What's it like to work at Costco?
March 23, 2016 2:42 PM   Subscribe

If you've worked at Costco in the past, or are currently a Costco employee: what's it like to work there?

The specific problem to be solved: I'm thinking of applying (part-time), but would like to hear from people what it's like on the other side of the cash register. What are the benefits? How does the break system work, and is it enforced? Do you get rotated to every department like I hear, and how does that work? What is the dress code like?

I cut my hair very short recently but I noticed that many employees have piercings, non-conservative hair styles, tattoos, non-gender-conforming, etc.. So - am I correct in ascertaining that Costco is liberal when it comes to self-presentation?

I'm concerned about standing on my feet all day, or part of the day. Any comments about that aspect? It seems like a very physical job, but I think I could do a 4 hour shift - is that possible? I guess I'm wondering what the duration is for a typical shift (for part-timers).

When applying, what in particular would make me a desirable candidate? (E.g., If I said I could travel to more than one Costco location if they needed me to?)

If I put down a high education level on the application will this work against me?

My partner is the primary income earner in our marriage, so this would be to 1) bolster my self-esteem a bit by earning a paycheck, and 2) get out into the world more and receive remuneration for my efforts. (I already volunteer.)

Finally, I'm a bit concerned about the retail wisdom 'the quickest way to hate shopping some place is to work there'. Did working at Costco make you hate it (or just, dislike being there)?

Apologies for the haphazard formatting of this question - I tend to get fired up about an idea and I think it may be prudent to gather information before applying. Last time I worked retail was circa 2000 and I had more energy then.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to Work & Money (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Oooh. My boyfriend worked at Costco. He said it was very laidback in terms of dress code etc., but they were really on the ball about coming in on time, making the most of every work minute, etc. It wasn't that they would necessarily fire you for an infraction, but rather that if you wanted to get promoted you really needed to have a perfect record for an extended period of time.

And of course, the pay is much better than most similar positions.

He worked outside pushing carts for awhile and he said he'd get tired but it wasn't hard labor. They did tend to put male employees outside on cart duty, and female employees inside folding clothes, etc. Chances are you'd get one of the less taxing positions if you're a woman (not necessarily a great thing but I'm sure it varies by store). He had an issue with a bad department manager, but otherwise he liked working there and was generally proud to work for a good company. He was kind of a Costco evangelist for awhile, and we still shop there.

He had a Bachelor's degree at the time and they didn't seem to hesitate at that-- in fact, they told him right off that they could probably get him into a management position if he did well. They got him into the pharmacy pretty quickly because the department manager there liked his degree. I'll ask him if he has any more to say later.

In terms of what made him a good candidate... I don't think they were looking for anything in particular besides a lack of red flags. It was definitely hard to get a position at the store he wanted, though, and he ended up commuting quite a way. One thing they're big on is getting you trained into a lot of different departments, so you can sub in for people (especially food court, in his experience). So if you get an interview, I'd emphasize an interest in learning about different departments and the structure of the store as a whole.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:05 PM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My sister works for them, and has worked at two separate locations in the same state. In terms of management and how she is treated, her experience at one location has been very different than the other. She has always been very vocal and open with me about working there, so what I'm telling you is me essentially paraphrasing her.

Some initial reflections:
- You are correct that Costco is liberal re: self-presentation. (My sister has tattoos, and at one point had a very short pixie haircut while working there.)
- She is on her feet all day. She's also part time, but I've never known of her working less than 6 hours for a shift. Usually it's an 8 hr shift.
- Depending on the day, she works anywhere from the front register, to the deli, to the gas pumps, to folding clothes, to registering new members, to the front door (checking member cards), to running around putting returns back on the shelves. She's always been very willing to take on whatever responsibility they ask her to do that day, and they seem to really like that about her.
- She is paid time and a half for all of her working hours if she works on a Sunday (YMMV, not sure if this depends on what state your Costco location is in).
- She doesn't hate shopping at Costco or their products - she definitely still shops there - but she's displeased with the management at her particular location.
- Her starting pay and current pay are very good by retail standards; she also has decent health insurance through them.
- As far as breaks, it sounds like breaks and lunch are definitely enforced. As far as I understand she gets a 30 minute lunch and a 15 minute break, possibly two - may depend on her working hours that particular day.
- They have a nice break room with lockers, TV, couch, etc
- Costco is not immune to the typical workplace pettiness/high school drama

