Costco members are apparently buying snorkels, flip-flops, and alcohol in Hawaii and returning them used or half-empty at the end of their vacation

Tim Boyle/Getty ImagesCostco is known for having a generous return policy.

  • Costco is known for having a very generous return policy. Members, who pay at least $US60 annually, can return almost any product at any time if they are not satisfied with it.
  • At least one Costco store in Hawaii has apparently been a target of vacationers making the most of the warehouse club’s return policy. Some people are bringing in beach gear, like snorkels and kayaks, that they had clearly used during their vacation.
  • Making frequent returns can actually jeopardize your membership status.

Costco‘s generous return policy allows members to bring back almost any item at any time without a receipt, though there are some exceptions.

It’s no secret that some members like to push the policy to its limits by returning such things as a Christmas tree in January, an already-eaten steak, or an empty bottle of wine.

At least one Costco store in Hawaii has apparently been a target of vacationers making the most of the warehouse club’s lenient return policy.

According to James Goldenetz – who retired to Maui four years ago and has been a Costco member for more than 30 years – it’s common to see visiting tourists return gear that they had clearly used during their vacation. Goldenetz said that his local store’s proximity to Kahului Airport makes it an ideal spot for visitors to pick up vacation gear before heading to their hotels or rental condos.

Used snorkels and half-empty bottles of vodka

Hawaii is known for being an expensive vacation destination, and most staples are imported into the island, driving up prices. Living expenses in Hawaii are also 88% higher than the national average, according to personal finance website MoneyRates.

Goldenetz said he has seen plenty of members return obviously used water-sports equipment such as kayaks or snorkels and masks, presumably after buying them just for their vacation.

“It’s almost comical,” Goldenetz said.

While it’s likely they’re returning these things to save money, it’s also possible that members’ local Costco stores don’t sell the gear you’d need for a tropical vacation. He said he’s seen tourists return everything from used flip-flops and sandals to half-drunk bottles of vodka. Members might buy a kayak for $US400 at Costco and return it one week later to save the weekly rental fee, he said.

“There should be a law against things like this,” he added.

Goldenetz said he has noticed that the employees in the store don’t question customers’ motives.

“They stand there with smiles and do it as part of their job,” he said.

Making too many returns could backfire

Costco MauiYelp/Brandon Z.Hawaiian shirts at a Costco store in Maui.

There are seven Costco stores across the Hawaiian islands. When Business Insider called two Costco stores in Hawaii, one on Maui and one on Oahu, the customer-service assistants would not comment on whether they see a higher level of returns from tourists. However, a customer-service assistant in Maui confirmed that this type of return does happen.

A Costco representative did not immediately return Business Insider’s request for comment on the practice.

On a TripAdvisor thread from 2013, one customer wrote openly about abusing the policy in the same Maui store that Goldenetz frequents.

“If you’re like me and occasionally lack morals with your Costco membership take advantage of the perks of paying that annual fee and their satisfaction guarantee no questions asked return policy on all of their products, just buy all your beach gear when you get there, use all the stuff as much as you want, and then just at the end of your stay bring it back to them,” the commenter wrote.

“You don’t need the original packaging or even a receipt since they keep everything on file in the computer with your account, just take it back and when the lady asks why you’re returning it just say, ‘It didn’t work as well I thought it would,'” the commenter continued, noting that they felt the amount they spent on groceries and membership fees in the past justified the practice.

This isn’t a foolproof plan, however. In August, Business Insider reported that there are some instances where Costco will cancel a membership if too many – or too many unsuitable – returns are made.

“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 spokesperson for Costco told Business Insider in August.

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