Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Recession Must Be Over Because Costco Doesn't Want My Business

Yes, it's true. The Recession must be over. There is no other way to explain the negative customer service experience Marina and I had today. Now, you must understand that Marina and I love to shop at Costco. I go with her every other month or so and buy a few bulk items. I should also admit up front I am not a Costco member.

Today, we found that a new sheriff has come to Costco. We were on line when wonder of wonders, a new line opened. We were first. High fives all around. There was someone besides the clerk at the counter and he started unloading our things and we asked him to hold on because we needed to pay separately and he told us that was against the rules. We were shocked. Why was it against the rules? He told us that we weren't allowed to do two separate purchases . We explained that we'd been doing it this way for years, and he told us that it was a corporate edict - he insisted that I had to buy my own membership.

At that point we began to get a little freaked. So I said no, I wasn't interested in buying a membership that day. Now, Marina and I are not easily intimidated, but this guy was acting very aggressively and was, in fact, a little scary. Very quickly, I was ready to punt - two hours in the store wasted but I wasn't about to let a bully force me to buy a membership. I found myself thinking - heck I'll just get go to Smart and Final. Then he said, if you do it I'll give you a pizza. I told him I didn't want a pizza right then. Then he said he'd give Marina a pizza too. Were we on some surreal version of Let's Make a Deal? No one needs a $60 pizza. He finally left us alone with a warning that this was a strict new policy - no more using Marina's Costco card. I told him I wouldn't return and his basic response was that was fine with him.

So that's how I know the recession is over. Perhaps its not all Costco's fault. Perhaps we just got one manager who decided that forcing people to get memberships is his mission. I understand that all companies have policies - we discovered tonight online the Costco policy is that only cardholders can actually pay, but it hadn't been enforce in the past and customers are allowed to bring in guests. Too bad he didn't try being polite and suggesting that we just let Marina pay, I could simply have repaid her. Instead he tried intimidation, browbeating, and ultimately bribery to force a membership sale.

Now, Marina and I just love our Costco runs too much to give them up. However we have vowed not to return to that Costco, we will just have to satsify ourselves at one of the other Bay Area Costcos. I'm still not buying a membership, we're happy to follow the rules. In the future Marina will now pay and I'll pay her back and his store will lose our business. The moral of this story is you can enforce company policy without being threatening. You always should remember that customers do have other options.

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