I joined Costco. Here’s what I wasn’t expecting

Emilee Geist

Costco 101 Fans of Costco are quick to praise its prices and products, especially when it comes to groceries — and stocking up for a pandemic in one quick trip, from toilet paper (when it’s in stock) to frozen pizza. I had long resisted the warehouse store because of […]

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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Because everything is in such large packages, and to save time, goods are usually sold right off the pallet it was shipped on. The aisles are wide so carts loaded with items — and, after hours, forklifts — can get through. I didn’t notice any employees helping people load things into carts, but I’m sure if you asked for help with that 40-pound bag of dog food, someone would step up.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Unlike grocery stores, you can get a new phone and wireless plan at Costco. There’s a kiosk in the electronics department and usually a dedicated wireless employee. Most of the major carriers and phone manufacturers are represented. On Black Friday, warehouse clubs such as this can be the easiest places to score great cell deals.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Locations that have a photo center can also refill a home printer’s toner. Prices start at $7 and go up, depending what type of toner cartridges you have. Look for a brochure or a price chart around the photo department or printer ink for sale.




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Store layout isn’t intuitive, so departments along the outer walls of the store are marked with big red signs that can read from practically anywhere. It helps if you’re looking just for meat or paper goods, which are in the back of the store.




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Aisles don’t have signs identifying what’s there. So as you walk past huge, long, towering aisles, you just have to look down them as best you can for what you’re looking for. Items are at least grouped, so all the cereal is in one aisle, and all the spices in another, but beyond that, there’s little help for finding what you need quickly.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Small appliances, such as microwaves and toaster ovens, are available to buy in-store. There’s only a small selection; if you’re looking for a specific model, check online to see if they even carry what you’re looking for.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


I wasn’t really expecting to see a lot of home office supplies, but there were quite a lot. From filing cabinets and office furniture to huge packs of pencils and labeling machines, you can really get a home office set up and organized.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


On the other hand, I also saw items I’d never have any use for, and don’t know what anyone else would do with them. Case in point: a 42-inch wine glass. You’d have to be one heck of a wine enthusiast to have this in your home. Maybe it’d make a good wedding decoration?




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


One of the tricks for keeping the more delicate produce fresh was a giant walk-in cooler. In it, I found all kinds of berries, greens, grapes, pre-cut fruit, and salad kits. (It’s also a great place to hang out for a couple minutes if it’s super hot out.)




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It’s hard to miss the huge ovens and racks of just-baked breads behind the bakery, and the section smelled like freshly made cookies. That smell is a great way to entice shoppers into buying bread, pastries, and muffins. (Speaking of muffins, they’re enormous, and you can mix-and-match two flavors.)




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.





Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


One of the best departments to score real deals: the cheese section. For instance, Jarlsberg, a cheese similar to Swiss but imported from Norway, was only $5.50 a pound. At Target, it’s $18 a pound. That’s a massive difference.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Taking up an entire back corner of the store are the freezers and coolers. They are really imposing, but not much different than the smaller ones at other grocery stores. These are just designed as walk-ins for employees that get stocked from the back instead of the front.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Here in Wisconsin, the seasonal section was full of Badger- and Packers-themed merchandise, from sweatshirts to pop-up tailgate tents. Each store gets a stock of local sports-themed or other local-interest merchandise. I suspect Florida stores won’t be getting sidewalk ice, and Minnesota stores won’t have flip-flops in January.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


… which could come in handy, considering there are no bags at the checkouts, but since most items are so large, they don’t always make a lot of sense. And you can always bring your own reusable shopping bags, but the common fallback is to hunt around in the box bins near the checkout area: Items get shipped in smaller boxes that get put there so customers can more easily carry purchases home.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Besides prescription drugs, there’s also a large stock of over-the-counter medications, from NyQuil Severe to Zyrtec and other allergy meds. Like at most stores, the biggest savings come when you buy the Kirkland brand as opposed to the name brands. There’s also tons of vitamins and supplements.




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Most stores have an optical center that includes a staff optometrist. They offer eye exams and tests, and when you’ve got a prescription, you can buy glasses and contacts at Costco as well.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


If you feel like your hearing is getting bad or you have a parent you suspect is hard of hearing, hearing tests are free. Hearing aids aren’t, of course, but the tests are a great free service and can be a surprisingly busy spot in the store.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Because most items are so large and heavy, the checkout lanes are set up a little differently than a grocery store. They split you from your cart once it’s unloaded, as indicated by a sign on the end of the item belt. Put anything small on the belt and leave anything large in the cart or on the flatbed. The checker will grab your cart on their side of the lane and scan anything big without you having to move it. It was a little confusing my first time, but it makes sense as soon as you see it in action.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


The most popular item on the cafe’s menu is probably the hot dog combo. For $1.50, you get a quarter-pound hot dog and a 20-ounce soda with free refills. It’s pretty hard to beat (unless you’re in Wisconsin, where you can get a locally made brat combo for the same price). A giant slice of pizza is only $2.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


61/61 SLIDES

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