Useful Shopping Hacks For Your Next Trip To Costco

We have such a love-hate relationship with Costco. On the one hand, it’s the go-to place for incredible deals. But the warehouses can be so busy and finding the best deals is overwhelming.

Luckily, some Costco employees and insiders have shared the best tricks and secrets to making a Costco trip successful. From decoding the secret symbols on price tags to figuring out the best time to shop, these Costco hacks will save you time, money, and sanity.

You Can Get In Without A Membership

Inside A Costco Wholesale Corp. Store Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Scott McIntyre/Bloomberg via Getty Image
Scott McIntyre/Bloomberg via Getty Image

One of the main factors deterring people from shopping at Costco is the pricy membership fee. So what do you do if you want those sweet deals but you’re not willing to shell out the annual fee? Easy. Ask somebody who has a Costco membership to get you a Costco gift card.

You don’t need a membership to use it and you can still access the full store without any questions. Start adding “Costco gift cards” to your Christmas wishlist!

It’s Not The End Of The World If You Miss A Sale

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Costco has a lot of great sales all throughout the year, but if you miss a sale, it’s not the end of the world. You can still get the best price on that item you had your eye on. Costco may not price match like some other retailers, but you can get a price cut within 30 days if an item you bought goes on sale later.

All you have to do is put in a simple request online. Costco has some pretty great customer service.

Tuesday And Wednesday Mornings Are The Best Time To Shop

Two women who identified themselves only as Emily, left, and
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Costco can be a busy place, especially on weekends, in the evenings, and right before holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. If you really want to have the time and the space to scope out the best deals, you’re going to want to go to Costco when the store isn’t so busy.

The quietest times to shop are Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. If you have a morning off work, or if you work evenings, head into Costco to do your weekly shopping.

Look For An Asterisk On The Price Tags

@DealsPlus/Twitter
@DealsPlus/Twitter

If you ever see an asterisk on a price sign while you were wandering the aisles of Costco, you might want to pay attention to it. That asterisk is the store’s way of telling you that the item you’re looking at won’t be getting restocked. Whatever they have in stock is what’s available, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

The asterisks are usually found on seasonal items that won’t be back for a little while.

The Gift Card Section Is A Hidden Gem

Views Of A Costco Store Ahead Of Earns
Tim Boyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

We already know that Costco gift cards can be a great way to get into the store, but these cards are so much more than they appear to be. You can get anything from gift cards for 2-for-1 movie passes to discounted admissions to local attractions.

Sometimes savings are even built into the Costco gift cards themselves. In the photo above, you can see that Costco was selling four $25 gift cards for just $79.99

Fill Up At The Costco Gas Bar Before Shopping

Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images
Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images

One thing Costco does right is gas prices. It seems like gas is getting more expensive every day, but you can generally count on Costco to get you the best price on gas in your area. Those long lines are daunting, but the price is worth it. Those Costco gas bars will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Make sure you fill up before you shop, though, so all of your ice cream and frozen goods don’t melt in the back of your car.

Yes, You Can Take More Than One Sample

sample
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Costco employees assure us that you really can take as many samples as you want. You don’t have to pretend to be a different person or say that you’re getting it for your kid. You can just walk right up to that sample counter and ask for seconds. And thirds.

If you like the product so much, it might be worth the investment, but if you need a few more tastes to make up your mind, that’s totally okay.

The Better Deals Are Down The Aisles

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Dominic Bracco II for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Dominic Bracco II for The Washington Post via Getty Images

It may seem like you’re getting the best deal when you pick an item up from the big stack of things being advertised in the front of the store, but the truth is that the best deals are usually placed further down the aisles.

You’re going to have to do a bit of searching if you really want to snag that perfect bargain, but we promise, the hunt is worth it. You might even pick up some more free samples along the way.

Don’t Bother Buying Brand Name Household Products

Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Yes, Costco has incredible deals on brand-name items, but their discount brand Kirkland is just as good, if not better. People swear that the Kirkland toilet paper is better than Cottonelle and half the price. Even the Kirkland batteries are made by Duracell.

In fact, many Kirkland products are actually made by the big-name companies you already know and love. For example, did you know that Kirkland coffee is produced by Starbucks?

They Move Items For A “Treasure Hunt”

Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images
Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

Yes, that’s the actual word Costco uses to talk about the fact that you can never find anything in there. They choose to move the stock around so much so that you have to scan a bunch of items just to find the peanut butter.

