Costco receives high marks from consumer advocate

Retailer lauded for treatment of employees

AP file
Costco is a favorite of consumer advocate Clark Howard
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At first glance Costco looks just like any other warehouse store.

"This stores is a good place for someone who would normally go to a high-end store but would also like to save on costs." -- Clark Howard, host os consumer-advocate radio show  Associated Press
Associated Press
"This stores is a good place for someone who would normally go to a high-end store but would also like to save on costs." -- Clark Howard, host os consumer-advocate radio show

A vast expanse of concrete floor underlies a bare-bones retail space where member shoppers purchase groceries, linens, soap, electronics and other department store items in large quantities at deep discounts.

But shoppers will soon notice a difference, predicts Clark Howard, host of Atlanta's popular consumer-advocate radio program, The Clark Howard Show .

"The quality of the merchandise is much higher, and Costco attracts a higher-end consumer as a result," Howard said. "Their stores are also much, much, much cleaner."

Costco will open its first store in Augusta at the Village at Riverwatch, the MGHerring Group and city of Augusta announced Thursday.

The mega-retailer operates 573 warehouses worldwide, mostly in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, according to the company Web site. It charges a basic annual membership fee of $50.

When told of the news, Howard said he was excited for Augusta.

A Consumer Reports reader survey in July rated Costco as No. 1 out of the 11 most popular retail stores in America. The survey's 30,666 readers gave the store excellent or above-average marks across the board for its merchandise, value and prices, although they gave lower-than-average marks for its checkout wait time.

The typical Costco allocates about 30 percent of its space for groceries, 30 percent for linens and housewares, Howard said. The remaining 40 percent is a mix of items Howard calls "the treasure hunt."

Goodies include state-of-the-art electronics, high-end computer equipment and designer clothing. Howard and his wife recently saw a $148,000 diamond ring at their local Costco.

"This store is a good place for someone who would normally go to a high-end store, but would also like to save on costs," Howard said.

One way Costco keeps quality up and prices down is a policy that says no item can be marked up by more than 14 percent, he said.

Costco is just as generous to its workers as it is to its customers, says Steven Greenhouse, a business columnist for The New York Times . In his book The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker , Greenhouse said a Costco employee earns $11.50 per hour to start. That amount jumps to $19.50 after 41/2 years.

"(Costco CEO Jim) Singal has made it clear that a huge retailer can pay its workers well and still thrive," Greenhouse wrote.

Costco's business concept is similar to that of other warehouse clubs. The difference lies in how well the company implements it, Howard said. Satisfied employees mean low turnover, less theft, and better service.

"Have you ever heard the expression, 'Never buy the horse, buy the jockey?' " he said. "It's not just the concept that matters, it's how you execute it. And Costco executes like nobody's business."

Reach Carole Hawkins at (706) 823-3341, or carole.hawkins@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (15) Add comment
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Emerydan
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Emerydan 10/29/10 - 02:12 am
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btw, the owners of Costco are

btw, the owners of Costco are among the largest donors to the Democratic Party, FYI.

rmwhitley
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rmwhitley 10/29/10 - 05:17 am
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That is fact. I'm
Unpublished

That is fact. I'm conservative, fiscally and politically, but if you have to buy anything and wish high quality, good pricing and good service, you have to spend your money somewhere. Sam's and B.J.'s are competitors and donate to liberal causes. Costco is head and shoulders above the competition.

Crabby Appleton
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Crabby Appleton 10/29/10 - 06:12 am
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I'll be buying at costco.

I'll be buying at costco. Sam's can go butt a stump. If it hadn't been for Sam's knowing Costco was coming they'd never have renovated their augusta store. I got news for them, the new store can't hold a candle to costco. Better products, better prices and better service. The meat and produce department is going to blow Augustans away who've never shopped Costco before...

HOOOORAAYYYYY

dwb619
103987
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dwb619 10/29/10 - 10:06 am
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What difference does it make

What difference does it make which party they donate to?

Riverman1
93447
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Riverman1 10/29/10 - 11:32 am
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I have no doubt it's a great

I have no doubt it's a great store and I admittedly will be shopping there. It's actually pretty close to Columbia County neighborhoods.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 10/29/10 - 12:03 pm
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well you know how

well you know how conservative Augustans are... just so you know, when you shop there, alot of your money is going to the campaigns of democrats.

