! I couldn't agree more with your comments about the return policy. I love that they will take stuff back without a question or a bunch of attitude. I also try not to abuse it because I don't want them to have to change it.

    If you want to read how much I love Costco, check out my blog:

  2. Kim;

    I thought I was a fan of Costco, but you sure have me beat by a mile. Bravo to you and your blog, keep up the good work.



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