Of Costco and Shoehenge

My best friend Frannie’s cat, Shu Shu, has been ailing. So, I set out to do something to honor her life. I found it at Costco—15 pairs of “Shoes Shoes!” OK, so the first part is BS—except that I decided to pay homage to her after the buying spree with the shoes stacked in a pyramid. I then nicknamed the display Shoehenge—even though it looks nothing like Stonehenge. Then, I showed it to Frannie and others.

Looking at my bounty, friends asked—more or less politely—why 15 pairs of shoes? (This inquiry went along with questions about my sanity, again worded relatively nicely.) Well, I started out buying three pair of Speedo boat shoes that I liked for $20 each. I was done, or so I thought, until turning the corner and seeing a large display of really cool Skecher shoes I’d bought two months earlier for $30—and hadn’t been able to locate recently on Amazon, at Costco, or anywhere else.

Figuring they were long gone, I was—to put it mildly—joyous to see them again adorning the shelves at the closeout price of $10 each. So, I pretty much bought everything that would fit—a total of 15 pairs of shoes for $180, and I’m set for years…and years…and years.

If it had been anywhere but Costco, I don’t know what I would have done. First off, Costco’s customer service policy makes it easy to buy anything—knowing that you can return it more or less without restriction. While I generally don’t exercise that right, it just makes me comfortable to get anything, even computers that have a 90-day return policy.

Despite all the newer customer service policies designed to keep customers happy, Costco still gets the trophy for brick-and-mortar stores; and I’ll put their online offerings right up alongside Amazon, which gets my co-vote for online retail customer service.

Costco and Amazon obviously are successful companies—especially when contrasted against some struggling retailers. Given their success, why wouldn’t everyone follow the leader to boost their own revenues?

Because they’re shortsighted. A Costco rep once pointed out that the percentage of people abusing the return policy paled in comparison to the expenditures. I still use the rationale, “Look at all the money I saved by spending all my money at Costco!”

“It’s twue…it’s twue!” I add, recalling Madeline Kahn’s iconic line in “Blazing Saddles.”

Speaking of lines, the bottom line of the Costco (and seemingly Amazon) customer service policies is paying off handsomely while many competitors struggle to stay profitably in the mix.

It’s so simple. It’s so elegantly simple: Take care of your people, and they will return the favor. Why are so many companies unable or unwilling to jump on this stellar customer-care bandwagon?

Time for the rest of the retail world to wake up, or many purveyors will wind up themselves in a state of permanent sleep.

Unlike Shu Shu, who has rallied and well may have several lives left to enjoy!

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Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience. AKA The Happy Curmudgeon, Mark is the owner of a 34-year-old, Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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