- Costco deals are a great way to save money – but they’re not always obvious.
- Business Insider asked 49 Costco employees to share their top tips for saving money and making the most of your experience at the store.
- From learning how to navigate the store to figuring out how to identify clearance items, here’s some advice from Costco employees.
Costco’s deals are a huge draw for many members.
The retail chain is known for hawking just about everything – and selling it in bulk.
Business Insider reached out to Costco employees to learn more about their top shopping tips, because it pays to shop armed with insider information. Thirty-five ended up sharing their best strategies.
One employee of four years suggested shopping for everything at the chain, which isn’t that far-fetched of an idea, considering Costco sells cars, vacations, food kits for the apocalypse, yummy fast food, and even caskets.
“The deals are amazing,” a Costco employee of four years told Business Insider. “Always think Costco first. From auto insurance, travel, mortgages, return policy, warranties – if you can get it through Costco, you absolutely should.”
Here’s what Costco workers had to say about how you can instantly improve your shopping experience.
- Mike Mozart/Flickr
Kirkland products are the way to go, according to Costco employees.
Kirkland Signature – named for the chain’s former headquarters in Kirkland, Washington – is Costco’s private label.
“Buy Kirkland – it’s cheaper and the same product as the name brand,” a Costco employee who has worked for the store for five years told Business Insider.
An employee who’s been with the store for 25 years agreed.
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See something you like at Costco? Buy it. Don’t hesitate.
That’s what eight Costco employees told Business Insider. Seasonal items often disappear forever.
“Buy seasonal items when you can,” one employee told Business Insider. “When they’re gone, they’re gone.”
If you decide to sit on your hands, you might end up regretting it.
“Too many people come back looking for something we phased out,” an employee of 10 years told Business Insider. “Buy it when you see it.”
You can always return it later if you decide you don’t want it.
Spring for the executive membership
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A standard membership at Costco is $60 a year. An executive membership will cost you $120 a year and net you an annual 2% reward of up to $1,000 on your purchases.
Five Costco employees told Business Insider that they advised that customers spring for the executive membership.
“Come on,” said one employee who has worked at the chain for six years. “You get 2% back on travel. Go to Hawaii. Make money.”
Avoid the store on the weekends
“Do not shop on the weekends,” said an employee who has worked at the store for 10 years. “Come on Tuesday. It’s a ghost town.”
An employee who has worked at Costco for three years added that if you’re forced to come on a weekend, don’t “expect a fast and easy trip.”
You should also avoid the warehouse at certain points during the day.
“Always shop before rush hour, too,” a Costco employee from Ontario told Business Insider. “A lot of people like to shop after they get off work.”
But that’s not the only time you should avoid Costco.
Another Costco employee told Business Insider, “I’ll see ‘avoid the store on the weekends’ and raise ‘especially on holiday weekends.'”
“Say that the Fourth of July is on a Sunday,” the employee added. “A customer is shopping for snacks on Thursday and plans to return on Saturday for cheese and guacamole. I have seen this so many times.”
That’s a big mistake, according to the employee, who recommended just buying everything ahead of time to avoid “overcrowded parking lots, items selling out, and record long lines at the cash register.”
Learn to navigate
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Costco is well-known for its ever-changing, labyrinthine layout.
“I think people assume stuff isn’t there when they can’t find it right away,” an employee with two years of experience told Business Insider. “Costco is a scavenger hunt. Just ask an employee for help. For the most part, we love helping if you’re kind to us.”
But employees shared a few things to keep in mind to help you get around easily.
“Be alert,” an employee who has been with Costco for 10 years told Business Insider. “Most of our regular items stay in the same spot. The things that move are seasonal – furniture, flowers, and holiday decor.”
A four-year Costco veteran told Business Insider that the best deals could usually be found at the end of the aisle.
When it comes to the clothing section, an employee with two years of experience said to check the signs to figure the sizes that are left so you don’t have to “tear through the piles.”
Lastly, a Costco employee from Minnesota said you should never assume that “every Costco carries the same items.” Sometimes the reason you can’t find the product you’re looking for is that it’s just not there.
Don’t shop on an empty stomach
- Hollis Johnson
Never shop hungry – and definitely never shop at Costco hungry.
If you don’t get sucked in by the food court, you could end up blowing your budget on bulk packages of goodies.
“Eat before you come,” an employee with 10 years of experience told Business Insider. “You will spend $300 just on snacks because you’re hungry.”
Don’t hurt yourself
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An employee with 15 months of experience said to never attempt to lift a heavy object without help.
“Always look for someone in a red vest or find a manager who can call for help,” they told Business Insider. “Employees are required to wear a name badge while on the clock, so you will be able to find someone just fine.”
Don’t leave money on the table
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A Costco employee of two years said people who don’t charge their Costco Visa card were “losing out on cash-back rewards, especially for big purchases.”
An employee who has worked at Costco for 10 years agreed, saying the card is “awesome.”
A Costco employee with four years of experience said to always take “advantage of the rebates through executive membership and the Citi card” and to not neglect mailers like Costco’s monthly book of coupons.
“Make sure you get the coupon books every month,” an employee from Washington told Business Insider. “The deals and savings available monthly are one of the best parts about Costco – and you thought it was cheap before.”
Look out for the clearance items
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An employee who has worked at Costco for 12 years said it wasn’t a good idea to buy only items that are on sale, as “some sales are not a good value.”
“Look for an asterisk or a 0.97 or 0.79 on the sale price,” they said. “That indicates it is a clearance item.”
One employee of 10 years told Business Insider that an asterisk could also indicate that the store won’t be restocking the item.
Are you a Costco employee with a story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.