12 Things Costco Employees Won’t Tell You

Updated: Feb. 26, 2024

You have a shopping list, plus space in your trunk for a huge haul. But you're not really ready to hit Costco until you have this insider info.

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Costco Price Sticker Secrets

There’s a secret code to be found in Costco price stickers, if you’re savvy enough to look for it. Most items have a price ending in $._9 (such as $2.99 or $2.49). According to Secret Price Codes That Will Save You Money At Costco, those items are the standard Costco price. But when you see an item price that ends in $.00 or $.88, that means the item is on Manager’s Special. Those are often items that have been returned or have superficial packaging damage. Be sure to look them over to avoid picking up sub-par merchandise, but even if you don’t discover an issue until you get home, the famous Costco return policy will still protect you.

In addition, any price sticker that ends with $.97 indicates that it’s been discounted at least once, making it an even better deal. Keep an eye out for big savings like these, especially on higher ticket items like some of the surprising things available at Costco.

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Closeout Code and Markdown Date

So now you know how to see if an item has been discounted. But if you want to find out how much of a discount, you’ll have to look a bit deeper. Look for an asterisk in the top right corner of the price sticker. If you see one, then it means that the item will not be re-ordered. (For seasonal items, this may simply mean that they won’t be ordered until next year.)

Also, keep an eye out for a date that sometimes appears under the final digit of the price. That date represents the most decent mark-down. Use this date to determine if you should buy now, or wait to see if the price drops again. There’s no one correct strategy, as popular items usually sell out shortly after a price drop, while items less in demand will have to be discounted repeatedly before selling. No matter when you choose to buy, knowing this trick will make you glad you have that Costco membership. Oh, and this is the best time to shop at Costco.

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Watch This Video To Learn More About Costco Shopping Secrets That Can Save You Money:

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Choose Kirkland Wisely

As the Costco store brand, Kirkland is associated with both quality and affordability. But it’s not always the best choice. The independent investigations of Consumer Reports have found a wide range of quality in the Kirkland brand. This makes sense, when you consider the sheer number of Kirkland-branded products available at Costco. When everything from work boots to mayonnaise carries the Kirkland label, it’s no shock that not all of them are best in class. According to Consumer Reports, safe Kirkland bets include bacon and maple syrup, while Kirkland coffee and dishwasher gel packs leave something to be desired.

DIYers, take note of this list of 10 things DIYers should always buy at Costco.

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Listen for the Bell

If you hear a bell ringing at the Costco deli, it means a new batch of freshly cooked rotisserie chicken has been put out. Costco rotisserie chickens are a great value and sell out quickly. If you miss out, simply wait for a little while for the next bell.

Or you can opt for a true DIY solution: raising your own chickens! Here are 14 unique chicken coops to provide a little inspiration!

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Location, Location, Location!

Just as with real estate, understanding your location in a Costco store is key to getting the most bang for your buck. Almost always, the best deals are found deeper in the store. This is especially true of the heart of the store’s layout, frequently called “center court” by Costco employees.

Start at the center, and work to the back. Only purchase items from the front of the store if it’s something you need or want, as they tend to have the highest mark-up. And while you’re working your way through the store, here are 15 tools that you probably didn’t know you could buy at Costco.

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store aisle
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Skip the Soda

Costco soda isn’t a bad deal, but chances are that your local supermarket’s or discount store’s sales on soda are an even better deal. Many supermarkets use soda as a loss-leader, selling it below cost in order to draw customers in the door. The best deals are often around summer holidays like the Fourth of July or Memorial Day. Buy in bulk on those sales, and you’ll come out far ahead in the long run.

Once you get all that soda home, consider storing it in a spare fridge. Here are 10 cool tips for owning and maintaining a garage freezer or refrigerator.

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Beef by the Chub

One interesting tip is to request a chub of beef. Although most people are unfamiliar with this meat-packing term, a “chub” is a tube of ground beef, sealed in plastic. Looking a bit like an over-sized hot dog, chubs contain the same ground beef, but in packaging that’s less expensive than the traditional foam box with clear plastic topper. The Costco deli can package your beef at your request and the chub is usually sold at a discount. That means you can afford more toppers and condiments the next time you plan on grilling dinner.

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Credit Card Options

One common criticism of Costco is its policy of only accepting a few forms of payment. Critics point out that it can be inconvenient to bring cash, and the policy can make it hard to rack up points or rebates with your preferred credit card provider. The good news is that there’s a work-around! What your local store won’t tell you is that you can use any credit card when you shop at Costco.com. Of course not all items can be purchased online, and sometimes it still makes sense to shop in person. Some products are significantly cheaper in-store, while others are impractical to purchase online. For example, here’s why it’s a great idea to buy your gas at Costco.

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repair shop

Costco Tire (Price) Rotation

New tires can be an expensive purchase, even with Costco’s everyday low prices. But what most customers don’t know is that there’s a rotation period, with a different tire brand on sale each month. So if you’re able to wait a month or two, you’ll be able to pick up your preferred brand at a deep discount. In addition, the Costco service department will repair flats, check tire pressure and even rotate them for the life of the tires. It’s a big perk that many Costco members never take advantage of.

If you’re not comfortable buying tires, here’s a helpful tutorial on what you need to know to choose the right tires every time.

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Courtesy of Costco

Retroactive Sales

Costco is famous for their generous return policy. Management has long held the belief that the company is better off exchanging a sub-par item if it means that they’ll have a happy customer. Less well-known (but equally generous) is the company’s price-matching policy. All Costco purchases are protected against future sales for 30 days. This means that if something you buy goes on sale in the 30 days immediately after your purchase, you can request a refund of the balance. Even better, you can simply fill out a form at Costco’s website, rather than going into the store and waiting in line. These retroactive discounts can really add up on expensive items like Costco TVs and big storage units.

See some great examples of workshop and garage storage products you can buy at Costco.

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Insider Info

Costco has many loyal employees who work at one location for years—sometimes entire families work for there. So it’s no surprise that some former Costco employees and insiders are willing to share their knowledge. Sites like Reddit and CostcoInsider collect the tips and tricks that employees use to get the most out of the Costco experience. If you tap into this network, you’ll get first notice of special deals and how to make the most of Costco policies.

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Refunds Even Apply to Memberships

We’ve already mentioned Costco’s famously customer-friendly return policy. If you’re not happy with a product, just return it for a full refund. But what if the product you’re not happy with is Costco itself? Well, it turns out that they’ve got you covered for that, as well. If you’re not happy with your experience as a Costco member, just tell customer service and you can get a full refund of your membership fee. Now that’s great service!

Costco is the place to stock up on necessities, but it’s also a great place to buy gifts. Check out these Costco gift ideas for the holiday season.