Bob Bestler | Costco has it all figured out

May 30, 2014 

Bob Bestler, The Sun News columnist

A few years ago, Jay Leno told a joke about Costco that I’ve always liked. It went something like this:

“I see Costco is going to start selling coffins. I’m not sure how well that’s gonna go over. They’re selling them in packages of six.”

Well, selling stuff in packages of two or four or six is the Costco way and I don’t mind admitting that my family is a firmly entrenched Costco family.

I seldom enter Myrtle Beach, for golf or otherwise, without stopping at Costco to get one thing or another, from jars of olives for my martinis to boxes of Keurig coffee or a heavily discounted best-selling book.

There’s dozens of reasons to like Costco and the other day the Huffington Post offered one more.

Unlike many companies, Costco tries to pay its employees a living wage and offers workers company-sponsored health insurance.

In a job satisfaction survey by the job site Glassdoor, Costco ranked second only to Google in employee satisfaction, ahead of such multi-billion-dollar high-tech giants as Facebook, Monsanto and Verizon.

Costco CEO Craig Jelineck supports legislation raising the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $10.10, but notes that Costco stores already have a starting wage of $11.50 an hour.

“I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits,” Jelineck said. “It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country.”

I know American businesses argue that any raise in the minimum wage will mean multiple layoffs, but the Costco story doesn’t support that claim.

It especially doesn’t support it when the Costco experience is placed alongside its main competitor, Sam’s Club.

Glassdoor pointed out, for instance, that Costco cashiers, on average, make $15.20 an hour, as compared to Wal-Mart-owned Sam’s Club, where cashiers average $9.37 an hour.

Yet it was Sam’s Club that reported a 0.5 percent drop in first quarter sales while Costco reported $457 million in first-quarter profits. And it was Sam’s Club that laid off 2,300 employees in January amid drooping sales.

Comparative figures such as these make it difficult to argue that higher wages equal mass layoffs and ruin. Costco obviously is doing some things very right and very smart – and keeping its employees happy is high among them.

Contact BOB BESTLER at bestler6@tds.net.

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