Is Costco second rate?
I apologise in advance for what might seem like a stream of consciousness post but after reading this and other forums regarding hearing aids I am somewhat befuddled .
My confusion revolves around Costco and their provision of hearing services. I’ll start by saying I do NOT have a HA yet - but expect to be told I need one later this week! Secondly I am a Costco member but rarely go there.
Some context might help - Costco has only been readily available in Australia since 2009 - in my area I think from about 2011. Here, it seems to be accepted/recognised as a warehouse supermarket which particularly sells bulk products and hence can be a cheaper option. Its competition has affected the local markets and has lead to a significant reduction locally in prices for many things like alcohol, TVs etc. We do joke that you only buy toilet paper at Costco if you are willing to buy 50 rolls at once - one of the reasons I don’t visit often.
Reading around the hearing aid community - including here, but more marked on Facebook (even the Hearing aid tracker Facebook group) - I get the sense that Costco is considered a second rate option. One that you choose only
- “if cost is a consideration”;
- “if you can’t afford to go to a private Audi”
- “for the budget conscious”.
It’s as if Costco is the ‘poor peoples’ choice’ and is portrayed in a relatively negative light. I regularly see comments about its HAs being “knock off” “second rate” and “de-featured” and inevitably “locked” and even that they don’t last as long as HA from private clinics! That it has Hearing aid specialists (HAS) and not Audis. Yet I also see seemingly informed comments (particularly here) that a good HAS can be as good as an Audi where fitting and programming of HAs are concerned; that Costco uses best practice; that their HAs (both KS and brand name) are top line, the majority not locked nor de-featured (tinnitus settings may be the exception although I am now reading that at least some Costco ARE activating the tinnitus features) and they offer multiple brands and they offer exceptional service - and plenty of Costco’s do have Audis.
One recent example from the Facebook group :
“… Costco=defeatured product for a fraction of the price. Costco to manufacturer: what’s the best price you can give us on xyz hundreds of thousands of pairs of devices? Manufacturer: leave out tinnitus masking, key algorithms in noise reduction, older styles, circuits, and components, and designed to last a fraction of the time …”
Regarding service, I do realise that there are multiple Costco employees and some are better than others, and sometimes the experience can be horrible. I also read posts about people going to private Audis that offer/push only a single - seemingly extremely expensive - brand or who do not follow best practice or who have offered a horrible client experience… so I am not sure the Costco range of experiences is necessarily any different?
Is this seeming antipathy to Costco by so many some sort of cultural cringe/snobbery or a hangover from the past when things may have been different, or is it justified? I understand that if insurance affects your options you would need/choose to go to a specific provider, but if you have free choice is Costco really considered a discounted sub-par organisation which people only choose to go to - (for anything)- because they have no option and can’t afford to go elsewhere?
To be honest, I could afford to select and pay for any HA on the market today. However, as a consumer, I feel no urge to pay three times as much for a HA ( or a tv or a car or… you get it) if I do not NEED to. If Costco can provide me with appropriate HAs and SERVICE (I do value service) at a fraction of the cost of a “private Audi” I can see no logical reason to go elsewhere. In fact, from all the information I have been able to glean here and elsewhere, I can not see how Costco differs from going to a private Audi unless the person I see is “only” a HAS. I am also only really concerned about Costco as a provider of hearing assessment and fitting of hearing aids (HAs). I appreciate that private Audiologists (Audis) sometimes/can do more than that. I also understand that private audiologists may not be happy with being undercut by Costco but that is another argument .
How do Costco hearing services really differ from a so called “private audiologist”? Is there something intrinsic to the Costco model that makes it inferior to the private model?
Over to you:
Many people here reportedly either use/recommend Costco, have moved to Costco or moved away from Costco - I would love to hear what you think wrt the above questions. I am inviting a discussion around people’s attitudes to Costco, their hearing services and the above questions. Anecdotes of “Costco sucks so I moved” or “my private Audi sucked so I moved” probably aren’t going to advance the discussion too far.
I’m not trying to promote Costco or change peoples minds. I’m trying to get my head around what I perceive is a general negative attitude to it- one that I don’t see locally. I will go there for a test and perhaps HAs - if they are suitable and the service is to my liking I will probably stay - if not I will seek out alternatives - No different to my attitude if going to a private Audi. What am I missing?