The 8 Costco Problems No One is Talking About

We love Costco, but we have a few suggestions.
Updated May 8, 2024
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With its warehouse feel, famously affordable rotisserie chicken, and free sample stands set up like fueling stations along their shoppers’ routes, Costco is a consumer’s paradise.

But alas, no place is perfect, and even with its many membership perks, Costco has its share of flaws.

From that pesky membership fee to the relatively high chance you’ll have your heart broken over a discontinued product or two, there are a few issues to discuss. Here are some of the Costco problems no one is talking about.

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The membership fee

dennizn/Adobe costco receipt

First, let’s talk about the $60 elephant in the room. If you’re on a budget, a membership fee can be hard to swing upfront, even if you save so much money shopping that it eventually pays for itself.

If you decide to go big and spend $120 on the Executive Membership, you can do exactly that. Executive Members earn 2% back on all qualified purchases. But those costs are still a lot for some folks.

Bulk isn’t always better

mandritoiu/Adobe aisle in a costco store

Jumbo-sized everything is part of the Costco experience, but sometimes bigger isn’t actually better. This is especially true when you love a specific item — a Tangerine & Strawberry San Pellegrino mineral water, for instance — and you would like to purchase a few.

If you buy this drink at Costco it comes with two other flavors you may not like as much. If this is the case, you now have 16 cans cluttering up your fridge.

And because of their specialty in bulk goods, there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to shopping at Costco for small families as well.

You don’t always find what you’re looking for

Syda Productions/Adobe woman with food basket at grocery or supermarket

Costco has everything from couches to bulgogi beef, but when it comes to brand options, your choices are limited.

The Kirkland brand is pretty great in its own right, but many of us have certain items that just have to be name-brand. And while many times Costco will carry the exact item you’re looking for, sometimes they don’t.

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Things get discontinued

polack/Adobe upset woman in a supermarket with an empty shopping trolley

Speaking of the Kirkland brand, Costco often has items you won’t find anywhere else. Chances are, you’re going to fall in love with one of these items.

You’ll come to depend on it. You may even make it the crown jewel of your breakfast routine, and then one day you’ll notice an asterisk on the price tag signaling it will be discontinued.

To Costco’s credit, they do give shoppers fair warning. That asterisk is code for “go ahead and start your grieving process because we’re never selling this product again.”

Every time you visit Costco for the rest of your life you will double check to see if they had mercy and restocked the Cinnamon Roll Protein Bars. They didn’t.

Forgetting the other perks

Wayhome Studio/Adobe  brunette young lady clenches two fists celebrates success

Costco is known for its amazing deals, but making the most of those deals is an art form in how to save money.

You can earn more when you shop at Costco for travel, insurance, identity protection, and more. The list is long and it might be a little overwhelming for Costco newbies.

The extensive membership savings reflect the rest of the Costco experience as well, and like the membership perks, becoming familiar with the store and figuring out how buying bulk works within your budget can be a bit of a process.

You might waste money and time

ashtproductions/Adobe Someone throwing hundred dollar bills in the trash can

Costcos are huge, as are their parking lots. Making a quick stop at Costco to grab an easy pre-made meal may not be a very efficient dinner solution if your plan is to get in and out quickly.

Between the delicious sample stations set along your path and the book section you may want to browse for “just a minute,” there’s a good chance your one-item shopping list will turn into a cart full of things you maybe didn’t need.

No one wants to waste money at Costco, but it could happen.

No available bags at the store

Evgeniya Biriukova/Adobe shopping with eco shopper bag at street market

Yes, a bring-your-own-bag policy is good for the environment and it certainly helps Costco with their overhead — savings they are able to pass on to consumers.

But, if you forget to bring your own bags, unloading the groceries may be a real hassle. A bin of oversized, reusable carrier bags for sale by the checkout lanes would solve this problem in a snap. Trader Joe’s does this well.

Not enough sales help

Sondem/Adobe Full shopping cart

If you need help finding a specific item or getting something down from a high shelf, you might be on your own.

While there are plenty of Costco workers happy to help, the Costco sales model doesn’t include floor roamers looking for lost shoppers to save, which may make finding all the items on your list take a little longer than planned.

Bottom line

andy/Adobe Costco wholesale warehouse shopping

Costco — like all stores — has its own problems or things customers complain about. But the rave reviews are often much stronger. The mega-market calls its store a “warehouse club,” and considering there are multiple Facebook fan groups, one of which has over a million members, it’s an accurate label.

Costco people are in a club of their own. Whether or not membership in this club is a good fit for you depends entirely on the needs of your lifestyle.

If you do go, make sure you understand what to get out of your membership and follow all of the expert tips to help you save money shopping every time you go.

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Author Details

Olivia Christensen Olivia Christensen is a freelance writer and columnist whose work has been featured in HuffPost, Business Insider, and more. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband and three kids, and when she isn't writing, she's probably hiking.

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