Framing the Dialogue

Costco Disconnection

CostcoIf 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.

1028091700I 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. 

gore electric billIsn’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.

samsI 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?

1130092042Update 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. 

Fred SingerCostco’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.

Arguing with idiotsI still have not renewed my membership.  I love the store, but do not want to support folks like Mr. Fuller with my money.

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.

19 CommentsLeave one

  1. Dave Baker says:

    Wow, I just got done emailing Mr. Fuller regarding his asinine comments when I happened upon your web page. Very well spoken! Below is the email I sent – amazing how people sometimes think alike 🙂

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  2. Dave Baker says:

    David,

    I just received your magazine, and I have to admit that I’m very much stumped by your comparison of a paid advertisement for a book in your magazine and an article printed in your magazine and written by Al Gore (and subsequent cover advertising the person and article). You could have gained some credibility for your comments had you printed the amount paid by the publishing company to advertise the Beck book and the amount paid by Al Gore to have his article printed. My guess is that the book publisher paid a tidy sum for their advertising space. I would also guess that Al Gore didn’t pay a dime to have his picture on the cover of your magazine, or to have his article printed inside. But I suppose we’ll never know.

    One thing is certain – Costco does not want my business or that of my employees. Thank goodness we still have other options available for purchasing goods in the United States.

    Dave Baker
    Salem, OR

  3. Greg says:

    I wished that I had thought of the term “asinine” and used it. Thanks for the comments. I also belong to Sam’s Club and may just shop there from now on.

  4. Tod says:

    Hi,
    My name is Tod Jones. I work at The Costco Connection. I have to tell you, the response to the November issue has been unprecedented — hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and letters, for the most part negative.
    A common thread through all this communication has been that Gore’s essay went unchallenged.
    I have to agree that the issue of climate change was not presented in a balanced manner.
    We are, at this time, trying to rectify this by presenting a dissenting view
    in our December issue.
    As well, I want to assure all our readers that the selection of Gore as part of the
    November issue (which is a really good issue, by the way—I hope you’ll
    read the rest of it) was in no way meant to promote an agenda or support a political
    viewpoint.
    Thank you, and best regards,
    Tod Jones
    Managing Editor
    The Costco Connection

  5. Lisa Ellis says:

    Very well written. My sentiments this morning went from angry to humorous as I read the editor’s attempt at explaining why he would put such a controversial figure on the front cover of its magazine. To actually mention the fact that he was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient as if that means anything after they gave out the last one. My husband and I have decided to call it quits with Costco now that we know where they stand. Once they fire this editork, we may consider returning, but we will shop elsewhere for now.

  6. Lisa Ellis says:

    After reading Mr. Jones’ explanation, we will wait and see if the December issue provides adequate dissention to November’s issue. If it is deemed that it is simply an attempt by an “equally liberal” managing editor to maintain Costco’s membership by providing a mildly dissenting view of Gore’s article, I won’t buy it. Frankly, I believe the only way they can make up for this is to put Glenn Beck on the front cover and have him bring forth the proof from the opposing side. I guess we’ll wait and see…

  7. Greg says:

    I like Glenn Beck also, but suggested Lord Christopher Monckton as the opposing viewpoint. Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr. Gore has steadfastly refused to debate him on man made warming. Lord Monckton is scheduled to be a guest on Glenn’s television show tonight.

  8. Sheri Wilson says:

    That’s enough to cancel my membership.

  9. Anup Kumar says:

    I too sent an email to Costco last night questioning David Fuller’s condescending editorial. I didn’t mind seeing Al Gore on the cover, or his article, but what riled me was David Fuller’s editorial. As soon as I finished reading the editorial I tossed it in the garbage (didn’t bother recycling it).

  10. Ed Bailey says:

    We cancelled our membership Sunday after 18 years as executive club members. This is no better time than Christmas to send these snake oil merchants our final greetings!

  11. Shirley says:

    I was thrilled when I found this page after sending my comments to The Costco Connection regarding Al Gore’s appearance on the cover of the last issue. I, too, was amazed that a staff member sent me what turned out to be Mr. Fuller’s exact words. (I had not even opened the magazine so I had missed the editor’s snarky commentary). I thanked him for explaining censorship and the First Amendment to me. This information will be quite helpful to me since I am a high school librarian! ha! I really don’t care which books they sell in their stores, but seeing Al Gore dominating the cover of yet another magazine made my blood boil. Gore receives a lot of free press and makes a ton of money peddling fuzzy science, and he leaves a very large carbon footprint wherever he goes. His “ideas” are accepted as gospel, and most schools conveniently own at least one copy of An Inconvenient Truth to be used in their science curriculum.

    The debate about climate change is not over as Mr. Gore claimed in his so-called award winning documentary. In fact, we have already begun moving away from the term, “global warming” altogether. My husband is an environmental engineer who has been working in that field more than 40 years, and he is appalled that real scientists who disagree with Gore are not taken seriously.

