Costco – A Cathedral of ConsumptionCostco, most certainly, is a “Cathedral of Consumption” Costco has contributed to individuals consuming far more than they need to consume. It has become a place of hyper-consumption and its great size is enchanting to many shoppers. Thus, going to Costco has become a family outing for some people. Above all, Costco is evolution, on a scale that is easy to examine.
First people purchased needed items at a Town Fair. Then it was the Mom and Pop markets, the Soda Fountain, then the Five and Dime. The Market followed, then the Grocery store, the Drug Store, and finally the victorious Super Market. But unlike the others, Costco is Brontosaurus and T-Rex combined, consuming all in its path.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $12
Costco stacks it high and sells it cheap! Well, some people consider it cheap. I find the prices to be fair, comparable in price to what you may come across on sale at your own supermarket. But truly, Americans are obsessed with consumption. They love to shop and find every occasion to do so. They are also obsessed with saving money. Many people purchase items simply because they are on sale. They may not know if they will ever need the item, all they know is that it is cheap so they better buy it before someone else does.
It is very obvious that Americans are caught up in what would now be called hyperconsumption, and that Costco is a perfect example of this. In Juliet B. Schor’s book, The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, And The New Consumer (1998), Schor states: Americans spend three or four times as much time shopping as Western Europeans. Yet, many middle-class Americans feel materially dissatisfied.
They walk around with ever-present mental “wish lists” of things to buy or get. Even a six-figure income can seem inadequate. This country saves less than virtually any other nation in the world (p. 28). Schor speaks about the ways in which, for America’s middle classes, “spending becomes you,” and it flatters, enhances, and defines people in often-wonderful ways, but it often takes over their lives (1998).
A Little Background on CostcoAccording to Costco Wholesale’s Website, Costco Wholesale Corporation operates membership warehouses that offer fairly low prices on a selection of nationally branded and selected private-label products in a wide range of merchandise categories in no-frills, self-service warehouse facilities.
Products and services include appliances, books, movies, music, clothing and accessories, computers and peripherals, electronics, cameras, furniture, gifts and flowers, hardware, outdoor items, health and beauty products, a full-service pharmacy, optometry care, sporting goods, toys, long-distance service, credit card processing, and travel services. Each store may sell slightly different things. For example, in parts of Washington and Oregon, Costco members can purchase medical insurance at a discounted rate (2001).
The company’s first location opened in 1976 under the Price Club name and was in a converted airplane hangar on Morena Boulevard in San Diego. As of September 3, 2000, Costco operated 313 warehouse clubs, consisting of 237 in the United States, 59 in Canada, 10 in the United Kingdom, three in Korea, three in Taiwan, and one in Japan. Next year Costco Wholesale will celebrate its 25th anniversary and the beginning of the warehouse club industry. As of September 3, 2000, the Company also operated (through a 50%-owned joint venture) 18 warehouses in Mexico.
In the beginning, Costco served only small businesses. Later, the company felt they could offer better prices if they served a greater number of people. They would have more buying power if they also served non-business members. Because of that change, the advancement of the warehouse club industry was on its way and ready to change the way Americans shopped. In 1983, the first Costco warehouse location was opened in Seattle. In less than six years Costco went from being worth zero to $3 billion dollars, the first company in history to grow that rapidly.
When Costco and Price Club merged in 1993, the combined company, operating under the name PriceCostco, had 206 locations generating $16 billion in annual sales. Since resuming the Costco name in 1997, the company has grown to more than 300 locations worldwide with total sales in its most recently concluded fiscal year of more than $30 billion.
Costco has three types of membership: Gold Star, Business, and Executive. Gold Star membership is $45 per year and includes a spouse card. The Gold Star Membership is valid at any Costco worldwide. With the Gold Star membership, an individual can come into the store during regular business hours and purchase any products. Business members qualify by owning or operating a business. The annual fee for Business members is the US $45, which includes a spouse card.
A Business membership allows the member to shop for resale, business, and personal use. Business members may also add up to six additional membership cards at the US $35 each, which includes a free spouse card. A transferable company card may be purchased also. Business Membership is valid at any Costco worldwide.
Executive Membership is a new level of membership designed to save the member even more money. According to one Costco representative: “Executive members save hundreds of dollars a year on an entire menu of business and personal services.”
Executive Membership provides the member a complete line of business and personal services, in addition to all the usual Gold Star benefits, Executive members become eligible by being current or retired employees of select employers, members of approved associations, and professionally licensed individuals. But certain services are reserved exclusively for Costco Executive members. An example of Executive benefits is discounts on car and home insurance as well as mortgage services.
Why does Costco charge a fee? They say it is to keep costs down and pass the savings on to their members. From Costco’s web site (2001): “Our large membership base and tremendous buying power, combined with our never ending quest for efficiency, result in the best possible prices for our members.” I suppose that means they would not be able to charge such low prices if it was not for their membership fee.
In addition, Costco has an Unconditional Double Guarantee? on their merchandise. They will refund the full price of any product if the customer is not fully satisfied. They also guarantee their membership. They will refund the total yearly fee if at any time a member is not satisfied with Costco’s services or products.
Is Costco good for society’s neighborhoods? Is Costco a wolf in sheep’s clothing? When you look down at the fine print Costco doesn’t earn it’s the money it steals its money from other businesses. Choking other smaller businesses by offering a wider variety of products at a lower price. This is actually a very simple business tactic if you want to sell a lot of something cut your profit margin to beat the other competitors and you will sell more.
The only stores that could be considered competition for Costco are BJs Wholesale Club, Kmart, and Wal-Mart (including Sam’s Club). However, when a Costco comes into town it usually wipes out the nearby competition. Costco mathematicians only know how to add. They never talk about the jobs they destroy, the vacant retail space they create, or their impact on commercial property values.
My Experience With Costco In ModestoHere I will explore some of my findings as I observed Costco of Modesto. I made 10 visits to the Modesto Costco over a 6-week period. I took a short survey of 56 shoppers. I observed and jotted down notes, I did not speak to anyone directly. My first visit to Costco for this study was early one Friday morning.
