It shouldn’t surprise anyone that if you find good people, give them good jobs, and pay them good wages, good things will happen.
– Jim Sinegal, CEO, Costco
Below is a letter I recently sent to Jim Sinegal and Craig Jelinek (CEO and President, respectively) at Costco Corporation, an international chain of membership warehouses. I am publishing this letter publicly because too often the only businesses we hear about are those which are in some way abusive to customers, vendors and/or employees. As you’ll read in the letter and elsewhere, Costco is an absolute world-class business (and they’re not alone!).
Dear Mr. Sinegal and Mr. Jelinek,
Throughout the 90s, my older brother Matthew worked part-time at a grocery store. He was punctual, cared for his customers and he completed his work (clearing grocery carts from the parking lot) with excellence. But, the part-time minimum-wage salary, lack of benefits and toxic work environment prevented this job from becoming a career.
When a Costco opened up in our neighborhood (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) in the late 90s; its reputation for treating its employees with dignity preceded it. Matthew applied immediately in hopes of joining the Costco team. A few short months later, Costco took a chance on him. Today, 11 years later, after several promotions, consistent pay increases and with a supportive team around him, Matthew has found his career. The very generous salary and benefits package allow him to enjoy life in a debt-free home in a great neighborhood, within walking distance of Costco.
For his entire life, Matthew has been classified and known by his “special needs” (some specialists have labeled him autistic). Since the day he began at Costco, however, his coworkers and customers have valued him because of his unique strengths. There are many companies which “succeed” at the expense of their workers. I am a firsthand witness to a counterintuitive company: Costco succeeds through the flourishing of its employees. Matthew worked for years in the Costco parking lot (bearing the wind, rain, cold and snow), taking pride when it was free of carts. And, true to the rumors (that Costco promotes from within), he eventually was given the opportunity to work in the warehouse as a cashier’s assistant, supporting customers as they check-out. He absolutely loves his job…and his customers absolutely love him. Matthew raves about his friends at the eyeglass center, bakery, pharmacy, food court and customer service desk. He always talks about the tire crew members who allow him to park his bike under their watch–and make sure it is tuned and safe to ride. He pays tribute to his many supervisors, each of whom has taken special care to help him succeed. Matthew enthusiastically participates in Costco’s Children’s Miracle Network partnership month, the annual Christmas party, and he recently won an employee Biggest Loser competition (losing over 65 pounds).
Costco has become much, much more than an employer to Matthew. Thank you for giving him a chance. I have always deeply believed that Matthew does not need any handouts — he just needs opportunities to apply his incredibly unique gifts and abilities. The purpose and care with which you approach business has literally changed the course of my brother’s life and has been an unspeakable blessing to him and to our family.
My warmest thanks,