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13 Costco Tips Frequent Shoppers Keep to Themselves

Because not everyone can be an expert.

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KONSKIE, POLAND - JUNE 17, 2018: Groupon - Shop Deals, Discounts and Coupons app on Google Play Store website displayed on Huawei Y6 2018 smartphone
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Look out for Groupon specials

If you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to a full-priced Costco membership, wait for one to go on sale. The warehouse partners with Groupon about once a year to provide discounted Gold Star memberships. This year’s deal included $20 in Costco Cash and $65 in coupons. The memberships sell quickly though, so set up a Google alert for “Costco” and “Groupon” to make sure you get first dibs. Once you’re in the club, you’ll want to know these 5 awesome perks for Costco members.

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Earns Costco, Glendale, USA
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Chose wisely between memberships

Once you commit to purchasing a Costco membership, you’ll need to decide which tier of membership you’d like to buy: gold star ($60 a year) or executive ($120 a year). The most exciting perk that comes with the executive membership is that it gets you 2 percent cash back annually. That means you’ll have to spend $3,000 a year to make the card pay for itself.

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close up of various meat in a supermarket

Ask for a chub of beef

One of the most important things frequent shoppers know about Costco is that it pays to ask for what you want. Often, the butcher and bakery workers are happy to see what they can do. This works for getting cheap ground beef too. “For extra lean (and cheap) ground beef, ask the meat department for a 10lb chub,” writes one Reddit user who works at the store. “We sell our regular ground beef (88/12 percent) for $3.49 a pound. The way we make it is we take our fat trimmings from cutting steaks and mix it with the chubs to bring up the fat content and increase our profits. The 10lb chubs are probably sitting around 5 percent – 8 percent fat and only cost $2.99 a pound! You’ll have to ask for these specifically as we don’t normally put them out for sale.”

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Liquor Privatization Washington, Seattle, USA
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Buy alcohol without a membership

Many states prohibit any establishment from requiring membership to purchase alcohol. That includes Costco too. Simply tell the storefront attendant you’re there to buy alcohol and they should let you straight through. When you get to the checkout counter you’ll have to tell that worker as well—but it’ll all be worth it when you see the deal you’re getting. Make sure you live in one of the following states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas, or Vermont.

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Costco, Plano, USA
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Shop with a friend

Because the majority of savings you’ll achieve at Costco come from buying in bulk, it doesn’t hurt to go in on purchases with a shopping buddy. For example, the two of you could buy a duo of peanut butter and each take one home. Or combine shopping lists and split the bill—as well as the membership fee.

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Smiling saleswoman assisting couple in buying meat at butcher's shop
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Ask if you can’t find something

One way Costco gets you to spend more is by consistently moving things around the store. After all, the more time you spend looking for something, the more opportunity for you to see other items you “need.” Get around this by simply asking where your favorite brands are located. “Things that don’t require refrigeration tend to get moved a ton,” writes one Reddit user. “So I would always ask before giving up or spending 45 minutes wandering around.”

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VARIOUS Model Released - Woman with free samples in grocery store

But don’t ask a food demo person

We all know and love the food demonstrators at Costco. But when it comes to directions, look for a different employee to ask. Demonstrators aren’t allowed to leave their post, and must consistently monitor their samples to answer any allergy-related questions. Looking for new brands to try? These are the 15 foods nutritionists always buy at Costco.

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Phoenix, Arizona, USA - February 21, 2016: Costco Business Center in Phoenix. Costco Wholesale Corporation is a membership-only store and second largest retailer in the United States.

Try a Costco Business Center

Wish you could do your shopping before work? You’re probably out of luck with most Costco Wholesale stores, which tend to open at 10 a.m. But if you live near a Costco Business Center you might have an easier time. These stores cater to business owners (although they’re open to everyone!) and open earlier, around 7 a.m. They’re also organized more straightforwardly, to cater to buyers who need to get in and out as fast as possible.

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Water Soft drinks carbonated vending machine in restaurant shop soft focus

Take some ice to go

Forgot your insulated grocery bag at home and nervous your perishables won’t make the trip? It’s easy to DIY one. Simply fill a regular bag with ice from the Costco food court soda fountain. It’s totally allowed, says one Reddit user who works at the store. Here’s how to skip the food court line at Costco.

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Earns Costco, Mountain View, USA
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Buy seasonal early

If you’ve made it your personal mission to never buy Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, you might be out of luck when it comes to snagging deals on Costco’s ornaments and trees. “Our philosophy on the seasonal items is to be the first in, first out,” Costco manager Robert Kyle told Epircurious. “We’ll be totally out of Christmas by mid-December. Our members are somewhat trained to know that if you see something, you should buy it.” The goal here, of course, is to have enough time to sell out the seasonal products completely in order to keep costs down.

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Retail Sales, Mountain View, USA
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Get first dibs on chickens

If you hear a bell sound near the Costco deli, that means fresh rotisserie chickens have just been put out. Better get there quick, as they tend to sell out fast. And don’t worry: You’re never in danger of buying a chicken that’s been sitting out all day. Stores are required to remove them from the display after two hours. Here are 6 secrets about Costco’s chickens.

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A man steadies a chicken with one hand as he cuts with the other
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Get the meat you want

Never finish an entire rotisserie chicken on your own? Ask the butcher to cut one into halves or quarters. Want a thicker cut of meat than what’s on display? Request that too. Whether or not the butcher is able to accommodate your request is likely dependent on how busy things are. But again: It never hurts to ask.

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SEATTLE, WA, US-JUL 28, 2015:Customer shopping for supplements and multivitamin at Costco Wholesale big-boxes store. The largest membership-only warehouse club in USA with total of 705 warehouses
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Shop on weekends for snacks

Because weekends are when the stores get the most foot traffic, that’s when you’ll find the most food demonstrators. However, if your goal is to avoid the crowds, try visiting just after the store opens, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., or within 45 minutes of closing time on a weekday, longtime store manager Jon Van Guilder told Business Insider. Next up, learn 15 more Costco secrets employees won’t tell you.