The store was just about ready to open. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed the parking lot was already crammed with cars and only a few empty parking spots. The customers looked like they were ready to hit the ground running as the store rolled open the metal door. According to one Modesto Costco Manager, The Modesto store has over 205 employees. It has 18 registers and two crewmembers per cash register. Not all 18 are open at one time.
Please note, the observations I made at Costco pertained no physical or verbal contact. The judgments I made as to age, ethnicity, etc., are my opinion. Thus making the research below subject to flaws. I select individuals at random on different days of the week. I observed them leaving the store after they made their purchases.
Of the 56 shoppers I observed, I found 52% to be women and 48% to be men: I found 14% to be approximately between the ages 20-30, 38% to be between the ages 30-40, 23% to be between the ages 40-50, 14% to be between the ages 50-60, and 11% to be over the age 60. I found there to be px. 71% white/anglo shoppers, 4% to be black, and 25% to be other races:
Next, I took note of how much an individual shopper had in their cart upon checking out. I found 38% of the shoppers purchasing what I called a small amount. This would consist of 1-5 items. I found 43% of the shoppers purchased a medium amount, which consisted of 6 15 items. Next, I noted 20% of the shoppers purchasing a large amount, which I considered to be anything over 15 items :
As I did this research I noticed a few interesting points. I noticed that on the days I went to Costco there were very few Black shoppers. In fact, of all my entries, I had only logged two black shoppers. I do not think I have ever noticed that the majority of Costco shoppers were white.
I also noticed a few people come in and only purchase one item. For instance, a man came in and only purchased a watermelon. Why a watermelon? The lines were very long that day and the parking lot was jammed to the seams. I was so curious about the watermelon that I went to buy one for myself, thinking that perhaps it was a wonderfully delicious watermelon and he knew something the rest of us didn’t. Needless to say, it was not.
I observed some families at Costco having dinner at the snack bar. This is where Costco offers a variety of artery-clogging delicacies. The snack bar includes items such as pizza (whole or by the slice), pretzels (home-baked and huge!), chicken bakes (my favorite), and smoothies. But they are most famous for their foot-long sausage dog and soda for $1.50.
At the end of this paper, you will find my original survey material. On these notes, you can see the types of items people purchased. I would have to say the most common items purchased were household items (cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc.). I also observed a number of people with what appeared to be their family and a considerable number of people who were shopping alone.
How Social Theorists Would View CostcoBecause people are conditioned by the material world into which they are born, their ideas of the world are relative to their unique life experiences. Because of this, men misinterpret the nature of the world in which they breathe, work, love, endure, and die. They misinterpret their position and the meaning of their position. Marxists would ultimately label this misinterpretation “false consciousness,” a dilemma intensified by the emergence of industrial capitalism.
Costco gives individuals a false consciousness? because it leads people into believing they are saving money by purchasing in large amounts. When reality is, if a person shops at Costco they may have fifteen tubes of toothpaste under the cupboards at any given time. Costco shoppers are spending more money now to try to save money tomorrow.
The huge size Costco mentality simply encourages people to purchase more of a distinct item. When you buy Jolly Rancher candies at Costco, you must buy 750 of them. I know because the huge bag is sitting right here next to my desk. I would have to honestly say that I have not eaten 750 Jolly Rancher candies in my lifetime, and I love them! But I couldn’t resist, I purchased the entire bag for less than 6 bucks.
A person usually works just enough to provide the necessities for his family with perhaps a little leftover. Marx referred to this as laboring power. When a person is shopping at Costco and purchasing more items than they need at that particular time, they are giving their labor away, the labor they haven’t even put forth yet.
It is bad enough that the person is being exploited by the one they are laboring for, their company, now it is Costco that is doing the exploiting. Costco is convincing people they need to purchase huge sizes of items in order to do what is right and save their family money. People leave Costco spending large sums of money on items they will use months from now, how is this saving money?
The Sacred Aspects of ConsumptionCan it is argued that consumption of textile goods has taken on near-sacred values? Durkheim defined the sacred as a collective representation and a social symbol. This definition includes a broad range of matters, which could credibly be vested with sacredness upon collective consent.
For him, religion involves the reaffirmation of widely standardized ideas, providing social cohesion, and linking the individual to the broader social order. The sacred becomes a real expression embodying the influence of society itself; it is external to the individual, an object of admiration, and has the coercive power to organize and persuade life (Durkheim, 1947).
Luckmann (1967) attempted to tap some of this religiosity with his notion of “invisible religions.” He argued that an enormous variety of hidden forms of religion consist of society, observed even in such things as industrial norms. When one thinks about it, it is the shopping event that the consumer experiences that Durkheimian sense of feeling connected with the broader social orders.
A large shopping area, like Costco, has all the attributes of customary town centers and has become one of the most efficient forums for reaching people. They are one of the few places where one even sees one’s fellow community members. Applying the Cathedral Metaphor to CostcoThroughout America huge shopping establishments have appeared, dedicated to the consumptive philosophy that binds the social arrangement and dominates our urban geography (the average size of Costco is 145,000 square feet).
These discount superstores, nonexistent until the 1960s, now account for about one-fourth of the annual retail sales of general merchandise and clothing in the United States (Jacobs, 1984). Saturdays have become the true holy day, parking lots overflowing with shoppers before noon. Each is a reflection of its membership dedication and is maintained by its congregation’s attendance.
The sense of vast, open, larger than life space that one receives within both cathedrals and mega-stores like Costco, induces the sense of awe, wealth, and power. Some of the over 22,750 shopping centers in the U.S. exceed one million square feet of gross leasable area (Jacobs, 1984:1). Not only is one instilled with a sense of space, but a sense of time as well. There are seasonal observances as well as observances of man-made accountability: Back-to-school, all-new Christmas merchandise, After Christmas sales, and the Easter-Spring renewals of wardrobes.
