Customers call Arlie Smith the “Costco Guy.” Image source: KTVU-TV
The beloved 22-year veteran of the Danville, California, store greets shoppers at the door. He smiles. He offers empathetic words if they’re not feeling well. He even adds fun sketches to the backs of store receipts as families leave — a big selling point for boys and girls at the mercy of their parents’ shopping carts. Image source: WPXI-TV
“We come through the line.
He signs the receipt, and he puts a smiley face,” Dyan Young told KGO-TV. ”As long as Arlie is here, then my kids want to come to Costco.” Image source: KTVU-TV
But the man who’s brightened days for so many customers has been forced to ask how many he has left.
Two years ago Smith was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Then six months ago the 45-year-old got more bad news. He contracted kidney cancer — which has since spread to his bones and is terminal. Doctors said he might live another two years, KTVU-TV reported.
But that devastating news hasn’t dimmed Smith’s sunny countenance. ”Since the time he was told that, he’s been enthusiastic, and happy, and I’m not kidding,” his wife Shari Smith told the station.
Given his upbeat personality and how much he’s given to others, it comes as hardly a surprise that when word of Smith’s latest diagnosis came around, some of his customers — calling themselves “Arlie’s Angels” — put together a major surprise during his Tuesday shift.
As a crowd gathered and Smith started wondering what was afoot, customer Bridgette Loughnane came up to him: ”We’re all here today because we love you so much,” she said in a slightly halting voice. Image source: KTVU-TV
Turns out they raised $2,500 to send him and his wife on a trip.
“We got people donating $10, $20, up to $500 so you’ll go and have four nights at your favorite place in Laguna Beach,” Loughnane added.
A tearful Smith was taken aback. “Look at these people,” Smith said to KGO-TV. “I’m richer than Bill Gates and the guy from Facebook. Those guys on Shark Tank, put them all together. My life is… I have a priceless, wonderful life. You can’t put a price tag on these people and all of this.”
Smith said that his illness has forced him to live each day with gratitude.
“It’s in your face all the time,” he explained during a KTVU interview. “So how can you possibly be ungrateful in my situation? How can you possibly take this for granted?” Image source: KTVU-TV
Customer Lee Loughnane told KTVU that Smith really lives out that perspective: ”I don’t think I ever saw him grapple with the ‘why me?’ I mean, he went immediately to finding a bigger purpose for what he can do.”
One of the ways Smith is doing that is by gunning for the title as top fundraiser for a Children’s Hospital benefit coming up in May.
“Everything that’s done for me and the love that’s shown for me, every day, it’s astounding,” he told KTVU. “I mean, people don’t have this great of a life, really.”