As Pandemic Worsens, Costco Finally Tests Curbside Pickup

But don't expect a nationwide rollout right away.

Anyone with a Costco membership can tell you that the retailer's beauty lies not in the ability to check off everything on your shopping list, but the unexpected bulk finds, larger-than-life items, and cheap food court hot dogs you find along the way. More than perhaps any other major shopping outlet, the Costco run is an experience that can't be easily replicated through online orders.

But with a still-raging pandemic necessitating changes in how we live and shop, it would seem that even Costco is toying with the idea of keeping customers out of its stores in favor of curbside pickup. Recently, the retailer announced that it'd be introducing same-day online ordering with contactless curbside pickup for its members at three Albuquerque, New Mexico area Costco locations. The curbside efforts are being undertaken in partnership with Instacart, and roughly 2,000 in-store items can be dropped off at your car for a $10 fee.

The mere existence of curbside pickup, which saw a significant uptick as big box retailers including Target and Walmart pushed the service, represents a significant shift in Costco's thinking from even just six months ago. For a long while, their significant foot traffic (even amid the pandemic) meant that Costco really had no incentive to up the convenience factor in order to woo customers.

BEN STANSALL via Getty Images

As Grocery Dive notes, that sentiment was echoed back in September 2020 by Costco CFO Richard Galanti, who seemed to imply that curbside delivery just isn't for them. "There's some retailers that are doing it because they feel they have to," Galanti said during an earnings call. "We don't have our head in the sand on it. We look at it … maybe we'll surprise you one day, but at this juncture we're not prepared to do that."

With that in mind, it's still worth noting that this is a limited test rather than a nationwide rollout. In a statement shared with USA Today, Costco reiterated that curbside pickup tests would be conducted on "a limited basis in one market at a time."

So if you love Costco but currently feel apprehensive about roaming its aisles at the moment, help may be on the way — eventually. Someday, your dream of pulling up to a parking lot and having someone put pounds of brownies in your trunk may just become a reality.

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