The same rules of attire apply at Costco that apply when attending your cathedral; one does not show up at a Costco with dirt on their hands, grease on their clothes, nor curlers in their hair. And then before one can escape there is the actual ritual of consumption. A temple priest approaches those showing interest in the products of the establishment and asks “Would you like to try a sample?” His or her job is to help the consumer select from a seemingly infinite array of items, like Tasty Chicken Treats, Tangy Stir-Fry Sauce, or Turkey Teriyaki Jerky. These just may be the particular item(s) that he or she is presenting that day; they may be different on another day.
Finally, having waited in a very long line to conduct the formal exchange, the individual slowly arrives at the front of the line. Most people now carry insufficient currency and must use a more indirect symbol of his/her desire to partake: a Debit card, American Express Card, Costco Credit card, or check. Because of the fees associated with accepting some credit cards, Costco does not accept Visa or Mastercard. This method of consumptive payment requires a test of good faith; an investigation is made to ensure that one has not sinned, that is, over-extended the proceeds gained from one’s labor by going over their credit limit.
Past & Present Shopping ConsumptionCertainly there exists some hierarchy of consumptive acts in terms of it’s meaning to the individual: to buy underwear is certainly different than purchasing some expensive piece of electronics that one spent years saving for. The latter may, indeed, have ecstasy but without the religious component to it. It is, though, the realization of one’s own efforts and one’s own hard work.
Until the beginning of industrialization, work was saturated with the quality of the sacred as religion still being empowered within everyday life. Max Weber theorized on this merging of the two worlds, with religion providing the necessary restraints and prospects for experiences of transcendence through one’s work. Yet with the loss of craftsmanship, the breakdown of individual control over the entirety of the production, and the forces of secularization, transcendence became diffused and no longer possible through secular work.
The assembly line came about and produced increasing amounts of goods requiring even larger markets. Americans began to have an increased amount of extra income and were now able to purchase other items besides essentials. This change in attitude included major political, intellectual, and social adjustments as well as the more apparent economic realignments. Referring to the way things have changed The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England by McKendrick, Brewer, and Plumb says this:
What men and women had once hoped to inherit from their parents, they now expected to buy for themselves. What was once bought at the dictate of need, we’re now bought at the dictate of fashion. What was once bought for life, might now be bought several times over? What was once available only on high days and holidays through the agency of markets, fairs, and itinerant peddlers were increasingly made available every day but Sunday…”.
The “keep up with the Joneses” ethic has been a central theme in society and has helped skyrocket consumerism. And it was this philosophy that allowed retailing and advertising to become the two main points in modern consumer life, supporting a division of labor capable of absorbing all levels of the status hierarchy (Packard, 1960).
Further, since the Second World War, this American middle-class custom of consumption has improved both in intensity and meaning, coming to be housed in a new architectural space that symbolically dramatizes this new meaning. It was the emergence of mass consumption that catalyzed the transference of the sacred from the cathedral to the modern shopping center (Jacobs, 1984).
Costco and Ritzer’s ViewProfessor Ritzer’s thesis draws heavily upon the writings of the German social theorist Max Weber (1864-1920). Briefly summarised, Weber claimed that the modern epoch can be characterized by a relentless drive towards rational efficiency in every aspect of our lives. However, even as Weber referred to this process as one of rationalization, Ritzer believes that today the process can be best understood through the idea of McDonaldization.
In his book, The Mcdonaldization of Society (2000) Ritzer defined McDonaldization as “…the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world.”
Although there are some benefits of McDonaldization, in general, this process can be observed as not helpful to our society. In fact, Ritzer calls the McDonaldized society a system of “iron cages” in which all institutions come to be dominated by the same principle (Ritzer, 2000). However, this is more than a figurative device for Ritzer. Rather, he argues that the influential reason that has made the McDonalds organization such a success is succeeding in penetrating every dimension of the social and cultural life.
McDonaldization can certainly apply to Costco. If you were to go into a Costco in Kansas chances are it would look very similar to the one in California. However, Costco, and other wholesale warehouses, have been hitting the world market for the past few years. Their recent emergence in different countries has created the need for them to adapt to the shopping differences of each country. For instance in China:?The Chinese typically live in small apartments, which means that huge American-sized packages and cases are out; smaller, compact sizes are in.? Customers usually bike or walk to the store, which limits what they carry home? (Ritzer, 1999).
Costco The American Way! Costco has become a fad and is now a very trendy place to consume. Costco customers include people from various economic backgrounds. Costumers can range from the individual who makes $18,000 per year to the individual who pulls down six or even seven-figure incomes. They all drink the same brand of bottled water and wine, wear similar Kirkland (Costco brand) clothes, and furnish their apartments with Costco’s some assembly required? furniture.
What’s more, I can instantly sense when I am in a house equipped by Costco. All their household items and much of their food is in economy size packages. And when a friend hands me a soda labeled Kirkland I know they too have been sucked into the Costco phenomenon. Costco is where market research rules.
Where products that made the USA great come to show America what they are made of. So I go. I buy. I feel like I am saving some of my hard-earned cash. I search for that wedding gift I need to buy and that socket wrenches my husband said he couldn’t live without. Then I think of what the place would look like if an earthquake hit.
Surprisingly, despite the huge superstores, like Costco, and the obsession Americans have with consumption most people do not feel they are spending too much. In fact, according to Juliet B. Schor, many Americans feel like they are barely able to purchase necessities: Oddly, it doesn’t seem as if we’re spending wastefully, or even lavishly.
Rather, many of us feel we’re just making it, barely able to stay even. But what’s remarkable is that this feeling is not restricted to families of limited income. It’s a generalized feeling, one that exists at all levels. Twenty-seven percent of all households making more than $100,000 a year say they cannot afford to buy everything they really need. Nearly 20 percent say they “spend nearly all their income on the basic necessities of life.”
