No more freebies: Costco cracks down on food court access

Mar 26, 2024, 9:21 AM

costco food court...

Customers shop at a Costco Wholesale store on December 15, 2023. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Getting a $1.50 hot dog and soda combo deal at Costco is officially becoming a members-only perk.

The retail giant is reportedly restricting food court access in the latest move to ensure only paying members enjoy Costco’s in-store prices and products.

A photo recently posted on Reddit has caught attention nationwide. It’s of a sign posted at a store in Orlando, Florida, which read, “effective April 8, 2024, an active Costco membership card will be required to purchase items from our food court. You can join today. Please see our membership counter for details.”

More from Costco: Costco policing memberships to limit card sharing

Costco said food court access has always required a membership. However, enforcement of that policy has varied across store locations. In 2020, multiple media outlets reported the company expanded it to outdoor food courts, which previously did not require a Costco card.

Costco has long been known for leniency with non-member visitors. Typically, only active members have been able to purchase products (with Costco cards verified by a cashier at checkout). But in the past, those who have already joined Costco have been allowed to bring in up to two guests, who can browse, sample, and enjoy a food court snack.

Previously, a common “hack” for non-members would be to use self-checkout to make purchases, thereby avoiding having the card physically inspected by an employee in regular checkout.

Now, Costco workers are stationed at self-checkout in many locations, monitoring every purchase and matching each membership card against a photo ID. And it appears the food court will be employing the same techniques.

More from Costco: Financial expert believes Costco’s 1-ounce gold bars are a ‘mug’s game’

Costco also appears to be ramping up scrutiny of who walks in and out of the store doors. Previously, a shopper could flash a Costco card at the entrance (which may or may not be borrowed) to gain access.

Last summer, the warehouse retailer announced it will now more closely examine the cards and photograph of the cardholder on them, before allowing people to enter the store.

“We don’t feel it’s right that nonmembers receive the same benefits and pricing as our members,” the company wrote in a prepared statement at the time.

In its latest escalation, Costco is testing out a system that requires members to scan their membership cards at the store entrance. Reddit users in Washington state posted a photo in January at the club’s Issaquah store that appears to show the new scanners in action.

More from Kate Stone: ‘Oso Strong’ memorial completed 10 years after deadly landslide

A significant piece of Costco’s earnings comes from membership fees, according to the company’s quarterly earnings report. The retailer currently charges $60 a year for annual memberships and $120 a year for its higher-tier plan, called the Executive Membership. Costco membership cards are non-transferable, but the company allows members to give a second household card to one other person in their home. According to Statista, a global data and business intelligence platform, the company made $4.58 billion in membership fees last year.

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

MyNorthwest News

Hwy 20 closed...

Bill Kaczaraba

North Cascades Hwy. closed near Diablo Lake due to wildfire

A wildfire has forced the closure of SR 20 west at milepost 158, a Washington Department of Transportation post on X said.

18 minutes ago

A fire in a tiny home village on Thursday, July 18, 2024 has displaced multiple residents in Seattl...

Steve Coogan

Fire damages dozens of tiny homes in Seattle

The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) is investigating the cause of a major fire that damaged dozens of tiny homes early Thursday.

3 hours ago

Image: Red and white reflective stripes are being added to Washington State Department of Transport...

Chris Sullivan

Going green isn’t what you think when it comes to WSDOT safety

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is tired of people plowing into trucks and is taking a green approach.

3 hours ago

seattle officer auderer...

Jason Rantz

Seattle officer caught laughing after Kandula’s death has been fired

Seattle Police Department Office Dan Auderer has been fired by Interim Chief Sue Rahr.

17 hours ago

Photo: Thousands of members of Boeing's Machinist Union met at T-Mobile Park Wednesday to decide wh...

James Lynch

Boeing machinists vote overwhelmingly to authorize a strike

Thousands of members of Boeing's Machinist Union met at T-Mobile Park Wednesday to decide whether to authorize a strike vote.

18 hours ago

Image: Jury member Lily Gladstone attends the Chopard Trophy event at the 77th annual Cannes Film F...

The MyNorthwest staff with wire reports

Nominated again: Lily Gladstone up for Emmy for ‘Under The Bridge’

The year of Washington's Lily Gladstone continues on as the actress received an Emmy nomination Wednesday for her work in "Under the Bridge."

18 hours ago

No more freebies: Costco cracks down on food court access