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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop Doing

Have you seen some of these behaviors at Costco?

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingMary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

Following shoppers in the parking lot

Costco is a busy place, particularly during the holidays. But while zeroing in on a shopper leaving the store might seem like a good strategy, it can also be creepy. “You’ll see drivers trailing shoppers returning to their cars, waiting for three or four minutes while they load up their trunk, wrestle with seat belts, and glacially back out of their parking space,” the Oregonian reports. “In the time these parking lot vultures waited for a space closer to the store, they could have parked farther away, made it into the store, while logging an extra hundred steps on their Fitbits.”

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingDamian Dovarganes/AP/Shutterstock

Whining about employees checking your card

It might seem annoying to present your membership card every time, but as Costco employee and Reddit user mbz321 notes, it could save you time in the end. “The point of checking your card is to make sure you have it when you get to the checkout, as the only way a cashier can start a transaction is by scanning a membership card. Yes, it can be looked up, but that involves a supervisor taking a license over to their computer and running back, which holds up the line and makes everyone pissed.” Find out 15 secrets Costco employees won’t tell you.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingElaine Thompson/AP/Shutterstock

Abusing the store-return policy

Yes, sometimes in the rush to get in and out of Costco, you sometimes grab something in the wrong size. That’s why the company’s generous return policy is a good thing. “But there’s always someone standing in the returns line with half-used products or items that went south because they were left overnight in the car during a summer heatwave,” the Oregonian reports. “Did you really have to eat half of that mega-sized bag of multigrain chips before deciding you don’t like them?” 

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingRick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

Meandering through the aisles

You’re finally inside, and there’s a lot to look at, from five-pound bags of coffee to that 65-inch Samsung TV. But just like when you’re driving, stopping in the middle of an aisle could lead to a pile-up. Have some respect for the customers who are trying to get in and out of quickly and keep it moving, or pull over. Find out whether a Costco membership is worth it.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingRick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

Joining the herd

Lollygaggers sometimes congregate in front of a particular area of interest, forming a herd. “This slow-moving mass is the only thing that stands between you and that 64-ounce bottle of salsa,” notes the Oregonian. Again, be sure to pull over and yield whenever possible. Here are some things you should buy…and skip…at Costco.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingRick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

Rushing through the store

That said, the rushers can cause problems of their own. Reddit user Highwayman1717 writes that he takes his lunch break to “rush to get what I need and get out.” But he finds himself confounded by “midday hordes that leave their carts horizontally across the aisles, strategically close to the free samples. This effectively turns my lunch break into Pac Man, which is not as awesome as it sounds.” We get it, you’ve got a lot to do. But so do the rest of us. Find out the best time to go to Costco.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingPaul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

Getting too used to routine

Some people are creatures of habit and don’t appreciate it when stores rearrange their inventory. “When I go to Costco I know what I want and the route to take to get it, it’s like a military operation. So when I show up to get detergent and now it’s bottled water, my jimmies get rustled,” writes Reddit user OOIIOOIIOOIIOO. But check out these 10 bizarre things you didn’t know you could get at Costco.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingPaul Sancya/AP/Shutterstock

Expecting stuffing in July

“I ask where things are, and am told, ‘Hmm, that must be a seasonal item…’” writes Reddit user Inigomntoya. “Items like oatmeal. And protein bars. Sometimes I think they just don’t want to admit they didn’t order enough of something.” Costco employee mbz321 says that while oatmeal and protein bars should be available year-round, “some items are oddly seasonal and people ask for them all the time, like stuffing mix, chicken broth, soups, coleslaw/potato salad, etc.” And Costco employee Pawn01 notes that individual stores don’t have the control you think they might over what they stock. “My store gets certain chips at certain times, we expand office supplies, electronics, etc. at certain times as there is a selling season for them. Consider it a rotation.” 

