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10 Things Polite People Don’t Do at Costco

Take notes from the experts on Costco shopping etiquette everyone should follow.

costco outsideTrong Nguyen/Shutterstock

Rude people squash the magic of Costco

Shopping at Costco isn’t a chore, it’s an experience. That is unless you’re shopping with lots of rude people in the same location. Click on for Costco etiquette tips and the things polite people never do at your favorite warehouse store.


costcoAlastair Wallace/Shutterstock

Ignore greeters

Polite people always acknowledge the greeter at the Costco entrance and the exit, according to Bonnie Tsai, the Founder and Director of Beyond Etiquette. “It’s important to remember they are just like us and would like acknowledgement, whether it’s a nod, smile, or saying ‘hello,’ or ‘have a nice day,'” Tsai says. If you’re extra nice to them, they might just fill you in on one of the many secrets Costco employees aren’t telling you.

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Hog samples

One of the secrets Costco’s free sample employees wish you knew is that it’s OK to come back for another free sample. It is impolite, however, to take more than one at a time. Although it’s tempting to grab five or six tasty samples, remember there are also others waiting for a nibble, too, Tsai says. 

costcoTrong Nguyen/Shutterstock

Or touch them all

Another habit that polite Costco shoppers don’t have is touching all the food samples. “Polite people enjoy the food samples without sticking their fingers in them in such a way as to spoil the sample,” Emilie Dulles, who has more than 29 years of experience in traditional etiquette, says. “Polite people remember that the samples are small bites and not a meal replacement.” Don’t abuse the free sample stations at Costco or any of the best grocery stores for free samples.

costco parking lotEdgar Lee Espe/Shutterstock

Leave carts in the parking lot

Parking lots are for cars, not carts. It doesn’t take that much extra time to walk your cart to one of the corrals, and leaving your cart in the middle of the lot is something only rude people do. It may be tempting to ditch the cart on a curb or island near your car rather than roll it back after you’ve loaded your purchases, Tsai says. But your laziness forces the staff to spend more time walking around collecting carts, and less time offering carts to the next customers that are waiting. This is one of the rudest things you need to stop doing at the grocery store and Costco.

costco aislesSandeep.Mishra/Shutterstock

Or leave carts in the middle of the aisle

Hands down, the most thoughtful thing polite people do at Costco is mind their cart. “So many people seem to be oblivious to where they leave their cart,” Jenna Coleman, a consumer behavior analyst in the grocery sector and founder of Particular Pantry, says. There’s always someone blocking an entire lane while walking back to pick up an item they forgot. “In truth, we’ve all done it, but you can tell some people don’t care that their choice is impacting other shoppers,” Coleman says. An easy solution is to simply park your cart to the right of the aisle if you stop so that people can pass. There’s something to be said for ditching a grocery cart altogether, given these supermarket tricks.

costco shoppingCassiohabib/Shutterstock

Leave items in the wrong place

Sometimes the full-size bags of a food sample end up in your cart. If you realize buying multiple jars of fancy peanut butter isn’t really in your budget, it’s fine not to buy them. But please, put them back where you found them in the store. “Even though I don’t work there, it drives me crazy, ” Coleman says. “Please be respectful to the employees who work hard to keep the store and inventory organized and to the other shoppers who don’t want to figure out what to do with the bananas you discarded in the clothing section.” Although there are differences between Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s, you should put things back where they came from no matter where you shop.

costco jeans displayArne Beruldsen/Shutterstock

Ruin displays

Polite people remember that Costco pricing is low because they sell things in high volume, and they also keep their staff to a smaller number than a higher-end store, Dulles says. “This means that polite people will leave the displays as intact as possible,” she says. Fold a shirt after looking at it, put a book back on the right stack, or return any packaged goods to its original location if you don’t want to buy it. In short, polite people shop conscientiously and don’t leave a mess in their wake. People who don’t do this are probably also guilty of these bad habits that Costco shoppers should really stop doing.

costco checkoutTada Images/Shutterstock

Hold up the line

It’s rude to unload your groceries knowingly planning to run back into the aisles to grab a few more things. The entire process is much more efficient if you only unload items onto the belt after you finish shopping, according to Dulles. Waiting for someone to come back after leaving the line not only bothers other shoppers waiting to checkout, but it’s one of the things that frustrate grocery store employees, too.

grocery freezer doorsNiloo/Shutterstock

Keep freezer doors open

Have some manners when you browse the frozen section of Costco. Browse your options with the door closed, and only open it when you’re ready to buy a product or read the packaging, Dulles says. “It’s rude to keep freezer doors open too long as the difference in temperature fogs up the glass doors, making it harder to see the products after the fact,” she adds. Make sure you pick up some of the best frozen foods you could buy from Costco.

costco cardZikG/Shutterstock

Take forever to show the Costco card

Costco members know that they need to show their membership card every time they enter the store. Polite people are a step ahead and have their card out of their wallet before getting out of the car, Coleman says. “Please also understand that this is a storewide policy, and the employee checking your card at the front door is trying to protect your membership and not annoy you,” Coleman says. Even if you don’t have a card, there are still plenty of things you can do without a Costco membership.

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.