I can’t even remember how far back I’ve been a Costco member, but it’s been a while. Not so long ago that dinosaurs roamed the aisles back when I first signed on, but it was called Price Club way back then and “Jurassic Park” hadn’t even been written yet. Anyway, I’ve been a loving and loyal Costco’er year in and year out since, paying my annual membership fee without hesitation because I know I’ll make that back alone on the amount I’ll save on the metric tonnage of cat litter I purchase.
But lately it seems the company is attempting to shake my level of dedication. Specifically on the last few visits I’ve been hit up in the qeueing area and checkout line by some clipboarded frontline employee who wants to upgrade my basic membership to the “executive” level, thus upping the yearly ding from $50 to a $100. It’s like having a face-to-face intrusion with a telemarketer and each time it’s happened I’ve done my best to politely decline the opportunity to double my membership fee. If that doesn’t stop them, I hold up a hand and express an entire lack of interest in whatever additional benefits I might derive from doing so. That usually does the trick. But still, it’s getting to the point where I dread getting in line to pay.
Especially in the wake of yesterday’s visit, the one in which I had a lost dog I’d found either patiently and obediently waiting for me or in the cab of my truck, or in the midst of destroying it trying to escape. No, this time was radically different. Clearly the order had been passed down to the troops on the ground to downshift into a buy-or-die battlemode and hard-sell upgrades at all costs because the unrelenting accosting I experienced was truly remarkable.
It all began with the cashier’s eyes not at all subtly going wide at my basic level membership card followed by an even more deliberate nod to what I can only categorize as a bullpen of several clipboard-bearing employees waiting beyond the registers. A
poor sap young man among them was dispatched immediately and beelined it toward me. I felt as if I’d been triangulated by predators.
Him: Excuse me, sir, I’d like to talk to you about your membership.
Me: Thank you, but I’m not interested.
Him: Do you know about the executive level?
Me: Absolutely I’ve been told about it too many times. And every time I say no.
I catch the cashier making a flagrant “Yikes!” face. The sublety gene is just not at all in her DNA.
Him:: Uh well…
Me: And unless you’re making the upgrade free for life then the answers still no.
Him (chuckling): But you should really consider –.
Me: No. What Costco should consider is quitting all this harassment. I’ve been asked to consider upgrading practically every time I’ve been in here the last few months, and my answer is always the same. And frankly, I’m beyond getting tired of being bothered. So what number do I press to be placed on the Do Not Bother Me list.
Someone an aisle over snorts.
Him (a little too adamant now): But right now you’re getting nothing at your current level.
I let that hang in the air for a moment.
Me: What did you just say?
Him: You’re getting noth –.
Me: Nothing? You’re telling me that all these years I’ve been paying my annual fee and shopping here and you’re telling me it’s just been one big rip off? Does the company actually encourage you to tell customers that line?
Him: Well… uh…
Me (turning to the cashier): If so I want to cancel my membership effective immediately and get refunded the unused portion of this year’s fee.
Dropping my bunch of bananas she was holding the cashier goes speechless with eyes even wider and face more yikes-ey.
Me (motioning to my cart): And you all can just go ahead and put all this stuff back where I got it.
Him: No — hey! What!?
Me: You just told me my current membership is a waste.
Him: That’s not what I meant!
Me: Then you tell me exactly how I should interpret “right now you’re getting nothing at your current level.”
And here’s where he whipped out some sort of handheld electric contraption from a holster In the next moment he’s swiped my card and I believe a bit of relief softens his previously panicked expression.
Him: Now this is what I’m saying. See how much you’ve spent this year?
He turns the digital read-out so that I can view the amount shown. Then he points to a much smaller number on the screen.
Him: That’s how much you’re rebate would be at the end of the year! Right now you’re getting zero. Upgrading would pay for itself.
Which, while being an excellent selling point, was in no way going to budge me. So I pulled the rug out from under him.
Me: Wait a minute! Who authorized you to access that information?
Him: Wha –?
Me (knowing damn well he hadn’t done anything wrong): I didn’t give you permission to do that! What else can you find out about me on that thing!
Him: Uh –!
Me: That’s privileged information! A violation of my privacy! Medic!
The cashier shook her head and whistled. Dejected, the guy still wouldn’t quite let go.
Him (with head dropped): If you upgrade today it would only be $50…
Shaking my head he finally turned and headed back for the bullpen where he was intercepted by a semi-commiserating assitant manager type who must have watched the whole thing backfire and gave me a stern look for being such an unsellable meanie. Ignoring that I turned to the cashier who I found looking down at the bunch of bananas still sitting on the counter in front of her and then up at me. I nodded and she sighed too loudly as she resumed ringing up my stuff.