For better or for worse, the passing of each year tends to go hand in hand with a plethora of sweeping changes at Costco. This year, unsurprisingly, was no different.
New warehouses opened their doors to customers. Menu items came and went at the beloved food courts. Members received exciting new perks—but lost others. In other words, the Costco you know now may look pretty different from the Costco you knew at the end of 2022.
To be clear, there were plenty of aspects of Costco's business that stayed exactly the same in 2023. The famous food court hot dog combo still costs just $1.50, membership fees haven't budged (yet), and the baked goods are as buzzworthy as ever. But, since 2023 is drawing to a close, we've rounded up all of the most notable developments this year for members who want to look back at the evolution of the warehouse club.
Read on for the 10 biggest changes we saw at Costco in 2023!
A crackdown on membership sharing
Costco has never permitted non-members to shop at its warehouses. But this year, the retailer took extra steps to enforce that rule.
Back in June, Costco confirmed to Eat This, Not That! that it had started asking to see members' cards at the self-checkout line before allowing them to make their purchases.
Customers were already required to present their cards at warehouse entrances and regular checkout lines. However, Costco said it decided to start asking to see cards at self-checkout as well after noticing that "non-member shoppers have been using membership cards that do not belong to them."
While the change is certainly within Costco's authority, the directive resulted in a plethora of negative experiences for members. Shoppers on Reddit said they've been accused of using other members' cards even when they weren't doing anything wrong. Others have been subjected to intense rounds of questioning at the self-checkout lines from employees trying to confirm their identities.
Several items joined the food court menu
This year was a particularly notable one in terms of changes at Costco's food court. The retailer brought back the beloved diced onions and chicken Caesar salad, both of which had been discontinued years prior.
Three new options also joined the menu: strawberry ice cream, a roast beef sandwich, and a mango smoothie that was previously only available in Hawaii rather than the mainland United States.
The strawberry ice cream became an immediate hit, with one customer describing it as the "best ice cream ever." The reaction to the other new additions, however, was largely negative.
Many shoppers have complained about the $9.99 price for the roast beef sandwich, which is notably higher than other food court options like the $1.50 hot dog combo. Members also had major complaints about the taste of the mango smoothie, which they compared to baby food. In good news for the mango smoothie haters, Costco replaced it with a fruit smoothie this past fall.
New food court seating arrangements were spotted
Menu tweaks weren't the only changes that took place at Costco's food courts this year. Back in September, a customer in South Korea reported on Reddit that all of the regular food court tables at their local warehouse had been replaced with standing-only tables. Other shoppers reported that their warehouses in Montana and Osaka, Japan, had recently added some standing tables as well, but added that traditional tables remained in place.
While the table switch has only affected a select few locations, members were fearful that Costco would eventually change the seating at even more warehouses. They were also outraged at what the seating change means for people with injuries and disabilities who need to sit while eating.
"I've been dealing with an injury for a while and this would mean no eating at all at Costco for me, which would be a bummer," one shopper lamented on Reddit.
A new type of free sample kiosk debuted
Costco shoppers love free samples, but they don't love the idea of giving members the freedom to serve their own samples.
Back in March, customers spotted a new self-serve free sample kiosk stuffed with packs of bagged fruit snacks. But rather than rejoice at the extra convenience, Redditors were worried that their fellow shoppers would turn it into a free sample free for all.
"The Costco version of the Halloween 'take one' bowl. Watch and prepare to lose faith in humanity," one shopper wrote.
Costco doesn't appear to have installed these kiosks at any additional warehouses since then, but keep an eye out just in case one pops up at a location near you in the future.
The app saw some improvements
For everything that Costco does right, it's not necessarily known for having the best app. Shoppers frequently slam the retailer's mobile app for not being more customer-friendly, often complaining that it doesn't have scan-and-go technology so they can skip those tedious checkout lines.
However, Costco has been working behind the scenes to make its app better this year. During a September earnings call, CFO Richard Galanti revealed that Costco had redesigned its digital membership card that's available in the app and added message capabilities. The company is also working on adding barcode scanning in the app and the ability to search warehouse inventory, among other tweaks. These enhancements already seem to be paying off.
"With the improvements made thus far over the past year, our app store rating has gone from a dismal 2.3 stars to currently 4.7 stars. Unique visitors in the site are up 40% year over year, and the Costco app installs are up 46% year over year. So, all in all, progress is being made," Galanti said.
And so did the website
Along with its app, Costco has also been updating another major part of its e-commerce business: the website. During the September earnings call, Galanti revealed that the company has redesigned the site header and added a larger search bar.
Earlier this year, Costco also launched a new digital optical store that allows customers to virtually try on glasses and order them for pickup, Galanti said. Members need only record a selfie and measure the distance between their eyes to take advantage of this new service on the Costco website.
A new telehealth partnership
Costco is a destination for bulk goods and surprisingly cheap rotisserie chickens, but did you know that you can also access affordable healthcare as a member? Costco partnered with the healthcare marketplace Sesame in September to start offering discounted healthcare appointments to its members.
The perks of the collaboration include virtual primary care visits for just $29, virtual mental health care for $79, and 10% off all Sesame services, including in-person appointments. Costco shoppers need only create a Sesame account and verify their membership in order to take advantage of the discounted prices.
The demise of the Costco Photo Center
Costco's Photo Center provided members with affordable and convenient photo services for years, but the retailer began dialing back the service in 2021 when it closed all of its in-store photo centers.
Customers still had access to the Costco Photo Center online until January this year, when the company shut down the website where customers placed their orders. Costco shoppers now have access to discounted photo services through Shutterfly, but that didn't stop customers from grieving the Costco Photo Center for its great deals and convenience.
Several new warehouses opened
You may have seen a brand-new Costco pop up near you this past year. The company opened 23 warehouses in the 2023 fiscal year (which runs from September through August for Costco rather than January through December). Some of the cities that received a new warehouse in the past fiscal year include Buckeye, Ariz.; Georgetown, Texas; and North Canton, Ohio.
Costco plans to one-up itself during the 2024 fiscal year. Galanti said during a Dec. 14 earnings call that the goal is to open 33 warehouses in fiscal 2024.
Kirkland Signature Sushi made its debut
While pre-made sushi trays have been available at Costco for some time, freshly made sushi was a completely new addition to the company's American warehouses this year. Costco began serving fresh Kirkland Signature Sushi that's made on site at its flagship warehouse in Issaquah, Wash., this past summer.
One alleged Costco employee also recently claimed on Reddit that Kirkland Signature Sushi is coming soon to Newark, Calif. Sushi-loving Costco members can hope that the exciting new offering will debut at even more locations in the future.