20 Things Costco Employees Want to Tell Shoppers But Can’t

Costco Warehouse

Costco employees are like most any other employee. There are times when they want to tell shoppers something — whether it’s information about a special sale or a snide comment directed to a shopper with a bad attitude — but can’t for various reasons. That being said, here are 20 things Costco employees wish they could tell you but can’t.

20. Don’t Abuse Their Return Policy

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Costco is known for its generous return policy. You can return pretty much anything — even your membership, if you’re not fully satisfied. But, there are some people who get carried away and try to return bizarre items like stained mattresses, dirty toilets, dead plants, smelly freezers that are no longer working, and couches that are over five years old. “Interestingly enough, they still have the receipt, Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado, told Mental Floss magazine. “My guess is that they buy that couch with the intention of returning it someday, so they tape the receipt to the bottom of the couch so they don’t lose it. Then, when they’ve worn it out and want something new, they bring it back and get a full refund.”

FYI, Costco employees know if you’re a serial returner. That’s because their records go back 10 years or so, and all they have to do is look up your membership information. But, even if they don’t search your record, they can still spot a serial returner just by the words that come out of their mouth. “When someone comes in to return something without a receipt and they go, ‘Oh, you can look it up on my account,’ that’s a tell,” Thomas, a Costco employee in California, told Mental Floss. “It tells me you return so much stuff that you know what we can find on the computer.”

Here’s something else you should know: They can revoke your membership if you’re a serial returner. Employees can make notes under a comments section of your membership, and they sometimes do that when an individual makes frequent returns. If you’re found abusing their return policy, your membership can be terminated.

19. Don’t Assume They’re Unhappy

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Many Costco employees admit that they love their job, despite the fact that many members look down on retail workers and can be quite rude to them at times. So, what exactly do they love about their jobs? According to BUSINESS INSIDER, Costco employees say the best part of their job is the positive work environment, friendly co-workers, good managers, compensation, benefits, and perks. One such perk is the free turkey they each receive at Thanksgiving, which is another secret they probably won’t tell you about, LOL!

18. Don’t Hog the Free Samples

Free Food Samples
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Some Costco employees want so badly to tell shoppers that they can only have one free sample, but they aren’t allowed to enforce a limit on the free samples. In fact, there’s actually no limit at all to how many times you can come back for free samples, although most shoppers don’t know it. As a result, many of them try to be sneaky. “I’ll have customers come up 6 times and ask me each time if i think it tastes good. Usually around [time] 5 or 6 I’ll say, ‘You tell me!’,” a former Reddit user and Costco sample guy said.

17. Some Sales Aren’t Sales

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Believe it or not, that sale price you see might not be the best price. That’s why it’s important to learn the secret code to Costco’s price tags. Here’s what you need to know: If an item has been marked down, that is, it’s on clearance, its price tag will end in $.97. If a price tag ends in $.00 or $.88, it means that the manager decided to cut the price for a number of reasons. It could be that it’s the last one in stock, or it doesn’t have a box, or some parts are missing. Lastly, if a price tag has an asterisk, it means the item is not going to be restocked.

16. Skip Buying Produce at the Store

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It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Costco’s produce, it’s just that Costco sells things in bulk, and buying in bulk isn’t always the way to go. This is especially true when it comes to perishables like produce. That’s because these items might go bad before you have a chance to eat them. Unless you’re in the restaurant business or some other industry where you know you’ll be able to cook up all those veggies before they spoil, it’s best to buy your produce at the supermarket instead.

15. Some Employees Don’t Like the Food Court

Costco Food Court
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Costco uses the delicious items sold in its food court to get you to spend extra time in the store — but not everyone is pleased with the food court’s offerings. One Costco employee told BUSINESS INSIDER that “Costco needs vegetarian items in the food court.” And, it seems that this employee just might get their wish. In 2018, Costco removed the Polish hot dog from its food-court menu and replaced it with vegan options such as the new al pastor salad and an acai bowl.

14. They Want You To Give Them Good Reviews

Positive Feedback
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Costco employees are just dying to tell you that they want you to give them good reviews, unfortunately they can’t do that. According to BUSINESS INSIDER, a Costco employee from Ontario said that if they did ask members to write good reviews about them, they would get in trouble with the managers. But, now that the cat is out of the bag, feel free to write a good review about a Costco employee who was extra helpful to you. They would greatly appreciate it.

13. They’re Tired of Everyone Telling the Same Old Joke

Source: Wikimedia Commons By Laff_alert.svg: AnduxJoke_Alert.png: Shiiderivative work: Yarnalgo [LGPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html)]
If it’s one thing Costco workers have heard time and time again, it’s the “it didn’t scan, so it should be free” joke. According to BUSINESS INSIDER, a Minnesota-based Costco employee hates that joke. “It wasn’t funny the first time we heard it. It isn’t funny after we’ve heard it 62,000 times.” And, that’s not all. Three other employees also told BUSINESS INSIDER that they felt the same way about that joke.

TIP: The next time you’re at Costco, lay off the lame jokes.

12. Control Your Kids

Screaming Child
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There’s just something so annoying about little kids running through the store begging for every thing they see on the shelves, then throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way. Oh, and don’t forget about knocking stuff over, running into other people, jumping around in the basket, and screaming at the top of their lungs. And, if it’s annoying to the customers, you can imagine how the employees feel. In fact, one Costco employee from New York told BUSINESS INSIDER that they wish they could tell members “that they are responsible for their kids, not us.”

