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July 15, 2008

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Shopper

My Costco experience is much different. I regularly see employees throughout the floor. When asked a question, they know the answer or can quickly find it out (most carry a small radio). Additionally they know the "store" not just the "area" they are working. Much different from the often surly and ignorant (relative to the store's merchandise) Walmart staff.

There are other factors than just employee compensation that play into profit margin. Walmart does what it does very well, but they have made the decision to be the bottom feeder of retail. It's a niche as well.

I do shop both stores. However, I have a separate set of expectations for each.

Violetta

My experience has been different also. I have seen staff in Wal-Mart abused and demeaned right in front of customers. I find the Wal-Mart closest to me hires a very low-level of employee who probably shouldn't be working in customer service. The worst I ever saw, though, was Home Depot when Nardone was at the top. The employees were dehumanized and they were all so unhappy during that period. It appears to be different there now, but it could be the economy too. Would a universal health plan change any of this? Would a universal health plan make some employees decide they don't need to work for the man to get healthcare for their families?

KD

Shopper and Violetta -

Thanks for stopping by. I have a better experience at CostCo as well, mainly because it's not as cluttered. Can't say that I've ever seen anyone on the floor roaming to help though, and it's related to the staffing metrics I shared in the update. 1/3 less people than Sam's, I'm sure it's 1/2 the people of a normal super Wal-Mart.

Not a bad way to run a business, but limited service on the floor is built into their staffing model...

Thanks - KD

Ellie J

I've never been to Costco, but I shop WalMart all the time. I've always found there to be plenty of staff, and they are invariably polite and helpful, even friendly. I've had worse service at any other department store I've ever been in. Sure would like to know why, if WalMart staff are so taken advantage of. Maybe it's the local manager, but around here, WalMart employees are terrific!

Michael

I think it is only fair to compare apples to apples, thus the comparison between Costco and Sams Club is a valid one, whereas a comparison between Costco and Walmart is not. Your update is noted.

My wife and I have been customers of both Sams and Costco for over 15 years. We still maintain memberships with both wholesalers, even though we prefer Costco, simply because there are items we buy on a regular basis from Sam's that Costco does not carry.

Your comments about the scarcity of Costco employees are not correct in my experience. Every time I walk into a Costco store, I'm greeted at the door by an employee (who hits the little handheld clicker to count me in the day's customer tally), to whom I show my membership card. Immediately to the left of the entrance of our store is a counter, typically staffed by four employees, who handle memberships, returns, and general questions. Immediately to my right is the photo department, also staffed by employees. Just to their right is the optical department, also staffed by Costco employees. Across the store from the entrance is the pharmacy, you guessed it, also staffed by employees. On my way to the rear of the store, it is not unusual to pass at least one Costco employee on the floor. At the back of the store, the bakery, meat department, and deli are all staffed by Costco employees. Any one of these employees is available to answer your questions, regardless of the subject. My experience has been that, if they don't know the answer, they'll find somebody who does.

I know a few people who work for Costco, and they tell me that the importance of Member satisfaction is continually stressed by management. This is why I suspect it doesn't matter who you ask if you have a question -- they'll do what they can to find an answer for you, or get you the assistance you need.

Unlike your experience at the checkout, I'm always greeted by the checker, often by name. Regarding the check-out security process, this just makes good sense to keep their costs down. But Costco does not go to the same extent Sam's does. At Sam's it is policy to transfer everything in ones cart to another cart -- to insure nothing is missed -- but I can't help but feel sorry for the checker sometimes. Last time I was at Sam's, the checker had to transfer a 50lb bag of dogfood, a 38lb bucket of cat litter, and a 44lb bundle of charcoal brickettes. Those were the only items in the cart. I wouldn't want to have to arm-wrestle her. :)

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