7 secrets I learned while working at Costco

Earlier this month, Costco made headlines for bumping up its minimum wage to at least $14 an hour. That’s great news for its 130,000 hourly workers, even if it’s not a huge surprise. The warehouse store has a reputation for treating its workers generously, a policy I observed while working there in 2015.

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7 secrets about Costco items
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7 secrets about Costco items

1. EMPLOYEES ENJOY PLENTY OF BENEFITS

Costco now sets its minimum wage for hourly employees at $14 an hour. That’s in addition to offering benefits like healthcare for all employees, regardless of part-time vs. full-time status.

While I was at Costco, they gave employees complimentary memberships to the store. Each employee also got a free turkey to enjoy with their families on Thanksgiving. And to top things off, Costco paid employees time and a half just for working on Sundays.

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2. COSTCO IS A GREAT DESTINATION FOR HEALTH FOOD

People who haven’t shopped at warehouse clubs might expect the “buy in bulk” mentality to mean the aisles are lined with junk food. While Costco does sell things like cookies and candy bars, there are plenty of healthy options, if that’s what you’re looking for. Greek yogurt, coconut water, protein powder, and lean meats are just some of the things that line the shelves at Costco. And the produce section is filled with delicious apples, bananas, berries, salads and more.

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3. IT’S NOT JUST FOR BIG FAMILIES, EITHER

When I tell friends I still shop at Costco, they don’t understand what my husband and I buy there, since we don’t have kids and live in a small New York apartment. But there are plenty of options for any family size, and it doesn’t mean you have to keep ten spare jars of tomato sauce in your pantry. Things like Kirkland Signature protein bars and olive oil are shelf stable for our small household. Cleaning supplies like kitchen sponges are sold in reasonably sized packages, too. It just depends what you’re looking for—but there’s no one demographic that’s more suited to shop there. These Costco shopping tips will save you a ton.

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4. COSTCO’S PIZZA IS THE REAL DEAL

If you find yourself eating at Costco’s food court, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by how great the food is. The pizzas are baked fresh in store with Kirkland Signature ingredients, and they don’t skimp on cheese and other toppings. The hot dog combo—just $1.50 for a hot dog and a soda—is also superb. The food court even offers fresh diced onions, in addition to mustard and ketchup, to top your dog. 

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5. PEOPLE REALLY DO BUY THAT FAMOUS GIANT BEAR

The giant teddy may seem like an Internet novelty, and plenty of people (myself included) have stopped to take photos with the 8-foot-tall friend. But I saw more than one person buy the giant stuffed animal—usually grandparents purchasing it as a gift for their grandkids. (I do wonder how they stuffed it into a car/cab to get home.)

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6. YOU CAN GO TO THE PHARMACY AS A NON-MEMBER

If you live near Costco and want to pick up your prescriptions there, you can do so without buying an annual membership to the club. But don’t think you can pull a fast one on the employee checking membership cards at the entrance—you can’t check out at Costco without a membership in your name. 

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7. COSTCO IS SELLING BLUE APRON MEAL KITS

I didn’t learn this one working at Costco—it’s a new initiative—but if you’re looking to save time on meal prep, this is worth knowing about. A handful of Costco stores on the West Coast are selling the Blue Apron kits, which make weeknight dinner prep way easier. Don’t miss the details! Plus, check out even more insider secrets Costco employees won’t tell you.

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In many ways, it’s as enjoyable a place to work as it is to shop. (But you can get these amazing perks if you shop there as a member.) Here are a few of the things I learned on my journey.

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Items to never get at Costco
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Items to never get at Costco

Protein powder, bars, or supplements

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Produce

A Costco worker from Idaho, an employee from Hawaii, and a worker from Minnesota, who added, "While our produce department is one of the best in the business, I personally don't eat veggies fast enough to buy in bulk."

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Tires

A Costco worker who just said they'd been working for the chain "too long"

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Packages of meat

A Costco employee from California, who added, "It's too much for my household."

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Mac and cheese

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Fruits

A Costco employee from Florida, who added, "They go bad very quickly."

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Baked goods

A Costco worker from Iowa, who added that the "packaging is just too big."

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Condoms

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Shoes

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Sushi

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Kirkland brand clothing

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The gallon-sized mayonnaise jars

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Salad

A Costco employee who's worked in 10 states, who added that, "I don't eat the huge quantity fast enough, then it rots. Waste of money."

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Any food you haven't tried before
 
A Costco employee from Illinois, who added, "Because then I'd have a six month supply."

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