Is Costco above its customers?
The rule of thumb in marketing is if you want to succeed in business, you should listen to your customers, reflect their opinions in your products and services, and make your business as customer-friendly as possible.
It is more true in the business-to-consumer (B2C) sector. We do not even have to go to a business school to learn this as it is common sense. But there is one U.S. firm that seemingly thinks it is an exception to this simple business principle.
Costco Wholesale Korea, the Korean unit of the U.S. outfit, has turned a deaf ear to growing consumer complaints about its ``customer-unfriendly’’ payment policy that requires members to pay for purchases with either cash or credit cards issued only by Samsung Card. This is in contrast with other membership warehouse clubs and retail outlets.
This exclusive business partnership with the card unit of the country’s largest conglomerate has angered many customers who do not hold Samsung cards.
But Costco has no intention of abandoning its payment policy due to benefits from lower transaction fees. The warehouse membership club pays Samsung only 0.7 percent commission while its competitors pay card issuers about 1.5 percent.
This is at the expense of shoppers because they cannot use other credit cards that offer more cashback schemes and other benefits.
It seems that regardless of Costco’s customer policies, members will spend big bucks there anyway. Customers are willing to wait in long lines to park their car, to maneuver their cart among the crowds and stand in line again to pay for their items at any of Costco’s seven outlets across the country.
This is because Costco offers a variety of merchandise which E-Mart and other retailers do not sell and at lower prices.
But how long will this last?
It took years for Costco to gradually earn such a presence in the local market but consumers could easily flock to the next venture that offers similar types of foreign products at discount prices.
This reporter would like to also point out some problems in Costco Wholesale Korea’s dealings with media inquiries. The public relations department is actually unable to relate to the public.
Despite repeated calls for comments on its Samsung-only card policy, the company refused to explain why it maintains the exclusive partnership with Samsung and only said it did not want to discuss the subject.
A company spokesman whom this reporter will only call by his surname, Park, even hung upon after shouting ``no comment.’’ It seems Costco hopes the controversy over its payment policy will soon die down.
But members want to know the reasons behind why only Samsung and whether it will ever be more customer-friendly regarding payment policy. Remember, the customer is king.