executive impact

Costco reshapes wholesale industry

97 Comments
By Chris Betros

In 1999, when U.S. wholesaler opened its first warehouse in Japan in Hisayama (Fukuoka), many Japanese people thought the concept wouldn’t work in Japan. They were wrong. Today, the wholesaling giant has more than 2 million members in Japan, and is operating in 9 locations – Hisayama, Makuhari (Chiba), Tamasakai (Machida), Amagasaki (Hyogo), Kanazawa Seaside (Kanagawa), Kawasaki, Sapporo (Sapporo) and two in Saitama (Iruma and Shinmisato), as well as a depot in Ichikawa.

Three more are planned to open this year and the company is looking even further ahead for land and has targeted key markets for expansion such as the Tokyo Bay area, western Tokyo, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Sendai, Shizuoka, Kita-Kyushu and many others.

Worldwide, Costco currently operates 582 warehouses, including 425 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 80 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 22 in the United Kingdom, 9 in Japan, 7 in Korea, 6 in Taiwan and 1 in Australia.

Heading the Japan operations is Representative Director and Country Manager Ken Theriault. Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, Theriault has been in the retail business since he was 15 years old. After working with a supermarket chain in Canada, he went into a private supermarket distribution business before joining warehouse store operator Price Club, which joined with Costco in 1995.

Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Theriault in his offices above the Kawasaki warehouse to hear more.

When did you first come to Japan?

That was in 1998. The CEO asked me if I would open Costcos in Japan. I was here until 2006 in charge of operations. After that, I went back to Canada for 3 years and returned to Japan as country manager in June 2009.

How was 2010?

It was a good year and a challenging one. We were able to find a lot more sites to build more warehouses. Our membership has increased substantially and we now have well over 2 million card holders in Japan.

Does the recession affect your business?

I think we have coped well because we focus totally on top brands and value and that applies to the nearly 4,000 items we carry. No matter what the economic state, people want value.

How do market Costco?

We don’t advertise because it becomes an overhead cost. We want to keep our margins low. So we rely on word of mouth. Every day our members come in and see the excitement of how we operate, the range of items and value, and that in turn helps us build a strong membership base.

What is the appeal of Costco?

Our goal is to deal directly with suppliers. This gets us the best possible prices for our members and we can offer quality and value to small and middle-sized businesses. We want them to be able to come here and buy what they need. Our prices are very competitive, even more for imported items, such as our own Kirkland Signature products, for example. We don’t need fancy displays and extras. We just give the customers what they want. Our Gold Star members are also a very important part of our business model.

How much autonomy do you get from head office?

Our mission statement is the same worldwide, as are policies and procedures. Some products have to be modified due to the laws of the country that you are in. However, we are very much an independent buying team and buy from other Costcos and suppliers in at least 40 countries. We get together every four weeks and talk about what’s working, what the best-selling items are in each area and what isn’t selling so well.

What buying trends do you see among Japanese consumers?

At first, the average number of items per basket used to be light. But now it is more or less the same as in other countries. Japanese customers will come more often and buy a lot because there are many homes where the grandparents, parents and son and daughter-in-law still live together.

Some of our members come in and split the products between them. They turn a trip to Costco into a fun day out. Our food courts are amazing. You can get a hot dog and a coke for 200 yen or a huge pizza for 1,500 yen. You see people walk out with 10 pizzas for a party.

You must be constantly changing items.

We are. Every day the floor changes. Right now, we are getting ready for spring and summer with gardening items, outdoor furniture, patio sets, barbecues and so on. Toward the end of the year, Christmas items become a huge deal. Ten years ago, we didn’t sell many Christmas trees and decorations, but now we do.

What kind of memberships do you offer?

A Business Membership with an annual fee of 3,500 yen (3,675 yen with tax). Up to six additional cards can be issued for members. Then we have the Gold Star Membership card for individual consumers for 4,000 yen (4,200 yen with tax)

Do you deliver and can members shop online?

We do deliver but as of yet, you cannot shop online. This is always being discussed because many of our small and medium-sized business customers buy from us and sell online. In other countries, like Canada and the U.S., Costco does sell high-end items online as well as a large variety of items from electronics to flowers.

How do you get feedback from members?

Members can call in, they can use our website or fill out forms. The most common questions we get are why we don’t carry a particular item or why we discontinued selling something. It could be for many reasons -- the logistics of importing and ingredients change. Getting government approval for anything to do with health, skin and vitamins can sometimes take up to two years.

What are your expansion plans?

This year we will open three more in Kyoto Yawada, Maebashi and Zama in August. Another one is slated for November.

What do you look for in deciding on a location?

It has to be an outlying area where people can drive to. All our locations must have parking space for between 750 to about 1,100 cars. In terms of land area, we need 7,000-15,000 tsubo and the land should be in a semi-commercial and commercial zone. This has been challenging at times because over the years, the zoning laws have kept changing. It depends on the prefecture you’re in.