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingPaul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

Expecting premium service at a warehouse store

Don’t forget, Costco is a warehouse store with inventory that changes all the time and may be different in different stores. But that doesn’t sit well with certain customers. “No windshield washing fluid and squeegees at the gas pumps. Drives me insane. They have them in Montana. Why not in Washington???” writes Reddit user mistamo42. And PapaDuckD weighs in that “the breads out of the bakery are fantastic. But they are always unsliced. I simply cannot use an unsliced loaf of bread. The weather down here in Houston is so hot and humid that the loaf gets moldy before I can use it all….No slice = no buy.” Don’t miss these things you aren’t buying at Costco, but should.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingPaul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

Complaining about too much of a good thing

For others, the expansive selection can be overwhelming. Reddit user Theo_dore lives by the Salt Lake City Costco, which he says is the biggest in the world. “They sort of divide the store between ‘normal people stuff’ and ‘restaurant/business stuff,’ which is pre-packaged and pre-made stuff like whole frozen lambs and boxes of packaged pastries and industrial kitchen equipment like walk-in freezers and pots. But sometimes it’s all just too much! I can’t walk through every aisle the way I like to because it would take me forever (probably two miles of aisles, honestly), and it takes me so long just to find the things I know are there already.”

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingRick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

Overloading your cart

Costco is a bulk shopper’s dream, so we understand that items like paper towels and gallons of olive oil can load up your cart pretty quickly. But trying to make your way through a crowded store with precariously perched items is a recipe for “cleanup on aisle four.” Bring someone else to push another cart if you’ve got a lot to buy, or make a return trip. These tips will save you a ton of money at Costco.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingPaul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

Eating a meal’s worth of free samples

Costco is known for its unlimited free samples and frankly, a little nibble can be nice in the middle of shopping. But plenty of customers literally dine out on them. Costco employee SirWaddlezALot confirms this: “The store I work at, there are literally a couple of retired guys who have told me they have a membership just to come eat every day for free.” Find out what you need to know about Costco’s free samples.

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paper soft drink cup with plastic lid and straw thrown on the side of the road - littering conceptDavid Prahl/Shutterstock


Once some customers have downed their samples, instead of appreciating the freebie, they leave their paper items on store shelves or in the cart for the next customer to deal with. The refuse problem may also be a symptom of not enough places to get rid of trash, however. Reddit user TGMcGonigle notes that his biggest pet peeve is the lack of waste receptacles in the checkout area. “While I’m standing in the long checkout line it would be convenient to start cleaning up my cart and throw away cups, napkins, debris from samples, etc., but there are no wastebaskets. The cart wranglers frequently complain about the trash left in carts but at the two stores I frequent trash containers are few and far between.”

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingCassiohabib/Shutterstock

Lacking decisiveness in the food court

Congratulations for buying something to eat instead of dining on all the freebies. But waiting for food in the middle of a busy store is no time to be indecisive about whether to get a hot dog or slice of pizza. Figure it out before you get to the front of the line. Here’s the easy way to skip the food court line at Costco.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingPaul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

Thinking you can check yourself out faster

After experiences of waiting in long lines, it’s tempting to think that checkout would proceed faster if we could just do it ourselves. But it takes time to check out an entire cart and it’s not going to endear you to the person behind you who has only three items. Reddit user feurie writes: “It’s great when it’s not crowded because you’re in and out. But when the lines get longer you have people with an entire cart trying to self-checkout. It doesn’t work because there literally isn’t enough room to unload the whole cart while scanning. So someone has to come over and help anyway and use the portable scanner.” Here’s the real reason Costco doesn’t have express check out lanes.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingDario Lopez-Mills/AP/Shutterstock

Getting impatient in the checkout line

That said, other customers get antsy when the regular checkout line isn’t moving fast enough. Reddit user Thadius writes: “I don’t like when they don’t have enough checkout staff on hand. I know this is a rush/wait system, but when they have 15 checkout tills and only seven are open and the lines are seven people deep I get irritated. I did buy a membership after all.”

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingFrancis Dean/Shutterstock

Abandoning your cart

This is bad behavior wherever you shop. We know you want to get out of there, but it’s usually a quick walk to the cart carousel. Feeling lazy? Think about how unhappy you’d be if you came out of the store to discover a wayward cart had nicked the paint job on your car. Here are 15 foods nutritionists always buy at Costco.

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18 Bad Habits Costco Shoppers Should Really Stop DoingRick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

Ignoring pedestrians in the parking lot

You’ve finally made it out with your purchases. Success is no reason to abandon common sense, however. The parking lot is probably as crazy as it was when you were looking for a spot. As Reddit user dick_wool notes: “I can’t tell you the number of times people have nearly reversed into me as I’m walking towards the entrance. And don’t get me started on driving in the parking lot.” Costco employee SirWaddlezAlot echoes the safety concern: “I used to ride a motorcycle. I felt safer on the freeways here than in the parking lot.”

Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.