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Costco Customers Are Outraged Over the Chain's Harsh Membership Policy

The retailer has reportedly intensified membership checks at self-checkout lines recently.

The first thing that anyone knows (or should know) about Costco is that the retailer is members-only. This means regular checks to ensure shoppers are bonafide, card-carrying members are the norm, typically when they first enter the warehouse and then again when they're checking out. However, Costco workers have reportedly intensified membership checks at the self-checkout lines recently, frustrating and outraging customers who say they're getting "criminal" treatment from the chain.

Numerous Costco members have taken to Reddit over the last couple of weeks to share stories about recent Costco trips defined by these types of stressful encounters with employees. One Redditor shared that an employee recently confronted her mother-in-law at the self-checkout line and demanded to see a membership card, even though she was only tagging along as a guest and didn't plan to buy anything. Per Costco policy, members are allowed to bring their children and up to two guests into warehouses as long as only actual members purchase items.

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Nevertheless, the Costco member who brought her mother-in-law said that she had to get through an intense round of "questioning" before she was even allowed to buy her groceries.

Accused of card sharing..
by u/hummingbird_18 in Costco

"I was so frazzled by the entire encounter and accusation that I could barely check myself out appropriately, but I got ahold of myself and got out of there," she wrote. "If you're really serious about cracking down on people figure out a better system because falsely accusing people and policing at a checkout line in a grocery store (that we pay for yearly) is just not it."

This post has racked up 1,800 comments so far, many from fellow Costco members who shared similar stories and vented their frustrations about being treated like a "criminal" while simply trying to buy groceries.

"Not as bad as your experience, but I was grilled at self-checkout yesterday. They wanted to see front and back of my card then asked me to verbally say my name to confirm it matched. It was such an awkward experience and I felt like the employee was digging to find anything wrong while other customers walked right on by," a Redditor responded.

In another Reddit post that has sparked significant discussion, a customer wrote that a Costco employee accused her of using someone else's card and refused to believe her identity even after presenting both her card and driver's license. The customer noted that she had made a couple of minor changes to her appearance since getting her membership photo taken, like dying her hair and growing it longer, but said the changes weren't drastic enough to make her unrecognizable.

"This happened to me recently," another member responded to the post. "I've grown my hair out and have a beard that I didn't have when I had my picture taken. The Costco self-checkout membership checker gave me a harder time than any customs official on my recent trip out of the country."

When contacted for comment on the member complaints, Costco shared the following statement: "Costco is able to keep our prices as low as possible because our membership fees help offset our operational expenses, making our membership fee and structure important to us. Costco's membership policy has not changed. We have always asked for membership cards at our registers at time of checkout."

"Our membership policy states that our membership cards are not transferable and since expanding our self-service checkout, we've noticed that non-member shoppers have been using membership cards that do not belong to them," the statement added. "We don't feel it's right that non members receive the same benefits and pricing as our members. As we already ask for the membership card at checkout, we are now asking to see their membership card with their photo at our self-service checkout registers."

Though Costco seems to have intensified its crackdown against suspected fraud at self-checkout lines in recent weeks, strict membership enforcement methods are nothing new at the chain. Prior to the recent spate of complaints, consumers had also reported being escorted out of warehouses or having accounts flagged for fraud after trying to purchase items using their parent's cards.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe
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