We'll cut straight to the chase: Costco does not have scan and go. The service, a favorite at Sam's Club warehouses, lets consumers scan products and pay with their phones. The time-saving feature, which allows you to skip the checkout line, is one of the few things that Costco fans say Walmart-owned Sam's Club does better than Costco.
So, sure, Sam's Club might not have the fluffiest, most buttery croissants, but they've essentially eliminated one of shopping's biggest inconveniences: long lines. And they're not the only ones.
Which Stores Have Scan and Go?
The following retailers have scan-and-go technology at checkout (or similar payment methods):
Once you've downloaded the Sam's Club mobile app, using the Scan & Go feature is easy. You scan products you want, pay within the app, and then show staff a QR code receipt on the way out. You can even use Scan & Go at the Sam's Club Cafe to make ordering food easier and faster.
At BJ's, you can skip checkout lines and save time with ExpressPay. First, you scan items, place them in your shopping cart, and pay within the app. When you leave, you show a QR code receipt on the way out.
If you download the Meijer app, you can use the store'sShop & Scan feature. After you scan products with your phone, you'll use a QR code at the self-checkout kiosk to transfer your items and pay. (We also found online grocery shopping at Meijer to be easier than at Kroger or Target.)
Amazon's cashier-less stores use the same technology found in self-driving cars — deep learning and computer vision — to automatically charge customers for purchases. No app needed. (Find out what it's like to shop at Amazon Go in our review.)
Why Doesn't Costco Have Scan and Go?
Given that Costco's biggest competitors offer scan-and-go checkout, you may wonder why the warehouse store has yet to upgrade its shopping experience. While we don't have a straightforward answer, we do have a few theories and potential explanations:
Costco Doesn't Invest in Tech
Most members know that Costco's website and app are pretty terrible. To give you a concrete example, Costco inexplicably has a different domain for tire center appointments, and the site’s user interface, like most of the retailer’s tech, is clunky and out of date.
And the app? It’s pretty useless. Not only does it lack scan and go, but you can’t check a warehouse store’s inventory either. This is all to say that technology seems like it isn’t a priority at Costco, so it makes sense they’re dragging their feet when it comes to modernized checkout processes. The Costco app does now have a digital membership card, but the only payment method you can currently add is the Costco Anywhere Visa Card — and you'll still have to wait in the checkout line.
Costco Is Stubborn
Costco also seems like a fairly stubborn company, one that’s reluctant to embrace change. We saw that with its slow and limited rollout of curbside pickup, which has since become standard at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Target, and Sam’s Club. Costco told CNN that curbside pickup didn’t make sense for the company because warehouses don’t have the space or resources to pull it off. When customers shop in a store, it’s also more likely that they’ll spend more on impulse buys.
Costco Is Worried About Theft
According to Redditors, Costco used to have a self-scan checkout, but it was discontinued “due to inventory loss.” That tracks. Think about Costco's policy to check receipts. While some Costco's do have self-checkout stations, they are notoriously "awful," according to customers. Because the warehouse is running on thin margins, a scan-and-go feature that leads to more theft and fraud could deal a significant blow to the warehouse’s bottom line.
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Does Costco Have Self-Checkout?
Yes, but customers (and Cheapism writers) say that Costco’s self-checkout is awful. According to members, inconsistent policies and rude employees are at the heart of the problem. Although some locations allow customers to use hand scanners, at others employees have snapped at members for using them at checkout. And some locations don’t have the machines at all.
To add insult to injury, customers are fed up that employees are asking to see membership cards at self-checkout, too. The whole experience gives members the impression that Costco doesn’t trust them.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the truth: If you shop at Costco, you’re going to have to wait in line. And given the retailer’s history with other innovations (or lack thereof), we don't think scan and go is coming anytime soon.