Woman Holding Receipt In Supermarket


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.

Costco is known for selling just about everything — from big-ticket electronics to pre-made food, produce, snacks, and alcohol — and for its generous return policy, allowing returns or refunds for most products, no receipt required. 

Having nearly 120 million customers worldwide proves the big-box retailer is popular, and stores get crowded with so much to see and taste. Shopping at Costco can be an all-day affair, and before you can go home there's often a line at the exit where employees check everyone's receipts. 

If you're wondering why Costco is so strict about this policy, you're not alone. As it turns out, Costco isn't checking receipts merely to prevent shoplifting. 

Gallery: Products Costco Will Take Back That Are a Pain to Return Anywhere Else

We did a deep dive to find out exactly what staff at the door look for when they check your receipt. 

@richytakara Why is Costco so strict about checking your receipt at the door? This is why! What else do you guys want to know? #costco #costcodeals #fyp #retail ♬ original sound - Richy.

It's Standard Practice

Aside from the obvious deterring of shoplifters, Costco's review of receipts confirms that you weren't overcharged or undercharged for an item — a final step in inventory control. The big-box retailer explains on its website why the policy is standard practice

"We do this to double-check that the items purchased have been correctly processed by our cashiers. It's our most effective method of maintaining accuracy in inventory control, and it's also a good way to ensure that our members have been charged properly for their purchases," the company says. 

Costco isn't the only retailer checking receipts at the exit — wholesalers such as Sam's Club and BJ's do the same. A Sam's Club representative wrote in a statement to Consumerist that the purpose of checking receipts is not to go over each item, bur rather to "ensure that all members are correctly charged for the merchandise purchased."

Inventory Control

If the main goal is to keep shoplifting at a minimum, how can employees determine what they must by just glancing quickly at your cart and highlighting your receipt? It would take too long to go through each item, and after a long day of shopping, it's understandable that you just want to load everything into a car and get home as quickly as possible. 

According to Business Insider, here's what former employees say they looked for for when checking receipts:

  • Codes that change daily, so employees know a receipt was actually printed that day.
  • An item count.
  • Jewelry, electronics, and any item over $300, which need a supervisor's signoff.
  • Large items such as paper towels and water in the bottom of the basket.

Tried and True

Costco edges out its rivals when it comes to theft prevention. According to CFO Richard Galanti, the warehouse chain's "shrinkage" amounted to just 0.11% to 0.12% of overall sales — significantly lower than the 1.33% other retailers reported in 2017, as estimated by the National Retail Federation. 

Costco's worldwide sales topped $195 billion in 2021. It's safe to say receipt-checking pays off.

Cheapism in the News