Employees Share The Truth About Working At Costco

Ahh, Costco. Who hasn't spent a glorious Saturday afternoon browsing it's warehouse-size aisles, picking up bulk packages of toilet paper and snacks while munching on one delicious free sample after another? Truly though, Costco is pretty great, and not just because members snag amazing deals — it also seems to be a great company to work for. As per an Indeed study that looked at over 18 million reviews, the bulk store took the number one spot for compensation and benefits in 2018. 

Costco's high ranking makes sense, because according to Fox Business, Costco's average hourly salary of $22.50 is one of the highest among U.S. retailers. And, as per Bloomberg, Costco provides 88% of its employees with health insurance. "I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits," Costco's CEO and president Craig Jelinek explained. "It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It's really that simple." 

But is it that simple? Is Costco really as amazing as it seems? In this article, employees share the truth about working at Costco.

Working at Costco can be physically demanding, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing

According to Costco employees, working at the bulk store is, in many ways, better than a gym membership. "I walk about five to eight miles a day on average, and that's all within the confines of the store," Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado, told Mental Floss. "When you see pallets stacked with 50-pound bags of flour or sugar or dog food or cat litter, a lot of that stuff had to be stacked by hand by employees ... It's a lot of hard work." Talk about working hard for the money! 

But all that manual labor at Costco has its benefits. "I lost about 10 pounds while working there, despite eating the food court's $1.50 hot dog at least once a week," former employee Meghan Demaria wrote in an essay for Refinery 29. "I found that working in a more active job was stress relieving and a good counterbalance to the time I spent hunched over a laptop when I wasn't there." Weight loss and stress relief? That sounds like most people's dream job.

Costco employees call the free samples the "employee buffet"

Is there anything better than those Costco free samples? Cheesecake, taquitos, bacon, soup ... the list, and the snacking, go on and on. According to Costco employees, working there means having an exclusive, all-access ticket to the free sample snack train. In fact, one former employee called the free samples the "Employee Buffet" on Reddit

Another Costco employee admitted to working the sample ladies for snacks in a separate Reddit post, writing, "I always sweet talk the older ladies. They tell me I remind them of their grandson = more food." He also gave shoppers helpful hints about when the best times to get the best samples are, and how to get extra helpings: "Saturday and Sunday are the prime times to get free grub. They're there from around 11am till 6pm on the weekdays and quit around 5pm on weekends because we are only open till 6pm on weekends." He added that you can also score on the sample front "right before holidays ... Just talk to them and they'll give you plenty."

Working the front entrance to Costco might seem easy, but it's one of the toughest positions

Everyone who's been to Costco is aware of the front entrance position: the employee that stands at the store's entrance to check customer's membership cards as they come in. Sounds like that would be one of the best shift assignments, right? 

As it turns out, standing still, greeting happy customers as they come in to do their shopping, avoiding all the lifting, and basically just chilling out might seem like the best, but Costco employees actually think it's the worst. As one former employee wrote on Reddit, "Working the entrance/exit isn't physical at all but YOU WILL come across rude people making the job tough. By rude I mean not showing their card, blocking the entrance when taking out their card, or forgetting their card and pulling the, 'but I've shopped here for years!'" Yeah, that sounds pretty crappy. 

Yet another Costco employee revealed on Reddit that all that standing is just plain boring. "[The] position I despise the most would be Entrance Door Member Service," they wrote. "It's boring, trying to stand in one place hurts more than moving around. You have to acknowledge every member that comes in."

Costco employees put an emphasis on food safety

Costco doesn't just sell groceries — the warehouse also has a large selection of prepared food. From baked goods like cookies, cheesecakes, and sheet cakes to rotisserie chicken, casseroles, and truly incredible street tacos, Costco's food is actually pretty bomb. And when it comes to that prepared food, customers can rest assured that it's safe to eat. "We are very strict on food quality and safety," a Costco employee from Florida told Business Insider. "We have safety walks every hour that audit the temperatures of our food coolers and storage. Our famous rotisserie chickens are not allowed to be sold after two hours of sitting in the warmer."

