Workers reveal the items you should never buy at Costco

Costco has become a well reputed, go-to source for so many American staples. From groceries and hardware, to clothing and medication, a Costco membership can supply you deals for life (for real — they literally sell caskets). Their stores constantly feature killer sales and the return policy on most of their inventory is far beyond generous. 

What's more, with a 3.9 rating on Glassdoor as of March 2019, Costco employees are pretty happy too — at least for the most part. In terms of working in retail, it is a pretty sweet gig. Costco workers praise the company's competitive hourly wages, flexible scheduling, great benefits, and stellar overall treatment of their employees. 

Most of the people who work there also tend to stand by the brand in terms of its pricing and quality. But despite their overall satisfaction on the job and extreme loyalty to the brand, both current and former Costco staff do have some suggestions on what not to buy from the wholesale warehouse club. Here's a list of things you shouldn't put on the list for your next Costco run, according to the people who probably know best.

Produce

This might seem like a no-brainer but Costco workers all seem to consistently remark that buying fruit at the famous warehouse store is risky. Most say it has nothing to do with the quality of the items, which a lot of employees report is top notch, but more about the simple fact that it's usually impossible to eat all of it before it goes bad. It's even hard to keep that much produce fresh within the store.

When asked in a Reddit thread what the the best and worst items are buy in bulk, one poster who claimed to be a Costco worker said, "I'd say some of the WORST are fruits and veggies. We sell them in packs that aren't HUGE, but still, it's probably going to go bad unless you eat a lot of that fruit or have a big family or something."

Aside from the principle that it might not be smart to buy a perishable item in bulk, one long-time Costco produce department employee admitted in a Reddit thread that there are overall issues with the store's produce. The user said, "Mid level management and store managers know very little about handling produce in general and most just don't care because it is physically hard to do. Training is non existent, quality standards and merchandising are mostly opinion." 

Mayonnaise

If you need to buy pallets of gallon-sized mayo jars, you'd better be running one heck of a deli. When Business Insider spoke to Costco employees about what they avoid buying in the store, the answers varied. But one worker was adamant, steer clear of the mayo. Unless you've been enlisted to prepare enough chicken salad to feed a small country, it does seem aggressive to buy this particular condiment from Costco.

The folks at Eat This, Not That! seem to agree with the Costco worker, arguing that buying condiments like mayonnaise in bulk, especially for a family, isn't wise. The site reports, "Your favorite condiments like ketchup, mayo, and mustard tend to be loaded with sugar, salt, and other preservatives. Despite this, they can still go bad." Seriously, where would you even safely store all that mayonnaise? Nobody wants a rep as the neighborhood mayo hoarder so props to Costco workers for keeping customers in check.

Kirkland Signature marinara sauce

It's hard to mess up spaghetti sauce. But apparently Kirkland Signature isn't killing it in the Italian condiments department. After being accused of being an incognito Kirkland Signature rep when they mentioned their love of the brand, one Reddit user also claiming to be a Costco employee said, "A Kirkland Rep wouldn't admit that KS spaghetti sauce is pretty s***ty."

And this Costco worker might be onto something. There is a Chowhound thread with several negative reviews of Kirkland Signature' marinara including, "I bought it and was not the happiest with it. It had an aftertaste that I could not quite describe… perhaps a pseudo-garlic kind of lapdance on my tastebuds" and "H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E. Like Spaghettio's without all the pesty [sic] pasta." 

It seems like the consumers and employees have spoken — if you need to make a massive amount of spaghetti, there are better brands of sauce you can buy in bulk. You can't win them all, Kirkland.

Kirkland Signature Chicken Bake

Customers and workers consistently praise the Costco food court and the delicacies from its own brand, Kirkland Signature. Costco manager Christina Polovina does suggest you avoid the infamous Kirkland Signature Chicken Bake, for both health and financial reasons. She explained on Quora, "Calorically, these bad boys are over 1000 calories… Crispy dough, cheese, chicken, bacon and Caesar dressing with a coating of Parmesan cheese on top. A treat once in a while if you are into it, but definitely not a daily go-to."

It's also essentially a sales tactic for Costco. Polovina says, "Many of the food court items exist just to get you in the door. Come for a chicken bake and buy a TV on coupon that you just *can't* pass up." Who knows what you'll spot in the aisles to buy after enjoying your $2.99 dough, bacon, chicken and cheese concoction. That would certainly put us in the mood to spend [possibly on a bulk supply of toilet paper].

