You may love Costco for the free samples, but there's plenty more to the wholesale store than you think. Many of us have never walked out with less than a cart full of items, and that's because you truly get value for your buck, especially on Kirkland products. To dig up more information on things we never knew about the company, we checked out IamAs from a 10-year veteran (who works the floor and forklifts), a part-time college employee, and a food court employee. From Costco hacks to their lenient return policy, expect to become an even more loyal member by the end.
1. What are you guys really checking on the receipts?
"I usually check expensive items and look for doubles. Most of what we find is actually errors with scanning. Had someone accidentally key in the number for a $1000 item instead of a bag of avocados once. Mostly making sure you got what you paid for."
2. Do you always accept illegitimate returns for full refunds, like when one lady returned an almost-empty bottle of red wine?
"Depends on your pattern. If you are returning expensive liquor on a regular basis, they start to catch on. Same with electronics. If you are buying a new laptop and returning it the day before the return policy is up on a consistent basis, we take note. I helped someone years ago who bought the same laptop and returned it five or six times within a few days. Apparently it wouldn't browse the web, play a movie, play iTunes, and run Excel and Word at the same time (on a cheap Vista machine). We finally had to tell her that it wasn't going to, no matter which one of the same item she bought."
3. It's not uncommon to see name badges with 'Employee Since 1997.' What keeps employees there so long?
"The pay scale is awesome for the industry. A lot of people I know got into Costco in college because it paid better than anything else, and they just stuck with it. Benefits are good, vacation is awesome after a few years, and they have a lot of employee-care type stuff. We have a lot of 15-25 year employees at my store. Even as a 10-year employee, I'm in the middle of the pack when it comes to average seniority. We made a name tag for an old-timer employee that said Employee since 1887. Took him a while to catch it."
4. Who was your best and worst customer?
"Worst customer is almost different on a weekly basis. I deal with a lot of people every day and sometimes, they just get under my skin. Probably my worst was a woman who wanted me to price shop the competition in my free time and call her with the results on my day off. Just irritated me.
Best would probably be a recent pastor of a local mega church. Bought a ton of electronics from me, totally took my advice and went with it. Almost like he assumed I knew what I was talking about."
5. What do the different markdowns mean?
"Big thing is the asterisk. Basically means when it's gone it's gone. Anything that ends in .97 is usually a corporate mark down (think liquidation). If it's a .00 or recently a .88 it's an in-store markdown. Usually that's a display or fire sale type of deal."
6. What are some Kirkland items that you would recommend staying away from?
"I don't know of any that I would necessarily stay away from. My wife doesn't like the toilet paper, but it would depend on your sensitivity in that department."
7. How much do you make?
"I am at the top of my "ladder," about $20/hr and 1.5 that on Sundays."
8. What's a lesser known fact/secret about Costco?
"Maybe how progressive the company is. I live in a red state and most of the people I talk to think of it as a pretty conservative company. Very liberal as far as its politics."
"Thinking about it more it would be our liquor policies. At least in my state, you can buy liquor without being a member. This might sound lame, but it's cheap. Even our store brand vodka is $14 for 1.75l of high-end stuff. Name brand stuff is super cheap too."
9. Do you think Costco is cheap, or does Walmart offer the same deals?
"Costco tends not to be cheap but value based. Furniture is high quality for low price, compared to a lot of Walmart stuff being low-quality for a bargain. The real deals are in our store brand stuff. I.e. we have a years supply of allergy medicine for the same price as two months of the name brand, or we have our store brand liquor, made by name brand distilleries for a lot less."
10. Tell me some secret Costco hacks that the general public doesn't know about.
"30-day price guarantee. Off-the-wall-return policy on most items. Store brand items are made by name brands for us. (I think it's Grey Goose that makes our French vodka that costs $20 less than name brand.) The name of the game is volume. Buy a chest freezer and fill it up with bulk frozen items, and save in the long run. Free tech support on electronics provided by US call centers. No $10 hour nonsense. Non-electronics are 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Can't tell you how many sun-rotted playsets have come back or how many 10-year old mattresses have come back."
11. What's the best day and time to shop there in order to avoid a crowd?
"Mondays are slow. Come in the morning most weekdays."
12. Why does the food court only accept cash?
"It only accepts cash or check because we sell things really close to not making any actual profit in the Food Court. The primary role the Food Court is there is to be a good face for the company. We'll sell you a hotdog and soda for $1.50, same price since 1991 by the way, and make eight cents per sale, just so your last experience before leaving is one of a pleasant cashier treating you well and giving you a good deal."