How do you spend your time?

I show up to the office between 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. I may answer some emails, and then start prepping for the day. We’ll have strategy and buyer meetings regularly. About 50% of my time is down on the floor. I like interacting with customers and staff.

What do you do on weekends?

Saturdays and Sundays I am often in the buildings. Afternoons, I love cycling in Tokyo.

Do you travel much?

I go back to HQ in the U.S. every four weeks. I always come back with a lot of good ideas after hearing the presentations from the various country managers.

Do you visit your competitors?

Yes, especially the big electronics stores. This business changes quickly and it is important to keep up with the latest trends.

How many staff do you have?

In this Kawasaki warehouse, about 155 in the office and 375 on the floor downstairs. Nationwide, we have approximately 3,600 employees at this moment.

Is Costco a popular company to work for?

Yes, I believe so. We pay above industry standards to start and from then, it is a progressive wage increase based on hours. We have a great benefit package. Promotions are based upon the ability to do the job requirements and all promotions are based upon our equal opportunity policy rather than seniority. We have a lot of female managers. They can go on maternity leave and we do our best to bring them back to the same position when they come back.

What do you see happening to the retail industry in Japan? Are small stores doomed?

No, I don’t think so. Look around the world. It is the small and medium-size businesses that keep the economy going. Japan has an overabundance of those. But what is happening in Japan is that as the older generation pass on, the son and daughters don’t want to take on the business and that’s why they are closing, not because of us. Among our members, we have a lot of small and medium-size businesses. When I talk to them, that’s the one thing I hear most often -- who will take over their business?

Meanwhile, there are a lot of new entrepreneurs starting new business everyday, for example online sales.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


97 Comments
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still waiting for you in Nagoya!!!

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Japanese ladies loooove CostCo.

Wanna succeed in business? Get the ladies on board.

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yes the part about a fun day is true. my wife gets together with 3 other neighbor wives and they go to Costco and but stuff and split it up. they spend 4-5 hours there eating etc. I LOVE the muffins and danishes!!!

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If you staff is payed above industry standard, why are they so damn stupid?

"No you can't take this cart" you have to go all the way back to 3rd floor and get one!

Nontheless, there should be more costcos at tokyo area or have existing onces open until later hours. too damn crowded on weekends.

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Japanese ladies loooove CostCo.

I hate the management inside the shops. It is very annoying how they check membership cards, receipts and annoy customers with their stupid orders. Everything inside concerning their rules is inconvenient for the customers, also I do not understand the useless membership fees. No, I do not like Costco, obviously I am not a Japanese lady who can put up with all the stupidity inside a Costco shop.

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First two years in Machida, no one, i.e. Japanese was there. Was great! Now even on weekdays it gets far too crowded. Almost too successful! But good for them! I have never really had a bad experience with their products, prices, or service. And who says American companies can't make it in Japan?

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They have a good reputation for treating their employees well(a living wage, health care and advancement) in the US and I'm glad to see that practice continues in Japan. And many of their private brands are consistently ranked as good or better than name brands.

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If you staff is payed above industry standard, why are they so damn stupid?

I think it is because Japanese staff is very unflexible and sticks to the rules without taking in consideration the feelings of customers, I was ordered to wait two times the queue twice because of something minor. I cannot imagine staff in the USA so inefficient. If so, very disappointing.No, I am not becoming a member of Costco until they fix the idiotic stuff.

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are these actually cheap?? the one in machida i went to seemed very expensive

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Are these cheap? I pay about 30% Japanese supermarket price for the stuff i buy. If you buy for stuff like Kirkland brand cheese and tinned stuff like tuna you save a packet.

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When you have people from the U.S. Armed Forces shopping at Costco, you know they gotta have some great deals! Gotta agree with Stevepfc!

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I was skeptical about Costco's potential for success in Japan when I visited the Makuhari location shortly after they opened. Japanese families don't generally have the storage space, chest-type freezers, etc. that you need to make bulk buying effective, and I couldn't see the average family snapping up 12-packs of giant muffins, 48-roll packs of toilet tissue, cases of soda, etc.

I stand corrected! They've found a way to make it work, becoming a major procurement source for thousands of independently-owned restaurants and other service businesses who quickly learned they could get better deals than from their own third- and fourth-hand middleman suppliers, and encouraging individual customers to share purchases (though it costs Costco in terms of membership fees) as a way of addressing the bulk purchasing issue.

Now the only worry is have they been too successful in changing the way people shop and eat?? All those inexpensive hot dogs (the best you can get in Japan, IMHO), free soda refills, cheaper-than-delivery pizzas, and giant muffins could end up pushing customers farther down the road toward American-style obesity--surely not something Costco, as a generally responsible corporation, wants to promote.

