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Costco makes its mea culpa

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It is no coincidence that so many Costco customers in Quebec have had an unpleasant experience over the past few days. The company has gained popularity for automatic membership renewal. But “some employees have gone too far,” Costco admits while apologizing.


I was drinking my second coffee when the phone rang. The name of one of Costco’s top bosses popped up on the screen. It was Marc-André Bally, senior vice president of warehouses in Canada Eastern.

Would I finally understand what could motivate Costco to use tactics that risked tarnishing its enviable reputation?

No doubt the manager wanted to tell me about this column in which I told how the employees at the checkouts force customers to contact customer service under the guise of a problem with their card. In fact, it’s a way to encourage auto-renewal membership or an upgrade to an “executive” card.

In the end, Marc-André Bally agreed that the company “may have pushed a little too hard”.

“We apologize if some of our members have taken offense and believe dishonest methods have been used. We are sorry. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you are cheating,” he told me before adding that he saw my text as a great opportunity to improve. “We don’t want to sell under pressure. »


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Marc-André Bally, senior vice president, Canadian Eastern Warehouses

The hundreds of distraught customers who expressed themselves on the Costco Addicts Facebook group or who took the time to write me an email sharing their experience were right to react. The attitude of the employees was very unusual.

Last week, Costco launched a “program” to increase its options. His computer system identified customers who needed to be seen by customer service. This happens a couple of times a year.

But this time it didn’t take long for the clientele to react badly.

“We heard the customers’ comments and corrected the situation mid-week,” says Marc-André Bally. The “program” concluded on Sunday (November 20). And next time things will be different, he promises. “This is not the approach we wanted to have. »

I didn’t know why employees had shown such intensity in the four corners of Quebec. But clearly, the management’s message was the same everywhere, from Saint-Jérôme to Lévis via Anjou.

Like other readers, Jean-Guy and Simon suspect employees get a bonus every time a new card is sold. Not true, Costco swears. No one receives commissions or financial benefits when a client accepts a proposal.

Nor is it true that automatic renewal will soon be mandatory. Yet this is what Magaly was told – as it was to so many others. “At the counter, the girl asked for my credit card for automatic renewal. I told her I didn’t want to and she told me it was mandatory, and that I could take it off after two months… I didn’t wait two months to do it. »

Costco allows its members the freedom to choose, but this option is offered because “it makes life easier for members,” explains Marc-André Bally. Furthermore, he assures that Costco does not check this option in the file of its customers who hold the CIBC credit card without their authorization, contrary to what they claim to have experienced.

With social networks, companies using dubious strategies risk being exposed at any moment. And suffer the consequences. Costco, which enjoys a high love rating, hasn’t escaped this either.

“I thought I was the only one this happened to!” Sherbrooke Costco… super arrogant person. I will file a complaint, now that I’m not alone,” Richard wrote to me.

Any dissatisfaction can be submitted via an online complaint form. These comments are “religiously read every morning” by leaders who often call dissatisfied members. Marc-André Bally himself contacts some of them every week.

If so, you may see the Costco name on your phone as well.

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