In the $50,000-100,000 range, 39 percent and one-third feel this way, respectively. Overall, half the population of the richest country in the world says they cannot afford everything they really need. And it’s not just the poorer half (p. 19).In conclusion the most part, Costco amazes me. This is because, when I see the huge sliding doors and security at the entrance, I think I must be entering a top-secret establishment. I begin to wonder if I will ever be let out again.
Of course, after five minutes inside the massive store, survival does not become the most important issue. Rather, it is the possibilities that arise with 100,000 tortilla chips at my fingertips. Even more overwhelming is the prospect that there are 1000 gallons of salsa to go with all those chips. In Costco, you can eat a foot-long sausage dog at their snack bar and then go inside and wash it down with a bottle of 3000 Tums.
But the scariest thing about going to Costco is realizing the major damage it can inflict on my pocketbook. I can buy toilet paper, batteries, and milk, some socks for the kids, bread, toothpaste, film, and a vegetable platter and walk out spending $200. And as I walk out they stop me at the door and analyze everything in my cart to assure that I have not stolen from their establishment. What is even more surprising is that I continue to come back.
If I was to go to a friend’s house and they stopped me at the door and checked my bags to see if I had stolen from them I do not think I would come back and visit them again. But at Costco, there is a 100-foot line of people waiting to exit the store with receipt in hand to be checked for theft. None of them are offended, they all wait patiently for their turn with the security guard and they will return again next week.
Caucasian people carry at least one of the fatal defective genes that cause cystic fibrosis, CF, or mucoviscidosis (in Europe) although carriers don’t show any signs of the disease. Therefore, 10 million2 people carry the defective gene and aren’t aware of it. Consequently, it makes it one of the most common genetic defect in the United States.
CF is an autosomal recessive gene. That means that it may, but doesn’t always skip generations. In order to get this disease, both parents must be carriers. If one parent has CF and the other one is not a carrier then there is a 100% chance that their child will be a carrier. If one parent has CF and the other is a carrier than the child has a 50% chance of having CF and a 50% chance of just being a carrier.
If both parents are carriers than their child will have 25% of having CF, a 50% chance of being a carrier, and a 25% chance of not being affected. CF is common in both males and females, there is no specific sex that it is more common in. How does a person know if they have CF? There are many symptoms of this deadly disease including salty-tasting skin, constant coughing, large amounts of mucus, trouble gaining weight, frequent greasy, foul-smelling bowel, growths in the nose (nasal polyps), and clubbed or enlarged fingertips and toe tips is another symptom.
Now there are many tests that can be done to find out if a person has CF. One way in which CF can be detected is to observe the symptoms. A person doesn’t need to have all the symptoms in order to have cystic fibrosis, but they usually show most of them. Another way is different genetic testing. Doctors can now do genetic testing for CF, but about 10 years ago they couldn’t. In 1989, the location where the defective gene on chromosome number 7 is was discovered by Francis S. Collins from the University of Michigan.
Tests can now be taken to see if an unborn child is infected with CF such tests are amniocentesis, chronic villus biopsy, and removal of cells from the embryo during in-vitro. Many years ago, New York4 had a heatwave, and the hospitals became overwhelmed with dehydrated CF children. These children became dehydrated much quicker than children without the disorder. Thus eventually resulting in the formation of the sweat test which is now the standard test.
Doctors place a pad or filter paper on a patient’s arm or back. A chemical called Pilocarpine makes a burst of electricity to produce more sweat. Then the pad is wrapped in plastic and is sent to a lab to get analyzed. The doctors then would look for a high chloride content in the sweat. Another test is a blood test that is administered 3 days after a baby is born. It is called Immunoreactive Trypsinogen5 if that comes back positive it is then double-checked with a sweat test.
Furthermore, CF causes the sweat glands to release about 5 times6 as much salt as a normal person would. This is why the skin of CF patients may taste salty. They don’t sweat more, but when they perspire more salt is excreted. This causes the person to dehydrate. CF is a disorder that causes the body to produce a larger amount of mucus than normal. In a normal person, mucus in the lungs helps get rid of germs and bacteria in the air.
In CF patients the lungs become covered with sticky mucus that is hard to remove and promotes infection from bacteria. Over time infections cause the lungs to become extremely weak, therefore ending in respiratory failure. Also, CF affects the digestive tract. The overproduction of mucus causes the pancreatic ducts to be clogged. Therefore preventing necessary enzymes to digest fats and proteins. Without those enzymes, CF patients can’t gain weight.
The undigested proteins and fats pass right through the body creating smelly bowel. In some cases this malnutrition causes people to die when they are only children. Also, it is more common for people with cystic fibrosis to develop digestive tract cancer. High levels of the protein CFTR (which the gene makes) are found in the digestive tissues. Doctors explain this increased risk of cancer because CF induces a change in the digestive tract organs that causes cell turnover.
Patients with gastrointestinal tract problems should get examined for such tumors. Women with CF can have children, but it is not very common. Giving birth is a vigorous process and puts the mother’s health at risk. It may also be hard for a woman to get pregnant though because the mucus blocks the sperm from entering the uterus to the fallopian tubes. About 98% of men with CF are infertile.
Even though sperm are produced, they can’t get to the semen because the vas deferens is blocked. In some new research, it has been thought that men who are sterile have a different form of CF that doesn’t involve the digestive system and the lungs. There are now many drugs that are on the market and many more that are in development. Treatments mainly depend on what organs are effected. The first new drug therapy in 30 years was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December of 93′.
It’s a mucus-thinning drug called Pulmozyme. Pulmozyme has reduced the number of respiratory infections and improved lung function. There is also postural drainage or thumps. This treatment is when the patient is hit on the back and chest with cupped hands to loosen the mucus so it can be coughed up easier. There are many antibiotics that help treat lung infections.
Also, medicated vapors are inhaled and open clogged airways. Since mucus in the intestines causes the food not to get digested, there are enzyme supplements to help. Those enzymes allow patients to go back to a normal diet. Due to the high concentration of the enzymes, the end result is the deterioration of the pancreas leading to diabetes. With the supplements, CF patients can eat normal food. There are now many studies that the medicine ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, Nuprin) prevents serious damage to the lungs in children who have CF.