Living alone, it doesn't make sense for me to buy some things in bulk, but I go to stock up on essentials about every other month ("real" mayonnaise, vitamins, canned goods, etc.), avoiding weekends (too many parents let their rug rats run wild) and lunchtime, and always find good bargains. (Spam costs double what it does in the U.S., but that's still half what it costs in regular supermarkets here).

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the only bad thing about the Machida Costco is DRIVING THERE!!!!!! UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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If you do not have a car and cannot order on line, what is the point of having a delivery service. I used to go to the Machida one, but no longer. Do any of you peeps know if their is bus service there?

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Waiting to see location of store in western Tokyo.

As for me like many in japan I am sans my own car, limited storage. etc so even if I got there my purchases will be limited as to what I can carry back on Busses and trains.

So not sure if it is worth visiting unless I can order online and get deliveries, like I can do from most local supers, etc now.

Might be cheaper but are the extra hassles worth the savings?

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Patrick.

Like I said will the travel cost of a few thousand yen(for two) in price offset my traveling fee when I can only carry x-weight/bulk on mass-transports to my home? Or will I get a similar deals visiting a local discount shop?

Now if I wanted some specific US-Food(which I don't as I am not american) than it might be worth it.

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What I meant will the savings cover the travel costs and still be cheaper than buying from local discount stores.

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The Japanese suburbs sure are changing, esp. in the Kanto area, more and more people own houses and thus have more possibilities for bulk shopping. Freezers are more common nowadays and cheap, for 30.000 Yen you can get a 100l, 4 drawer front-opening one. But you also need a big car when you want to take the kid(s) with you, the all-to-common K-car won't do it anymore. But yes, what is the 4.200 yen per year charge for? That for me is the biggest reason not to shop there.

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I'm a big Costco fan. Have to admit I always enjoy going there. I can cycle to the Tama-sakai (Machida) branch in a few minutes so often pop in to browse around and see what's new. The kids love the hotdogs and pizza and I love the price so sometimes just go there for a junk-food dinner.

Usually I buy coffee and wine. The Kirkland/Starbucks coffee beans in the red or green bags are great tasting and great value imho. Nice selection of wines too at various price points.

Seasonal stuff is great and always pick up a big real pumpkin around Halloween.

But what they should really do is have one or two late evenings a week when the store closes at 10:00pm. That would be very welcome to avoid the weekend crowds and be able to get there after work.

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Thx Patrick.

A friend will take me soon to a Costco. Problem is still need to catch the highway bus back from his place.

Recall a place that had great Rotisseri chicken in Johannesburg, tasted great when you were wasted. One hand held the chicken the other walked you home. ;)

Said that there is a chicken rotisserie place in Kichijoji(Harmonica-cho) that makes some decent Rosemarie chicken. ;)

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I know plenty of Europeans who shop at Costco, and never heard a complaint about "US-food." They have all kinds of foods from all kinds of countries. So far as objecting to a paltry 4000 yen... I have often saved more than that on a single shopping trip to Costco. I have gotten items at 80-90% when they want to clear them, which happens often. Seems very short-term thinking to object to the membership fee. Their returns policy also puts most Japanese stores to shame. I could see where a single person might not want to join (though I joined when I was single), but the advantages for a family are obvious.

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Costco is great for cleaning supplies (we buy all of them there: detergent, dish soap, etc..) and nappies. Toilet paper is not competitive IMO (can find cheaper in usual shops).

For food, it really depends on the product but on average you can save significantly compared to usual small supermarkets (bulk pastas, canned tomatoes, cereals, etc...). It is good for meat also (one of the only place offering 100% grounded beef at a reasonable price), and you can easily find some big jinks of meat for grilling or freezing (also a very cheap offer of lamb shoulder from New Zealand).

It is great for suburban families with cars (I live close from the Makuhari store), probably not as much for singles and families without car.

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Will have to compare meat prices to my local Hanamasa(they do carry New Zealand Lamb, etc) and will package to order. Last week I paid 850Yen for 1kg of Beef/Pork Mince(US/Canadian).

Not really worried about the membership price as we paid similar at Metro Cash&Carry some 30+yrs ago back home.

Pasta might sound good Kaldi has good prices but I want some decent Egg-past and tons of cheap Gnocci. Bread and Potato dumplings would be a major boon too.

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for a family of 4 including small kids, costco is definitely the place to go for cheaper bulk items like 20kg rice, huge bottles of mayo & soyu & 4 packs of 200g butter for less than 1000 yen. I shop in Costco Shin Misato. Agree with Patrick Smash, what's with the locals with kids & trolleys that just stop right in the middle of the aisle chitchatting & gawking without a care that there ARE PEOPLE waiting behind them to get by !! Have been to a few countries in the east and only HERE do the people behave this way.

