Costco Is Making A Big Change To Its Membership Policy

2020 is a year of changes for Costco, apparently. The beloved big box store made its first food court-related membership changes in February, and now the rules are changing again to cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, April 1, Costco announced the membership policy would change to limit the number of people in the warehouse stores at one time. The hope is that this will help create a safer environment for employees and customers as people try to help curb the increase of coronavirus cases (via Fox News).

Beginning Friday, April 3, each Costco member will only be allowed to bring one additional person inside the store. Prior to this change, Costco allowed each member to bring two guests as well as children into the stores. The brand's CEO and president released a letter stating that they are closely watching the progression of the pandemic and working under the guidelines of public health officials. This should allow the stores to make quick and effective changes as needed (via Costco).

Other changes to Costco policies

As the stores receive more customers than they typically would, the brand is reacting to ensure the safety of everyone. Those who work at or visit the stores to stock their homes are seeking to make fewer trips to grocery stores during the coronavirus pandemic. By limiting the number of people inside Costco warehouses, it reduces the face-to-face contact both customers and employees have.

This is just the latest change among many Costco has enacted to help protect and provide for people. The chain has also altered store hours as well as limited the number of certain items customers could buy. The stores have also increased sanitation efforts, as staff is making additional efforts to more carefully sanitize shopping cart handles, shelves, registers, and front-end belts for check-out (via Costco).

Forbes lauded Costco for its exceptional customer service and experience, particularly during the coronavirus outbreak. From finding innovative ways to keep customers safe through extensive sanitation processes to strengthen their brand by maintaining the need for membership while increasing accessibility through Instacart, the big-box store has made good moves throughout the pandemic. The stores have also focused on quality over quantity, especially through the store-branded items.

So, next time you go to Costco, remember that only you and one other person can enter the store. Don't forget to avoid touching your face while shopping and wash your hands as soon as possible afterward.

Other precautions Costco is taking

Like many grocers, Costco has limited the number of certain items that customers can buy. Two of the biggest items that have been limited include toilet paper and hand soap (via Business Insider). According to CNBC, other stores have limited items like bread, frozen vegetables, canned goods and soups, pasta, eggs, and milk. Stores have also placed a maximum quantity on health items like cold medicines, flu-related items, and sanitizing items like Clorox wipes, alcohol, and hand sanitizer (via Business Insider). 

Though the message across the country has been one advocating against hoarding or majorly stockpiling items, Costco has taken an added measure. The big-box store will no longer allow customers to return items that are in very high demand. This includes toilet paper, bottled water, and sanitizing wipes. Paper towels, rice, and Lysol have also made the no-return list in some stores. The company has not announced this as a nationwide change, but several individual locations have posted signs on the no-return policy with these items listed (via Today). 

These changes could be in response to a couple of different reasons surrounding the novel coronavirus. Returns could be prohibited for the time being to discourage people from buying more than they need. It is also possible that Costco is trying to protect its employees from exposing themselves to the novel coronavirus. Returns are also not exactly essential work during this unusual time, especially as demand on grocers and big-box stores increases.

Stocking up at Costco

As customers continue to visit Costco through the policy changes and as the outbreak spreads, what they stockpile for quarantine is less of a concern these days. While the stores have heavily increased what and how they sanitize all store locations, there are still smart practices customers should use while shopping for supplies. 

Good Morning America recently interviewed Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University who specializes in contagious viruses, to ask how she shops for groceries. She suggests visiting the grocery store as little as often and no more than once per week. She advises people to go when they believe the store will not be busy, to wipe down the cart handle, and to avoid handling too many items. She is also very careful not to touch her face while shopping. 

Once home, she immediately washes her hands but does not worry about sanitizing the groceries. Dr. Rasmussen washes her hands a ton, though, so it might still be worth wiping the items over one or spraying them with alcohol if you're less diligent. The segment reported that the pathogen does not appear to survive on cardboard for more than 24 hours or plastic for more than 48 hours, but as experts continue to learn more about this virus, this information could change. 

More than anything, she is concerned about interactions with people in the aisle and the checkout, where the virus is most likely to be caught through respiratory droplets, so she uses self-checkout whenever possible.