If you asked my family, they may describe my relationship with Costco as a special one. I do most of the grocery shopping for our family and I do most of it at Costco. I have belonged to our local store since it opened many years ago and even have a favorite parking spot (though I rarely get it). My youngest often goes with me and we enjoy snack-shopping (being fed lots of samples while we shop) and having lunch together after we shop. My chili recipe ingredients starts with two big packs of Costco ground chuck, a big pack of red peppers, a huge can of whole tomatoes, and a huge can of tomato paste (I should explain that we have a huge freezer and this recipe makes enough for about ten meals).
I am sure that I am not their biggest customer, but I am consistent and generally shop there at least once a week. I have been to Costco stores in six states (Michigan – my first, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, California, and Missouri). A number of years ago, I even went for the executive membership to get money back on my purchases. I generally purchase something for the house (microwave, panini maker) or me (iPod stereo, external hard drive – this years’ bonus).
Costco publishes a monthly magazine for its members called The Costco Connection. Its sub-headline claims that it is “A Lifestyle Magazine for Costco Members” and it features regular columns by David Horowitz (Consumer Connection) and Suze Orman (Financial Connection), member profiles, an Informed Debate section (covers both sides of key issues), and my favorite and by far the largest section, new products. This section includes many books.
I saw the familiar Costco Connection title peeking out of our pile of mail this afternoon and was a little sickened to see Al “the planet has a fever” Gore featured on its cover. In the interest of full disclosure you should know that I am not a big fan of Mr. Gore. The cover did not bother me too much as Costco is a large retail store and has customers of all beliefs. I assumed that he had a new book coming out and would have thought no more about it until I glanced at the piece by the editor, David Fuller.
For some reason his first sentence caught my eye; “LET’S TALK ABOUT Al Gore and Glenn Beck.” Fuller proceeds to express his obvious opinion supporting Mr. Gore and in turn disparaging Mr. Beck; “These two people have little in common in terms of politics or stature (There is only one person I can think of of who has both a Nobel Peace Prize and the title of vice president…” Fuller then climbs up on his soap box to tout the First Amendment rights of both men and the magazine’s rights “to print articles or sell and promote books” written by Beck or Gore.
David Fuller expresses his sadness that he has to point out that Costco does not believe in censoring books. At this point I am completely lost! I will admit that I had never read the stuff this guy writes, so maybe this is his style and who couldn’t use a little brush up on the Constitution?
One of my pet peeves is when celebrities use their positions to advocate political issues. I have to now add a subset to that “peeve” to include when my supermarket uses its “Lifestyle Magazine” to advocate a political viewpoint. Make no mistake that Mr. Fuller is advocating. He clearly points out that Beck’s book was “promoted in a full-page advertisement” which means that Beck’s publisher paid Costco to promote it while Mr. Gore “penned an article for us concerning his ideas about climate change.” Wait a minute, I thought the planet had a fever and this was GLOBAL WARMING!
I do not think that I am imagining anything here. Gore “penned an article” while Beck had a promotional, paid advertisement. Gore was a Nobel Prize winning former vice president for stature while Beck…still waiting for that balance. How about the fact he has had three books on the NYT best sellers list IN THE SAME YEAR (I purchased all three at my local Costco store), Beck overcame serious addictions to alcohol and drugs, found God, and has become one of the most widely watched and listened to personalities in the world. He did this himself.
Isn’t Costco the type of evil, profit-making corporations that Gore often rails against? With their operations and shipping, they must have a huge carbon footprint. I also wonder how Mr. Gore feels about Costco employees not being protected by a union? I wonder when Mr. Gore will discuss why he does not reduce his excessive carbon footprint or how much money he stands to gain (I cannot bring myself to call it earning) if climate change policies are fully implemented.
I have a name for Mr. Fuller to consider; Tiger Woods. He is the best golfer in the world and will be considered the best ever. Some criticize Mr. Woods for not using his position to be political, but I applaud him. You would be hard pressed to find out his political views and that is how it should be. There are a lot of us who like politics, but there are places it should not intrude, including my grocery store.
I had never equated shopping at Costco with supporting a particular political viewpoint..until now. Funny thing is that I also received my renewal notice from Costco. I had never had to question whether to rejoin…until now.
I’d like to remind Mr. Fuller of another great thing about America. We still have some free choice and there are other warehouse clubs. Ever heard of Members Mark products Mr. Fuller?
Update November 30, 2009: A month ago Costco featured former VP, Al Gore, on their magazine cover. Many members of the warehouse club expressed our displeasure with both the free publicity for Gore (he was hawking a book) and the shot the editor David Fuller seemed to take at Glenn Beck who was charged by Costco for the same privilege to hawk his book. The second of these issues is what I objected to and posted my original Costco Disconnection. I was surprised at the comments and how fast members responded to my comments. The Costco Connection even posted a comment.
Costco also committed to provide a forum for the other side of the man-made global warming debate.
My copy of The Costco Connection arrived today and I have to admit a little disappointment at the cover featuring Jimmy Kimmel. I guess that the Costco folks need to get away from the controversy, but I would have been more pleased with a photograph of one of the many scientists who oppose Al Gore’s man-caused warming point of view.
Mr. Fuller did address the issue in his column and we can all feel good that he is here to explain our First Amendment rights. You may consider my sarcasm to represent my level of belief in his explanation.
Costco’s forum to represent the opposing view consisted of three quarters of a page of letters from members expressing their displeasure and a half page rebuttal from Dr. S. Fred Singer. The selection of Dr. Singer to discuss the issue was a good one. An atmospheric physicist at George Mason University, Dr. Singer has been an outspoken voice challenging the Gore Position. Neither had the impact of a cover photograph and a feature article. A more complete discussion by Dr. Singer can be found in this transcript from a PBS interview.
I would be inclined to give Costco a B- for their efforts and try to explain the lame response to the fact that they are trying to escape the issue and politics and let it go. The editors of The Costco Connection, however, chose to print a letter from Patricia McPherson (Oxford, Michigan) where she claimed that Al Gore was the real winner in the 2000 Presidential Election. THEY ACTUALLY PRINTED A LETTER FROM A LADY WHO STILL BELIEVES THAT PRESIDENT BUSH STOLE THE ELECTION. For Mr. Fuller’s and Ms. McPherson’s information, the liberal New York Times even printed an article in 2001 dispelling that lie. George W. Bush won.
Costco missed a great opportunity to really evolve had they taken a more balanced approach in this issue. Consider the impact of this issue would have in light of the exposure of the questionable methods used by the Gore camp calling further into question his claims.
As long as The Costco Disconnection keeps wading into political waters (one letter printed remarked about how they have evolved), they can expect members like me to respond and eventually exercise another of our rights to shop elsewhere.
Note to Mr. Fuller: I took a look at the New York Times best seller list where Nobel Prize winner Al Gore’s book is listed at number nine (non-fiction paperbacks). Much to your dismay, Glenn Beck’s book, Common Sense (also released directly to paperback, but five months earlier) occupies the seventh slot. Beck’s Arguing With Idiots, occupies the fourth slot on the hardcover best seller list.