Report: Costco co-founder told CEO he'd kill him if price of hot dog combo went up

The deal has been $1.50 for decades — and it sounds like it's not going away anytime soon.
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Customers wearing face masks leaving a Costco Wholesale store on July 16, 2020 in Pembroke Pines, Florida.Johnny Louis / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Costco fans are very passionate about the store’s food court and it seems like the company’s co-founder is, too.

A Mental Floss article from 2018 is making the rounds this week due to a particular threat made by Jim Sinegal, Costco co-founder and then-CEO.

During a luncheon at the time, the company’s current CEO, W. Craig Jelinek, said he once told Sinegal they needed to raise the price of the iconic $1.50 hot dog and soda combo — which reportedly has not gone up in price since the 1980s.

“I came to (Sinegal) once and I said, ‘Jim, we can’t sell this hot dog for a buck fifty," Jelineck said, according to 425 Business. "We are losing our rear ends.’ And he said, ‘If you raise (the price of the) effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.’ That’s all I really needed."

According to the company magazine, Costco Connection, the food court started in the mid-1980s when the company began testing “a single hot dog cart in front of a San Diego warehouse.”

The company has gone to serious lengths to keep the price low — swapping out the soda cans for fountain drinks and even switching to supplying their own Kirkland brand hot dogs instead of using other brands around 10 years ago.

A Costco employee in 2018 told Popsugar that the company makes just $0.08 on every hot dog combo deal — but that’s not the point of having the deal in the first place.

“The primary role the Food Court is there is to be a good face for the company,” they said. We'll sell you a hotdog and soda for $1.50 … just so your last experience before leaving is one of a pleasant cashier treating you well and giving you a good deal."

Sinegal has long believed the Costco hot dog is sacrosanct — and apparently will take his threat to the grave. In a 2009 interview with The Seattle Times, a reporter asked him, “If that price ever goes up, what will it mean?”

“That I’m dead,” he replied. “We’re known for that hot dog. That’s something you don’t mess with.”