    I know that The Costco Connection is a “lifestyle” magazine, but it doesn’t reflect my lifestyle. It “saddens” me to tell them I did not have time to read any of the articles by or about any of the people they mentioned in their letter to me: Stern, LaHaye, Gore, or Beck! I have been a Costco member and I was one of their biggest fans for 20 years. I’m guessing most members just want to read about new products, how they will make our lives better, and how much they cost. I suspect the average consumer is not looking for political, religious, or philosophical statements from Costco’s publication. I don’t know why any company would risk alienating customers when they don’t have to.

  12. Russ says:

    I concur completely with those comments about Mr Fuller’s obvious bias. This has NO place in the magazine. I have joined Sam’s Club and for now I am keeping my longtime Costco membership. If I don’t see something very positive about this from Mr Fuller and COSTCO, I will be cancelling and seeking a refund.

    We have enough garbage presented daily form a very biased media – we do not need it from our store that we pay for the privilege of shopping at.

    I do NOT agree with Gore, but I feel exactly the same way about ANY political statements for or against either side (or any other side). It is statements like these and those from President Obama disparaging any voice of opposition that is tearing our country apart.

  13. Zazadance says:

    Wow I can’t believe they published a letter from one of those global warming denying freaks too! They mustn’t of recieved very many letters! Gawd I wonder if they also still believe smoking won’t hurt your lungs, and that Saddam Hussien was behind 911. Some people live in very small caves I guess

  14. P McPherson says:

    Wow! I was doing a search for myself to clear up a discrepancy, and up popped my letter to Costco regarding Al Gore and global warming.
    I expressed my opinion — so what?? People are not entitled to call me “nutty” or etc. That is rude. Just because I believe differently doesn’t call for emotional outbursts. I can always tell ultra right-wing writers — no facts to back up what is being said.
    My letter was published most likely because I was one of the first to respond.
    My logic is this: to win as president, a candidate must get 270 electoral votes. Before the Florida debacle, the news announced that Gore won Florida’s 25 electoral votes, and he already had 268, so that put him at 293 and the presidency. Bush had 248 (I believe). With 25, he would then have 273, but that isn’t what was happening, so we needed a crisis!!!!
    Then suddenly, guess what? A crisis — hanging chads, inaccurate counting, not counting precincts where voters were black –down in the Sunshine State where Jeb was governor (not that he had anything to do with this) — now the votes were up in the air.
    The Supreme Court votes in a 5/4 split that Bush won.
    At the time there were five conservative and four liberal justices.
    I happen to believe it was all contrived and that Al Gore won — so why do you all care enough to call me unkind names?? It’s so right-wing of you!! I believe what I believe — so what? I’m not threatening to cancel my Costco membership! (I love Costco). I could call several of you total jerks, but I’m a liberal, and we don’t call others childish names. We like to be good critical thinkers and ask WHY? rather than lash out at those who express different opinions.
    I also believe humans do impact the environment (Like a true liberal I recycle religiously) and pollute the heck out of the earth. I believe Al Gore’s contention that the glaciers are in fact melting due to human activity.

  15. Greg says:

    Ms. McPherson – I thought there was a lively discussion about the big box supermarket (Costco) getting mired in politics. They took a lot of heat for the position of one of their editors. I never called you nutty!

    I do not, however, understand how you ignore the evidence that Bush won the election in 2000. I provided the link to your ultra left wing extremist holy grail – The New York Times where they had to admit that any way you tried to count the votes in Florida – BUSH WON.

    Let’s move on to the global warming. You must not have gotten the memo as you are supposed to call it “Climate Change.” I’ll spot you a little slack since recent events may not have reached you, but the Reverand Al Goge seems to be in hiding, the head of the UN’s IPCC recently resigned in shame and Phil Jones came clean and admitted that there has not been any warming for 15 years.

  16. P McPherson says:

    Okay I googled myself again to check out if I have any more labels slapped on me — anyhow, re your response — it is unfair to characterize liberals as ultra left wing whatever and as far as the holy grail, I have never read The New York Times (I stick with the Detroit Free Press) besides you should just summarize the “proof” Bush supposedly won, not refer me to some article. I did the courtesy of providing electoral college vote counts as proof to back up my contention that Bush cheated his way into the presidency. Just because people down in the Sunshine State tampered with the evidence is the reason I believe, and I believe Fox news jumped on it and distorted because they wanted Bush in so badly.
    Today we are dealing with the backward greedy corporate agenda that Bush advocated and we are and will suffer for a while yet. What we have is We the People party and We the Corporate party. Too much corporate running things.
    Mr. Obama, who I feel leans to the right too much, especially re education reform, is trying to clean things up and get us back to work and improve the economy, but I feel the Christian right is a huge detriment to this country as well and does huge damage. Like this Tea Party, for example, that is an old-fashioned hate group similar to the KKK.
    But as far as Al Gore, he would have been a better choice, he did win, and he is a thousand times the statesman these right-wing, folksy talking guys are, such as Bush. Their policies hurt a majority of people and favor big business — hey, the right wing is not for me!

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