Costco's in-store, quick-service restaurant also takes food safety seriously. "If an employee forgets to remove their apron before exiting the department, they must remove that apron, toss it into the hamper, and put on a fresh apron because now it's contaminated," Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado, told Mental Floss. She went on to describe the store's tough rules on used food, revealing that as soon as a food item is placed on the counter, it can't come back. Even if it's untouched.

Costo employees move stuff around on purpose

Almost everyone that has a local Costco store they shop at often has felt the confusion and frustration of suddenly not being able to find anything. "But the crackers were in this aisle last week!" "Where are the freakin' apples? They used to be right here!!" "Why is the toilet paper by the mirrors all of a sudden?!" And the bigger the Costco store, the more frustrating this game of hide-and-seek grocery can be. 

Why in the world do stores move stuff around? Is it on purpose? Well, when it comes to Costco, it is on purpose, and for a very good reason. As reported by Reader's Digest, Costco moves its stock around all the time so customers have to go searching. Why? The longer they spend in the store, scanning the shelves, the more stuff they're likely to buy. Apparently Costco employees call this a "treasure hunt." It's hard to be mad when it's so clever.

There's a method to Costco employees checking customer's receipts

Ever wonder how a Costco employee can read an entire receipt and check a cart in under 10 seconds? The secret is that they're actually not. Costco has employees stand at the store's exit to check receipts and carts to help prevent shoplifting, but they really only care about expensive items. "We're looking for items on the bottom of the cart, big items like TVs, or alcohol," Thomas, a Costco employee in California, told Mental Floss

Employees are also trained to verify the number of items in a cart against a receipt, as per a Costco Reddit thread. The same thread revealed that Costco employees are also looking at receipts to help protect customers. "Most of what we find is actually errors with scanning," a user wrote. "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."

Costco employees can shop the store after-hours

Arguably one of the best perks of working in retail is getting a big discount on whatever that store sells. But, unfortunately, as per Mental Floss, Costco employees don't generally get discounts. Before everyone freaks out, they get something that might be even better: the opportunity to shop Costco steals without the crowds or lines. As Kathleen, a Costco employee in Washington, told Mental Floss, "You can shop after hours, and a lot of employees do that. You just bring your cart to the front register." Score! Kathleen went on to describe how the store keeps one register or the Member Service counter open late so employees can get their shopping done after work.

Costco's stuff is already super discounted, so it makes sense that employees don't get an additional deal. And honestly, being able to enjoy those deals sans crazy people with massive shopping carts crowding and pushing sounds better than a discount anyway.

Working at Costco means dealing with seriously outdated technology

Being a Costco employee is not all free samples, line-free shopping, and getting hourly compensation for exercise. Working at the warehouse store has some downsides — like the technology. One Costco employee complained about its outdated tech on Reddit, writing, "Whoever is in charge of technological advancement ... needs to take a step back and reevaluate what we're doing." And if that wasn't harsh enough, they went on, adding, "Amazon is working on flying sh** to members' houses using f****ng drones and we're trying to figure out how to not make our membership system crash on the first Saturday of a marketing campaign." Yikes. 

Yet another Reddit thread saw more employees tearing down Costco's tech, with one writing, "Why can employees not look at their schedule or submit time off online? ... Why do our computers and registers look like they came from the '80s? Why is everything done by paper and pencil??" This Reddit user offered some explanation to their complaints, finishing, "I get that this kind of stuff is expensive to upkeep, and by not doing tech upgrades, we keep our prices low, but it's time to join the rest of the world."

Costco employees wish customers would understand there are things they can't change

It's so easy to get angry at retail workers when something goes wrong, but oftentimes it's far from their fault. This is especially true when it comes to many of the issues that Costco customers have. "What you're complaining about is likely above the pay grade of everyone in this building," a Costco worker in California revealed to Business Insider. Like those Costco membership cards. "Employees have to be strict about confirming members' IDs. ... This often led to customers throwing fits, ranting at employees, and abandoning giant carts filled with hundreds of dollars of merchandise," former Costco employee Meghan Demaria wrote in an essay for Refinery29. She added that one time, a customer even slapped her while arguing about membership policies.

The people that work at Costco just want customers to remember that it's probably not their fault. As a San Francisco employee revealed to Business Insider, they just want to be able to tell customers "that they are being very rude when talking about things that are out of my control as a cashier."

