Costco and deterrents

Costco usually stations an attendant or two at the entrance and exit of their stores.

The person at the entrance checks for a Costco membership card. As you need a membership card to checkout, I’m not sure what this accomplishes.

The person at the exit, however, has a more straightforward role. She/he skims the receipt and then uses a black marker to draw a line across the receipt. That line indicates you’re done.

I typically chuckle at the seeming futility of this little exercise. As there’s always a queue to get out, they have to skim the list so quickly that there is no way for them to really know if you have an extra item. Besides, if you were enterprising enough, you could just grab a black marker, draw the line yourself, wave it at the door, and walk out.

But I’m sure they ran a test at some point and realized that theft goes down when they station folks at the end of the experience. Ergo – this practice acts as the deterrent.

While I’d love to see the cost/benefit numbers that led to this decision, it got me thinking about the importance of such deterrents. As an example, strong passwords and two-factor authentication are a good parallel to this.

A determined and enterprising hacker will likely find a way through your defenses. But strong passwords and two-factor authentication are powerful deterrents against everyone else.

Deterrents matter. It helps to be thoughtful about them.