A young woman flicks the switch on a The meat department racks are brim-boombox. Bass and drums give rhythm, and ming full as a couple of firefighters from the
a little attitude, as the stockers attempt to Culver City local fire department stock up on supplies.
make order of the chaos. As the bays fill, the The bakery is organized, with racks and
pallets begin to dwindle.
nbyutmhe racks of bread lined up like a company of
At the front end of the warehouse, a sole bers soldiers standing at attention before a young
employee removes boxes and begins the mother with two children in tow. All the
process of cleaning each of the 27 register CDs, videos and DVDs are arranged neatly
stations. Organizing the front end by the 9 • 219,000 Costco cardholders as a young college student shops to a tune on
a.m. opening seems like a long shot. • 6,000 transactions per day his headphones. In short, it looks and feels
The produce area is still impossibly
crammed with teetering stacks of apples, • Expects $250 million in sales this year. like a typical Costco warehouse.
“The 2 a.m. opening managers take care
pineapples, cucumbers, mangoes, papayas, • Recycles 72,000 pounds of cardboard of the criticals,” says Scott Kirby, one of three
carrots, spinach and tomatoes. Somewhere each month. assistant managers. “When I come through at
behind this wall of produce, someone whis- • Sold 330,000 hot dogs from the Food
10 a.m., I do a second sweep. With more than
tles as he empties, transfers and fills. He has Court, more than
5 million rolls of toilet
2,000 pallets on the floor, it’s possible that a
four hours to go. paper, 274,000 pounds of fresh salmon, manager might walk by and miss something.
5 a.m., one employee power-washes 235,000 rotisserie chickens and 350,000
outside the front of the building, while gallons of milk last year. I provide a fresh set of eyes.”
Managers are also already planning the
another runs an automated floor scrubber. next day’s reconfiguring. “We’ve got 22 pal-The sun hasn’t risen, but Los Angeles is At 8, the main aisle that was nearly letsofliveplantscomingintomorrow,” Scott
awakening. In the office, each manager is impassable earlier is almost entirely clear. By says. “We have to figure out where they will
inputting numbers to create new signs—new 8: 30, nearly all of the warehouse floor has go, what will we do with the merchandise it
prices, new merchandise, new displays. been cleaned, too. displaces, what has to move to make it work.
At 6: 35, the sun is just rising over the At 8:55, just before the doors open, It’s all about presentation.”
horizon. At the front of the warehouse a everyone is scrambling. Last-minute details Special events featuring leather clothing,
cleaning frenzy is in full swing. are frantically finished. furniture, pianos and other merchandise not
Rafael Vergara, the maintenance lead, usually carried in Costco warehouses present
explains how his job absolutely depends on Show time an additional challenge. “Humberto [Yniguez,
others: “It takes me a certain amount of time We marvel at the scene before us. The front the location’s general manager] always wel-to clean the floors. I can’t clean the floors doors roll up at 9 a.m. and a steady stream of comes special events,” says Allen Vanek, an
until the floors are cleared. Sometimes we’re members floods the warehouse. To them, it’s assistant manager. “They bring in excitement,
really biting our nails. It’s 7: 30 now: We only just another day. They’re completely unaware and he likes the merchandising challenge.
have an hour and a half to go.” of the transformation that’s taken place here. Where some might see it as a problem, he
High profile, high volume
With 219,000 members at this location alone,
even notable shoppers at this Costco such as
Vanessa Williams, Anthony Hopkins, Jack
Nicholson and Victoria’s Secret models would
likely be lost in the daily sea of activity.
Teacher, mentor, manager
“A warehouse manager has to be a teacher,”
explains Humberto Yniguez (right), general man- High steaks
ager at the Culver City Costco, going over a till All of Costco’s fresh meat is pulled from the
count with a cashier. “Ninety percent of our job is racks each night and rewrapped every morning
teaching. A manager can’t stock every end cap; before opening. The meat department works
he can’t do it all. He has to teach.” continuously to keep up with high demand.