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Costco does its mea culpa

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It’s no coincidence that so many Costco customers in Quebec have had an unpleasant experience in recent days. The company blitzed the popularity of automatic membership renewal. But “some employees went too far,” admits Costco while apologizing.

I was drinking my second coffee when the phone rang. The name of a top Costco boss popped up on the screen. It was Marc-André Bally, senior vice-president responsible for warehouses in eastern Canada.

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

No doubt the manager wanted to talk to me about this column in which I told how employees at checkouts force customers to go to customer service on the pretext of a problem with their card. In fact, it’s a way to encourage auto-renewal enrollment or a switch to an “executive” card.

At the end of the line, Marc-André Bally agreed that the company “may have pushed a little too much”.

“We apologize if some of our members have been offended and believe that dishonest methods have been used. We apologize. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you are cheating”, he told me before adding that he saw in my text 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, Eastern Canada Warehouses

The hundreds of upset customers who expressed themselves on the Faceboook group Costco Addicts or who took the time to write me an email recounting their experience were right to react. The attitude of the employees was indeed unusual.

Last week, Costco ran a “program” to boost its options. Its computer system identified customers to be seen by customer service. This happens a few times a year.

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

“We got wind of customer comments and we adjusted the situation in the middle of the week,” says Marc-André Bally. The “program” concluded on Sunday (November 20). And next time things will be done differently, he promises. “This is not the approach we wanted to have. »

I didn’t know why the 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 that employees receive a bonus each time a new card is sold. Not true, Costco swears. No one gets any commission 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 – like many others – was told. “At the counter, the girl demanded my credit card for auto-renewal. I told her that I didn’t want to and she told me that it was mandatory, and that I could take it off after two months… I didn’t wait two months to do it. »

Costco leaves the freedom to its members to choose, but this option is offered because it “makes life easier for members”, explains Marc-André Bally. In addition, 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 some say they have experienced.

With social networks, companies that use dubious strategies risk being exposed at any time. And suffer the consequences. Even Costco, which enjoys a high love rating, has not escaped this.

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

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

If so, you might see the name Costco on your phone too.



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