Never Buy These 8 Things at Costco, Experts Warn
Retail pros advise against making these shopping mistakes when looking for deals.
For some fans of Costco, shopping at the warehouse chain can be a little too tempting. That is, the sprawling aisles and impressive-seeming price points can entice shoppers into making impulsive purchasing decisions. But sometimes deals that look too good to be true actually are, which is why you shouldn't give in to every retail urge. Read on to discover what retail experts say you should never buy at Costco.
Name-brand items when Kirkland is available
"The Kirkland Signature items are just as good if not better than their name-brand counterparts," says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with the shopping comparison site DealNews.com, "In fact, I'm still sad that our Costco stopped carrying Kirkland Signature chocolate hazelnut spread because it was leagues better than Nutella in my opinion."
Ramhold also points to the rumors about who really makes certain Kirkland products. For example, you may have heard that their Vodka is the same as Grey Goose, that their coffee is made by Starbucks, or that big-name chefs love their olive oil. "And that may be true, but all I know is that when given a choice I always opt for the Kirkland Signature brand over the name brand," adds Ramhold.
The Rotisserie chickens
We know this one hurts for a lot of die-hard Costco fans. After all, the rotisserie chickens have dark, crispy skin and juicy meat and are only $5. But according to Consumer Reports, there's a reason they're so cheap.
In early 2021, animal rights group Mercy for Animals released a video of a Costco chicken farm in Nebraska, which "showed swollen, injured, and deformed chickens living in a crowded, darkened warehouse," per Consumer Reports.
After much public outcry, Mercy for Animals asked the company to sign the Better Chicken Commitment that sets standards for animal welfare, sustainability, and food quality. Though competitor BJ's, along with other companies like Burger King and Subway, have signed it, Costco refused.
And if it affects your decision, celebrity chef David Chang has called it "the worst rotisserie chicken," reported Eat This, Not That! "They're not good. They're not seasoned," he added on his podcast in Jan. 2023.
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Ask yourself whether those over-the-counter medications are really as good of a deal as they appear. "That blister pack of two huge bottles of fish oil or multivitamins is a great deal, but before purchasing, give some thought to how quickly you will use them," advises smart shopping expert Trae Bodge. "If several people in your home are taking the same supplement, do it! But if it's just you, those pills might reach their use-by date before you can use them all."
And when you end up having to throw out a portion of the bulk-size bottle, you haven't saved anything in the end. "If you have a big family, or even chronic pain, then keeping a bulk-size bottle of things like Tylenol may make sense," concurs Ramhold. "However, if you're not taking it very often, then the odds are good that the medicine will likely expire before you use it all. And then you'll have to dispose of it, and you won't have saved much, if anything, in the long run."
Costco's sampling opportunities are typically among customers' favorite reasons for shopping there. But beware of impulsively dropping these items into your cart.
"You might like that tasty morsel in the tiny paper cup enough to toss a case in your cart, but don't do so before reading the box," explains Bodge. "Prepared foods can often be high in calories, fat, and sodium, so get better acquainted before buying."
Similarly, Bodge says to think twice before buying bulk amounts of snacks. "When you're strolling the aisles of Costco, those giant tubs of cheese curls or pretzels can be tempting!" she says. "These snacks are typically a good deal from a price perspective, especially if you have several people eating them at home or if you're planning a party, but if it's just you and your partner or roommate at home, they can go stale before you have a chance to finish the container or lead to overindulging."
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"Unless you have a big family or are a heavy user of said items, much of the perishable items you buy [at Costco] will only end up in the trash," advises Pam Danziger, market researcher and founder of Unity Marketing. "Who wants to dip into a mayonnaise jar that is six months old?"
As an alternative, Danziger personally shops for these items at Aldi, especially fruits and vegetables. "Aldi offers excellent quality at great prices but in useable-sized quantities."
While Costco's prices on baby supplies may seem too good to pass up, "buying too many baby supplies can be a mistake," Bodge says. "Is your rapidly growing baby really going to fit that diaper size for the amount of time it'll take to reach the bottom of the box? Or how about formula? You feel like you're going through it like water until you realize that it's time to introduce solid food or your baby decides that they no longer like the brand you bought a case of."
Costco has a book section, but experts say it's far from the ideal place to shop for these items. "Costco generally has a small selection of books that cover a wide variety of genres, so it can be harder to find exactly what you're looking for," Ramhold says. "You're better off shopping dedicated bookstores like Barnes & Noble, or Books-A-Million, or even better, supporting small indie bookshops."