Costco Wholesale espouses a policy of keeping its store atmosphere "devoid of politics," but that didn't stop lively crowds with campaign posters and pamphlets from rallying at a north Scottsdale location on Monday.
Hundreds gathered in the Costco parking lot for most of Monday afternoon to line up for a book-signing event with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. Those in line carried books for signing, but some also held campaign posters and pamphlets to pass out. One person toted a giant Trump 2020 flag.
The crowd engaged in chants of "Trump" and "USA" and exchanged contact information for the 2020 campaign. At one point, Guilfoyle came outside to rally the group. Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward also showed up to take pictures with guests, though the party itself didn't sponsor the event, according to party spokesperson Zach Henry.
Trump and Guilfoyle were in Arizona on November 11 as a stop on the book tour for Trump's new book Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us — a tour that made headlines after apparent alt-right protesters booed the pair at their UCLA stop on Sunday. They were scheduled to attend an Arizona Republican Party campaign event after the Scottsdale book signing, Henry confirmed.
Their Costco visit — and the Arizona Republican Party's promotion of the book-signing — led some Costco shoppers to ask whether a store that claims to steer clear of politics should be hosting such an event.
This isn't the first time a Costco store has held a book signing for a political figure. Hillary Clinton has signed copies of books at Costco locations at least twice, in 2014 to promote her book Hard Choices in Virginia, and in 2017, to promote her book What Happened in Connecticut.
Costco stores have been the sites of other political publicity stunts, too. In 2012, the Obama White House filmed then-Vice President Joe Biden at the opening of a Washington, D.C., Costco location.
Costco's north Scottsdale store location has a posted sign banning soliciting, petitioning, campaigning, and leafletting on its property, and a policy on its website confirms that.
"We respect the choices our members make, so we do not take positions on social issues, we are not involved in partisan politics, and we do not contribute money to political candidates or issues," the policy reads.
"When you visit a Costco warehouse, we want you to feel welcome," it continues. "And, after gathering much feedback, we have found that the majority of our members appreciate the fact that our atmosphere is devoid of politics —so we strive to keep it that way. Your comfort and satisfaction is our No. 1 priority."
Those waiting in line at Costco on Monday said they didn't mind if their presence upset some shoppers.
Teresa Mendoza, a Costco member from Mesa, wasn't planning to come to the book signing at all. But she changed her mind, she said, after she saw media reports that said some people were complaining about a political event happening at the store.
"If it weren't for double standards, the left wouldn't have any standards at all," she said. "I'm like, you know what, I'm so tired of them saying that people are not supporting this president and his family, so I'm just going to clear my schedule and wear my 'Latinas for Trump' shirt and trigger some people."
Costco employees in the parking lot on Monday did ask protesters, who came out both to support and to decry President Donald Trump, to stay on the sidewalk. They also stopped some Arizona Republican Party volunteers from registering voters and passing out information in line. At least one party volunteer said she stayed active after being asked to stop. She wouldn't give New Times her name.
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Costco barred representatives of some media outlets from entering the event or interviewing people in line. New Times stood in line with the crowd and wasn't stopped from conducting interviews.
As the book-signing wrapped up at around 6 p.m., a man was taking pictures of a Costco employee who appeared to be a person of color. The employee asked him to stop.
The man stopped, but then walked through the parking lot, loudly yelling, "America first. Everybody else leave. Have a good day in my country." As shoppers looked on, those still waiting in line cheered.
Costco managers and the company's nationwide media contact declined to answer questions.