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yes love the huge pizza slices too. did I mention the Costco lamb? never had lamb in Japan until the Mrs. started shopping at Costco. Go ahead and price some lamb in your local super market. I dare you!

The lamb is from NZ, I am American but nationality is not why I shop there. Please stop bringing up petty unrelated topics like this. It is drivel.

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Debucho.

You never been to a restaurant here that offered lamb? Hub offers some nice lamb kebabs, Italian restaurants(not the pizzeria style ones) often offer raw lamb meat slices(very tasty and italian), etc.

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The delivery service is a good idea if you don't have a car. You can go there by train, bus or taxi, buy as much as you like and it will be delivered. You don't have to carry anything home with you.

But being able to order online would be convenient.

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Weekdays are bliss, weekends the absolute opposite down here in Fukuoka. Bring sharp elbows and lots of patience on weekends. Food samples are akin to a flock of angry pigeons fighting over scraps, its embarrasing to see. However, Costco is great. When i dont want to make make 2 1/2 sandwiches (5 slice loafs!) i go to costco for a proper size loaf.

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Zenny, I was talking about eating it at home. Any civilized country serves lamb in shops.

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Actually, they do have an in-store delivery service, but it's outsourced to a third party (can't remember which one) and rather expensive if you are having stuff delivered outside the relatively immediate area.

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Debucho.

Check Hanamasa if you got one close by. ;)

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Costco is great! The only problem about buying large amounts of things in Japan is finding a place to store it. You've gotta have a big house, with lots of storage, and a freezer, to take advantage of what Costco has to offer. Lots of my friends don't shop at Costco because they live in small apartments that have no space to store cases of beverages and so on. Yeah, never go to Costco on the weekends. (actually never go shopping on the weekend.) Go there on a weekday if you can.

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They turn a trip to Costco into a fun day out.

Pretty sad day out - jostling with lots of other irritating people going to an over-sized supermarket. I'll stick to Hanamasa like someone else above has mentioned.

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The big cheap pizzas are great for kids' parties.

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One of the best days in my life here was when Costco opened its shop. All the great things you can find there feels like a fairyland to me. The money I am saving is just amazing too. I especially love the Normandy Vegetables, the best bargain out of all in my opinion. I usually go there once in 2 months and stock up. I live a bit far away to go every day but therefore I use my car less to go to the supermarket which in turn let's me save gasoline. Sure, I had to get an extra freezer but I feel like I can live my life in luxury now. Being able to get real Greek Feta cheese was an extra highlight for me and my husband loves the rotisserie and the pizzas. I just wished you would sell Barilla pasta, more kinds of flour and sugar.

Thank you so much, Ken, and keep up the good work.

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Third-party online ordering and delivery is available from theflyingpig.com, though you do pay a 20%(i think) premium. I've used them a few times in the past before I finally got my Costco membership. Sometimes good if you don't want to deal with mass crowds on the weekends or if you don't live near a Costco. Can't wait till August for the Zama store to open!

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what are the cheap meat prices? i couldnt find it cheaper there than i can get locally.. what deals are people getting

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What is it with the Japanese standing in line 50 deep just to get a mouthful of cheap chocolate or a cracker!? Wish Costco would stop the samples then the the human traffic might flow a bit better...

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If you do not have a car and cannot order on line, what is the point of having a delivery service

Such a service is very helpful if you go there in person and discover that you want to buy more stuff than you could carry home with you.

As great as Costco's selection and prices are, I'm disappointed to see US-style car-centered shopping getting bigger in Japan. If they offer free parking for drivers, the least they could do is offer free delivery for people without cars. (Or charge people to park just as you'd charge them for delivery. Delivery costs might even be cheaper -- you'd be amazed at the total costs of a parking space.)

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Canada has 80?? Mexico only 32?? WTF?? Japan, well at least Tokyo, needs way more Costcos, I hate driving all the way to Saitama, Iruma! Im in Tokyo, why should I have to out in the middle of nowhere Saitama to get some cheap stuff from the USA?? The parking in the Machida Costco on the weekends is HORRIBLE!Just to get out of the parking, it takes over an hour! When you get on to the street, just another 30 minutes of your life is wasted in the stupid heavy traffic there in Tamasakai!

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If you're in Tokyo, why not go to the Kawasaki store?

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A floor manager comes up and tries to get me interested in the spiral ham. I say, "You have such a good cheese section, why no Swiss?" He takes out a pad and starts writing. I push my luck: "Could you make it Emmentaler?" A month later I come back -- there it is: sweet, sweet Emmentaler Swiss.

Thank you, Mr. Sapporo Costso Cheese guy.

And lamb...If you want lamb in a supermarket or restaurant, come to Hokkaido. And at the Sapporo Costco last weekend, they had fresh lamb chops, a frenched rack of lamb, a shoulder roast and a leg roast. Quadrafecta!