If you don’t want to risk making impulse buys, ask an employee to direct you to where the item is now. You still might see some tempting things while you’re getting help, though!

Never Buy Soda From Costco

@costco_is_awesome/Instagram
@costco_is_awesome/Instagram

One of the few things that are better to buy in a normal grocery store is soda. Soda is what most supermarkets call a “loss leader.” That means they sell it way below cost just to draw people into the store.

Even though it’s incredibly cheap, Costco is still not quite the deal that the regular grocery store is for all your soda needs. This isn’t something you hear much!

Ask The Roadshows How Long They’ll Be There

@thecostcoconnoisseur/Instagram
@thecostcoconnoisseur/Instagram

Roadshows will go in and out of Costco, and they all stay for different amounts of time. Lindt, Krispy Kreme, and even vendors who sell items like specialty bedsheets will set up roadshow displays that rarely last more than a few weeks.

Either stock up now, or ask how long they’ll be in store so you don’t miss the deals. Once they’re gone, there’s a chance they could be gone for good!

Costco Hot Dogs Are So Cheap To Attract Customers

@jakesphoto_nypd/Instagram
@jakesphoto_nypd/Instagram

Half the point of making a trip to Costco is to get the super cheap jumbo hot dog and soda combo for only $1.50. Costco doesn’t exactly make a huge profit off the deal, but they know it gets customers in the doors.

For many people, having such a cheap meal on hand (especially if shopping with kids) helps justify the annual membership fees. Plus, eating while you’re at the store means you’ll be full and less likely to load up on impulse purchases.

Don’t Even Think About Stealing

Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It might sound like it’d be hard to steal a 76-pack of dish detergent, but people still try to steal from Costco. Every store employs a couple of secret security officers, which is a pretty common practice in most stores these days.

Costco’s security officers walk around in plain clothes “shopping” just like they were a normal member, but in reality, they’re keeping an eye out for people stealing merchandise.

You Can Fill Your Prescription Without A Membership

Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images

There’s no membership required to go in and fill a prescription at the Costco pharmacy. Just walk in and tell the greeter what you’re doing, and you’ll have no problem heading straight to the pharmacy department.

The Costco pharmacy also boasts lower dispensing fees than most other drugstores, so you’ll be saving money in the long run. If you DO have a Costco membership, it’s a real timesaver to get your shopping done while your prescriptions are filled.

Dry Goods And Frozen Foods Are The Best Deals

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Costco is great for bulking up on fresh produce or meats, but they aren’t exactly door-busting deals. The non-perishables and frozen foods are the best deals because, of course, they last the longest!

Hopefully, this makes you feel better about buying that 100-pack of Oreos or 1 kg bag of trail mix. As long as you have room to store it somewhere at home, it’s usually a better deal to buy in bulk!

Decode The Price Tags

Dominic Bracco II for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Dominic Bracco II for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Just like many other retailers do with their price tags, there’s a rhyme and reason behind the prices at Costco. If a price ends in .97, then it means the item is on clearance.

If the price tag ends in .00 or .88, then it means the manager cut the price for a special reason, like it could be the last one in stock, doesn’t have a box, or has pieces missing.

You Don’t Need A Membership To Buy Alcohol There In Some States

A shopper pushes a cart through the aisles of a Costco store
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

There are a few things you can buy at Costco without a membership. In a handful of states, Costco’s Kirkland-branded alcohol is one of those. Costco hasn’t provided an official list, but there are several internet message boards about the topic.

The states mentioned in these forums include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas, and Vermont. However, you’ll definitely want to contact your local Costco before making the trip.

Shop Online To Find The Strangest Items

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Costco is known for stocking just about everything imaginable, and you can find even more weird things online. Go to Costco.com and take a look at some of the unexpected things you can get, such as a funeral casket, a $1,000 doomsday emergency-food kit, or even coupons for local car dealerships.

The best part? They’ll ship these strange things to most of their locations in states across America. How’s that for service?

Why They Check Your Receipt When You Leave

FILE PHOTO Costco Profits Rise In Weak Economy
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

While many Costco customers may assume that a store employee checks your receipt and cart upon leaving to make sure you didn’t shoplift, that’s not the case. As it turns out, there are two reasons that Costco checks your items and receipt at the exit. The first is that they want to make sure that they stay on top of their inventory, and the receipt correctly matches the number of items in your cart.

