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The 10 Things You Should Never Do at Costco, According to Store Employees

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When I set out to ask Costco employees for some “what not to dos” at Costco, I didn’t realize just how long the list would be. It turns out, Costco members don’t always know the store’s ins and outs — or maybe just don’t acknowledge them. As a longstanding member myself, I should have known better.

Speaking with Costco employees helped me see things from their point of view. (And how the wholesale retailer keeps its staff and members safe and satisfied.) What do employees wish shoppers wouldn’t do? Here’s what the insiders had to say.

1. Don’t stretch your membership.

“The worst thing people do is that they have one membership and they try to bring in dozens of people — especially during COVID. Don’t abuse the membership and bring your entire extended family. The bulk of the money that Costco makes is on memberships,” says an employee from Hazlet, New Jersey.

2. Don’t cut in front of employees.

Members not being aware of their surroundings was a common complaint. “Usually employees are pushing or pulling extremely heavy things through the store and if you cut in front of us, someone could get hurt. It’s tough to stop short with 2,000 pounds of product if a person suddenly walks in front of us,” says an employee from San Francisco.

Another Costco employee I spoke to from North Carolina echoes the same complaint: “Those pallet jacks are heavy, and it takes a lot of effort to stop those. Costco is a busy place; its OK to just wait for a second for employees to do their thing. It’s not worth any kind of incident or injury to save those three seconds.”

3. Don’t FaceTime while shopping.

“Get off your phones while you’re waiting to check out. Someone will cut in front of you if you aren’t ready when it’s your turn,” says the employee from Hazlet, NJ. “Another thing that’s terrible is when people are FaceTiming while shopping. They’ll put the phone right in the baby’s basket, and while they’re yapping, they’re not keeping their distance.

4. Don’t shop on weekends.

The busiest time to shop at Costco is hands-down the weekends (because that’s when people have the most time to buy in bulk). “The best day to shop (especially in our store in Hazlet) is Monday morning or Tuesday evening. Don’t shop on the weekends if you can help it.”

5. Don’t arrive just before closing time.

If you get into the store just before closing, the store managers have to stay past closing time until you’re finished shopping. That being said, “if they’re closing the gates, don’t squat under the gates to get in. Once you’re in, you can shop. The managers will try to tell you to move it along, but they can’t make you leave,” says the employee from NJ.

6. Do not climb on empty pallets to reach a product.

This may be obvious to some, but it wouldn’t need saying if it didn’t happen. “It’s extremely important that members don’t climb on top of empty pallets sitting on the sales floor, or any shelves to reach a product. Employees are always there to help if someone needs a product,” says the employee from San Francisco.

7. Don’t abuse the return policy.

Costco has an extremely lenient return policy, but it is, in fact, possible to abuse it. Right now, Costco isn’t accepting food returns (due to COVID) but here’s an example pre-COVID: “We had a shopper who returned a dozen fully eaten rotisserie chickens over the span of a year. She’d just bring the empty carcass, and they accepted it,” says the employee from Hazlet, NJ.

8. Don’t wait until dinnertime to buy the rotisserie chickens.

Speaking of the famous $5 rotisserie chickens, don’t wait until the end of the day to toss them into your cart. “Right around the 5 p.m. dinnertime rush, there’s always a huge line of people waiting for the chickens to get cooked. Once they’re out, they go so fast. Go earlier in the day when it’s less popular,” says the employee from Hazlet, NJ.

9. Don’t mess up boxes at the front of the store.

Costco infamously doesn’t give shoppers bags. Instead, they have large black bins at the front of the store with previously full boxes for shoppers to use at their convenience. One insider said that oftentimes, members may knock down these boxes, which means the employees have to re-stack them. As one employee put it, “We don’t have a problem with members using the boxes, but it’s important that they ask us beforehand so nobody gets hurt,” says the employee from San Francisco.

10. Don’t offer employees tips.

Even if it feels like the right thing at the time, don’t offer tips to anyone. “That can cause someone to get fired. Even if you feel like someone is doing the job above and beyond, they can’t accept tips, says the employee from Hazlet, NJ.

What “nos” would you add to this list?

Julian Montijo


Julian Montijo is a law student and writer from San Diego, CA. He is the blogger behind Can’t Afford This Meal who spends an inordinate amount of time at Trader Joe’s.

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