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Costco Shoppers Are Slamming the Grocer's "Useless" App—Here's Why

More high-tech "enhancements" are coming, the company says.

E-commerce has never been Costco's strong suit. The members-only club actively encourages in-person shopping at its warehouses, where customers usually find the best deals and widest selection of goods—and often end up buying a lot more than they originally planned.

Sure, you can purchase Costco products online, too, but the "delivered prices" are usually higher and the club also tacks on shipping fees. In some ways, Costco's website itself seems designed to coax shoppers into logging off and physically strolling the aisles, with a whole page devoted to "warehouse hot buys."

Costco's lukewarm digital strategy stands in stark contrast to its chief rival, Sam's Club, which has done a much better job of catering to online shoppers, according to the Motley Fool's Ascent.

The store's mobile app similarly leaves a lot to be desired. One shopper called it "pretty useless" in a recent Reddit thread, which prompted over 100 comments. "The Costco app is like how most bank apps were 5 years ago," one user griped. 

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Customers can use the app to shop for online items, look up basic warehouse information like store hours and locations, and check current gas prices, but it lacks a lot of the modern features currently available from rival retailers, like Sam's Club's Scan & Go technology, which allows to shoppers to pay for items with their phones.

Maybe the biggest complaint about the app is the inability to check the product inventory at your local warehouse. "Tell me what store in my area has the product I'm looking for," suggests one Redditor. "Other retailers can do it…Costco should be able to do it too." Added another, "I go to Target way more now with there[sic] new app that shows product by aisle that lets me get in and out."

During Costco's shareholders meeting earlier this month, CEO Craig Jelinek said that an online warehouse inventory lookup feature is "something that everyone has asked for" and would be one of several "enhancements" coming to the mobile app in the new year. "As we move forward, you'll be seeing more features available over time," he said.

Perhaps the Costco app's most handy current feature is the digital membership card, which offers customers an alternative method to prove they belong in case they can't find their physical cardthereby avoiding any unnecessary hassles at checkout. "It's mostly so you don't have to fish out your card when you go in the store," one Redditor said of the app.

But some members complained that even this feature is less than ideal, as the digital card takes too long to load via the app. "If the App allowed you to add your membership card to the wallet on your phone it might be useful," one noted. "As implemented it's more annoying than just taking out the card." 

The digital membership card also "cannot be used at Costco gas stations or food courts at this time," according to the app.

Chris Shott
Chris Shott is the Deputy Editor covering restaurants and groceries for Eat This, Not That! Read more about Chris
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