Workers reveal what it's really like to work at Costco

You probably know Costco as one of the best places to go when you're looking for discounted prices on some of your favorite items, all bought in bulk. But did you also know that Costco is regularly rated as one of the best companies to work for? According to an Indeed report that analyzed over 18 million employer reviews, Costco was rated the top company for compensation and benefits in 2018. There's a good reason for that: the retailer pays employees a living wage, and is known as one of the companies with the highest minimum wage out there.

On top of that, all employees, whether they're part-time or full-time, get plenty of benefits worth boasting about. These benefits include health care, vision and dental care, 401(k) programs, life insurance, stock options, voluntary short-term disability, long-term care insurance, and more. 

But is working there really all it's cracked up to be? The only way to find out is from employees themselves, and luckily, they're not afraid to talk about their experiences. Here's a look at what it's really like to work at Costco, straight from the people who know best.

There's a lot of manual labor

Working at Costco might seem like a really simple job, but employees tell a different story: apparently, it can be as exhausting as an intense gym session. Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado, told Mental Floss, that she walks an average of five to eight miles a day just inside the store alone. She also added that employees are the ones who do all the heavy-lifting, saying, "When you see pallets stacked with 50-pound bags of flour or sugar or dog food or cat litter, a lot of that stuff had to be stacked by hand by employees before the store opens. Ditto for those giant stacks of shoes and bottles of salsa or five-gallon jugs of cooking oil. It's a lot of hard work." 

And in an essay for Refinery 29, former employee Meghan Demaria said she lost 10 pounds when working at Costco, from lifting heavy objects and also standing the whole day. She added that she enjoyed the physical labor, explaining, "I found that working in a more active job was stress relieving and a good counterbalance to the time I spent hunched over a laptop when I wasn't there." 

People are rude about the membership cards

Costco is a membership-based store, meaning you have to pay an annual fee in order to get a card that allows you to shop there and enjoy all of those discounted prices. Every customer is expected to show their membership card to an employee before they walk through the doors, but even though that's well-known, it doesn't mean customers are always happy about doing that. 

One Costco employee explained on Reddit that one of the hardest jobs there is working the entrance simply because of the "rude" people they encounter. The user said that customers tend to make things harder for the employee checking cards by doing things like "not showing their card, blocking the entrance when taking out their card," or forgetting their card and trying to get in anyway. 

Another user, who called the entrance door position, "the position I despise the most," explained that one of the most common issues that comes up when dealing with Costco customers is people trying to shop there even if they aren't members. Sorry folks, but that's not how it works!

They can shop after hours

Costco is obviously known for having a terrific workplace environment, but it's not just the pay that makes it awesome. Employees enjoy lots of great benefits (more on that in a minute) and plenty of perks on the job as well. One of the best has to be the fact that they're able to shop after hours. 

Kathleen, a Costco employee in Washington, told Mental Floss, "You can shop after hours, and a lot of employees do that. You just bring your cart to the front register." Costco stores actually keep their member service counter open after the store closes for exactly that reason. 

Imagine shopping at Costco with no crowds and no line. We imagine it would be like having the whole store all to yourself. Suddenly, staying late after work seems like a really good thing — just not for your paycheck.

They get to enjoy all those free samples

Oh, and you can't forget about the fact that employees have access to all of the wonderful free samples that make weekend Costco shopping that much better — and you better believe they take advantage of them. One Reddit user who claimed to have worked there for over seven years said they ate a lot of samples, explaining, "The demo people are there every day but Saturday and Sunday are the prime times to get free grub." He added a tip: "I always sweet talk the older ladies. They tell me I remind them of their grandson = more food. I know they're bored standing there all day. Just talk to them and they'll give you plenty."

Another Reddit user who had worked at Costco for over two years jokingly said that workers there called the samples the "Employee Buffet." However, one employee who claimed more than 10 years of experience explained on Reddit that while they eat samples during their break or lunch, "you can get in trouble if you are getting samples while working." 

They're not reading your whole receipt

Every Costco has the same policy for customers who are leaving the store: after you pay and as you are walking out, an employee checks over your receipt and looks at the items in your cart. But have you ever wondered how they do it so quickly? Apparently, they aren't reading the entire receipt. Thomas, an employee in California, told Mental Floss that they "look for items on the bottom of the cart, big items like TVs or alcohol." 

One Reddit user talked about it on a thread, saying that employees "count the number of things in your cart and see if it's the same number as on the receipts." They also said that they check for expensive items, adding, "But lots of people I knew just checked for the expensive things and didn't bother with anything else." Another user said that they also look for doubles, saying, "Most of what we find is actually errors with scanning. Had someone accidentally key in the number for a $1000 item instead of a bag of avocados once. Mostly making sure you got what you paid for." 

They deal with some pretty outdated technology

Costco employees are generally pretty happy, but there is something many of them seem to agree on that's annoying about the company. That's the fact that their technology seems to be very outdated across the board. One employee said on Reddit, "Whoever is in charge of technological advancement and taking the digital systems that run our entire company into the future needs to take a step back and reevaluate what we're doing." 

Another employee complained about not being able to look at their schedules or submit time off online and not having a tablet to use to check inventory, adding, "Why do our computers and registers look like they came from the '80s? Why is everything done by paper and pencil? I get that this kind of stuff is expensive to upkeep, and by not doing tech upgrades we keep our prices low, but it's time to join the rest of the world." 

They get sick of being asked about "the back"

It's pretty common knowledge that, in most stores, there's more inventory in the back — all you have to do is ask an employee to check for you. Well, at Costco, what you see is what they have, and no, that's not just lazy employees lying to you. One Costco employee told Reader's Digest, "Costco is a 'warehouse' store in a literal sense — we don't have any additional storage from what you see on the shelves. If it's not there, don't ask us to check the 'back.' The 'back' doesn't exist."

