Megaretailer Costco decided earlier this month not to continue to carry the new book from conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza, America, Imagine a World Without Her. Given that D'Souza recently pled guilty to campaign finance violations -- charges that he and his fans considered politically motivated -- Costco's decision generated a lot of heat among conservative media outlets. It spawned headlines at Twitchy, World Net Daily, and a special mention from Rush Limbaugh himself.
It unleashed such a firestorm that Costco made it easier and quicker to hear its response in the phone tree that greets those calling corporate headquarters. Want to hear Costco's response on D'Souza? Please press nine. Press nine and you get the rationale: "Each item we carry must meet sale thresholds in order for us to continue to stock them. We purchased this item with the best intentions when it came out on June 2, 2014. Unfortunately, it was not meeting the necessary threshold, and was part of our normal, weekly returns."
Which for us, raised an interesting question. Given the role Costco played in the roll-out of Hillary Clinton's book "Hard Choices" (a Virginia store hosted one of Clinton's book signings), how are sales of Clinton's book holding up under that standard?
There's a reason to ask. If you haven't been paying attention, national sales of Clinton's book in hardcover in the first week were well below sales of her biography, Living History (though they exceeded first week sales of other political works). In week two, according to Nielsen BookScan, sales dropped 44 percent. In week three, another 46 percent. And by week four, according to numbers from the Times' Amy Chozick, down another 36 percent, selling only about 17,000 copies.
Reached by phone, Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti made clear that, despite those figures, Clinton's book still handily outsold D'Souza's -- but that was no guarantee it would stay in stores. "Any title will be on the cut list when its sales diminish," Galanti said. "Our numbers are not always directionally consistent [with Nielsen's], but generally they're consistent."
In a statement from CEO Craig Jelinek sent to the media (in hopes of quelling the continuing brouhaha), Costco revealed that D'Souza's book had been sold 3,753 times in its stores, "or approximately 15 books per Costco location." To the Post, Galanti said that Clinton's had sold somewhere north of 17,000 in the last three weeks of June -- about five times as much.
Tuesday night on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, D'Souza echoed arguments that his book had been pulled for political reasons. "This is clearly a political decision that they made," he said. "I think it's because of their alliance with the Obama administration and now they're feeling the heat so they're trying to figure out how to wriggle out of it." Jim Sinegal, a co-founder of Costco, spoke at the Democratic convention in 2012 and raised money for Obama.
"We delete 20 to 50 of the 200 titles we have every week," Galanti told the Post. In terms of the political eruption, he said, "We probably should have known. But we didn't."
"Nobody wants to hear how we do business," he continued. "Depending on what we say, half of the aisle gets mad. If we say something else, the other half gets mad."
Good news for Costco customers on both sides, however. "Given yesterday’s dramatic sales increase in the book," the statement reads, "…perhaps due in part to the surrounding controversy…we have chosen to bring back the book." So for now, both Hard Choices and America are back in stores. Until sales slip.