Conjecture: Inference from defective or presumptive evidence.
In my opinion, the best authority, when writing on a subject, is personal experience. By that, I mean actually having experienced the subject, or hearing it first-hand from those that experienced the event or subject.
Based on my personal experience of several extensive conversations with the Management of COSTCO Hearing Centers in the United States, I am of the opinion that he expects and demands the highest ethical behavior and performance of his employees.
Having worked as a Hearing Aid Dispenser for a Major Retail Corporation, that used to have direct Employees as in their Hearing Aid Division (Div05),I am well aware of the pressures placed on Employees and Division Managers, to attain certain desirable numbers, including sales and profit.
I am also well aware of the individual characteristics of Human Beings, including Hearing Aid Dispensers, and their personal interpretations and responses to policies,goals,rules,ethics,honesty,etc, and their own income and survival.
As a result of never having worked for COSTCO,although I have been, and am, a Customer for certain products, hearing aids not being one of them, what I shall write in the following is based on my personal experiences,personal contacts,and personal observations.
It is my understanding that a man named Sol Price,the owner of the Price Club, wore hearing aids. Somehow Sol and his Hearing Aid Dispenser (Provider) decided to introduce the marketing and selling of Hearing Aids at the Price Club Warehouse Outlets.
For whatever reasons, they established a Private Label called PERCEPTION Hearing Aids.
The reason for that decision was probably influenced by Hearing Aid Vendors (Manufacturers) who didn't want their Manufacturing Brand Name negatively affected by being available and sold at a Discount Warehouse Organization.
The Traditional Channels of Distribution, Private Hearing Aid Offices and Hearing Aid Dispensers, regardless of title, hated the idea of Hearing Aids being sold and dispensed at Discount Stores, and still do.
The reason the Price Club had such fantastic inital success in the Sale of Hearing Aids, and the PRESENT OWNER COSTCO still does, is because Hearing Aids were sold at prices on the basis of "WHATEVER THE TRAFFIC WILL BEAR" and still are.
COSTCO being a MERCHANT AND RETAILER, based their Hearing Aid Retail Pricing on the same basis they priced everything else. Cost,plus operating expenses,plus profit,equals RETAIL PRICE...Competition considering and allowing.
Such Pricing resulted in the Retail Price Level being 2/3rd LESS THAN HEARING AID OFFICES AND OTHER DISPENSERS.
That meant Hearing Aids being available to the PUBLIC for a couple of hundred dollars instead of thousands.
At the time THE PRICE CLUB (NOW COSTCO) in 1990 got into the Hearing Aid Business, the average Hearing Aid Office, on a National Basis, sold about 10 Hearing Aids a month, or about 120 Hearing Aids per year.
PRICE CLUB Outlets starting selling over 100 PER MONTH. EACH STORE.
The DEMAND FOR COMPETITIVE PRICING, HAS NEVER DIMINISHED.
While I believe COSTCO only sells less thant 50,000 Hearing Aids per year at the present time, if they ever really advertised and promoted their Hearing Aid Centers, they would dominate the Industry and cause a complete change in the way HEARING AIDS are marketed and sold.
Probably because of GREED and the realization that COSTCO could was selling at LOWER PRICES than they had to, to achieve their sales and profit budgets, THEY HAVE NOW RAISED THEIR PRICES.
They are no longer the SOURCE OF THE CHEAPEST HEARING AIDS.
During the years, COSTCO dropped their PRIVATE LABEL PERCEPTION and sold their Hearing Aid Products under the MANUFACTURERS LABEL such as REXTON, even though they actually advertised that product line (REXTON) by the name SIEMENS which is actually the OWNER of the BRAND: REXTON because the name or BRAND SIEMENS is much better known by the RETAIL PUBLIC (CUSTOMERS) than REXTON.
Now COSTCO is once again using PRIVATE LABELING for Hearing Aids by labeling them KIRKLAND their well recognized STORE BRAND.
Their is less negative heat and pressure from Manufacturers when their Brand Name is not used by DISCOUNTERS SUCH AS COSTCO and usually better pricing and other favors can be secured from the participating or anticipated VENDORS and MANUFACTURERS.
The DISADVANTAGES to the Consumer are SEVERAL,especially in the sale of HEARING AIDS.
The Primary Disadvantage, now that all Hearing Aids use DIGITAL SIGNAL PROCESSING, is that only COSTCO can SERVICE AND PROGRAM THE HEARING AIDS.
THE CONSUMER IS AT THE MERCY OF THE POLICIES AND SERVICES OF COSTCO or anyone else using a PRIVATE LABEL OR BRANDED HEARING AID.
PRIOR to DIGITAL SIGNAL PROCESSING a PRICE CLUB OR COSTCO (PERCEPTION BRANDED) Hearing Aid, being of ANALOG DESIGN, could be repaired and serviced by any Hearing Aid Dispenser in the United States since no COMPUTER SOFTWARE was needed to service the product.
THAT IS NO LONGER THE CASE.
A Personal Experience will illustrate the PROBLEM.
A Man called my office and asked whether we could repair his hearing aids that he had purchased from COSTCO about 10 years ago.
Over the phone, I responded that I thought we could since any Custom Made Hearing Aid can be repaired forever, regardless of the AGE OF THE HEARING AID.
Since he was disabled, he stated that he couldn't bring the aids to my office.
I offered to make a HOUSE CALL for him, which I did, and when I arrived at his home, I saw the RAMP installed for his WHEELCHAIR and all the other features of a DISABLED PERSON'S HOME.
It turned out He was a WIDOWER, lived alone, a WWII VETERAN on a FIXED INCOME (SOCIAL SECURITY) and his Life consisted primarily of watching the Television.
He had purchased the Hearing Aids (Perception Brand) from COSTCO but when his Son took the 10 year old Hearing Aids back to COSTCO to have them REPAIRED, the Son was told that COSTCO doesn't repair hearing aids over 3 Years old.
He was told his Father needed NEW DIGITAL HEARING AIDS.
The Father and the Son together could not afford to buy new DIGITAL HEARING AIDS.
I took the 2 PERCEPTION HEARING AIDS, had all new Electronics installed in the EXISTING CASES, returned them to the USER, and he said they sounded better than they ever did.
He only paid me the normal repair charge, which is the same regardless of the AGE OF THE HEARING AID.
This type of SERVICE, provided by an INDEPENDENTLY OWNED AND OPERATED HEARING AID OFFICE AND DISPENSER is why there will always be room to compete against COSTCO and other RETAILERS, BIG AND SMALL.
As long as there is COMPETITION THE CONSUMER WILL ALWAYS BENEFIT.
GOD BLESS AMERICA.
Now that COSTCO has raised their RETAIL PRICES it is even easier for Me to compete against them with either equal or BETTER PRICING THAN THEY OFFER.
I have found that Their Dispensers don't have many years experience dispensing Hearing Aids.
Their Corporate Sales and Service Policies are TYPICAL and are usually intended to protect and benefit the Corporation, NOT THE CUSTOMER.
With that type of MENTALITY,and LACK OF FLEXIBILITY AND THINKING, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ROOM FOR A SMALL, HONEST,ETHICAL,COMPETITIVE,AND CREATIVE INDEPENDENT BUSINESS OWNER.