Living the Dog's Life at Costco
Emme Kozloff, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, faulted Mr. Sinegal as being too generous to employees, noting that when analysts complained that Costco's workers were paying just 4 percent toward their health costs, he raised that percentage only to 8 percent, when the retail average is 25 percent.
"He has been too benevolent," she said. "He's right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden."
One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."
That's the kind of clucking and head-shaking usually reserved for someone who spends an ungodly sum of money on an animal, like chemotherapy for a dog, or a cat psychologist. You know: "All that money on a dog! My God--they're treating him better than most people!"
I suspect the outrage at Costco is not so much over how badly the stockholder is being treated, as over how good the worker is being treated. Or as somebody once observed, Puritans objected to bear-baiting, not because it annoyed the bear, but because it brought pleasure to the participants. Treating workers too good is a bad thing, in and of itself--it's just a violation of the natural order of things. Here, most of the big retailers go to all the trouble of getting their associates' minds right, and along comes a competitor treating its people almost like human beings! Talk about the danger of a good example! How ya gonna keep the boy down on the farm when he's seen Paree?