The trials involved 85 patients between the ages of 5 and 39 with FEV1 equal to or greater than 60%9. In this study patients that took ibuprofen had a slower rate of decline of FEV1. Patients that took it for 4 years consistently had even better results and showed best in patients under the age of 13. The dose of ibuprofen was selected between 50 and 100up/mL because the anti-neutrophil effects of ibuprofen are only attained at these levels.
There are some side effects, including conjunctivitis (unknown reason) and epistaxis (due to the antiplatelet action in the ibuprofen. Doctors say that it is not sure if stomach pains are due to the ibuprofen, but to stay on the medicine and to take antacids with magnesium and aluminum and not those containing calcium. In 1990 two teams of researchers were able to correct CF cells in a Petri disH20. The next huge step happened in 199311 when the first experimental dose of gene therapy was administered to a human.
These were milestones in finding a cure or a preventive treatment. They were huge steps because it marked the first time that scientists were able to test new technology in people with the disease. Also in October of 93′12 scientists at the University of Iowa made another big step, they determined that the CF gene treatment worked! It had repaired the defective CF cells. This too was the first time that the basic defect was corrected in people with the disease.
Doctors and scientists know that gene number 7 is the gene that CF is found upon. They also know that the gene’s protein product most likely induces the movement of chloride directly or indirectly. They named the protein, cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). While scientists and doctors were looking for the gene, they also discovered that there is an abnormality in the DNA of 70%13 of cystic fibrosis cases.
That abnormality often called AF508 mutation, is made of the deleting of 3 nucleotides from that gene, that then causes the protein product to be missing an amino acid named phenylalanine at position 508. Doctors are now trying to get to this gene mutation and fix it. Scientists are trying to think of a way to administer healthy CFTR genes to the patients through gene therapy.
If all goes as planned the DNA injected will help the cells to make the normal CFTR protein and cystic fibrosis will then be terminated. Doctors have many “delivery vans” that deliver good genes. Doctors transport them in viruses, fat capsules, and synthetic vectors. They are put in the body through the nose or bronchial tubes. Nine human gene therapy research studies are in the works as of now. Six of these nine are using the “delivery vans” to deliver healthy genes to the lungs or the nose.
In one study the patients are given repeated doses of the CF gene therapy treatment to the lungs. While other studies give repeated doses of the gene therapy to the nasal tissue of the patients. The other studies are using the fat capsules for delivery, another is making the fat capsule in air form and are breathed in by the patients. Putting the good genes in AAV (adeno-associated virus) is another way of getting the genes in the body. In the last study, are also uses the AAV to get healthy genes into the lungs.
There are about ninety people with CF who have gone through some sort of gene therapy. “There is a long way still to go before we have a cure for cystic fibrosis, but we are moving in the right direction,” says David Porteous of the Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Units at Edinburgh University. Recently a grant15 has just been given to a company named Aradigm that might get us closer to a better delivery vector.
Dr. Igor Gonda, Aradigm’s Vice President of research and development says, “By combining gene therapy with the delivery system, our research could ultimately lead to a broadly-applicable technology for delivery of genes and oligonucleotides to the respiratory tract. Diseases that might be treated by such genetic therapies include respiratory infections, lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, and cystic fibrosis.”
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects not only it’s victims, but it’s victims’ family and friends. Thanks to modern medicine and new techniques, the median survival rate has gone from 8 years old in 50’s to 30 years old in the late 90’s17. Unfortunately, all this new medication and discoveries have come to late for many people. One such individual is Alex Deford.
She died when she was only 8 years old. Her father, Frank, wrote a book based on her life and their many struggles, from ignorant doctors who wouldn’t believe a dying child about a collapsed lung and the disease itself. Many times with any genetic disorder, the parents blame themselves. After all, it was their bad genes that caused it. Actually, when Alex first went into the hospital to get a sweat test, it came back negative, when in reality it was positive.
That was back in the early ’70s though. Now sweat tests have few oversights. Cystic fibrosis is a disease that doesn’t take any prisoners. All victims will eventually die from complications due to CF. There are approximately 30,00018 children and adults that are living with this disorder. Now that scientists have found the gene in which CF is located, new medicines and new therapies will hopefully be invented.
Perhaps in the next century, we can say that cystic fibrosis is completely abolished. Maybe the new medications and therapies won’t have to be as painful as they are now. Why should these individuals with CF be made to suffer in order to get better? Frank Deford says about chest physiotherapy and the disease, “Two thousand times I had to beat my sick child, make her cry and plead…and in the end for what?”
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited autosomal recessive disease that exerts its main effects on the digestive system and the lungs. This disease is the most common genetic disorder amongst Caucasians. Cystic fibrosis affects about one in 2,500 people, with one in twenty-five being a heterozygote. With the use of antibiotics, the life span of a person afflicted with CF can be extended up to thirty years however, most die before the age of thirteen.
Since so many people are affected by this disease, it’s no wonder that CF was the first human genetic disease to be cloned by geneticists. In this paper, I will be focusing on how the cystic fibrosis gene was discovered while at the same time, discussing the protein defect in the CF gene, the biochemical defect associated with CF, and possible treatments of the disease. Finding the Cystic Fibrosis Gene: The classical genetic approach to finding the gene that is responsible for causing a genetic disease has been to first characterize the bio-chemical defect within the gene, then to identify the mutated protein in the gene of interest, and finally to locate the actual gene.
However, this classical approach proved to be impractical when searching for the CF gene. To find the gene responsible for CF, the principle of “reverse genetics” was applied. Scientists accomplished this by linking the disease to a specific chromosome. After this linkage, they isolated the gene of interest on the chromosome and then tested its product.2 Before the disease could be linked to a specific chromosome, a marker needed to be found that would always travel with the disease.
