False Costco Facts You Always Thought Were True

Costco is an American superstore and arguably an American superhero. Its members rave about the killer deals, delicious foot court grub, legendary sample days and seriously cheap gas. It's a one stop shop for so many household necessities, from food to flatscreen TVs. Costco makes it possible to pick up your prescription medication and buy movie tickets in the same store. Does it get any more American than that?

While there are a ton of Costco secrets the megastore tries its best to keep hidden, there are also some straight up false assumptions that you can easily debunk if you do a little digging (side note, caskets are also available at Costco). If you think you've already got the intel on everything you'd ever need to know about the country's sweetheart warehouse store, you might be surprised. Here's a real rundown of Costco folklore that people consistently mistake for the truth. Don't believe everything you hear.

Their infamous rotisserie chickens are a big money maker

Just because those $4.99 roasted birds are popular, doesn't mean they're a profit turner. Costco sold a whopping 76 million rotisserie chickens in 2014 but didn't exactly see dollar signs from their golden hued poultry. In 2015, Costco CFO Richard Galanti told the Seattle Times, "When others were raising their chicken prices from $4.99 to $5.99, we were willing to eat, if you will, $30 to $40 million a year in gross margin by keeping it at $4.99." They could easily make a lot more money if they raised the prices, but there are no plans to do that any time soon.

There are plans to start sourcing their own birds, though. In order to cut the costs of the chicken business, Costco is, well, going into the chicken business. It's building its own hatchery, feed mill, and processing plant in Nebraska, contracting local farmers to raise the chickens. Consumers are going to have a real farm-to-Costco experience.

The goal is for the plant to crank out two million chickens per week. The two chicken giants in this country, Tyson and Perdue, have increasingly been producing larger chickens to meet the demand for buying them by their parts, rather than as a whole. These bigger birds aren't ideal for that #rotisserielife. With an ability to supply its own $5 chickens, Costco will no doubt slowly reverse the trend of losing dollars on one of its biggest sellers.

They offer day passes for non-members

Unfortunately, the rumors about non-member shopping are not true. There isn't a magical golden ticket you can use to have a free-for-all in Costco sans membership. If you want those deals, you're going to have to fork over those membership fees — or reimburse a friend who is a member and is kind enough to buy your bulk items for you. And just a tip, it's definitely a better idea to join them in the store or send them with a list, rather than borrowing their card (that picture may be grainy, but the cashier is probably going to know it isn't you). One alleged Costco employee said on a Reddit thread, "We don't offer day passes and haven't for at least a decade. You'll get shut down hard at the register if you're borrowing someone else's card."

While there is no such thing as a "trial membership," Costco will refund a membership fee if you take the plunge and decide it's not worth it. And here's another loophole for the no day pass rule: If a member gifts you a cash card (or if you give them the dough to buy one for you), you can purchase your heart away in those checkout lines. So while there are no day passes, there do some seem to be a lot of ways around the strict members-only mentality at Costco.

You can return any item at any time

While it's accurate that Costco has an overly generous return policy, it does draw the line for some items. For example, don't try returning your half-used pack of Camel Lights or almost empty handle of Kirkland Signature Vodka — cigarettes and alcohol can't be returned. Also, if you're unhappy with electronics you purchase there, you have a 90-day window you can return but after that, you're not getting your coin back for that drone you bought on impulse (who hasn't impulsively bought a drone? Amiright?)

The superstore is also particular about how you return your bling. Diamonds over one carat have to be inspected by a professional jeweler to make sure they're legit, and the returner gets a "Jewelry Credit Memo" if everything is kosher. The rules also state that items with "limited useful life expectancy," such as batteries or tires for your whip, are not eligible for return unless their warranty says otherwise.

So just a remember while Costco usually welcomes its merchandise back with open arms, it does have some boundaries around that policy. Much respect, Costco.

Non-members can get the in-store deals online

This is another loophole rumor for the Costco outsiders. Yes, you can order items from Costco's website if you are not a member. But no, you will not be scoring the same stellar in-store deals. In fact, you're gonna have to pay for that warehouse to doorstep service. There is a five percent surcharge on the posted prices when non-members check out on the Costco website. The only exception is if you are buying prescription drugs.