Costco employees are always asked about "the back," but it doesn't exist

Every single adult has probably asked a retail employee to check "the back" for an item that's sold out on the shelves. And oftentimes it works! But it will never work at Costco because there is no "back." As one Costco employee dished to Reader's Digest, "Costco is a 'warehouse' store in a literal sense — we don't have any additional storage from what you see on the shelves. If it's not there, don't ask us to check the 'back.' The 'back' doesn't exist." Another Costco worker emphasized this point on a Reddit thread, writing, "If we say it's not here, it's not here."

But what about those full pallets piled high on the aisle shelves? What if a customer wants a package of toilet paper from a packed pallet? As per that same Reddit thread, that customer is probably out of luck. "I've been told they don't take down pallets from the shelves because it would ... generally cause too much hassle," an employee wrote. "If something is up high and there's none on the floor, just go back the next day for it."

Costco employees are well compensated

Working at Costco isn't just good for the free snacks and exercise — it also pays pretty well. As reported by Fox Business, Costco's average hourly salary is one of the highest among U.S. retailers, topping out at $22.50. The warehouse store also gives its employees really good benefits. "The health insurance is so awesome and I am so grateful for it," a Costco employee of 10 years told Business Insider. Another employee told the publication that in addition to generous health, dental, and vision insurance, they also receive seven paid holidays, a 401K plan with matching, and time and a half pay just for working on Sundays. "And if you're working an eight hour shift," the employee added, "you get two paid 15 minute breaks and a half hour for lunch."

And if all those benefits weren't enough, Costco is also generous with perks. According to an employee interview with Yahoo! Life, store workers get a free Costco membership and "a free turkey to enjoy with their families on Thanksgiving." It pays to work at Costco!

Working at Costo means dealing with people taking advantage of the generous return policy

Costco has a generous return policy that's great for the customers but a pain for the employees when customers take advantage of it. "Members return couches that are over five years old, and interestingly enough, they still have the receipt," a Costco employee told Mental Floss. "My guess is that they buy that couch with the intention of returning it someday, so they tape the receipt to the bottom of the couch so they don't lose it. Then, when they've worn it out and want something new, they bring it back and get a full refund."

Costco employees are almost always onto these rude returners since, as per Mental Floss, their purchase records go back 10 years and the employees know better. "When someone comes in to return something without a receipt and they go, 'Oh, you can look it up on my account,' that's a tell," an employee in California told the publication. "It tells me you return so much stuff that you know what we can find on the computer." And serial returners beware! According to a Reddit thread, Costco workers can "make comments on your membership."

Employees keep track of customers in the store so there are always enough open registers

Costco can get pretty crazy, especially on the weekends. However, though the aisles are crowded and the lines are long, things never get too out of hand — and that's on purpose. According to Mental Floss, most Costcos have an employee stand at the entrance to count how many people are entering the store. They then pass that info along to a supervisor who then makes sure enough registers are open for checkout. "They know that for a certain amount of people entering the store, within a certain amount of time," Rachel, a Costco employee explained to Mental Floss, "There should be a certain amount of registers open to accommodate those shoppers who are ready to check out."

Rachel also revealed that most of the employees are "cross-trained" to help out at the registers even if that's not their primary job — which might be why Costco doesn't ever have express lanes. Their employees are just too darn efficient.

Most Costco employees really love working there

It's safe to assume no one ever dreams of working in retail, but most Costco employees really do love working there. "Costco is an ideal kind of job," a Costco employee from Oregon told Business Insider. "I really enjoy working at Costco. They are very supportive and try to take care of the employees, as well as the members." Another employee simply stated: "I legitimately love my job."

And the praises keep coming! A former Costco employee praised the warehouse store in a Reddit thread, writing, "The company really does strive to treat their employees fairly ... it's actually nearly impossible for them to fire you if you've been there for a few years." Another Reddit thread saw a Costco worker saying, "There is a real emphasis on doing things the right way rather than the fastest or cheapest. It's a real testament to the quality of this company." 

While it might not be the best job in the world, or the most glamorous, the truth about working at Costco is that it's actually pretty great.