11. Stop Being Gross

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You know how you feel when you go into the restroom at a restaurant and you see one of the workers come out of the stall and not even take the time to wash their hands? Or when you go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, and the guy in line in front of you sneezes into his hand and then proceeds to grab the tongs with that same hand? Well, Costco employees feel the same way when you don’t wash your hands after leaving the store’s restroom or when you pull your membership card out of your mouth or bra.

10. The Cheese Pizza is Really Cheesy

Cheese Pizza
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Sofiamcfly [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
How cheesy, you ask? It’s made with a pound and a half (or 24 ounces) of a mozzarella and Parmesan blend! Not only does Costco’s cheese pizza come with a ton of cheese, it’s quite large in size — 18 inches, to be exact. You can order a whole pie for $9.95 or a slice for $1.99.

-The pepperoni and combo pizzas don’t have as much cheese because they need the extra room for the toppings.
-The price of the pizza hasn’t changed since 1989.

9. They Tell Little White Lies Sometimes

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Did you know that there are a lot of workers in Costco’s bakery that are trained to write on cakes? No? Well, there’s a good reason why you didn’t know it. According to BUSINESS INSIDER, a Costco employee from Washington said that when their manager or supervisor is tired, they will make the bakery workers tell the members that there are no cake decorators there at the moment.

FUN FACT: Costco’s sheet cake order form shows that are nearly 30 cake decorating designs to choose from., including roses, balloons, birds, skateboards, and pirate ships.

8. Plan Ahead for Heavy or Large Purchases

Plan In Advance
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If you’re going to purchase furniture or some other heavy or large item, Costco employees want you to plan ahead for transporting those items. You need to check the size of your car and the size of the product before coming into the store and making a purchase. You also need to make sure you bring someone with you who can help you lift those heavy items. Now, this doesn’t mean that the employees don’t want to help you. They would just prefer that you not assume they’ll be doing all the lifting for you. Plus, they get a little ticked off when they have to carry those items back to the store if they don’t fit in your car.

7. They Move Items on Purpose

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Costco rearranges their products almost every day. So, if you go there two days in a row looking for rice cakes, chances are you won’t find them in the same place on the second day. Why does Costco do this? Because they want to encourage you to go on a treasure hunt. Not for your enjoyment, but to get you to spend more time scanning the shelves in the hopes that you’ll pick up additional items that aren’t even on your list. And, if you think you can outsmart them by asking an employee where something is, think again. A former Costco employee said on Reddit that because things get rearranged so much, the workers aren’t even sure where they end up.

6. Know the Rules Before You Get There

Know The Rules
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Unlike Sam’s Club, there’s no “complimentary card” or “household card” for Costco members’ family and friends. They can’t lend their membership card to other people either. For one thing, it has the member’s photo on it to prevent things like that from happening. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop all non-members from slipping in. They come through the door and flash their cards so fast that employees hardly have a chance to see the photo on the back of it. Getting in is much easier than getting out though. That’s because you can’t check out without a Costco membership in your name.

5. Get Off the Phone

Talking On Phone
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When it comes time to check out, Costco employees would really appreciate it if you get off your phone, help unload the cart onto the belt, and communicate with them instead. They also want you to have your card ready. All of this helps speed up the process. This is especially true on the warehouse chain’s busiest days, which happens to be the weekend. If you hate crowds, it’s best to go on a Monday or Tuesday, or any weekday morning for that matter. They tend to be the most quiet times in the store.

4. Stop Acting So Self-Entitled

Self Entitlement
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Yes, your membership entitles you to certain things at Costco — but it’s no different from what other members are entitled to. That includes those of you who hold an executive membership, too. But, for some reason some members think their “executive status” makes them more important than Costco employees. It also makes them think that they’re entitled to anything or that they’re always right. And, yes, the saying is that the customer is always right, but those of you who have ever worked in retail knows that that’s not even close to being true.

3. Check Your Coupons Before Shopping

Source: Wikimedia Commons By Carol Pyles from Winter Haven, FL, US [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
You need to pay attention to your coupon-book dates before shopping in the store. You also need to know that Costco does not accept manufacturers coupons. They won’t negotiate for a lower price either. But, if you are looking for additional ways to save, try asking for extra coupons at the customer service counter. On the plus side, if you happen to purchase a product and it goes on sale less than 30 days after you bought it, Costco will refund the difference. And, the best part of all? No receipt is required.

2. Throw Your Trash Away

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Do you throw your trash on the floor at home? No, of course not (at least I hope you don’t anyway)! So, if don’t treat the floors in your home like a trash can, why do it at Costco, or any other public place for that matter? Costco employees hate it when members do this, and they really wish that they could tell them to clean up after themselves and stop leaving sample cups all over the floor. It’s not only rude and unsanitary, it just makes more work for the employees.

1. Be Nice

Be Kind
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Chances are you’ve heard the saying “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” That being said, it’s best to be nice to the workers when you visit Costco. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because a little kindness goes a long way. Rudeness, on the other hand, will get you nowhere. “As soon as you’re an a—— to me, I don’t care about actually helping you,” a Costco employee in Canada told BUSINESS INSIDER.


Are you a former Costco employee? Share your secrets with us in the comments below.