18 Reasons Why Costco Is Such An Annoying Place to Shop

Join a Warehouse Club


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

The Membership Fee

We get it, we get it. The membership fee helps Costco keep prices low. But in this age of inflation, $60 just to be able to walk through the warehouse is a little steep (especially when rival Sam's Club only charges $50). Costco itself admits that membership increases typically happen every 5½ years, and the last increase was in June 2017. "We certainly feel very good about our member loyalty," Richard Galanti, Costco's chief financial officer, said in 2021 during an earnings call. "At some point, it'll happen. But stay tuned."

Related: Is the Costco Executive Membership Worth It?

Costco Shopping

Purchase Limits

Costco is the best place to stock up on essentials, and sometimes we want to go all out — especially when there's a good deal to be had. Alas, the warehouse club often places purchase limits on popular items, keeping us from fulfilling our true potential as hoarders. In 2021, Costco again limited the amount of toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning supplies that members could buy. The decision was based on two factors: the continued surge of COVID-19, and supply-chain issues that made it harder for warehouses to stay stocked up. 

Related: Costco, Trader Joe’s, Aldi: How Do They Stay So Cheap?

Costco Parking Lot

The Packed Parking Lot

There are never enough spots, and when you finally find one, it’s only empty because someone abandoned their double-wide cart in the middle of it. And don’t get us started on the cars that swoop into a recently vacated spot even though you’ve been waiting for two solid minutes with your blinker on.


Related: Types of People Who Shouldn’t Set Foot in Costco

Quality Products
a katz/shutterstock

The Massive Carts

Speaking of those carts: Yes, they’re a necessary evil when you need to pick up a 25-pound bag of rice or a crate of tomato sauce. But that doesn’t make it any more pleasant to steer these beasts through the aisles, especially when the store is busy. (And don’t even think about taking a corner too fast.)


For more great shopping tips, please sign up for our free newsletters

Costco by Meredith P. (CC BY-ND)

The Unlabeled Aisles

Good luck finding anything, first-timers. There are aisle numbers, but as for signs telling you where to find the cereal or paper towels? Nada. Even once you have a general idea of where to find the staples, the middle of the store may have anything from kayaks to Christmas trees depending on the time of year. All totally purposeful, of course: Costco wants you to wander, putting impulse buys in that giant cart before you glimpse a gallon of milk.


Related: How Companies Trick You Into Spending More Money

Costco by Patty Mooney (CC BY-NC)

The Pushy Sales People

You know the ones: They lurk in the electronics section, ready to sign you up for Comcast or AT&T or DirecTV. You may also encounter them further down the main aisles, demonstrating a fancy blender or a set of knives. Avert your eyes, or repeat after us: “Oh, I already have that! It’s great!” And above all else, keep walking.

Costco Wine
Trong Nguyen/shutterstock

The Limited Inventory

Costco is many things, but it’s rarely a one-stop shop. The average Costco carries only 4,000 products, while the Walmart Supercenter down the street may have 120,000. This is by design — Costco focuses on top sellers to keep inventory costs down — but sometimes we just want to choose from more than one type of cat food, or reliably find a bottle of jelly.

Clothing Finds
a katz/shutterstock

The Disappearing Products

So you found something you love at Costco? Congratulations! Just don’t say we didn’t warn you when it’s nowhere to be found next month. It’s all part of Costco’s grand plan, of course: The chain is ruthless about kicking products to the curb when they don’t sell fast enough, as well as making room for seasonal items or new finds to tempt frequent shoppers. Does it make sense? Yes. Do we like it? Not one bit.   

Inside Costco
a katz/shutterstock

The Outrageous Quantities

We’re well aware of the potential long-term savings, but bulk isn’t always best. (We’re looking at you, 55-gallon drum of Tunisian olive oil.) For instance, those 4-pound bags of grapes can be hard to get through unless you’re feeding a small army, and 1,000 tablets of ibuprofen might be overkill for all but the largest households. Even if you’ll use every bit of what you buy, you’ve got to have the room to store it — and be willing to pay the higher price upfront.


Related: Items Not to Buy in Bulk

TVs at Costco
Trong Nguyen/shutterstock

No Employees to Help

At other stores, there’s almost always an associate nearby who can steer you in the right direction, check in back to see if there’s more stock, or verify a price. At Costco, you’ll almost never see employees in the aisles. So make sure you have your phone ready to compare those big-screen TVs — it’s unlikely a worker will step in to help unless you doggedly flag one down.

Costco by Lisa Pinehill (CC BY-SA)

Deals That Aren’t Deals

Tempting as it is to believe you’re getting a rock-bottom price on everything — after all, why else pay the membership fee? — that’s not always the case. Cereal, eggs, soda, and even diapers are examples of popular items that frequently dip below Costco prices when they’re on sale elsewhere. And you can use manufacturer’s coupons to further your savings at the supermarket, but they’re no good at Costco.


Related: Things Not to Buy at Costco, Sam’s, or BJ’s

Costco Check out
Costco Check out by Michael Lehet (CC BY-ND)

The Long, Long Lines

Express lanes are commonplace in other stores, but you won’t find either one at Costco (though self-checkouts have been added to most stores). What you will find, especially on an average weekend day, are mind-bogglingly long lines, sometimes stretching to the rear of the warehouse. If you only came in for a few things, it’s enough to make you chug that 3-liter bottle of Prosecco on the spot. 

Costco Cart
Costco Cart by Susan Sermoneta (CC BY-NC-ND)

No Bags, Ever

Costco says it doesn’t offer bags for two reasons: First, they’re bad for the environment. Second, offering them would raise prices. If you get lucky, the checkout clerk may bundle your smaller items into a spare cardboard box, but don’t be surprised if your jug of olive oil manages to leak all over that brand new sweater on the ride home. (Aldi is another store that eschews bags, but at least it does offer them for a small fee.)

Why Costco Switched to Visa
Tang Yan Song/shutterstock

They Only Take Visa

Costco newbies are easy to spot: They’re the ones flipping out at checkout when they find out they can’t pay with their Mastercard, Discover, or American Express. Costco’s sweetheart deal with Visa means it pays lower merchant fees in exchange for refusing the competition. Still, that’s cold comfort if you’re suddenly stuck paying with debit or writing a check when you hadn’t planned on it.


Related: 20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Costco

Strong Customer Service
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The Receipt Check

Supposedly, Costco’s infamous receipt check is to make sure shoppers aren’t being overcharged, not to catch shoplifters. Be that as it may, it still makes us feel like criminals, and waiting in yet another line after we just got done checking out is especially irritating. 

No Large-Item Delivery
No Large-Item Delivery by Barry Lancaster (CC BY-NC)

No Large-Item Delivery

Costco can offer amazing deals on big buys like swanky sectionals, dining sets, sheds, even gazebos and greenhouses. But if you think they’re gonna deliver, bless your heart. They’ll set aside your purchase, but then it’s up to you to rent a U-Haul or hire some sort of third-party delivery service to get your purchase home. 


No Curbside Pickup

Walmart has it, Target has it, Kroger has it, even rival Sam’s Club has it. But our dream of simply pulling into Costco’s parking lot and waiting for a clerk to schlep out our toilet paper and bottled water remains stubbornly unfulfilled, except for at a few stores where the service is being tested. We’re sure you can guess one of the main reasons: If you don’t come into the store, you won’t buy all the things you don’t need

Costco Website
Costco Website by m01229 (CC BY)