Some non-members might still think it's worth it to buy from Costco online, even with this added fee. But if you're willing to spend that extra cash every time you order something, you might as well just spring for a membership. Of course, it's always possible to sneak online orders with a friend's membership number — though you would probably need to have your order shipped to their house to avoid raising any red flags, so you're going to have to take a trip either way. You'll have to pony up some extra green if you want to shop the wholesale hero from the comfort of your own couch.

The food court is available to members only

So this is one of those rules that's technically true, but rarely ever enforced. According to one supposed Costco employee on Reddit, "I have been explicitly told by my warehouse manager and the pizza kitchen manager that people must have their membership to use the food court." And another Reddit user who allegedly went straight to the source said, "Got an answer from corporate. Members only." But yet another Reddit member claiming to be in the Costco-know argued, "It's pretty difficult to enforce members-only at locations with outdoor food courts, so they generally just don't bother. For locations with indoor food courts, access can be restricted but that's really dependent on each location's management and how strict they want to be."

If the food court is indoors, you might have to enter through the exit. Bottom line: In most locations, non-members can nosh on churros, pizza, and the infamous Costco hot dogs from the food court, but it's recommended that they pay with cash. So you can try to skip the membership fee and get that $10 large pizza for the fam, but make sure you have cash money on hand, and be prepared to get rejected if it's a Costco location running a members-only tight ship.

Non-members can buy contacts or glasses

While Costco does offer eye exams to lowly commoners (ahem, non-members), the buck stops with the actual purchase of contact lenses or eyeglasses. That's a members only perk. Oh and, of course, Kirkland Signature has its own line of contact lenses too. You know Kirkland was gonna get in on that optical game one way or another. Props to you, KS.

The same rule goes for your ears. You can get a hearing test at Costco as a non-member but if you end up needing a hearing aid, you're going to have to go to another venue to get it. In terms of other health needs, prescribed medications are available to non-members with no strings attached, unless you consider significant savings a string — members get price cuts on medicines that are not available to non-members. So while the eye exams are open to anyone at Costco, just be mindful of the potential hassle of then having to cart that prescription elsewhere to fulfill your eyewear needs.

You shouldn't help out the cashiers

Those Costco cashiers are pretty efficient when it comes to putting your scanned items back in your cart, and sometimes, they even have helpers that load your items onto the belt from your cart. But just because this is a service they provide, doesn't mean you shouldn't step in when needed.

A Reddit user claiming to be a Costco supervisor confirmed, "It is not acceptable to not put member items back in their carts. It is also not acceptable to have less than one person working the registers." But another supposed Costco staff member countered that while it's not ideal, less than two people working does happen. The worker said on the same Reddit thread, "Just sometimes happens when we don't have enough staff, people go on bereavement leave, vacation, etc, front end just gets overwhelmed and don't have enough people to work the assistant position."

This is when you should probably step in. One alleged Costco worker vented on Reddit, "If you pull up to a bust [sic] line and see that both the cashier and assistant are busy, don't be a lazy f*** and just stand there. Start loading your items on the belt if there is room. It won't f***ing kill you and it makes the process was [sic] more efficient than having the cashier assistant do two jobs (unloading then reloading) when the store is slammed." Yikes! So remember, they're being paid to go the extra mile but don't be afraid to go the extra mile yourself and the Costco cashier will likely appreciate it.

They deliver and install the large appliances

In actuality, Costco outsources the delivery and installation of large appliances like washers and dryers. And the reviews of this system aren't stellar. One Reddit user commented, "Costco uses local companies for delivery and they a) take forever to actually bring the stuff — like WEEKS! and b) can be quite complicated solving an issue if the item comes damaged... it seems Costco themselves often aren't helpful when there are problems." On the same Reddit thread, another Costco customer reported, "I have ordered multiple large appliances from Costco... the prices and (theoretically) warranty are amazing. But every. single. Time. The delivery is awful."