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They have 375 staff on the floor in Kawasaki? Must not be a problem to find someone if you need some help!

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which is the best store in the tokyo area to go to.. the machida one is crazy busy -are the other ones makuhari etc bigger?

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Been to Costco in Osaka once. First and last time. What a horrendous store. Overcrowded, too many lines. Annoying staff. Need a bloody card to get in. Need a CARD to get into a friggin shop, what kind of bs is that? So I always let the missus go with her mom hah. Home alone w00t ^^

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I hate getting my membership card checked, (usually it's a woman) they never smile and have a really (sh!t) attitude especially Makuhari. When you walk into the store at least the women checking ID cards supposed to SMILE at least.

Also one weekday night I went there to pick up some Halloween Candy for my students. I went to the checkout line around closing time. One man that was assisting the checkout clerk/ cashier said to me in an angry voice " ID " ! I Iooked at him gave my ID but I held on to it very tight so when he tried to get it. He couldn't grasp it because I wanted him to look into my eyes. And I yelled back at him and said, " I.D. "

The employees working there need to see company etiquette videos in how to be nice to freakin customers.

Or show them examples of how not to treat a customer and other ways how to treat any customer foreign or native in japan.

THIS MESSAGE IS FOR YOU TO READ MR. Ken Theriault Ken Theriault Representative Director / Country Manager Costco Wholesale Japan Ltd

The employees working there need to see company etiquette videos in how to be nice to freakin customers.

Or show them examples of how not to treat a customer and other ways how to treat any customer foreign or native in japan.

I do not want any discounts. I just want the employees to do their job with some professionalism.

Makuhari around October 20th - 30th, 2010 I used to work at a restaurant in my 20's, I never in my life treated a customer like trash. Either they change or find a new job somewhere else. Also try to get american ice cream chocolate chip

pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee I just want chocolate chip ice cream (carton) with big chips

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To: Ken Theriault Representative Director / Country Manager Costco Wholesale Japan Ltd

Please tell the lead manager at Makuhari some of his/her employees need an attitude adjustment.

The employees need to understand that the customers are paying their salary. I had great service there but the checkout/cashier people and the id checkers to the store entrance from the 2nd floor need an attitude adjustment.

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whiskeysour; Go to Amagasaki store a few times a year and the staff there are polite and pleasant. Maybe it has to do with the management and training of the store you went to.

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I hate the management inside the shops. It is very annoying how they check membership cards, receipts and annoy customers with their stupid orders. Everything inside concerning their rules is inconvenient for the customers, also I do not understand the useless membership fees. No, I do not like Costco, obviously I am not a Japanese lady who can put up with all the stupidity inside a Costco shop.

whiskeysour at 09:43 AM JST - 22nd February To: Ken Theriault Representative Director / Country Manager Costco Wholesale Japan Ltd Please tell the lead manager at Makuhari some of his/her employees need an attitude adjustment. The employees need to understand that the customers are paying their salary. I had great service there but the checkout/cashier people and the id checkers to the store entrance from the 2nd floor need an attitude adjustment.

Agreed and agreed! They are extremely anoying, impolite, inefficient. and just plainly stupid in Makuhari. I can write a book filled with examples. Let's just say they spend way too much time checking recepits and they still make mistakes! My parents accidentally brought home a bag of ravioli that they didn't purchase! And may I need to remind them that I should not be waiting in line TO EXIT THE DARN STORE! I PAID ALREADY, LET ME OUT!!! Makuhari staff needs to go and replaced with staff from Hawaii! Those are such a great bunch! Friendly, quick, helpful, efficient, and don't waste your time! I think there are about 3 or 4 costcos at Oahu and even before Christmas they aren't half as crowded as Japanese ones. So Mr Theriault, open more Coscos in Tokyo and bring some hawaiians to work there! and start selling that spicy tuna roll here in Japan! That thing is yummy!

Word of advice about membership fees: you get 5G cash back if you register with Costco's amex program. Membership is global, so just bring your card with you if you fancy some stuff cheap while away from home.

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JT, could you do us all a favor and show this thread to Mr. Theriault please, and maybe have him respond to us, the customers? I think there may be a lot of feedback here.

Also, i would like to thank staff at optics department at Kawasaki and Makuhari for going an extra mile for me and providing exceptional service. if anyone deserves a promotion it's them!

Moderator: He is reading the comments.

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thank you for the advice stevecpfc and nisegajin I concur and totally agree with u hahahah !!! yes

Hahahah costco could be alot better if they only get rid of stupid idiot people who are rude to the customers.

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The Costco in Iwilei (near downtown Honolulu) is one of the most successful Costco warehouses in the world--they even get tourists to shop there, carrying their cards from whatever country they're visiting from. The quality of the service has a lot to do with it, that and the location just midpoint between the airport and Waikiki.

