- Membership: We will refund your membership fee in full at any time if you are dissatisfied.
- Merchandise: We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell, with a full refund.
- Merchandise Exceptions: Televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD/MP3 players and cellular phones must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a refund.
I actually had to re-read these a few times to really appreciate what they were saying. The fact is, this is a most impressive customer service policy. The exceptions seem totally reasonable, and the rest of the policy is incredibly broad. You're telling me that I can buy a 30lb bag of rice, or $30.00 worth Salmon steaks, and I can trivially return them if I'm not satisfied?
The membership policy too couldn't be any stronger too. Way to go guys.
I had two takes-aways from this observation:
First, someone at Costco corporate really gets it. This policy is on par with customer service greats like REI and Trader Joe's. They have obviously done the math and realized that a happy customer is way more valuable than the cost of any products in their store. That's great.
Second, it's not nearly enough. While their policy is great, there's clearly a gap between that and my actual experience and perception of Costco. Even the cold and industrial way the policy is displayed makes it look more like a negative warning than a positive statement. I actually follow a terrific blog, Exerienceology, which is more or less devoted to understanding how gaps like this develop in companies. She even covered a whole series of articles on Costco itself.
The folks at Costco get big time points for having a great policy. Now they just need to close that experience gap, and they'd really be kicking butt.
Update: Paul had a terrific comment worth mentioning here:
Actually, the warehouse feel is part of the branding. It actually creates a feel of bargain hunting mirroring swap meet or flea market type settings. Also because of the no frills displays it lowers overhead on decorations and maintenance on all those extra signs and standees, etc. passing the savings on to the customer.
Excellent point. What's most surprising to me, then, is how their store is so bare bones, yet their return policy isn't. The return policy is all about going above and beyond, yet the store itself doesn't have that feeling to me. I guess the key question is, would it be a good thing for Costco members to have this sense? Perhaps the warehouse feeling is more valuable than the touchy-feely-Trader-Joe's feeling.