Costco's Generous Return Policy Could Get Your Membership Revoked, Shoppers Claim

The warehouse retailer can penalize shoppers who take advantage of the store's leniency.

Costco holds a special place in our hearts for being a great source of bulk necessities, but the store undoubtedly has plenty of other perks that make it even more special. Thanks to small touches like unbeatable deals at the food court and the free samples in each aisle, customers are usually willing to justify the annual membership fee required to shop there. But while the retailer is known for going the extra mile to do what's best for its customers, there are still a few ways you can end up in hot water with management. And according to some shoppers, you can even have your membership revoked if you take advantage of Costco's generous return policy. Read on to see why you shouldn't abuse this one customer perk.

READ THIS NEXT: 8 Warnings to Shoppers From Ex-Costco Employees.

Costco is relatively lenient with what customers are allowed to bring back to the store for a refund.

Costco Wholesale Location. Costco Wholesale is a Multi-Billion Dollar Global Retailer

We've all made purchases that haven't lived up to our expectations or were ultimately unnecessary for one reason or another. Fortunately for Costco shoppers, the store's famously generous return policy can make getting your money back on items like these easier.

According to the company's website, members are protected by a "risk-free 100 percent satisfaction guarantee" that covers practically everything—including the cost of memberships themselves. The company makes some exclusions to the broad rule, limiting certain high-ticket electronic items such as appliances, TVs, computers, tablets, cameras, and more to 90 days from their date of purchase. Diamonds over one carat are also limited to just a 48-hour window for return, while other items, such as cigarettes and alcohol, are excluded outright based on local state laws.

And thanks to your membership, the process can be even easier than at other stores. Since all purchases are recorded and linked to individual member accounts, customers don't need to go through the hassle of locating an old receipt for proof of purchase when they bring an item back.

"Simply bring the product to any Costco warehouse and our Member Services Team will be happy to assist you," Costco writes on its customer service page. "It helps if you have the receipt or original product packaging, but it may not be necessary to process your return." But while this service can make your life a lot easier, it can also be used to sever your relationship with the store.

You can end up getting your Costco membership revoked if you abuse the store's return policy.

costco wholesale membership card

Some Costco customers might assume the closest someone can come to taking advantage of the store's generosity is hovering over the sample stations a little too long. But according to the company, you can actually get your membership revoked if you try to abuse the lenient return policy, Business Insider reports.

While the store's website doesn't specify what types of actions can result in losing shopping privileges, a representative for the company says it could come down to an in-store decision. "In the event a member is not satisfied with Costco merchandise, the membership fees may be refunded and the membership canceled. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis and is at the discretion of each location manager. Additionally, memberships may be canceled due to abuse of the Member Privileges and Conditions," a Costco spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement.

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Some shoppers have reported cases where the warehouse retailer canceled their membership.

A view of the membership counter at a local Costco store.

There's at least one example of the kind of behavior that could get your Costco card pulled. In 2018, former customer Maryam Nicksolat said that her membership was canceled after she attempted to return a printer she had purchased eight years earlier, Business Insider reports.

Even though the device is not one of the products explicitly mentioned in the store's 90-day policy, Nicksolat said that the store manager at the location denied the return after noticing that she had brought back too many items in the past. But after contacting the company through its customer service line, Nicksolat was then informed by Costco representatives that her membership was being canceled and that she would be refunded for the printer, its ink, and that year's annual membership fee, according to Business Insider.

"It is apparent from a review of your membership account that you are not happy with the products you have purchased from Costco, and we are unable to satisfy you as a member," Jeff Long, senior vice president of Northeast operations for Costco, wrote in a letter to Niksolate following up on the incident.

Other members have experienced similar issues with returns.

exterior of a Costco Wholesale location
Nambaman / Shutterstock

While an aging printer may sound like a blatant attempt to cheat the system, other Costco customers have said they've encountered issues trying to make seemingly acceptable returns. In a Reddit thread discussing the store's policy, one user wrote that they were threatened with having their membership revoked after trying to return luggage that broke not too long after purchase. The issue started when store associates looked up the item and realized they were sold three years earlier, not the year prior, as the customer believed.

"I tried to explain I didn't realize they were that old and that I was good not returning, but she proceeded to read me the riot act and tell me that I was abusing the system," the user wrote about an interaction with a manager. "They were going to take my return this time but were putting a note in my file that if I ever returned anything this old again, I would have my membership terminated."

Another Reddit user reported a similar situation involving an attempt to return a faucet. In this instance, the customer was accused of bringing the item back to a different store than where it was originally purchased. And even though they eventually sorted out the issue with their membership intact, the experience left the shopper frustrated.

"I'm honestly pretty peeved this ordeal even happened," the customer wrote. "It was pretty much my word against the membership manager even with the so-called 'camera' recording returns."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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