Friday, January 22, 2010

My Common Law Marriage to Costco

No question that Costco has great prices. As a result, I just guess that it must be deeply embedded in their corporate culture that they do not have to give their customers any reasonable level of service. After all, "they" want price, they got price. Notice I use the word "they" instead of "customer", because I believe that the word "customer" has a much wider definition than simply the selling price and the word "they" connotes a group much lower on the service priority scale.

I notice in Consumer Reports that whenever I see Costco in the group of rated suppliers, they are very high in saving some money and hover around dead last in service. Was it Marshall or Field who advocated that the customer is always right? And, perhaps another way was cited by some French dude that the customer is never wrong. Anyone listening?

Costco had some products I kind of liked like Crystal Geyser soda water, Hebrew National Hot Dogs (now owned by Con Agra - my god, what is this world coming to), Black Forest Ham, Carnegie Deli Pastrami to mention a few. After buying these products, Costco (they) decides to have these items mysteriously disappear from the shelves. A totally unilateral decision. I wrote a number of times to their suggestion box but they don't answer "them" -at least not mine.

Costco loves to handle a major brand, get some good sales for the product type and then package it under their own Kirkland brand. I'm not saying "bait and switch" am I? The idea here looks like it is just a way to keep price down as some believe that the store brand does not have to carry the financial burden of the major brand's advertising budget. This may be true, if the Kirkland brand was a real equal replacement to that favorite national brand. However this is where it gets scary to me. Costco can now change who makes the product so they can shop the world. You might think it was just a name change and you might very well be wrong.

Additionally, some brands just disappear, such as just about every brand of washing machine detergent except Tide. I bought a Kirkland hard milled white soap. I think it is called French milled, and now they sell soap with tons of lotion mixed in so I'm sure does not last as long. Again, I asked about it, and I assume my heirs will have to wait for an answer.

The word "wholesale" is probably the war cry for packaging in sizes that border on giving me a hernia just to lift it into my shopping cart. I buy 52 razors at a time and they don't carry any other throw away razors anymore other than Gillette. I suppose a two year supply is not so bad to save a few bucks. I really can't buy butter there because 4 or 5 pounds is just too invasive to my waistline.

And then I know that most Supermarkets move things around so you need to hunt and the more you walk, the more you spontaneously buy. In marketing parlance, I believe it is "impulse buying" I have not done a real analysis, but I think Costco does this with a zeal not readily found elsewhere. You see, I don't really know if it is in another location or did it disappear.

Bottom line, I do like to save money, so I wait on line, buy big packages, and grunt under my breath. But there are many many items I no longer buy just because the packaging size is meant for true wholesalers or the Octa-Mom.

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