This marker is known as a Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism or RFLP for short. RFLPs are varying base sequences of DNA in different individuals which are known to travel with genetic disorders.3 The RFLP for cystic fibrosis was discovered through the techniques of Somatic Cell Hybridization and through Southern Blot Electrophoresis (gel separation of DNA). By using these techniques, three RFLPs were discovered for CF; Doc RI, J3.11, and Met.
Utilizing in situ hybridization, scientists discovered the CF gene to be located on the long arm of chromosome number seven. Soon after identifying these markers, another marker was discovered that segregated more frequently with CF than the other markers. This meant the new marker was closer to the CF gene. At this time, two scientists named Lap-Chu Tsui and Francis Collins were able to isolate probes from the CF interval.
They were now able to utilize the powerful technique of chromosome jumping to speed up the time required to isolate the CF gene much faster than if they were to use conventional genetic techniques.3 In order to determine the exact location of the CF gene, probes were taken from the nucleotide sequence obtained from chromosome jumping. To get these probes, DNA from a horse, a cow, a chicken, and a mouse were separated using Southern Blot electrophoresis.
Four probes were found to bind to all of the vertebrate’s DNA. This meant that the base pairs within the probes discovered contained important information, possibly even the gene. Two of the four probes were ruled out as possibilities because they did not contain open reading frames which are segments of DNA that produce the mRNA responsible for genes.
The Northern Blot electrophoresis technique was then used to distinguish between the two probes still remaining in order to find out which one actually contained the CF gene. This could be accomplished because Northern Blot electrophoresis utilizes RNA instead of DNA. The RNA of cell types affected with CF, along with the RNA of unaffected cell types were placed on a gel.
Probe number two bound to the RNA of affected cell types in the pancreas, colon, and nose, but did not bind to the RNA from non-affected cell types like those of the brain and heart. Probe number one did not bind exclusively to cell types from CF affected areas like probe number two did. From this evidence, it was determined that probe number two contained the CF gene. While isolating the CF gene and screening the genetic library made from mRNA (cDNA library), it was discovered that probe number two did not hybridize.
The chances for hybridization may have been decreased because of the low levels of the CF gene present within the probe. Hybridization changes could also have been decreased because the cDNA used was not made from the correct cell type affected with CF. The solution to this lack of hybridization was to produce a cDNA library made exclusively from CF affected cells. This new library was isolated from cells in sweat glands.
By using this new cDNA library, probe number two was found to hybridize excessively. It was theorized that this success was due to a large amount of the CF gene present in the sweat glands, or the gene itself could have been involved in a large protein family. Nevertheless, the binding of the probe proved the CF gene was present in the specific sequence of nucleotide bases being analyzed.
The isolated gene was proven to be responsible for causing CF by comparing its base-pair sequence to the base pair sequence of the same sequence in a non-affected cell. The entire CF cDNA sequence is approximately 6,000 nucleotides long. In that 6,000 n.t.’s, three base pairs were found to be missing in affected cells, all three were in exon #10. This deletion results in the loss of a phenylalanine residue and it accounts for seventy percent of the CF mutations.
In addition to this three base pair deletion pattern, up to 200 different mutations have been discovered in the gene accounting for CF, all to varying degrees. The Protein Defect: The Cystic Fibrosis gene is located at 7q31-32 on chromosome number seven and spans about 280-kilo base pairs of genomic DNA. It contains twenty-four exons.4 This gene codes for a protein involved in trans-membrane ion transport called the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator or CFTR.
The 1,480 amino acid protein structure of CFTR closely resembles the protein structure of the ABC-transporter superfamily. It is made up of similar halves, each containing a nucleotide-binding fold (NBF), or an ATP-binding complex, and a membrane-spanning domain (MSD). The MSD makes up the transmembrane Cl- channels. There is also a Regulatory Domain (R-Domain) that is located mid-protein which separates both halves of the channels. The R-Domain is unique to CFTR and is not found in any other ABC-transporter. It contains multiple predicted binding sites for the protein kinase.
Example #4 – Costco Company’s Philosophy
Costco generated almost $60 billion in revenues in its last survey making it the third leading retailer in the United States today. It has approximately 57 million members worldwide with hundreds of warehouses spread in different countries. Costco is a global company that sells various kinds of merchandise, from sports to home needs and appliances, to jewelry and seasonal products. It is a major competitor in the world market, competing with retail giants like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Costco sells its goods and branded merchandise to members only who are mostly retail stores.
The business thrust that has become a trend nowadays is ethics. Costco’s aims and vision emphasize ethical standards in the business. The company aims for quality products and services for its customers and it says it has to maintain low priced products for its millions of members (Costco, 2014, para. 1).
The company’s philosophy of respect and care for its employees is unique in the sense that this is emphasized in the company policies and HRM practices. The Costco code of ethics promotes that employees must be law-abiding, take care of the members, and honor suppliers. Mr. Jim Sinegal, the CEO, asked the employees to help promote this business ethics.
While other retail giants provide low wages for their employees so they can sell low-cost products, Costco rewards its employees with high salaries, bonuses, and other benefits and, at the same time, sell low-priced goods and branded merchandise. It is unique in the annals of marketing and management in the sense that it is “selfless” management. Costco’s strategic human resource management (SHRM) provides best practice by motivating employees so they can perform better and give their best shot for the company. Motivating and giving benefits to employees to improve their performance is considered best practice in the industry (Gandolfi, 2013, p. 44).
Costco’s case is unique but has its consequences. Costco’s employee management is in contrast to Wal-Mart’s although both sell low-cost products. The difference is in the implementation, the objective, and the effects. Costco pays its employees an average of $17 per hour (although the starting salary can be $10 per hour till it rises to $17 or $18), an amount higher than its biggest competitor, Sam’s Club, which is owned by Wal-Mart (Gandolfi, 2013, p. 43). Costco employees have health benefits paid at 8 percent when sales rise to 25 percent, and the company also provides mid-year and year-end bonuses (Cascio, 2006, p. 28).
