11 insider facts about shopping at Costco only employees know

Start your hunt in the middle of the store.

caption
Start your hunt in the middle of the store.
source
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

  • Costco deals aren’t too hard to find.
  • But there are a few less-than-obvious hacks and tips to apply if you ever spring for a membership.
  • From watching the price tags to shopping on Mondays, here’s a look at some insider tips from employees that you should know if you’re going to shop at Costco.

Costco deals are easy to come by.

The retail chain is famous for having just about everything. And certainly, some of its offerings stretch beyond what you’d expect from a big-box store – Costco sells cars, vacations, food kits for the apocalypse, cheap eats in the food court, and even caskets.

Given the breadth of Costco’s selection, it pays to come in armed with as much information as you can get. That way, you can keep an eye out for the best possible deals and shopping strategies the next time you visit your local Costco.

Costco employees tend to have the most insider knowledge, like knowing how to shop without a membership, how to avoid annoying them, and how to know when buying in bulk isn’t worth it.

Here’s a look at some tips that only Costco employees and seasoned shoppers know about:


Don’t ask employees to “check the back” for items.

source
Thad Zajdowicz/Flickr

At many large grocery stores and big-box chains, asking an employee to check in the back for an item isn’t necessarily an unreasonable request.

But at Costco, there just isn’t a “back.”

“We don’t have any additional storage from what you see on the shelves,” a Costco employee told Reader’s Digest. “If it’s not there, don’t ask us to check the back. The ‘back’ doesn’t exist.”


You don’t need a membership for everything.

source
Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock.com

A standard Costco membership, which costs $60 a year, can help a customer rack up huge savings.

But you don’t need a Costco membership to buy wine, get an eye exam, hit up the pharmacy, or grab a bite to eat at the food court.

If you need a flu shot or a shingles vaccination, you can show up with a signed immunization consent form and take care of it.

Just tell the Costco employee at the door what you’re there for, Eat This Not That recommends.


Start your hunt in the middle of the store.

source
Tim Boyle / Getty Images

Many Costco employees place the store’s biggest bargains in the “center court” of the store, Business Insider’s Kate Taylor reported.

You’re better off skipping the more expensive displays at the store’s entrance and starting somewhere in the middle.


There’s a reason stuff gets moved around so much.

source
Thad Zajdowicz/Flickr

The displays employees set up at Costco are far from static.

The chain touts the flux as a sort of “treasure hunt” – and in a sense, it’s right.

Reader’s Digest says the seemingly nomadic products are designed to keep you scanning the shelves and buying more.


Pay close attention to the price tags.

source
Scott Olson / Getty Images

How can you tell whether an item has been marked down? Easy – if it has, the price tag will end in $0.97. And if the tag has an asterisk, it’s not expected to be restocked.


Buying in bulk isn’t always the way to go.

source
chia ying Yang/Flickr

At Costco, you can save money by buying items in bulk.

But you should avoid seeking out such deals for some products, especially anything that’s “best used when fresh,” Eat This Not That says.


Avoid making assumptions about employees.

source
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Want to avoid ticking off a Costco employee? Don’t assume they’re looking for a better job.

In an op-ed article in Refinery29, a former Costco employee named Meghan DeMaria said she loved working at the store and resented the implication that her job was “any less real or important” than any other.

In a Reddit thread, one Costco employee said the store’s “pay scale is awesome for the industry.”

“Benefits are good, vacation is awesome after a few years, and they have a lot of employee-care-type stuff,” the employee wrote. “We have a lot of 15- to 25-year employees at my store.”

A result is a large number of employees who stick around for the long haul.

“Even as a 10-year employee, I’m in the middle of the pack when it comes to average seniority,” the anonymous employee wrote. “We made a name tag for an old-timer employee that said ‘Employee Since 1887.’ Took him a while to catch it.”


Forget about using coupons.

source
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Sorry, coupon-cutters. You’re out of luck here.

Employees won’t accept coupons at Costco. And you ought to leave any manufacturers’ coupons at home too, according to Reader’s Digest.

If you’re looking for the best possible deals, just keep checking Costco’s members-only savings updates.


Don’t worry about missing a sale.

source
Icatnews/Shutterstock

Miss a sale? No problem. If the product you purchased goes on sale less than 30 days after you bought it, “Costco will pay you back the difference,” Eat This Not That says. No receipt required.


Costco has some unusual items up for sale.

source
Costco Travel

Costco isn’t just a place to buy your standard groceries and everyday items.

Thinking about becoming a doomsday prepper? Costco has you covered, with massive emergency-food kits starting at $1,000.

Need a car? Look into Costco’s auto program, which hooks you up with discounted vehicles from participating dealerships, Business Insider’s Mark Matousek reported.

Costco even has a funeral category that sells caskets and urns in many states.

Basically, think outside the box when it comes to items you can buy at Costco. There’s a good chance it sells whatever you have in mind.


Mondays and the end of the summer are key times to shop.

source
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

When’s the best time to make a Costco run?

One Costco employee says Mondays and weekday mornings tend to be quiet.

In addition, the end of the summer is a great time to grab marked-down outdoor furniture.

Are you a current or former Costco employee with a story to share? Email acain@businessinsider.com.