Costco receipt checking is about catching overcharges

Originally published at: Costco receipt checking is about catching overcharges | Boing Boing


I miss Consumerist. I was sad when they died years ago. Consumer Reports bought them, but the site was just too snarky and shoot from the hip to be in line with Consumer Reports very measured editorial style.

Costco has posted their own explanation:

We do this to double-check that the items purchased have been correctly processed by our cashiers. It’s our most effective method of maintaining accuracy in inventory control, and it’s also a good way to ensure that our members have been charged properly for their purchases.

It doesn’t seem to be about catching “overcharges” per se but rather making sure the item count matches, which would include both over scans and under scans.

I had no idea, but it seems like common-sense now, that stores with miserable return and remediation policies would benefit from up-front attempting to keep you out of them

Costco has excellent and very liberal return policies. The existence of a line to take advantage of those good policies doesn’t make the policies bad. And unlike Frys, which was notorious for putting unchecked returns back on the floor at full price, Costco liquidates their returns by the pallet load, at a loss. 15-20 pallet loads per store per week, by this site’s estimate.

Edit: for people curious about Costco returns sold at retail, people in the All Things Costco Bay Area FB group report that there are a number of stores in the Bay Area that at least sometimes sell Costco returns, none of which I’ve been to or confirmed:

East Bay Wholesale Outlet in Pleasant Hill

Twice as Nice in Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz

Discount Bay in San Leandro

Spendwise Bargain Outlet in Hollister

Costless on 10th near the fairgrounds in San Jose

The discounts didn’t sound all that great in the thread about these outlets and I have no idea if items can be returned or not. I’m going to stick to direct purchases from Costco.


Also, human resources is there to protect the company, not the employees. These are non-intuitive facts that make perfect sense once they’re explained.



Costco list is finished, off to Costco.


I have been screamed at and followed all the way to my car by Costco managers when I have skipped the receipt check line. They always tell me that the receipt check is for my protection and don’t have an answer for “then why won’t you let me make the decision for myself if I want to wait in a second line because your cashiers aren’t good.”


Wait, you guys have shops where they check your receipt before they let you leave? And I thought greeters and baggers were weird…


We pay for this service at a “members-only” store that allows you to buy huge bulk at marginal discounts if you know exactly what you are looking for.


Consumerist shares the response of a former CostCo receipt checker to some recent news …

This “recent” news is eight years old, from the pre-pandemic world.

Man, I miss the Consumerist. It was my first read of the day. When Consumers Union screwed over the staff and shut it down, I canceled my CU subscriptions.


Is that even true anymore? Last time I went into one of these “members only” stores (I think it was a BJs) it was all name brand stuff, and even with the bulk discount is was pricier than what I would typically buy at the grocery story because I generally go generic. This was years ago, though, so maybe the pendulum has swung back around?


Heh, this reminds me of the time when Wal-Mart was trying to gain a foothold in Germany. Their HQ was in my town, and next to it was some sort of flagship store where they tried out their product range. Which was kind of nice, every other week there were new products. Often in their “original”, i.e. US, packaging with extra sticky labels listing the ingredients according to EU standards. So every now and then there was stuff I only knew from films and TV shows. An enjoyable shopping experience. Extra entertainment: Wal-Mart employees fresh from the boat, so to speak, roaming the aisles, either discussing how those weird Europeople just didn’t understand how supermarket shopping was supposed to work or what wild and crazy things they experienced over the weekend.
They tried baggers, but that was very short lived. IIRC, they never even dared to try greeters.

Come to think about it, METRO used to do some receipt checking ages ago, but that was to make sure no-one bought stuff they weren’t supposed to buy - there were some “retailers only” products. I think it had something to do with taxes.

And while we’re at it: I also live close to the demarcation line between Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd, so best of both worlds if I want it.


Walmart can’t make you show your receipt because they don’t have probable cause to suspect you of shoplifting that would allow them to legally detain you. You can just walk by their receipt checkers without consequences. You have no agreement with Walmart to show your receipts to them.

At Costco, showing your receipt at the door is a condition of membership. It’s something you agreed to when you joined:

To ensure that all members are correctly charged for the merchandise purchased, all receipts and merchandise will be inspected as you leave the warehouse.

In that light, skipping the Costco receipt checkers is a dick move. If you don’t like it you should write a protest letter and cancel your membership.


You can generally trust Costco to give you a fair deal. If you have time to shop around, wasting gas and time, you may be able find better deals.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect Costco’s pricing on brand names to be less than your generic, bulk purchases, though.


It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

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Being a price hunter, I agree. There are all kinds of discounts and tricks on discounts and temporary items (check online how to understand costco pricing), seasonal foods etc. Warehouse staff will always say if you ask them the best day to come for in demand products (to the best of their ability - no guarantees there, but you can also buy online).

For bulk food IMO you can also do more than okay at Smart & Final (basically, generic “First Street” vs. “Kirkland”). I like the Smart & Final steak fries. You’ll generally get through a Smart & Final more quickly, not that lines are necessarily shorter but most of the stores have a much smaller footprint.


Kirkland brands are usually the result of an agreement with a large brand name. Costco buys in bulk from the large manufacturer of, say, cranberry juice cocktail, puts a Kirkland branding on it, then sells it at Costco at a small discount, while retaining the brand quality. If you’re not hung up on label status, you can get excellent deals from the Costco/Kirkland brand, especially in booze.


My BF recently tried some costco whiskey from Scotland which the guitarist brought to band practice. It originally came from an XLNT distillery, and he said it was very good.


Having purchased electronics which didn’t meet my expectations at other stores, I will only buy electronics from Costco now thanks to their return policy.

(Fuck you, Best Buy, Fry’s, etc.)


In a few cases (Mariani’s dried fruit comes to mind) the original manufacturer’s branding even appears alongside the Kirkland branding, which is a thing I’ve never seen at any other retailer.


The other thing is that Costco is great for things you’re not sure about. I’ve literally taken a vegetable slicer back after a year, because I just didn’t use it that much. No box, no receipt, refund with no issues. Same thing with clothes that have had seams come loose or similar, no hassle at all, just a straight refund.

Policy like that means I’m much more likely to take a punt on something I see in the warehouse, compared to if I saw it in Tesco or Asda.

I think you can even get a refund on the Executive Membership upgrade (2% back on qualifying purchases), if it doesn’t save you more than it cost you.


True, but I try not to abuse that. I’ve returned a jacket where the stitching gave out a few months later after almost zero use and was pretty delighted they took it back well after many stores would not have. And I took back a Kirkland brand suitcase I took on a trip, because it took the real world use to reveal that when loaded the suitcase flexed just enough that the nice rollerblade wheels with smooth ballbearings rubbed against the suitcase itself, making it roll poorly under load (but great in the store when empty). But I’m not a fan of people who try to rent tvs for free by returning them to costco, or just returning things willy nilly.

I walked by the customer service counter last year and could hear the Costco rep telling the customer that the record showed he returned more things than he kept, and was asking him if he was reselling, to which he insisted “no”. Apparently, based on the products he was returning, he’d been buying stuff like TP and sanitizer to try to flip and then returned what he couldn’t sell. I don’t know what the outcome was, but he seemed to be in danger of losing his membership over the abusive returns.