Analysts argue that Costco provides more benefits to its employees than Wal-Mart, but Wall Street analysts criticize Costco for its generosity to its employees, citing a misalignment between strategy and human resource management. However, this so-called misalignment has caused Costco’s shares prices to go up in about 12 months, with Wal-Mart’s stock prices decreasing by 5 percent, which meant that Costco’s strategy was effective (Lepak & Colakoglu, p. 38). The shares prices continue to grow while the strategy is being implemented.
Costco’s strategy involves meeting the needs of customers and employees all at the same time, i.e. the company sells low-priced products and provides high salaries and benefits to employees. Mr. Sinegal confirms that this is being done and has been proven very possible and effective for a global company like Costco. However, giving higher wages and more benefits for employees can have consequences, according to analysts.
This HR strategy has been bombarded with a lot of negative comments from Wall Street analysts and commentators who argue that providing more than what is normal for employees can drain the company’s coffers. Bill Dreher (Zimmerman, 2004 as cited in Cascio, 2006, p. 29), an analyst from Wall Street, argues that Costco feels like it is a private company in giving benefits to its employees and that this is detrimental to the shareholders who have voiced concerns that profit margins were now lower than before.
Another analyst, Ian Gordon (as cited in Cascio, 2006, p. 29) noted that Costco’s prices are too low at the expense of the shareholders (Shapiro, 2004 as cited in Cascio, 2006, p. 29). Mr. Sinegal responded to this criticism, saying that Costco’s strategy is good for the company and that they have been doing this not to acquire more profits but to promote company strategy.
Costco’s aims will enable the company to stay until 50 to 60 years from now and this has been demonstrated and proven with the company’s accomplishments and performance as per revenue generated and higher shares prices. Mr. Sinegal further argues that what is beneficial for the employees is also beneficial for the company. He has demonstrated that low prices for Costco’s merchandise and branded items combined with higher salaries and more benefits for employees have stimulated Costco’s shares to rise (Hu & Chuang, 2009, p. 130).
With regard to competition, Costco has demonstrated that it is a valuable competitor. Price reduction in merchandize, especially branded items, is a common strategy for giant retailers to vie with unbranded ones, or the so-called generic products which, if manufactured with quality, can compete with branded products and sell at low prices in supermarkets. By lowering prices, products can seize “market share from manufacturer brands and have higher yields” (Cascio, 2006, p. 31).
Costco targets the upper-middle-class consumers, providing its warehouses with a low-priced but limited selection of different types of branded products which create high sales and a quick inventory of goods. This upper-middle-class segment usually accounts for about $74,000 annual income, but approximately 31 percent of this sector earns more than $100,000.00 (Cascio, 2006, p. 27). The company is first of all a leading retailer for conservative stores (Courtemanche & Carden, 2014, p. 560); leading, which means it is topmost in market shares wherein almost half of the shares in the entire industry belong to this company.
Costco and other warehouse clubs typically provide their customer’s products in bulk with little variation for every product category and limited brand, compared to other retailers and grocery stores. Costco has about 14,000 categories of branded products compared to Walmart’s 100,000 items (Courtemanche & Carden, 2014, p. 560), which is typical of giant retailers.
Limiting the options to customers enlarges the sales for each item, according to Costco management. Costco’s membership programs offer a host of many benefits to members. Its Executive Program provides benefits in the form of savings.
Wall Street analysts have criticized Costco for being too charitable to its employees but leave behind its shareholders who need higher dividends for their money. Benefits, in the form of high salaries and bonuses given to employees, can harm the shareholders’ interest in the form of lower dividends or return of investment (Shapiro, 2004 as cited in Cascio, 2006, p. 29).
In other words, employees are happy while shareholders are frustrated. This can be considered a sign of weakness since overspending for the operating expenses is dangerous for the company’s financial status. It cannot however be said whether this weakness is temporary, considering that there are signs that Costco’s performance in the stock market is quite remarkable.
Treating employees fairly has benefited the organization. This has given them an advantage in the financial standing compared to Wal-Mart. For example, Costco’s stock price rose by 55 percent by May 1, 2006, and shares trading had been high at 24.8 times the usual one. Wal-Mart only attained 17.4 times. The reason for this, according to Dreher (as cited in Cascio, 2006, p. 29), is that Costco is loved by its customers. In other words, Costco’s HRM practices are beneficial for the company as shares prices have gone up while others are going down.
Sam’s Clubs are being supported by discount sales of Wal-Mart and other supercenters which Costco does not have. Metro, which is based in Germany, is another threat because of its vast volumes of items. However, Metro is a threat to Wal-Mart than Costco, considering that both are large retailers while Costco is a membership club that sells branded merchandise items. Retailers are a threat since they have low-priced goods. Costco’s prices are lower than Wal-Mart’s and Mr. Sinegal has boasted that their competitors cannot compete with Costco’s low, low prices.
Another threat is Costco’s suppliers. Costco has to cope with supply and demand and identify beforehand possible problems if demand goes up. There might be changes in the supply chain, for example, the availability of new technology which might push for higher prices. Technological changes may cause a ripple effect in the supply chain and eventually in the product prices.
Costco’s HR issues are not negative issues that the company should be worried about. The close cooperation of top management and the workforce provides positive gains for the company. This situation allows for the easy implementation of policies. It is already a proven fact that Costco’s strategy is providing high-quality but low-cost products for its millions of customers.
This is a club-membership shopping with branded merchandize at customers’ easy reach. Costco has committed to good performance, efficient service, and high-quality goods. Without this commitment, it would easily lose patronage because of the stiff competition in the retail industry. Customers have also proven their commitment and loyalty to Costco. Year in and year out, customers renew their membership without falter, which means they approve of Costco’s strategy and innovation.
This is also true with the company’s commitment to its thousands of employees. We cannot change Costco’s HR policies; in fact, we have to recommend that these policies should be continued. No low- and middle-level employees and managers would dislike Costco’s HR policies. This is what employees have been dreaming of. Nobody wants to continually worry about paying bills for basic necessities and health insurance.
