The 12 Rudest Things You Accidentally Do at Costco, According to Employees

How many free samples is too many? Here's everything you need to know about good etiquette at your favorite big box store.

A Costco storefront with a designed treatment
Photo: Getty Images / Scott Olson

Costco is one of the country's favorite big-box wholesale retailers, and it's not hard to see why. You can score incredible, unbeatable deals on everything from olive oil to gasoline, coffee beans to comfy sweats. However, there's a lot going on. Anyone who has ever been to one of the superstores on a weekend knows things can get hectic.

Between the samples and sales, customers and carts, you don't want to be "that person" who commits a Costco faux-pas. There are a few behaviors we're likely all guilty of that we do in an attempt to be polite, but end up doing more harm than good. A Reddit thread from last year revealed how many of these actually become the bane of Costco employees' existence. So here are the most common Costco mistakes you're making and how to avoid them, plus our top tips for mastering shopping etiquette.

The Rudest Things You Accidentally Do at Costco

1. Ditching Products Before Checkout

Listen, I know we've all been there. You pick something up, then realize you already have it, don't actually want it, or it doesn't fit in the budget. But please, don't ditch them around the store or right before checkout—employees are begging you. Countless Costco employees in the Reddit thread divulged their top gripe: customers that abandon products around the store, especially refrigerated or frozen items.

Not only do you create more work for employees who have to go around and find the objects, then bring them back to their original place, you also risk spoiling what's left behind. If you really don't have the time to return the product to its original spot, politely tell your checkout cashier that you changed your mind and ask if their team can restock it. At least then you don't run the risk of it going bad and being wasted!

2. Leaving Your Cart Behind to Fetch a Product

I have to admit, I'm totally guilty of this one. The carts are big and can get heavy and sometimes you think, "Oh let me just leave it while I quickly run and get one thing!". But abandoning your cart in the middle of the aisle blocks products, causes traffic jams, and just generally shows bad manners (and this applies to all grocery stores!). Think about it—if you get irked when other people do it, it's probably best to avoid it yourself.

3. Rummaging Through Produce to Get the "Best"

Of course, we all want to get our money's worth, and employees understand you may want to take your time picking when it comes to produce. However, there's a limit to how much differentiation you'll get, and it's outweighed by how much of a mess you create for employees to clean up.

Reddit user AccountingStudent1 (who works in the produce department at Costco) adds, "Digging through the first layer down is okay-ish. It all came on the same pallet. Whatever. Digging down farther than that is ridiculous and just makes more work for me." While many stores use a first in-first out system, meaning older products will be at the front of displays, the turnover at Costco is so high that you're unlikely to find major differentiation between products in the same display.

4. Taking Things Off Employee Stock Carts

On that note, even if you want the freshest croissants possible, if you see an employee restocking an item, don't take product off their cart. You may not even be getting a fresher product.

Reddit user psychoelectrickitty, a former employee, writes, "When I had to stock muffins, people would literally hover over me and wait until I turned my back to grab more from my cart and would try to snatch them. I know y'all thought they were fresher than the ones already out, but these were literally made at the same time. I just didn't have room to stock them earlier." Either wait until they finish stocking, or politely ask the employee if you can take one of the newer items.

5. Thinking Sample Servers Are Pressuring You to Buy the Product

The free samples are undoubtedly one of the best parts of shopping at Costco. However, there's no need to ruin a good thing. For one, just have good manners. Employees in the thread reiterated there's no need to push or shove to get samples, and yes, it's fine if you take more than one.

One thing that did irk them? Thinking you have to buy the product if you try it. While you may think you're doing the kind thing or even get a nice nod from the server, if you don't actually intend to buy the product, don't take it.

According to Reddit user and Costco employee popo351, this can actually cause big problems for employees. According to popo351, sample servers count and take inventory on how many products are sold from their station; at the end of the day if that number doesn't match up with the overall inventory, the onus isn't on them to find the missing product(s)—it falls on the other Costco employees. The reason? "Sales staff are often out-sourced, so they don't have access to systems," they write.

"So if you pick up something and not buy it ... someone has to put extra effort to find that missing product and match it with inventory at the end of the day." And no one wants to go on a scavenger hunt at the end of a long day.

7. Not Being Prepared at Checkout

Whether it's at the gas pump, at checkout, or when it comes time to check your receipt at the door, there are almost always lines at Costco. That's why you probably have no excuse to get to the front and still be unprepared. Employees are the ones who get the grunt of people's frustration when there are long lines, and you holding it up looking for your card in your wallet isn't helping. When it's your turn at the cashier or gas pump, have your membership card and payment ready to go.

8. Not Loading Items Onto the Belt at Checkout

Don't get me wrong, you don't have to unload everything. Employees certainly don't want you hurting yourself loading that 36-pack of seltzers onto the belt at checkout. However, leaving most items in your cart is a major headache for employees to scan. And, at the end of the day, if they miss something small (like a pharmacy item), the employee is the one that gets in trouble.

9. Asking for Multiple Transactions From One Cart (Sometimes)

Of course, people want to save on Costco membership fees by sharing their membership card or bringing along friends, family, or roommates. It's not explicitly forbidden, and employees generally are understanding. However, when it comes time to checkout, do your best to streamline the process, especially if you plan to split one cart between multiple transactions.

If you're using multiple forms of payment or have multiple people's orders in one cart, tell the cashier outright. Then, try your best to differentiate between orders on the belt.

10. Littering

I can't believe I even have to write this, but according to the thread, trash left in carts and around the store is a major issue for Costco employees. Whether it's the cup your sample came in or other detritus, put your trash where it belongs! Can't find a trash can? A hot tip from the thread: every sample station will have a trash can next to it, as do the food courts (for any trash you may have on your way out.)

11. Not Returning Your Cart to the Corral

Former employee and Reddit user quinniespinnies writes, "I never got used to how many people would casually leave their cart between cars. It didn't matter how close the cart corral was, there were always dozens. The entitlement baffles me." It takes you a matter of minutes (or less!) to return your cart, yet it takes an employee hours to collect all the carts strewn around the lot. Be kind and bring your cart to the corral—especially in inclement weather.

12. Trying to Return Products You Shouldn't

This is one that could not only tick off employees, but even get your membership revoked. Half-eaten, moldy, and expired products are not eligible for return, and anyone who tests the limits of Costco's lenient return policy is not tolerated. While Costco has a "100% satisfaction guarantee," abusing that policy is not only disrespectful to employees, but an easy way to have your membership revoked altogether. So, when it comes to returns, use your best judgement, and don't be a jerk.

Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love