One employee said something similar on Reddit, adding that if you notice the item is up on the pallets on the higher shelves, you can try asking someone to get them down, but they may not. They said, "I've been told they don't take down pallets from the shelves because it would require driving the forklifts through all the customer foot traffic, roping off the aisle and the one opposite for safety and would generally cause too much hassle. If something is up high and there's none on the floor, just go back the next day for it." 

They hear a lot about food safety

If you've ever worried about how your food is being handled at Costco, let this reassure you: employees say food safety is a really big deal to them. Employee Rachael told Mental Floss, "If an employee forgets to remove their apron before exiting the department, they must remove that apron, toss it into the hamper, and put on a fresh apron because now it's contaminated." She also said that there are rules against employees wearing nail polish near food prep, as it could chip and fall into the food. 

And a Costco employee from Florida echoed the same sentiment. They told Business Insider, "We are very strict on food quality and safety. We have safety walks every hour that audit the temperatures of our food coolers and storage. Our famous rotisserie chickens are not allowed to be sold after two hours of sitting in the warmer." At least that's very reassuring to find out!

They get great perks and benefits

Yes, the rumors are true: Working at Costco really does mean terrific benefits, and employees can't stop raving about them. Meghan Demaria, a former Costco employee, told Yahoo News that there were more than great hourly wage and healthcare benefits. Demaria said, "While I was at Costco, they gave employees complimentary memberships to the store." She also said that "Costco paid employees time and a half just for working on Sundays." 

One employee told Business Insider that they got paid holidays, a generous 401(k) plan, and "affordable" healthcare that includes dental and vision insurance. They added, "If you're working an eight hour shift you get two paid 15 minutes breaks and a half hour for lunch." And an employee with over seven years of experience told Reddit users that employees get a free executive membership "and get to give out three gold stars to anyone you want."

Another random perk? One employee says they're given a very special gift for the start of the holiday season: "We get free turkeys for Thanksgiving. I didn't even know that before I started working there. It's a nice perk." We have to agree with that!

They notice the serial returners

Costco is known for their fantastic flexible return policy, which comes with very few restrictions. But be wary of taking advantage of it… employees say they'll start to notice if you're returning too many items. California employee Thomas told Mental Floss they can tell just by the way you talk, saying, "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. It tells me you return so much stuff that you know what we can find on the computer." 

Another employee with over two years of experience there explained on Reddit that while they don't flag people, they "can make comments on your membership," but they really can't do much else. The employee said, "If a return was over $100 we had to call a supervisor to sign off on it. If it was over $300 we had to call a manager. The supes and managers were so busy though and got so tired of this rule that they literally only came down to sign the receipt. They would ask us 'Do you think it's okay?' and if we said we were okay with it then they would sign it."

They don't think they need express lanes

Most of the time, a trip to Costco means you're ready to stock up on enough food and supplies to last a few weeks. But sometimes, you go to just grab a few things — and those times, you've probably thought it would be nice to have an express line to go to. There's a legit reason most stores don't have them, though. Costco employee Rachael told Mental Floss that the supervisor in charge gets a head count of customers, so they always know how many people are in the store and have an idea of when they'll be checking out. They can then determine how many registers should be open. They also don't hesitate to pull employees from other departments to help out with lines.

A Reddit user who worked at Costco for over 10 years also said there's no need for express lines because "Most of our cashiers average 55-65 transactions per hour," so it's not really needed. 

It's not for everyone

There are plenty of great things about working at Costco, but make no mistake, it isn't a walk in the park — employees work hard for those benefits. Aside from the physical labor, many employees say they find the job to be pretty stressful. An anonymous employee wrote on Quora, "Costco is an incredibly stressful place to work and you are required as full time to work for 40 hours a week, generally during the most inconvenient times and often on weekends and evenings, giving you very little time away from work." 

Another employee wrote on Reddit that "Costco is not for everyone." They said, "If you do night cleanup or morning stocking you will be under very tight deadlines to get your work done on time and you will often face situations where you are screwed no matter what you do. It can be very stressful and takes a certain mental fortitude. I could only do it for six years before I burned out and had to move on." 

Overall, most employees love their jobs

Even if the job is stressful, most employees say the job is still well worth it. One employee from Arizona told Business Insider, "I legitimately love my job." Another employee from Oregon added, "Costco is an ideal kind of job," raving about how supportive and kind the company treats their employees and members. An employee who worked for the company for over two years told Reddit, "The company really does strive to treat their employees fairly," explaining that "it's actually nearly impossible for them to fire you if you've been there for a few years."

Other employees told Business Insider that there's plenty of "growth potential" and a "friendly work environment," saying that Costco is really supportive of your need to move around. In a Reddit thread, another employee said the best thing about working there is, "The fact that everything is done properly. There is a real emphasis on doing things the right way rather than the fastest or cheapest. It's a real testament to the quality of this company." 

They wish customers could be less messy

Still, no matter how much employees love their jobs at Costco, there are some things they wish customers would stop doing. For example, they really wish customers would stop making such a mess everywhere. One employee from Kentucky told Business Insider that some members would bring in "fake service animals that bark and defecate in the store," and then leave without cleaning up. Two other employees complained about shoppers "eating a thousand samples and leaving their garbage everywhere." 

A Costco employee from California told Business Insider that customers also have a habit of picking up items, deciding they don't need them at some point, and leaving them wherever they are in the store. That employee said, "Please put back that item that you just threw there. It doesn't belong there." Basically, if you're shopping at Costco, you should think about the employees who have to clean up your messes before you act carelessly.