These policies are a model for organizations throughout the corporate world. When employees feel the company’s commitment, they will also commit themselves to the organization. That is logical and should be the case in a capitalist society. Costco has provided a pleasant work-life balance for its employees and managers by making them happy and worry-free. The repercussion is the creation of a favorable organizational behavior.
Executive Summary Design of Goods and Services- Costco can be seen to be in the maturity stages of their life. Therefore, it is recommended for Costco to expand its Pharmacy department by at least 50%. Process Design-Costco processes prescriptions and provides the prescribed drugs to customers.
For each prescription, pharmacists carefully review the dosage along with other drugs you may be taking in order to prevent any chance of medications interacting with each other. They also ensure you do not receive any medication which could result in an allergic reaction. It is recommended to introduce E-prescribing in the near future as it would reduce the duration of each prescription process.
Queue Management – The pharmacy uses a multi-channel multi-phase system. The first phase is when customers drop off their prescriptions. Costco has two stations for this phase. The next phase is when customers pick it up and pay for it; this phase also has two stations. Costco has recently added an additional service station to decrease wait times during peak hours.
Conclusion- After weeks of research the POM audit project was successfully completed with the use of applying the production and operations management effectively. It was successful because the management employees gave us a sufficient amount of information while completing the project. Overall, the weeks of auditing allowed the individuals to strong management and communication skills while completing this challenge multi-stage project.
Costco is a recognized and successful retail chain including several locations, glowing feedback, and a wonderful overall reputation. Known by several audiences to be considered a “big-box” store, Costco offers various products in its stores at low, discounted prices, accompanying a membership card. Before and after researching this company, the author of this paper has heard exceptional feedback regarding the company for its initiative to keep prices low, employee morale high, and customer satisfaction to be one of its top priorities.
With employees placed at the top of stakeholder groups, it’s apparent that the hypothesis for high profitability is a direct influence from positive corporate social responsibility. The boards of directors have to take the initiative to showcase positive corporate social responsibility in order to generate these results. Employee Benefits.
As was mentioned in previous statements, Costco employees receive beyond minimum wage in addition to health benefits and services. With 401 retirement plans, reimbursement for child care costs and medical expenses, and open opportunities for career advancement, these initiatives, and incentives make it difficult for stakeholders, consumers, and critics to speak negatively regarding the company. Customers as Stakeholders Another top stakeholder within Costco’s organization is its customer clientele.
After careful research, the author noted several variables that contributed towards Costco’s highly-rated customer service and satisfaction ratings that speak from sales in addition to positive feedback. The author will briefly dissect this stakeholder group and display, in writing, why this group aids Costco in providing low prices on select items, it’s continuous service method which has proven, both financially and through praise, to be one of the more successful methods in retail, and to demonstrate why Costco.
Example #7 – A Comparison of the Two Industries, Wal-mart, and Costco
The two industries chosen for this assignment are the retail and technology sectors. Wal-Mart and Costco represent the retail industry given that they are major players in the sector. On the other hand, Microsoft and Apple represent the tech industries. Although these companies do not explicitly state their staffing philosophies, their human resource departments explain the nature of employees that can fit in their work environment.
These explanations constitute staffing philosophies and systems of the companies based on the industries and portray differences based on the area of operations as discussed below. As a leading retailer, Wal-Mart fits to represent the retail sector. Regarding the staffing philosophy, Wal-Mart (2017) indicates that the company’s staffing function adheres to the culture of success in that the staff at Wal-Mart should show the ability to make the company succeed.
Also, the staffing strategies for Wal-Mart are based on the need to foster the culture of diversity and inclusion where every staff member feels included in the journey towards success. Another guiding principle for Wal-Mart’s staffing is the commitment to American renewal where the staff is involved in manufacturing efforts as a way of making goods affordable. Wal-Mart (2017) does not state the employee qualifications needed for their staff.
On the other hand, Costco highlights its staffing philosophy based on workplace respect and equality and employee qualifications. For instance, on its career website, Costco (2017) indicates that its staff should portray the ability to work in challenging environments. Also, the firm uses a fast-pace system to evaluate the staff. A potential staffer at Costco is required to be energetic, ambitious, and service-oriented. Integrity, commitment, and being goal-oriented are also requirements for Costco staffers.
Microsoft’s staffing philosophy touches on innovative thinking as the company’s strategic advantage. The company’s staffing efforts try to enrich the diversity and performance of products. Microsoft tries to find staffers that are experienced in offering solutions to tech challenges based on innovative thinking. These solutions should be useful in improving Microsoft platforms in the future (Microsoft, 2017). The company says it has over forty employee networks across the world and it is committed to hiring people with disabilities. Microsoft’s staffing efforts that build a network of employees seek to empower people for the future.
Apple’s staffing philosophy is based on creativity and innovation. The company requires potential staffers to have creative and innovative mindsets (Lagunas, 2012). Also, Apple’s staffing is built on the philosophy of talent management and the hiring of talented staffers. Also, Apple seeks to recruit hard-working employees. Although Apple implements employee training, it gives the employees a chance to choose their training tasks based on their career goals.
Differences in Firms
The differences existing between firms’ staffing strategies and systems emanate their founding philosophies. For instance, Wal-Mart was founded on customer satisfaction and focuses on the success in that endeavor. On the other hand, Costco’s staffing philosophy is built on the company’s mission to continuously provide goods and services to customers hence the requirement to have employees that are ambitious and energetic. Microsoft and Apple seem to have a similar philosophy built on innovation and creativity.
Differences in Industries
The staffing philosophies in the two industries are different in that one focuses on service that employees give to customers while the other is focuses on innovation and creativity to solve problems. The firms under the retail industry category have their staffing philosophies built on acquiring workers that can serve customers with zeal and achieve success.
On the other hand, tech companies are concerned with the need to innovate and make systems that solve problems. The fact that retailers sell goods while the technology firms manufacture goods creates the differences in that the former will need to serve the buying needs while the latter solves the needs that relate to the functioning of the goods.
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