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I'm a little confused with the word THEY in (So they improved the product and lowered the price). Does it refer to the buyers or another company which is Costco's competitor?

In 1996 we (COSTCO) were selling between $150,000 and $200,000 worth of salmon fillet every week at $5.99 a pound. Then our buyers were able to get an improved product with belly fat, back fins, and collarbones removed, at a better price. As a result we reduced our retail price to $5.29. So they improved the product and lowered the price. The buyers weren’t finished with the improvements, though. Next our buyers negotiated for a product with the pin bone out and all of the skin removed, and it was at an even better price, which enabled us to lower our price to $4.99 a pound. Then, because we had continued to grow and had increased our sales volume, we were able to buy direct from Canadian and Chilean farms, which resulted in an even lower price of $4.79 (Denning, 2005, p. 137).

Source: https://books.google.com.vn/books?id=ZUePrEPNZq0C&pg=PA141&lpg=PA141&dq

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In this particular example "they" refers to the buyers, who were able to both improve the product and reduce the price through negotiations with the salmon farmers. The writer is making a distinction between "we" (the Costco organization itself) and their buyers, who would seem to be a intermediary agency not directly employed by Costco.

Alternately the writer is making a distinction between COSTCO as a whole ("we") and one particular division within the company ("they") responsible for buying groceries from the suppliers.

Without more information we don't know -- but in the context of this anecdote it doesn't really matter either way.

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    I don't think the use of 'they' implies the buyers were an external agency. I think the author is simply switching freely between expressing ideas from the first person plural perspective ("We are COSTCO") and the singular ("I am Stephen, not a member of the buying team, and they are the buying team"). – Johnny Apr 13 at 16:21

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