Also, Costco wants to make sure that you’re not overcharged or undercharged at check-out.

Learn The Layout

Costco
Costco
Costco

Every Costco is a little different, and they tend to change around item placement every day, but there are some general rules to know. Food aisles and household goods are on opposite sides of the store.

The bakery, deli, and produce all are located at the back of the store. In the middle is all the clothing, snacks, books, and gift cards. Master this information and you’ll be successful every time.

What You See Is What You Get

Employee Tony Gallegos uses a forklift to move a pallet of h
Jack Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jack Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s common to ask a normal store if they “have any more in the back” but don’t even bother if you’re at Costco. They are a warehouse store, which means they’re stocked like a warehouse… everything is right there on the shelves.

There’s no back room at Costco hiding the best deals. They’re all out on the floor for you to see. This also saves employees from having to make trips to the back all day.

Strangest Things Captured At Costco

Bigfudge01
Bigfudge01

Costco is a massive establishment so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your kids. It can be like a giant playground for little kids but instead of swings and monkey bars, it’s full of food and forklifts.

If you’re not worried about something bad happening to them, you may just find them stuck behind a freezer door like this guy. Chances are he was hot from running around and needed to cool off for a bit.

A 20-Year-Old’s Dream Come True

ChiefLucarioOfficer
ChiefLucarioOfficer

If you’ve ever been inside a Costco, you know that their alcohol section contains more than a fraternity could drink in a lifetime. It’s a great place to buy booze, only if you’re over 21. However, apparently the rules are different at this Costco, and you’re only allowed to buy alcohol if you’re under 21.

We’re sure it didn’t take long for the college freshman to take their chances buying alcohol here. The sign clearly says it’s okay.

Costco Rotisserie Chicken Is Best Served Hot

jarzbent
jarzbent

It’s no secret that Costco’s rotisserie chicken is pretty darn good. Although eating it cold is an option, it’s worlds better is served hot right out from under the heating lamp. Yet, if you have more errands to run, it’s critical to keep that chicken at the perfect temperature.

Lucky for us, nature has blessed us with a giant heating lamp that works perfect for keeping Costco chicken nice and piping hot. We wonder if this person has been picking away at it all day.

A Different Kind Of Remedy

seangone11
seangone11

While alcohol is known to kill bacteria, we don’t think that exactly means that it will help to cure an illness, especially the flu. While some people might go to the doctor to get a flu shot, it looks like Costco wants people to pick up a handle of Kirkland vodka and ward off the flu by getting drunk.

Most people probably wouldn’t go this route but maybe the people that do know something that we don’t…

When Your Mom Says She Has To Run Into Costco Real Quick

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We’ve all been there. You’re driving in the car with your mom and the next thing you know, you’re in the parking lot of Costco. She claims that she just has to “run in” and get a few things, but we all know what that means. You definitely don’t want to go in with her, but you also know you might die of boredom in the car.

Looks like this poor soul made the decision to stay in the car. Legend says their mom is still shopping in Costco today.

That’s Reassuring

docholiday970
docholiday970

Safety in the workplace should always be a concern. Nobody wants to get hurt while at work and nobody wants to get hurt on a trip to Costco. The fact that this Costco has only gone two days without injury is a little concerning. The real question is, was it an employee or a customer who was injured?

If I saw this I’d probably take my business somewhere else, for fear of a Kirkland car tire falling on my head.

How Do You Sample Toilet Paper?

Drofhcor
Drofhcor

One of the best things about Costco are the samples, everyone knows that. But we can all agree that it would be disappointing to see that one of the samples was toilet paper rather than food of some kind. How do you even sample toilet paper?

Do you just keep it in your back pocket until you need to use it? Or do you just feel it with your fingers before throwing it away? It’s an odd sample no matter what.

Liquor On Tap!

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Well, we guess we know where we can find the alcohol to put inside of that giant wine glass, just on the side of Costco. While we know that this pump doesn’t actually contain any liquor, it’s just another thing that isn’t all that surprising to find at Costco.

For all we know, a truck does come each week full of Kirkland brand alcohol that is pumped through here and then bottled inside of the store.

