Did You Know

There's Actually A Reason Costco Checks Your Receipt, And It's Not To See If You're Stealing

Flickr - Mike Mozart/Yelp

Have you ever wondered why Costco checks your receipt at the end of your visit? It can be annoying to wait in line to get it checked after you've already waited in line to pay for everything, but it always happens that way.

I just assumed that Costco is checking to make sure you're not stealing anything, although it's not like they do a fully intensive review as they look over your cart. But it turns out that's because they're not actually looking to see if you're shoplifting. Well, at least that's not the only reason.

Alex Barrett, a former Costco employee, revealed that the reason your receipt gets checked at end of your shopping trip isn't really to see if you're stealing, but rather to make sure you weren't overcharged for something you bought.

"Surprisingly, in my 12 years working at Costco, the receipt checkers prevented theft at the door by checking a receipt a grand total of zero times," Alex wrote. "They did, however, discover a discrepancy on a receipt about two times an hour. Either an overcharge (customer paid for one item twice) or an undercharge (customer didn't pay for an item)."

Another former Costco employee, identified only as David, spoke with Consumerist about his experience checking receipts at the chain. He echoed Alex's statements.

To my mind it's really not just to stop people from stealing. I hardly ever saw people that had items that had not been paid for. Literally maybe once or twice in a month of working the door. We would catch hundreds of dollars a week in overcharges, though.

Imagine if you're shopping at Costco and you bought a giant can of Nestle Quik (this actually happened once) but got charged twice for it. That's another $10. In that case we would either get a supervisor to refund your money, or send someone out onto the floor to get another can of Nestle Quik.

With the kind of volume Costco does errors are frequent and sometimes just can't be helped. The scanners are so sensitive that it's really easy to accidentally scan something twice and not notice.

The exit door procedure I would usually follow was to check the receipt for multiples of the same item and make sure they were there. If they didn't have a lot of items in the cart we would just look at the "Total number of items" shown on the bottom of the receipt, count the number of items in the cart and make sure that matched.

We weren't trained to catch shoplifting, we were trained to make sure that people were not being overcharged. During the time I spent receipt checking I probably caught well over $1000 in overcharges.

And if you wanted to leave the store without showing your receipt? Well then be ready to hand over your membership. It's clearly stated in the membership terms and conditions that you have to show your receipt.

To ensure that all members are correctly charged for the merchandise purchased, all receipts and merchandise will be inspected as you leave the warehouse.

One guy, named Timothy Walls, really didn't want his receipt checked, and it ended in a physical altercation. Walls "became so upset when the employee stopped him that he picked up the worker by his shirt collar and shoved him against a pillar," store officials said.

Walls ended up breaking his leg in two places after another employee tripped him, and he required surgery. He racked up $100,000 in medical bills and eventually sued Costco for $610,000, including over $500,000 in "pain and suffering."

A jury deliberated for two hours, and awarded Walls nothing.

[H/T: Cheat Sheet, Oregon Live]

Moral of the story: just show the Costco employee your receipt. It could save you money.

Donna loves spending time in front of the TV catching up on dramas, but in the summer you'll find her in the garden.