Rethinking The Business Of Wellness

Costco’s Bizarre Employee Smoking Policy

My recent Costco visit reminded me of the smoking free-for-all that was the 1980s!  Does your Costco do this? Details of my bizarre conversation with the Costco store manager below…


Went to Costco and as usual had to walk through clouds of employee cigarette smoke to enter the store.

Understand, this employee smoking area is near the main entrance, just a few feet away from the sidewalk that at least half of their customers use to enter the store.  It’s just a few feet away from the handicapped parking spots (ironic, huh?). If you park on the northwest side of the store, you MUST go through this area to enter, unless you avoid the sidewalk entirely and walk in the street.

(And  I didn’t park in the outer reaches and go around back or anything weird like that.  Seriously, this the main entrance, right next to the shopping carts!)

Finally quit grumbling and actually did something:

I wrote Costco a courteous email suggesting that they move the smoking zone so that customers didn’t routinely have to walk through it.

And here’s the bizarre conversation I had as a result:

To their credit, I quickly got a phone call from the assistant manager, who….proceeded to blame it on the city’s requirement that smoking zones be something like 25′ away from the entrance!

I think they’re missing the point of the city ordinance, don’t you?!

So I said:

I explained to HIM that the city doesn’t require that merchants provide smoking areas at all – nor does it require that they be WITHIN 25′ of an entrance. The ordinance simply means that IF you have a smoking zone, it can’t be any closer than the stated distance.  

Costco would certainly be free to get rid of it altogether or relocate it somewhere far away from normal customer paths.

HE then voiced HIS frustration that the cigarette smoke in the second (!) smoking zone at the back of the store, near the loading docks, is so bad in the morning he can hardly breathe. He’s a non-smoker – although I suppose perhaps a better description would be that he’s a “passive smoker”, no?

In a nutshell:

Frankly, I’m surprised Costco allows on-premise employee smoking at all. This is the same company whose wellness program includes a smoking cessation program

No doubt a smoke-free environment would help employees trying to stop.  Having two employee smoking zones seems beyond ridiculous.  Locating smoking zones in areas that allow smoke to enter the work environment is just plain nuts (and may violate the city’s ordinance…dunno).

And for completely different reasons, I’m most surprised that they allow employee smoking in areas that are heavily populated with customers.

This is wrong on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start.

Is it like this at your local Costco too?  Or is this just a “Texas thang”?

2 Responses

  1. DEW

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Good news is — little by little smokers are being limited and even banded from restaurants and other public places. I’m all for personal choice, but that includes me not having to smoke, second hand!

  2. Wow. That response from the assistant manager has me speechless!

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