It seems like maybe Costco needs to vet its delivery companies a little more thoroughly? Another Reddit member complained, "I ordered a fridge and had a HORRIBLE experience. It took MONTHS!! They brought the wrong fridge the first time. Then they damaged its replacement before even getting it inside... I convinced them to let me use the damaged one until they could replace it. They said yes and that another replacement was on its way. Called a Costco rep who went along with what I was saying. Waited WEEKS and then called another Costco rep only to find that she had no record of me needing a replacement... I think most of the fault was with the 3rd party companies." 

So if you get a sweet deal on an oven, you've been forewarned the Costco glory might not extend to the folks they hire to bring you your household loot.

They have the best deal on home cleaning supplies

You may have thought Costco offered steals on every type of cleaning item out there but this isn't necessarily the case. It makes sense to buy cleaning supplies in bulk since you're never not going to need them (assuming you keep a tidy household, no judgement if not... OK, sort of judging. Scrub your toilet, okay?). But if you're going to stock up on laundry detergent, Amazon might be the better retail giant to consult.

According to a price comparison study conducted by Business Insider, if you are an Amazon Prime member who enjoys free delivery on all your purchases, two 100-ounce containers of Tide is cheaper than one 200-ounce Tide container at Costco — not to mention a lot easier to hoist up to your washing machine. An eight-count pack of Dawn dishwashing soap is less expensive on Amazon too, but only if you have Amazon Prime. So if you are stocking up on the items you need to scrub your stuff, make sure you do a side by side price check before assuming Costco will always be the thrifty frontrunner. Oftentimes, it's not.

Kirkland Signature toilet paper is always a winner

Consumer Reports rated several of Costco's most popular items, and Kirkland Signature toilet paper did not come out on top. It received props for its softness but got a major thumbs down for "so-so strength and tearing ease." They even suggested spending twice as much on a brand of toilet paper Walmart sells because they deem it that much more superior to the Kirkland rolls.

The ratings for Kirkland Signature Bath Tissue on its Consumer Reports product page are pretty dismal too. Apparently, there was once a golden era of Kirkland toilet tissue — a lot of reviewers reminisced on better days, saying things like, "I have happily bought Kirkland toilet paper for many years, but the new version is unacceptable. It falls apart while you are wiping. Time to switch brands" and "I have been using Kirkland toilet paper by Costco for years. Costco recently changed their toilet paper but uses the same packaging. The new toilet paper is softer and leaves tons of lint on you...this product switch is really bad. I wish they would return to what they were selling a year or two ago." And perhaps the real nail in the coffin was: "PLEASE bring back the old Kirkland TP! Am considering getting a bidet seat to eliminate the problem!!" You know it's bad when the customer is considering installing an entirely new toilet system in their bathroom.

Employees checks receipts to make sure you aren't stealing

Believe it or not, they care more about making sure you got everything! Kevin Heuer, a general manager for a Costco in San Francisco gave a breakdown of the policy to SFGate saying, "It's not to target shoplifters. Invariably that could happen without someone paying for something, but if there's an extra item in their basket, that's not their fault. That's our fault. Sometimes checkers forget to ring up items placed on the bottom of the basket." There are also those not-on-display items customers might forget like movie tickets. Basically these exit greeters make sure what's in your cart numbers-wise matches up to what's on your receipt. If the receipt has 17 items and your cart only has 15, they know something's up.

They're also making sure you didn't pay too much. According to Heuer, it's not uncommon for a customer to find out at the door they were overcharged, or rang up too many times for the same item.

It's also a means of keeping the cashiers in check. The receipt checker notices if there's a large item under the cart that maybe wasn't scanned for whatever reason. A Reddit member claiming to be a Costco employee explained, "We're literally just trying to make sure our cashiers do the job right, and when we DO catch it, all the information gets stored. Who did it, what time, etc... and those cashiers get spoken to. This is not to benefit anyone but the member to improve the experience overall. Because we DON'T want you to get home and go "F*** I gotta go back, they double charged me for this thing." So let the exit greeters do their job, and never assume they're accusing you of having sticky fingers.