First-time shoppers at Costco tend to be surprised at the end of their trip. After wandering through the large warehouse with its large products, ringing up their purchases, and paying, there’s one more step before they leave. Costco employees wait by the exit to look at every shopper’s receipt as they go. While many seasoned Costco customers don’t think twice about the practice, it’s rather head-scratching. After all, not many other chains do this. Some people may assume that Costco is trying to prevent shoplifting. However, the truth is far off.
Why They Check Your Receipts When Leaving Costco
These exit door employees are actually there to ensure Costco isn’t over-charging its customers. For instance, someone buying three bundles of toilet paper could have been charged for four. Or the cashier could have accidentally added another item the shopper didn’t buy. So employees glance at the receipt and at the cart to make sure they are accurate.
Of course, if someone was trying to shoplift something, their lack of receipt would give them as well. But that’s not the goal of the exit employees. If they do find something in the cart that’s not on the receipt, they assume the cashier missed the item. 
In fact, there are multiple things the Costco employee is looking for:
- A code on receipt that changes everyday. That ensures the receipt was from that day, and not an old one.
- The item count number to check for under-charging or over-charging on the purchases.
- Costly products like electronics and jewlery — or items over $300 — since they need a supervisor to sign on them.
- Large items, like cases of water, which are signified on the receipt so the employee could look at the bottom of the cart.
One Costco employee from Canada found an attempted theft while doing this exit check. Someone was trying to leave with a produce box full of clothes. “He was walking very quick past me, and I quickly asked him if he had a receipt for the clothes. He said, ‘my wife has it and is waiting in the car.’ I asked him to leave the clothes here with me until he gets the receipt, and he gave me a hard time until he started seeing my manager walk towards me — he threw the box on the ground and bolted out the store.” 
Tips For Shopping at Costco
Use the Go-Back Carts
Often, when people change their minds on some purchases, they leave the products on random shelves. Meanwhile, there are carts near the register for these very unwanted items. Finding random products everywhere is frustrating for employees.
“Obviously we understand that sometimes you might not want an item anymore — that’s perfectly fine,” said Tess Robison, a Costco employee and outreach specialist at Money Done Right. “But it is way better and easier on us if you put the item in the go-back cart at the register or bring the item with you to checkout and just let us know you don’t want it anymore.”
Don’t Abandon Frozen Products
Furthermore, misplaced frozen items are even more frustrating. When the employees finally find that ice cream carton tucked between garden shovels, the food could have melted completely.
“It’s especially annoying when members leave cold or frozen items in hidden places and by the time an employee finds it the item has spoiled,” Robison said. “This costs us more money, time, and energy when members do this rather than just bringing the item up with them to checkout.”
Therefore, it’s better to bring the item to check out and have a staff member put it back.
Don’t Leave Your Costco Cart in the Aisles
Some people tend to leave their carts in the aisle while they stroll around different sections. However, this blocks the traffic of other customers and employees.
“We get it — the carts are huge and can be hard to maneuver,” said Jacob Bilsner, a Costco employee. “But for the same exact reasons, you shouldn’t leave your cart sitting somewhere other people may be trying to access. It also stops staff from being able to get to shelves to restock them.”
Don’t Shop Past Closing Time
This is just common courtesy for all retail stores, not just Costco. When customers enter just before closing time or prolong their shop past that hour, staff members are forced to stay late.
“I wish people would stop coming in right as we are closing and then not leaving when we close,” Robison said. “Even when we let people know that we are closed and ask that they bring their items to the front, we still get people who refuse to listen to us.”
Don’t Hide a Mess
While it’s embarrassing to break something or make a mess in a store, don’t try to hide it and flee. This could lead to an injury or another shopper buying a faulty product. Plus, it’s even worse for a food spill.
“Food messes become more disgusting to clean the longer they’re left, and nine times out of 10 you won’t have to pay for the item,” Bilsner said. 
- “The Real Reason Costco Employees Check Receipts at Exits.” Mental Floss. Jake Rossen. November 8, 2018
- “Here’s what Costco workers are actually looking for when they check your receipt at the exit.” Business Insider. Gili Malinsky and Áine Cain. May 2, 2019
- “10 things you should never do at Costco, according to employees.” Insider. Sophia Mitrokostas. October 15, 2021