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i have always had great luck with costco - been a member for years. there is a costco japan website and obviously you complainers all have a computer and can type!! SEND YOU OWN DAMN MESSAGE!!!!!

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Wow, everyone here loves Costco. I don't think I'm an exception.

I've been a lot of the stores around Kanto area as they were built. First Makuhari, a bit frustrating because of the two story built. Then Tama-sakai (Machida), this place is very convenient but since it's opening a lot of stores opened on the same street so the traffic is caos! Good thing they changed the exit of the store so that the traffic light can be used to go out to the right, where there is less traffic.

The Kawasaki store's parking lot is weird because cars are going all over the place. It's pretty confusing 'til you get the hang of it. Here, they have the worst food court which is way too small to fit the weekend crowd. Maybe they should put up high tables where people can eat standing. They already do, keeping their food on top of the huge garbage bins!. Carts are in the way too. Finally the one in Yokohama, which is my favorite. A bit far from where I live, but it's a bit calmer than Kawasaki.

Reading this over, what am I? A costco freak? No, I just love cheap and big, not to mention quality. Quality-wise, I only had one problem which was with a huge barrel of detergent which didn't blend good with my washing machine. I ended up having to shake and melt them with hot water before putting it in the washing machine.

Finally, I have one thing to ask. Can you import some Reese's peanut butter cups?

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whenever i go to costco, i see people from military bases (i don't ask them where they are from, but often they obviously look military -- especially navy people).. they can get most of the things they find in costco on base and costco isn't cheaper, don't know why they travel to shop at costco.. just wondering.

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I went to Costco with a friend back in 2002 and bought a bag of pretzels on her card. Dozens of pretzel parties and 9 years later I'm about half way through the pack.

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After a couple weekend trips I have vowed never again, so its only week days & during the day for me & thats fine, I have found staff ok, but I hate the locals most dont know how to drive the carts LOL so its like an obstacle course with lots of hazards

When I lived in the city used local transit & takkyubined the heavy & dry goods & carried home the rest so I wud imagine thats still possible but admitedly that was yrs ago

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I like Costco's return policy on electronics - 90 days with a full refund and no questions asked.

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i Though i was the only one, Makuhari is the worse, those people there look like they angry working for a american company.

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Question for the regular Costco customers.

Do they stock Fish-Fingers or Fish-cakes?

That is food I really miss here.

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I think they've got crab cakes.

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thx.

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Zenny, I haven't seen fish fingers there. I miss those too. TBS just aired a program about Costco. It was fun. Costco staff in Kyushu and Hokkaido are really helpful and friendly. I can't believe it is that bad in Makuhari.

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Thx, Foxie.

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To Mr,Theriault of Costco, many Japanese love Costco because they lived and worked in America and they went to Costco in America where you can get good Mexican food. The Costos here in Tokyo have little or almost no Mexican food, Japanese and Americans and me, a Mexican all love Mexican food, so it would be nice to get Menudo etc..that any decent Costco in California sells here in Tokyo too. Think about selling more Mexican food at the Costcos here in Japan, please! Get tortillas, chorizo etc..that we need to make Mexican dishes. Limes! For gods sake, I am sure you must be importing limes from Mexico to Japan, but why do the limes here in Japan have NO SMELL?? What do the Japanese put on the limes to cut off the nice aroma of fresh limes? American strawberries are also great! They have a nice aroma, fragrance while Japanese strawberries have NO SMELL, WTF?? and they cost and arm and a leg! Yes you need more types of Mexican beer, tequila and if possible MEZCAL! What many Americans refer to as tequila with a worm?? The worm stuff is not tequila, but MEZCAL, so I think you can make way more $$$$ if you get more nice Mexican food out here to Japan. Muchas gracias Sr.Ken Theriault!

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elbuda, bad idea with the limes, they would bankrupt me if available like in Mexico. You forgot jalapeños on your list. It would also be nice to have Brazilian feijoada, Korean doenjang paste, Lebanese humus, Greek Ouzo, Muenchner Weisswurst, French saucisson and Turkish instant soups and please bring back the green seedless grapes from Chile - they were the best. Thank you Mr. Theriault, you are the best.

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Costco is nice. I really love the lamb, blueberries, Brazilian mangoes and pastrami. Retail stores have been put on notice and are starting to shape up. I see blueberries at one of Costco's competitors at fraction of the ridiculous price they used to charge. I also used to buy mangoes there and it was hit or miss (usually miss) for a much higher price. Now they have better mangoes and I believe it a part of the 'Costco Effect' as I call it. Can't just throw out b.s. and expect people to buy it. Stores like Seiyu used to have a captive audience but those days are thankfully gone. One drawback is you really have to avoid the "rush hour." Too crowded and I've had people blatantly try to skip me in line. They also refuse to tell parents to control their kids. They just run around the store all day long unsupervised. Also, I've heard they throw away a serious amount of food (surprise!) and won't consider giving it to charity. Anyone have any info on that?

