Last year we talked to Robert Kyle, a manager at the Costco warehouse in Waltham, Massachusetts, who gave us his best insider tips for shopping at Costco.
Afterward, even the most skeptical among us was convinced that a Costco membership just might be the most worthwhile deal in town. And we knew there must be even more tricks for getting the most out of the superstore. So we scoured the internet and found Costco frequent shoppers’ best tips too. Here’s what they said:
Store policies can vary from state to state; check with your local warehouse to make sure the policy is available.
1. TRACKING PRICES CAN SCORE YOU AN EXTRA DISCOUNT
Costco’s unparalleled return policy is already legend whether you made it home with rotten produce or just didn’t like something you bought in bulk, you can return the product for a full refund (and in the case of that rotten produce, you don’t even need to return it). Less well known is the company’s price-matching policy: if any product you’ve purchased within the last 30 days goes on sale, you can request a refund of the difference. You don’t even have to wait around in the store to do it there’s an online form, but note that when submitting the request online the difference will be calculated based on the webstore price instead of the warehouse price, and the webstore price will always be a little higher.
2. DON’T LEAVE YOUR PARTY TO CHANCE
The deli department makes a set amount of party trays on a given day. Once they’re sold out, they’re gone. Now, you could always DIY it, but if you’re determined to let Costco do the hard work, you can order a tray ahead of time to ensure one is waiting for you when you need it. To do it, just call your local warehouse and let them know what size tray you want and what day you plan to pick it up.
3. GET HALF OFF A ROTISSERIE CHICKEN
No, but literally. Love rotisserie chicken but only want the dark meat? (Or maybe you’re more of a white meat fiend?) Ask a meat department attendant and they will split a chicken into two or four pieces so you can take home whichever half or quarter you prefer.
4. A BETTER DEAL ON BAKED GOODS
Save on bakery items, such as freshly baked cookies and baguettes, by buying them by the case in the freezer section. The items are individually quick-frozen so you can bake them off as needed at home.
5. IF YOU HEAR A BELL, RUN
That means freshly cooked rotisserie chickens have just been put out. They go fast.
6. WATCH OUT FOR PRICE CODES AND ASTERISKS
Most veteran shoppers know this Costco secret, but for the newbies: watch out for an asterisk mark in the upper lefthand corner of the price cards. The symbol means that the product is final stock and won’t be re-shelved (unless it’s a seasonal item, in which case it won’t be back for another year), so if it’s a product you love, buy extra. And while you’re looking at those price cards, pay attention to the final digit in the price. Any item with a price ending in a variant of $.09 (i.e. $5.49, $349.79, $10.99, etc.) is marked at Costco’s original low price, which is usually a good deal. But if you see something with a price ending in $.97, $.00, or $.88, that means the product is marked at a final discount (and is thus the cheapest it’ll ever be).
7. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK EMBARRASSING QUESTIONS
Costco employees tend to be a helpful lot. One such employee on Reddit recommends asking for a “chub of beef” if you want a discount on ground meat. A chub of beef (yes, that’s actually what they’re called) is a package of lean ground beef that’s only 92-95% lean). (The ground beef that’s packaged and sold on the floor is 88% lean—it’s made up of the trimmings from portioning steaks and roasts plus this leaner meat.) Ask a department attendant for a 10-pound chub (or “tube”) of ground beef if you prefer something leaner than Costco’s standard offer. Prices will vary according to location, but this employee says his department sells the chubs at 15% less per pound than the usual ground beef.
8. CAN’T HANDLE ALL THAT MEAT? YOU DON’T HAVE TO
If the package of chops or chicken thighs are more than you need, again, rely on your trusty Costco meat department attendant and ask for a half tray. Most stores will split the package in half and send you home with a more manageable portion.
9. DON’T SLEEP ON GETTING A MEMBERSHIP
In that earlier article, Kyle illustrated at what point a Costco membership actually pays for itself. But, if you’re still not convinced, ask a member to buy you a Costco Cash Card the company’s version of a gift card, which non-members can use so you can experience the warehouse on your own time. Oh, and, remember what we said about that return policy? If you decide within a year of joining that Costco just isn’t for you, you can get a refund on that membership too.