5 Secrets to Know Before Shopping at Costco

Whether you’re a seasoned big-box shopper or a brand-new Costco member, these tips will help you get the best deals every time.

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Costco has a reputation for unbeatable prices. They operate on slim profit margins, marking up products no more than 14 or 15 percent above cost. For new members, however, visiting Costco’s warehouses can be pretty overwhelming. You can buy almost anything at Costco, but how do you know where to start? Read on for employees’ secrets about how you can get high-quality products at the lowest possible prices.

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Pay Attention to Prices

Costco is known for their deep everyday discounts, but there are additional ways to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. When you check items’ price tags, take note of the last two numbers of the listed price. Prices ending in $0.97 are national markdowns, while prices ending in $0.00 or $0.88 are local markdowns, display items, or end-of-inventory items. These numbers could also indicate that an item won’t be restocked, so snag it while you can!

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Keep Track of Sales

Is there anything worse than purchasing a product at full price and then seeing that it’s on sale the next time you’re in the store? If you’ve purchased the item within the last 30 days, Costco allows you to take advantage of the discounted price. This is true for orders purchased online and in store. To get the discount for orders placed online, simply request a price adjustment through Costco’s website. In store, inquire about price adjustments at the membership counter.

Miami, USA - March 23, 2014: Kirkland Signature bath tissue 6 rolls package. Kirkland Signature brand is owned by Costco Wholesale Corporation.

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Consider Kirkland Signature

While many shoppers are loyal to their favorite name-brand products, Costco members should try products from their in-house brand, Kirkland Signature. Despite their low price points, many of these consumable and household products can compete with higher-priced competitors. As a matter of fact, Consumer Reports recommends a number of Costco’s Kirkland Signature products as equivalent to, or better than, their brand-name counterparts. Some of Consumer Reports’ top picks for quality and value are the Kirkland Signature dishwasher pacs, bacon, toilet paper, mayonnaise, AA batteries, and organic chicken stock.

Take Advantage of Costco’s Return Policy

One of the best things about shopping at Costco is the chain’s generous return policy. According to Costco, any purchase made there is risk-free, with 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed. Though there are a few exceptions when it comes to certain products like appliances and jewelry, there’s almost no limit as to when you can return a Costco purchase. The Costco membership itself is also returnable: If you’re not happy being a member, they’ll refund your membership fee at any time.

Related: 14 Store Policies You Should Be Taking Advantage Of

Packed roast chicken place on the shelf waiting to sale in the market deli section

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Buy the Chicken

If there’s one product that Costco is known for, it’s their rotisserie chickens. In fact, in 2020, Costco sold a whopping 101 million rotisserie chickens! In the United States, Costco’s chickens are sold for just $4.99, which is significantly cheaper than the average grocery store price. Richard Galanti, Costco’s chief financial officer, said that they sacrifice $30 to $40 million each year to keep the prices so low.

Did you ever notice, by the way, that the rotisserie chicken case is at the very back of the store? That’s because Costco uses their loss-leader pricing to lure in customers inside, in hopes that they’ll pick up a few other items—with a higher profit margin—on the way back to the deli.

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