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Only if you have a big family, own a small store or you will consume the items really quick; otherwise, just a waste of food or money. Also, membership fee? No, thank you!

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Costco, Wallmart, etc. are corporate greed gone mad. Both attempt and often succed in destroying Indigenous culture and stores by pricing them out of the market then raising prices.

Moderator: Please reread the last answer in the story.

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You just knew there would be one poster here with the tired old "Big business driving mom and pop stores out of business is baaaad!". jasperandy - The people have spoken, and surprise, surprise, they want affordable prices. And whats this about Indigenous stores?? Have they built Costco on top of an ancient Ainu 7-11??

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@Zenny11 I remember a few years ago, Costco in Hisayama, Kyushu did sell fish sticks (fish fingers for you brits) used to stock up on them, but alas...no more. But boy they were good!!!

@Mocheake

One drawback is you really have to avoid the "rush hour." Too crowded and I've had people blatantly try to skip me in line. They also refuse to tell parents to control their kids. They just run around the store all day long unsupervised. Also, I've heard they throw away a serious amount of food (surprise!) and won't consider giving it to charity. Anyone have any info on that?

I couldn't agree more. Weekends are totally out of control. I never go. Parents absolutely never control their kids, especially when they give out those tasty freebees I see kids down 3 or more chunks of US beef per person. Usually they should take just one! The parents push and shove and never say anything waiting like Vultures hoping to get some free food. The staff never say anything and I refuse to get caught up in that mayhem! I just go on the weekdays. As to why Costco throws away tons of food, I have no idea, but this problem is not only subjected to Costco, but there are other companies in Japan that do the same. Totally boggles the mind.

@jasperandy That's life in a democratic competitive society. Nothing you can do about it. If you don't like it, don't shop there.

I just hate the renewal fees and the fact that you can either pay with cash or Amex or sometimes Costco issued MC, but anything else to use for payment, they don't take anything else.

What I would love to see Costco get back: multi-flavored oatmeal, apple pie, clorox 2, pancake mix, cornbread mix, BEEF hot dogs, put more chicken and bulgogi in those bakes!!! The last 2 years, they have been putting less meat in and more dough in them! Bring back those "key limes"

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bass4funk.

Thx, yeah, they are great. Sprinkle a bit of lemon during the frying and serve with butter fried mixed vegetables, etc. Also great for Bento, etc.

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They're opening a Costco in Kobe (nishiku) about 5 minutes from my apartment in the fall, except I'm going back to Canada before then ARGGGG!!!

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Costco staff in Kyushu and Hokkaido are really helpful and friendly. I can't believe it is that bad in Makuhari.

I concur about the Hokkaido branch. Great service.

Regarding mom and pop stores, the market is a little different, but even if it weren't, competition is good. If mom and pop can't cut the muster, that's not Costco's fault. Of course, Costco is never going to say they're looking to put ma and pa out of business.

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has the access to the iruma one improved recently-there were horrible jams before so i stopped going

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When Costco can get a huge discount from suppliers because of the massive quantity they buy, their prices will be lower. Mom and pop stores can't get the discount so their prices will be higher. And shoppers will go for the lower price.

So not only Costco but also convenience stores have run the mom and pop stores out of business (and other poorly run stores).

Plus, the last time I went to a mom and pop store, they didn't have anything I wanted and, judging by the number of customers not in the store, they didn't have what lots of people wanted.

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Costco selling Mexican food in the food court only makes sense in areas where there is a high Mexican presence (like Southern California). I wouldn't think it would be smart for a Costco in Japan to cater to that small of a clientele. That said, it sounds like a Mexican restaurant in Japan might be a good niche market for a mom and pop operation that Costco wouldn't infringe upon.

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Does anyone know exactly where in Yawata? Close to the Keihan station by any chance?

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I have no complaints at all, enjoy seeing the crowds and families enjoying a weekend lark at Costco, and love that I can get cheap and good products there. Time and time again Costco came through with something I either couldn't get here, or would've had to pay triple for a miniature version of.

Look at the great "foreign"-sized refrigerators they sell, for a fraction of what you'd pay at BIC for a smaller one. The great bread, cakes, wines, cleaning stuff...

My product dream request would be TARTAR SAUCE. We are currently paying about 450 yen for a tiny, toothpaste-sized tube of it at the local supermarket. One meal and it is gone.

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badmigraine.

I think you need to change the local shops you are buying at. I buy my Tartare Sauce in a 1ltr bottle at the local shop and it ain't all that pricey either(bit over 1000Yen).

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For internet costco just go to the flying pig

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I also love the store but after being told to stand in line to exit the store I vowed to never return. I refuse to be given orders by shop staff (or any civilian for that matter).

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I have delivered food which was donated by Costco to a shelter in chiba, so I know they donate what they can not sell. Check 2hj.org , and I don't work for either...

