Costco: 7 Hidden Money Traps

Costco’s numbers are downright impressive. The warehouse chain generated $192 billion in sales in fiscal 2021 at its 836 stores, of which nearly 700 are in the United States and Canada. The membership store has 116.6 million cardholders and 195,000 employees in US stores. Obviously, Costco is doing one thing right.

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Although known for its delicious – and inexpensive – rotisserie chicken, Costco gives customers plenty of reasons to sign up for a membership and do the bulk of their shopping there. Think volume discounts, unique items, and great prices on things like tires.

But Costco has also come up with a few tricks along the way to ensure you put a few more things in your cart than you plan on each shopping trip.

What are some of Costco’s hidden money traps?

Store Layout

Many of Costco’s ways of enticing you to spend more are based on the store’s layout, putting you in touch with products you never thought to buy on your trip to buy dairy and frozen pizza. The layout leads to instant purchases like a cute jack-o’-lantern in the seasonal section next to the dairy counter.

If you can’t resist his toothless grin and suddenly decide to buy Jack, you’re not alone. A 2022 survey by Slickdeals showed that the average person spends $314 per month on impulse purchases. That’s an increase from $276 in 2021 and $183 a year earlier.

moving stock

A 2020 article by Reader’s Digest titled “25 Secrets Costco Employees Won’t Tell You” shares the following information: Costco employees relocate merchandise frequently, so you’ll have to look around to find it.

The salad dressing you bought four weeks ago may not be in the same place when you go to buy it again next week. By having to search for a salad dressing, you might come across something new you didn’t think you’d buy and throw it in your cart.


Store Front

As Reader’s Digest reports, Costco puts some of its more expensive products at the front of the store and puts their products at the back of the store at the best prices. Front-of-store items may be on your wish list down the road, but not in today’s budget. Costco says you can’t resist the merchandise up front and toss it in your basket. With an average store size of 146,000 square feet, you’ll pass by many attractive items.

And About Basket

Costco sells things that come in big boxes — dishes or pots and pans sets for starters — that your local supermarket doesn’t, so it makes sense for Costco to have larger carts. And it has been for a while. A 2013 report from a San Diego television station said Costco is launching newer, larger shopping carts that feature an enlarged shelf between the main compartment and the bottom. The cars were also three inches longer. Customers also reported that the cars were lighter and easier to maneuver.

More room in the basket means more room to fill it. Who wants to walk out of Costco with a car that looks empty?

Limited Time Purchase

Costco isn’t lying or faking when it says something is only available for a limited time. It’s not like the corner shop with the “going out of business” sign for three years. When Costco brings items for a limited time only, it notifies you. What matters is how you process this information. For example, if the item is a soccer ball and the price looks great and you’re thinking of getting your kids a soccer ball for Christmas, buy it now to keep the deal. It probably won’t be there the next time you shop at Costco.

Limited Selection

Costco sells a variety of items – but the selection of each item is limited. Your local Destination may have 20 types of body washes, while Costco will have less than a handful. Because you’re already there, you’ll get what Costco has on the shelf, even if it costs less at Target.

Basic View

Costco customers know it for its basic warehouse look, which consists of concrete floors, stacked pallets, metal shelves and a lack of luxury. Reader’s Digest revealed in a 2022 report that this is also part of the plan. The unpretentious appearance suggests to the shopper’s brain that the savings should be passed on to consumers, as the store doesn’t spend heavily on fancy lighting fixtures or hardwood floors. The game of the mind can lead to increased purchases.

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This article was originally published on Costco: 7 Hidden Money Traps