The Dichotomy of Customer Service at Costco

On my way home from work, I sometimes fill up my tank at the Costco gas station in Mettawa, Illinois. It’s one of my usual gas stations even though it’s very busy and you see cars zip in and out. It’s clean, organized and you can always find a Costco associate around the pumps if you have any questions or issues. During my last visit, the one thing missing were window-cleaning supplies. Over the last few months, I’ve typically noticed the bucket and scrubber nearby but on this visit.


Indeed, curiosity got the best of me, I inquired. The associate reluctantly replied that corporate told them to take it down. Thinking back a bit, I vaguely remember hearing that earlier this year — the mandate was to remove the scrubber and bucket from the gas station. During this particular visit, I was more persistent and followed up with, “Why?”  The young attendant said, “It’s a volume thing. With the bucket and scrubber, when customers clean their windows, it cuts down on our volume.”  I know Costco is a publicly traded company and in business to make money but this policy from corporate doesn’t sound like Costco. I’ve been shopping at Costco for about 10 years and have never once felt pressured or hurried to make a purchase.


When was the last time you went to a self-service gas station without window cleaning supplies? I really have no idea who’s directly involved in this directive but I do know from a customer centric perspective, the absence of cleaning supplies  appears to devalue  their service – at least in the gas station area.



After getting gas, I later walk by the automotive section and notice the air pressure gauge – that got me thinking as I walked towards the store’s entrance. While in Costco, I asked 3 different Costco employees about the potential tire gauge service. It surprised me to hear neither of these Costco associates were able to produce the same store policy.


As I’m about to drive away, I see no one is parked in front of automobile section so I drove by and asked one of the automotive employees about this service and he politely checks my air pressure and adds the necessary pressure accordingly. No fee, no hassle, no volume approach here. Interesting.


Within 30 minutes of this visit, I see the best and worst of Costco. On the one hand, the gas station is strictly volume – apparently corporate does not want to encourage customers taking too much time as they fill their cars. On the other hand, what a nice touch in the automotive section – where the technician checked my tires and filled them to the required PSI. He also answered a few of my questions about their automotive service. Interesting dichotomy.


Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.

3 Responses

  1. 07/24/2012


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