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I also love the store but after being told to stand in line to exit the store I vowed to never return. I refuse to be given orders by shop staff (or any civilian for that matter).

Your teachers must have LOVED you in school. There's a valid reason for doing that, but you wouldn't care about that, would you? So be it, just one less I'll have to stand behind while they spew-off about their "rights" to walk out with merchandise that may or may not have been paid for.

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Kaldi is good for Mexican stuff I think.

Costco and Kaldi... my two favorite shops in Japan. Oh wait, Tokyu Hands is equally favorite.

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Kaldi(2 shops here) is one of my weekly stops too.

Than there is Carnival and their Burritos, etc(2 shops here), local Miuraya, local Kinokuniya(foods), plus another import food shops(3 shops) some smaller stores but they tend to be way overpriced.

Looking forward to my visit to Costco to compare prices and see what they got that I can't get here. Checked Flying Pig but the prices were so-so and didn't see anything of interest I can't get here from other makers/brands.

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Congratulations to consumers in Japan. You will be able to get products lot cheaper at Costco as they are changing products distribution system in Japan.

I hope Costco does not kill all papasan/mamasan small businesses in Japan. Once market is all taken by big wholesellers, then they start controlling consumer's market monopoly. There is always pro/cons for the open market.

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Costco is fine for families but I (being single)never shop at Costco. Their portions are to big for the most part and then said items sit in the freezer for ever till I can eat them. Some items like paper towels-toilet paper or even bulk deoderant is ok. A small mamasan-papsan business will take a hit but it will not close them out completely as smaller portions are often preferrable for most.

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I'm single as well, so while I have a Costco membership, I don't go there as often as a family of four (for example) would need to.

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j4p4nFTW,

I also love the store but after being told to stand in line to exit the store I vowed to never return. I refuse to be given orders by shop staff (or any civilian for that matter).

You refuse to stand in line? You agreed to having your receipts checked when you became a member; if you don’t want to comply, you’re not allowed to shop there.

Surely you don't think you’re any better than everyone else that was also trying to exit the store?

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Costco rules.

Best place to buy electronics, especially with their 2 year warranty and 90 day return policy.

USDA prime steaks from Costco are awesome.

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88% lean hamburger, French truffles, paper towel at a decent price, and last but not least, lamb and rice dog food that doesn't cost a fortune, what's not to like? Me lo-o-o-o-o-ve Costco!

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Wow...you brought the Chilean green seedless grapes back. I am just so happy right now. I can't believe how tasty those are in comparison with others. Whoever produces them must be a genius. Thank you so much.

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being able to order online would be very convenient.

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Mr. Ken Theriault ... can you please send a Filipina or American staff on the deskclerk ..they were all japanese my god ..they dont even know what I`m saying ..... grrrrr

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Yes, the Filipina staff are always wonderful, and thats anywhere I go in Japan. I see others have had issues with the J staff. I think its due to the constant "disneyland syndrome" that so many J shoppers have when entering Costco for the first time. I observed this and it looks to be very annoying. Going into the wrong lines, entering into the exit outdoor, the first time to see U.S. products and gawking at everything, asking annoying questions, long lines to the toliet, so I do get it; it would be a very tough place for me to work. having said that, many of the J staff were very arrogant and insolent towards me, so if I go there, Im in and out as fast as I can to avoid the stress. Thats not an ideal business model. Any way to change this? Agreed; hire more bilingual foriegners, and let them manage as well. Ive found anytime a japanese takes over something foriegn, well, mess wil follow. I dont think the japanese will shun costco if there were more foriegn staff, afterall they come mostly to avoid japanese middlemen. For reasons I have never understood, Filipina have an enormous capacity to endure and smile under the most strenous circumstances. They are always smiling even when tired and some demanding irate Japanese customer is berating them. Their customer service always makes me want to deal with them, walk away happy, and shun the japanese. I say hire more and reward their sacrifice. Keep the J staff on the night shift. As for product selection, they need more drinks, as many are putting those drinkings in vending machines; as of now their selection is limited. This article also fails to mention how costco got into japan. Im currious as to how they overcome the distribution obstacle; they made the impossible possible. Its a success story that needs to be shared so other foriegn companies can get into japan and follow their model.

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since this article was written, the prices for many items at costco japan, have risen as much as 400 percent. the shopping carts of consumers at costco are almost empty and the customers are talking about how expensive the store is. the meat department is mostly full of chicken, maybe because other meats are not selling due to high pricing, chicken that anyone can buy at lower price at almost any japanese super. they have far less cuts of meat now then when this article was written and when you go there to buy meat its always out of stock. i was also informed by the staff that many business members are always complaining that they are always out of stock and they cannot use costco as a wholesaler to conduct business. i will predict that costco is on its last leg in japan.

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