For privacy's sake, I didn't go into more detail about her grievances with management. But I am happy to provide details (and ask her more specific questions), just shoot me a Memail!
posted by nightrecordings at 3:17 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's Costco on glassdoor.
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 3:28 PM on March 23, 2016

I don't work at costco, but the big box retail I work at most certainly has part timers at 4 hours when management wants to curtail expenses.
posted by mightshould at 5:22 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My husband has worked for Costco for 32(!!) years. He hates it, but that's probably more a function of the years rather than the company. His warehouse has a 'no visible tattoos' policy. He has worked in 2 different departments in all those years, and has stocked the foods section for as long as I've known him (20 years.) He has had the same days off for years as well, but that is very different for part time, at least where he is.

Part time varies from few to 32(?) hours per week. PT workers at his warehouse do not have any kind of consistent schedule. You could close one night and work early the next morning, they only have to guarantee 8 hours between shifts.

Breaks are strictly enforced, and swiping in and out is highly monitored. You have 3 minutes leeway in either direction. We get a free Executive Membership, but no discounts, etc. The starting pay is higher than elsewhere, but a lot of the work is extremely repetitive and physical.

I won't go on and on here, but please feel free to message me for any more info from the front lines. It really is a better gig than elsewhere, but not quite the nirvana that it is often made out to be in popular culture.
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 8:36 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The beau works at Costco, so I went ahead and picked his brain for a response to your questions.

At their warehouse, the two big hiring times are at the end of summer, and Christmas. He was hired on during the end of summer hiring phase. Our location primarily serves college students, and is the only Costco in a 100 mile radius in nearly all directions, so your store's hiring practices may vary.

He started part time, working at the door, which is one of a few areas that they consider entry level. Part time was generally an 8 hour shift, 3-4 shifts a week. Sundays, you are paid time and a half, but then you usually only work 6 hours, to keep payroll happy. As a part-timer, he was eligible for medical, vacation, and sick, I believe, but on a smaller scale than the full-time employees.

He was promoted to cashier, briefly supervisor, and generally is adored at his warehouse for being a straightforward person who is always asking for things to do. He's technically a cashier now, but if it's slow, he'll pull carts, act as a cashier assistant, mop up spills, fetch items for customers, organize the empty boxes that they offer to customers to carry out their purchases in, (all technically below his pay grade), whatever needs doing. If it's busy, he will ring items like nobody's business.

When applying, his previous retail experience was what got his application looked at, in addition to applying during the store's routine hiring periods. Applications are kept on file for six months. At the interview, he emphasized his willingness to do anything and work hard. He has a bachelor's and it wasn't a deterrent at all to his application.

You'll almost certainly work Saturdays, and probably Sundays, too. Morning positions are usually reserved for more senior employees, since the store is usually quieter then. So, expect a lot of afternoon and evening shifts.

He also thinks the management at his store can be shortsighted--they'll institute a policy change, then customers will complain, and they'll go right back to doing it the old way, sometimes in less than a week. He still likes Costco, and we buy an absurd amount of stuff there because he's working there, and we have the fancy Executive membership, and I'm all "get the paper towels, the tissues, and the sunscreen on your way out".

He does like to go around telling his family that "you could get that at Costco" when they talk about needing XYZ item, and sometimes to other people, but only if they ask first. He likes the company, thinks they're very fair and is thinking about switching to the pharmacy as a long-term career goal.
posted by PearlRose at 6:42 AM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

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