10 Bizarre Reasons Why Shoppers Returned Items at Costco

It’s hard to believe these Costco items were accepted for return.
Updated April 11, 2024
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Costco store exterior

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In addition to famously cheap products such as the $1.50 hot dog and the $5 rotisserie chicken, Costco is well-known for its generous store return policy. But knowing that still won’t prepare you for some of the totally bizarre reasons some folks returned items to the big box juggernaut. Here are 10 truly strange stories about Costco returns.

Months-old, moldy produce because it went bad

Fevziie/Adobe Trash overflowing in trash can

Costco sells a lot of produce in bulk, so chances are they get returns of these items. However, one shopper took it to the extreme when they reportedly returned a box of strawberries because they had gone bad. The thing is, the shopper purchased the strawberries in July, and returned them the following February. No wonder they seemed “off,” as the customer claimed they were.

Cat food a cat didn’t like — without the bag

fantom_rd/Adobe Cat looking up from food bowl

Cats can be notorious for not liking the food that’s in their bowl. That was the case for one pet guardian who returned cat food to Costco because her cat decided to stop eating it. The catch: The food wasn’t in its original bag. This didn’t dissuade Costco from accepting the return, adding to one of the many reasons why Costco has such loyal customers.

A Christmas tree that died in January

bizoo_n/Adobe Dead Christmas tree with ornament

Having a live Christmas tree always makes the winter season special, even if they inevitably die after the holidays and cover the carpet in pine needles. But while most of us suck it up and haul it to the curb after we’ve undecked the bows of holly, one shopper decided to bring their Christmas tree to Costco customer service because it died … in January. Sure enough, the retailer let them return it, despite the fact that it clearly had been used.

Congealed mass of gummy bears

Farknot Architect/Adobe Hands holding gummy bears

Gummy bears are delicious, but you have to make sure to store them properly so they retain their texture and shape. This eluded one Costco member, however, who purchased a bulk bag of gummy bears and left it in their car during the summer months. After sitting in the vehicle for an undisclosed period of time, the shopper reportedly returned it, ostensibly because the bears had melted into a single, gummy blob. At least the package was unopened!

Family photos not up to par

New Africa/Adobe Photographer taking photo of family

While Costco used to offer film developing in their stores, the service is no longer available. When it was, some Costco shoppers would return the photos they took but didn’t like, and Costco would accept them. What on earth did they do with all of those red-eye and thumb shots?

A half-eaten rotisserie chicken that didn’t meet expectations

taspho/Adobe Rotisserie chicken

The $5 rotisserie chicken that Costco sells may be famous, but it didn’t live up to one hungry customer’s expectations. This audacious shopper actually purchased the chicken, and proceeded to sit down in the food court and eat it. After consuming nearly the whole thing, they brought the carcass to customer service for a return because, they said, it wasn’t as tasty as they hoped it would be. A full return was granted.

11-year-old pillows that were smelly

benevolente/Adobe Cute dog in a sleep mask tucked in under blankets

Pillows are some seriously intimate items that cradle our heads for hours at a time. One Costco shopper decided they were going to return the pillows they’d been sleeping on for 11 years because of a foul odor. The stench was apparently so bad that the Costco employee gagged. The pillows still had tags with the item numbers, so Costco reportedly accepted the return.

Empty bottle of wine that caused a headache

fizkes/Adobe Man with headache holding head and cup of water

It’s no secret that if you drink too much alcohol, you may just wind up with a headache the following day, especially if you don’t drink enough water. But as far as Costco is concerned, that’s reason enough to accept an empty wine bottle and call it a return. At least, that’s the experience an employee reports, as one customer had the chutzpah to do exactly that. Perhaps this person still had the receipt or paid with a credit card?

Forgotten 13-year-old fish

Fanfo/Adobe Frozen fish on ice

We’re all guilty of letting things sit in the freezer a little too long, but one Costco shopper takes the cake for having fish in their freezer for 13 years. Rather than toss it in the trash after finding it like most people would, they decided they were going to cash in on the occasion by returning it. When met with pushback, they even threatened to speak to corporate management.

Dead plants

pingpao/Adobe Dead plant in garden

Not everyone has a green thumb, but that likely doesn’t bother Costco. In fact, as some employees report, plenty of customers have been known to bring dead plants back to the garden center for a refund. It’s very possible that these customers are the reason the plants did not make it, but they still felt a refund was justified.

Bottom line

dennizn/Adobe Holding Costco receipt in busy store

Thanks goes to r/Costco and Diply for these examples. As you can see, Costco’s return policy is incredible, and helpful when a return is necessary. However, before you decide to try and return an old pair of shoes or bed sheets you’ve grown tired of, know that the retailer tracks your activity via your membership. And just like how a refund affects credit card points, too many returns can warrant a membership cancellation. It’s probably wise to only seek a refund when actually warranted.

Author Details

Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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