Chillen
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Chillen 10/29/10 - 12:11 pm
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emerydan. Unfortunately many

emerydan. Unfortunately many companies donate to the dems. They donate so they can get more government goodies. We'd probably never go shopping if we knew the whole list. The funniest one ever is BP - who gave their biggest single contribution ever to obama. And they said only republicans were "in bed" with the oil companies.

The Fair Tax is the only way to keep this from happening - or at least cripple it.

dwb619
103987
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dwb619 10/29/10 - 12:29 pm
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I kind of like their CEO's

I kind of like their CEO's published income, combined with employee wages and full benefit package. Like Iaccoa said, everybody prospers.

Pickett
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Pickett 10/29/10 - 01:09 pm
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Unless they are giving $$ to

Unless they are giving $$ to a neo-nazi, communist, or terrorist organization, I will gladly give anyone my business. Then, again, I could make a case for the dems being closer to the communists. I won't do that today because that's just flat out mean and it's only business. Besides, Election Day will be tense enough as it is. It doesn't matter anyway. I'm a conservative Republican and I can tell you hands down that we will be the first in line when the doors open. One of the things I miss about living in the Atlanta area is Costco. Clark is right in that the Costco stores are much more cleaner and have a higher-end set of core products that they sell. Their photo developing alone is worth the $50 membership. If I'm not mistaken, they have (or had) a rebate program where if you spent a certain amount of money, you got your membership fee back. It's been a while and I may have the facts wrong, but I remember something along those lines. They had a tiered membership program, so I think it was one of the tiers that offered that.
I'm comparing them only with Sam's, however. I can't imaging B.J's is any better or we would have heard more about them. In any case, this is good news for Augusta and I can't wait for them to arrive. Hopefully some of the other stores originally planned for Village of Riverwatch, like Bass Pro, will follow suit.

rocketserve
282
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rocketserve 10/29/10 - 02:26 pm
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Truth be told, most large
Unpublished

Truth be told, most large companies and corporations contribute to BOTH parties...This is to ensure that whoever is in office may be sympathetic to their needs or issues. In my opinion, if you base your shopping habits on political parties, then you really have too much time on your hands to research your shopping habits.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 10/29/10 - 02:58 pm
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actually, Costco contributes

actually, Costco contributes pretty much just to Democrats and liberal causes. The owners of Costco were among the top contributors to the presidential campaigns of Obama and John Kerry

Chillen
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Chillen 10/29/10 - 03:42 pm
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I wonder, is Costco

I wonder, is Costco unionized? That may explain why emerydan.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 10/29/10 - 04:06 pm
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costco is very pro union..

costco is very pro union.. they are kind of the anti-Wal-Mart

dwb619
103987
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dwb619 10/29/10 - 04:18 pm
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In reality most of their

In reality most of their stores are non-union. However, these stores operate under year to year contracts spelling out wages and fringe benefits, as the union represented stores do.

TeamLoser
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TeamLoser 10/29/10 - 09:44 pm
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Maybe they will have those

Maybe they will have those big frozen pretzels, Sams here doesnt carry them anymore.

anonymous123
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anonymous123 05/13/11 - 09:25 pm
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Emerydan - Costco is actually

Emerydan - Costco is actually non-union (the only real union buildings are left over from the Price Club merger). To say the owners are Pro-Democrat is also untrue (they are a publically traded company and have share holders). The CEO Jim Sinegal may be, but he also pays his employees the best wage in the industry and offers some of the best benefit packages to his employees, offers support to good causes... so is it really a surprise that he leans towards being a Democratic supporter (the working class party)? Does that mean he doesn't run a good company? Does it mean the company doesn't offer a good value to the community in which they operate? Hire people from that community and pay them a fair wage? It almost sounds like Emerydan is a Pro-Walmarter (poor wages, cheap (quality) products) and thinks Big Business should keep the rich rich and step on the back of workers to get ahead. I'm pretty sure that MOST of my money spent is not going to the Democrats, but to offer me a great place to shop for the products I want, at a great price. I will be signing up as soon as I can (I miss shopping at Costco). I can say from experience that Costco has top quality products and the stores are much cleaner than Sam's (and much much cleaner than any BJ's). I hope they open soon. Oh yea DWB is mostly right (I think the contracts are every 2 years according to a friend of mine).

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