Grey Goose vodka

There is a longstanding rumor that Costco's Kirkland Signature Vodka is actually Grey Goose in a cheaper outfit. While it's been confirmed that both vodkas source from the same water (Gesnac Springs in the Cognac region of France), Grey Goose maintains that it's not Kirkland Signature Vodka and has its own "exclusive well," that they use their own proprietary methods, and that they distill their vodka a whopping 800 kilometers away from where Kirkland is made.

However, it doesn't matter much whether Grey Goose makes Kirkland's Signature vodka — it turns out that Costco's store brand may actually be better. The two have been through several blind taste tests and Kirkland Signature usually wins — plus, depending on your location, it may be half the price of the name brand stuff (or even less). If Grey Goose is normally your fave vodka and you're shopping at Costco, might as well save yourself some money and buy the Kirkland brand.

Tires

Sure, Costco does have a solid reputation for selling super cheap gasoline — but that doesn't necessarily mean it's thrifty to service your entire vehicle there. Former employees agree, you're better off shopping elsewhere if you're in the market for tires.

A Reddit user who claimed to have worked at Costco in various capacities from pushing carts to member services, warned consumers that the tire center wasn't worth their time saying, "The tire selection is very low and you can usually get them quite a bit cheaper somewhere else if you shop around." 

And on another Reddit thread, a former Costco tire center worker warned that it's definitely worth doing price comparisons before taking the plunge with Costco tires writing, "Compare prices and warranties. Often Costco has the better deal, sometimes not." Another alleged Costco employee echoed that same sentiment — while pointing out a major issue — saying, "We don't price match. In my region the individual tire price on the sign tends to be a little higher than competitors," though they did say you may get a better deal on installation. 

These threads all seem to echo the same thing— that there are more options, and sometimes even better prices, at places that actually specialize in tires. Maybe the next time you need new wheels, don't shop at a store that sells tires alongside rotisserie chickens.

Electronics

Costco is famous for its liberal return policy (the stories of crazy returns are hilarious) but the store did finally have to create some limits with returns on electronics when people abused the system too much, i.e. they start to catch on when you return a that fancy big screen television once a year. Now the cap for electronic returns is 90 days.

Regardless, as Costco manager Jeremy Falletta confirmed on Quora, Costco has a ton of great deals but electronics might not be one of them. "With Internet shopping being what it is today, there are an unbelievable amount of hot deals going on at any given time in every major category of electronics," he writes. "On a day to day basis, I stand by the statement that no one will beat Costco's price in a direct comparison, but for electronics, I will allow that one might get lucky to the tune of a few bucks here or there." 

Research from Clark confirms, there are lots of items available at a much lower cost on Amazon — although Costco did beat the online mega-retailer on a few items. So while it might be tempting to buy your next giant flat-screen TV from a place know for selling giant stuff, you might want to check yourself before you wreck yourself your wallet. Please don't wreck your wallet.

Linens

If you want a huge selection of colors to pick from for your next set of bed sheets, you might want to head to Bed, Bath and Beyond. Apparently Costco is coming up short in the linens department. While Costco does sell sheets and towels, the variety is pretty weak. Costco merchandise manager for bedding and home, Jim Klauer, told CBS News, "If you want 20 colors, this isn't the place." Both Target and Wal-Mart have a larger range of lines and colors to buy.

It also seems like customers aren't really sold on the quality of the Costco brand (Kirkland Signature) sheets either. Reviews from Costco's website describe them as "uncomfortable," "poor quality" and "disappointing quality." Business Insider recently ranked the best sheets for your bed and none of the lines Costco carries even made the cut. Maybe keep your cart clear for more granola bars and booze, and just say no to sheet or towel purchases on your next Costco run.

Vacations (yes, it's a thing)

Did you know Costco also doubles as a travel agency? Sure, planes aren't taking off and landing behind the warehouses (although we wouldn't put it past Costco to eventually instigate that) but you can reserve rental cars, hotels, vacation packages and cruises through the company. But just because they offer it, doesn't mean it's worth doing.

Dan Holliday, who claims to have been a marketing manager for Costco Travel from 2005 and 2006, told Quora, "Costco Travel deals really aren't that amazing… if you're going to Costco Travel expecting to consistently find something rare and wonderful, don't." 

He also mentioned that it's just really hard to compete considering all the online options out there for deals on travel. As he puts it, "It's so competitive that most of the hotels and airlines are already cut to the bone." Take it from a guy who worked there, you will likely find similar (or better) deals on one of the many online travel sites available today.