Some Things Are Better Left Not Sampled

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At a glance, it looks like Costco really started pushing the boundaries and were offering condom samples. Thankfully, that’s not the case. However, you do have to wonder how many people bolted over thinking that they were.

We just feel bad for the poor girl working next to the Trojan area as she offers what looks to be vitamin samples. Hopefully, she’ll get switched positions tomorrow because that must be an awkward situation for everyone involved.

Costco Hot Dogs In Mexico

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For the most part, everyone loves Costco hot dogs. They’re of relative quality and reasonably priced. Also, shopping at Costco can definitely work up an appetite, so it’s the perfect option as you’re walking out the door.

However, it looks like the Costco’s in Mexico aren’t messing around when it comes to their toppings. Not only do you get jalapenos, but they line the entire hot dogs, just to make sure that you aren’t craving any extra heat. This dog is not for the faint of heart.

Decisions Were Made

supermanmjm
supermanmjm

Costco isn’t always the best place to make healthy choices. They have so many options both healthy and not that often you may find yourself making the wrong decision. While this person was originally going to go with with the healthy coconut clusters with organic super seeds, it appears that the smoked shorty sausages caught their eye.

Let’s be honest, nobody can be blamed for making this decision. Chances are, that bag of coconut clusters will remain there long after all the shorty sausages are gone.

There’s Not A Lot Of Money In Revenge

andyh1212
andyh1212

Looks like Costco entourages their employees to have a little fun on the job. It’s either that, or someone snuck in and got their hands on the nametag labeler. We’re sure that anyone that’s a fan of The Princess Bride really got a kick out of seeing someone walking around with this name tag.

We wonder if this employee also walked around with a sword attached to their side, although we highly doubt it.

Costco Employees Hard At Work

defactosithlord
defactosithlord

When a pigeon manages to get inside of Costco, it’s up to the employees to get it out by any means possible. Looks like this employee decided to set a trap in hopes of capturing the bird before a customer asks to speak with the manager about it.

We’re sure that the employee would rather do this than stock the shelves or hand out samples, so they probably pray for wild animals to get in the store all of the time.

Nothing Quite Like Some Chihuahua Cheese

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If you’re ever in the market for some cheese made from Chihuahuas, then Costco is the right place for you. They have no shortage of this product and apparently, it’s great for tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and salads.

While this may seem like an unusual item in most other grocery stores, we all know that anything goes at Costco. We’re also sure it pairs nicely with a Labrador quesadilla and some German Shepard salsa.

Future Warlord

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You can buy literally anything at Costco, they even have an area designated to books of all kinds. While most little girls might pick up something by Dr. Seuss or a book about a princess, but not this one.

She picked out The Art of War by Sun Tzu, a book that is considered to be the most influential strategy text in East Asian warfare. That’s definitely not a very light read but to each their own!

I’m Just Going To Have One Glass

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We can’t say that we’re surprised that you can buy an unnecessarily-sized wine glass at Costco, but this is just absurd. You must be able to fit around five bottles of wine into that glass, which is enough to send anyone to the hospital.

Although it’s a novelty item, we can’t imagine anywhere that someone can fit this in their house without making it look like the inside of a sorority house. We just hope that it’s plastic instead of glass or things could get messy.

Happens Every Time

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This man’s wife sent him to Costco in order to get some milk, which he did. However, he also happened to pick up a 65″ flat screen television. While some people’s significant others might be furious because of this, you also shouldn’t send someone to Costco thinking that they wouldn’t come back with a little something extra.

Most people’s carts at Costco look similar to this because it’s a trap for shoppers who just need a few things but can’t control themselves.

Just A Heads Up

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The products at Costco make it very clear what’s written in the fine print so that people don’t try to take advantage of the store. In this case, it looks like they even made a warning sign for the parking lot in case the place flooded.

We’re not sure which 100 year storm they’re talking about, but now nobody can complain if their car gets flooded because there’s clearly a warning sign. Costco is always one step ahead of its customers.

After You’ve Been In Costco For Hours

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Sometimes, going to Costco can be a fun adventure, and at other times, it can be a nightmare. We’ve all been stuck in Costco for so long that eventually we just give up and find a nice piece of furniture to sit on.

That’s exactly what this stuffed bear looks like, someone whose mom has been looking at a new vacuum for hours. It’s either that or the bear is sad because nobody has taken it home with them yet.