In a world of erratic stock-market swings and uncertain geopolitical allegiances, Costco’s consistent, jumbo-sized retail presence is a soothing balm. Those hot dogs are always $1.50, the rotisserie chickens always succulent, the receipts dutifully checked at the exit. In Costco we trust.
Which is why the actions of one former Costco employee at its Fife, Washington store are so disturbing, so trust-shattering, so truly egregious. KOMO News reports the ex-employee, Robin Cline, was sentenced this week to a year in prison and ordered to pay $289,975 in restitution for defrauding Costco and its customers out of nearly $300,000. Cline was employed as a clerk by Costco between 1996 and 2016. During the last five years of her employment there, an FBI investigation showed she falsified business customer accounts to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars, which she spent on a luxury car and personal purchases. She placed bogus credits, refunds or charges on more than 100 customers’ accounts, then funneled the money to her own bank account and that of her son.
I expect politicians to lie. I expect billionaires to lie. Hell, I expect religious leaders to lie. But Costco? I believe Costco. In court filings, Costco said Cline had “betrayed the trust the company placed in her” and damaged its reputation with shoppers. Fortunately, the legal system agreed this breach of trust was an abomination. Judge Benjamin H. Settle called Cline’s dishonesty “outrageous” in his sentencing decision, and ordered her to spend a year in prison.
For its part, Costco tried to make amends, refunding each customer plus an extra 10 percent for their troubles. Thanks, Costco, for ridding yourself of this bad apple and continuing to be a beacon of righteousness in these murky, uncertain times.