With one of the lowest employee turnover rates in the retail industry, popular warehouse chain Costco consistently wins high marks in worker satisfaction. And, it rated as a “best place to work” in a 2016 Glassdoor.com survey. Costco pays its hourly workers an average of $20.89 an hour, which is well above minimum wage, and gives around 88 percent of its employees health insurance, according to Bloomberg Business.
However, some jobs rate better than others, depending on the responsibilities and pay. Read on for the five best and worst jobs at Costco.
The Best Jobs at Costco
Known for its great benefits, some employees said in Glassdoor reviews that they consider themselves lucky to be hired at Costco, especially because the retailer has a good track record for promoting within and rewarding loyal employees. In fact, it’s Costco’s policy to avoid business school grads, preferring to nurture employees who start on the floor in its warehouses and sponsoring them through college and beyond.
Current Costco CEO Craig Jelinek makes about $6.3 million a year, counting bonuses and stock options. Jelinek is also widely admired by those who work with him, as nearly 500 employees gave Jelinek a 93 percent approval rating on Glassdoor. His duties as CEO include growing Costco’s online business, building and maintaining supplier relationships and increasing Costco’s international presence.
Jelinek is the poster child for Costco’s promoting-from-within practice. A San Diego State University graduate, Jelinek first joined the company as a warehouse manager in 1984, and after advancing though various positions, took on his current role when former CEO Jim Sinegal retired in 2012.
2. Lead Wine Buyer
Widely known as one of the most influential people in the wine industry, Annette Alvarez-Peters travels around the world sourcing wines for Costco. She oversees a team of 11 wine buyers.
Alvarez-Peters worked various jobs at the company, from an entry-level accounting job to merchandising receptionist, before she became an alcohol buyer for the company’s Los Angeles division, from 1995 to 2005. From there, she was promoted to her current position as assistant general merchandising manager of beverage alcohol, according to the Press Democrat.
Costco pays its assistant general managers an average of $101,000, which includes cash and stock bonuses, according to Glassdoor. Although Alvarez-Peters’ salary is not disclosed, it’s likely that with her tenure, she makes well over that amount. The perks alone are worth their weight in wine bottles.
3. Lead Toy Buyer
Jelinek and his team evaluate thousands of toys every year. As part of his duties, Ken Fortin visits toy expos, where he is pitched by hundreds of vendors eager to see their merchandise on Costco’s shelves.
Much of Fortin’s time is spent curating those toys into less than 200 items to be sold over the holiday season. Because Costco doesn’t mark its goods up by any more than 15 percent, Fortin also works with factories and vendors to keep toy costs down.
Fortin began his Costco career more than 30 years ago, like many of the Costco personnel who are now executives. Although his days are filled with testing toys, he told CNBC in an interview, “To the casual observer, this process may look like child’s play, but this is actually serious and stressful business.”
Even so, it could be a lot worse than testing toys for a living. Glassdoor puts Costco buyer salaries at a high of $131,000, including cash and stock bonuses.
4. Product Testing Technician
Costco employs technicians at a lab near Seattle who check for quality on all Costco products, according to the CNBC documentary, “Inside the Costco Craze.” Product testers verify measurements, weight and much more. During a toilet paper inspection, for instance, technicians measured whiteness, softness and texture. Other products tested include shirt collars and candy, reported CNBC.
Although job requirements and salaries vary by industry, the median pay in 2014, the most recent data available, for quality control inspectors reached about $35,000 a year, or $16.99 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. For that, inspectors need a high school degree and some on-the-job training.
The pay might not be that high, but Costco routinely pays over the national wage average and promotes from within. Not to mention that tasting chocolate and yes, even judging toilet paper, sounds like a cushy job.
Costco provides some excellent employment options for in-store licensed pharmacists. It operates nearly 500 pharmacies and employs 1,800 pharmacists, according to its website.
A pharmacist at Costco is expected to dispense medications, while a pharmacy manager oversees operations of the in-store pharmacy and monitors department performance. The latter is a full-time management position requiring 45-plus hours per week. It pays approximately $132,000 a year, which is 16 percent higher than the national average, according to CareerBliss.com.
The Worst Jobs at Costco
Whatever the job, any position at Costco can become a career, thanks to the retailer’s practice of promoting from within. “[Costco] has a number of vice presidents in their forties that started as cart pushers and front-end assistants, and have been with the company for 20 years,” Jelinek said in a Motley Fool interview. Consider that, and there’s no real worst job at Costco if it helps you climb your way to the top.
1. Food Service Assistant
Otherwise known as “food court worker,” this position typically serves the affordable hot dogs, pizza and more that Costco customers flock to eat. Food service assistants are expected to prepare and sell food and drinks, stock supplies and ingredients, and clean the kitchen areas. Food court personnel make about $12 an hour, and are awarded medical benefits after 180 days, according to the store’s benefits policy for part-time workers.
However, it can be a fast-paced and challenging job. “It’s really hard to keep up with their pace…. It’s ridiculous how much, on a busy day, you have to do in a hours time,” said one Glassdoor user review. Another said, “Food court work is constant and demanding….The department very rarely feels properly staffed and you very rarely get out at your scheduled time if you are closing, which is always your fault for not working hard enough.”
2. Sample Demonstrators
Those food and drink samples Costco shoppers love to try are usually handed out by contractors, most of them employed by a company named Club Demonstration Services (CDS). Sample demonstrators are included in about 4 percent of the staff at Costco that is made up of contract workers.
Costco said it works to ensure sample demonstrators get above-industry-average wages. However, they work part time, reportedly receive no benefits and make an average of $11.83 an hour, according to Glassdoor.
3. Product Representatives
Similar to sample demonstrators, these are the workers who staff a mobile phone booth, or who show you how to use a new Dyson. These workers also aren’t employed by Costco, but work just as hard as store employees without the legendary Costco benefits.
Online job site CareerBuilder.com recently posted a listing for a Dyson product demonstrator requiring applicants work a minimum of three out of four weekends a month and some holidays. Demonstrators also must possess the ability to stand on their feet for up to eight hours a day. That position pays $17.50 an hour, which is $3 less per hour than the average Costco employee makes.
According to the Costco website, stockers stock and straighten merchandise in the warehouse, and clean and clear aisles. Stock work can be seasonal, which means you’re not guaranteed a full-time job. And if you work part time, benefits don’t kick in for 180 days.
A Glassdoor survey of 37 Costco night stockers found that the position paid $14 an hour on average. Stockers spend most of their time lifting and carrying merchandise, which can be backbreaking work.
Costco cashiers’ salaries average $15 an hour, according to Glassdoor. Cashier responsibilities include member order processing, working the cash register and performing department set-up and closing tasks.
Cashier hours can be inconsistent and there is limited opportunity to advance, according to employee feedback on Glassdoor. Even given Costco’s propensity to promote from within, as one Glassdoor reviewer noted, it’s hard to move up because people don’t leave Costco often.