The wildest returns people have tried to make at Costco, according to employees

Orin Zebest/Flickr‘We’ve seen it all,’ one employee told Business Insider.
  • Costco has a particularly generous returns policy.
  • It’s not unheard of for members to get away with returning gross or old items, although consistent fraud could prompt the company to terminate a person’s membership.
  • Costco employees say that members occasionally take advantage of the policy to a ridiculous degree.

Costco has an infamously generous return policy.
And there’s a reason for that. One former Costco manager explained the reasoning behind the policy, telling Business Insider that the “liberal return policy” creates a sense of confidence in members.

“They know that if it does not meet expectations they can return it,” the ex-manager said. That confidence then prompts them to shop and spend more.

What’s more, the former manager said that, despite the horror stores, “this policy is not taken advantage of as much as you might think.”

“Being a membership club, the members have a vested interest through their membership fees to follow the rules,” the manager said. “Sales and returns are tracked and fraud is easy to spot. In these cases, memberships are canceled. Many times members would have rather me call the police than cancel their membership when caught shoplifting or committing return fraud.”

That being said, most Costco employees have at least one or two stories about particularly bizzare returns.

“We’ve seen it all,” one employee told Business Insider.

Here’s a few of the wildest things that members have tried to exchange at the Costco returns desk:


Mostly devoured food

Costco is known for its generous return policy. According to employees, members can even get away with returning mostly eaten food.

A Costco employee of 12 years told Business Insider that they wanted customers to “stop bringing half-eaten food and saying it was bad.”

They added that they’d seen shoppers return bones that had been picked clean, offering the explanation that the “meat was no good” but that “they had to feed their family something.”

And a different employee of the warehouse chain described seeing members bring back “all-eaten pies or baked goods” and claim that they hadn’t liked the food.

So what happens to the food that Costco members return? In most cases, it must be discarded.

A Kentucky-based employee told Business Insider, “We end up having to throw the food away because it can’t be resold if it left the building.”

The employee cited frequent excuses, like members claiming to have “bought the wrong thing,” “overbought” for their party, or even purchased a product “on impulse.”


Loose flooring materials

An employee who has worked at the warehouse store for 12 years said they once saw customers “bringing back a load of flooring – and I mean a load – in pieces. Not even in the boxes.”


Stinky, used clothing

One employee told Business Insider that they have seen members get a refund on “smelly socks.”


Purchases from way back when …

Costco doesn’t have a time-sensitive return policy, and some members certainly take advantage of that.

A California-based Costco employee told Business Insider that they have seen people return products “that are 10 years old and ‘just stopped working.'”


… like ancient mattresses …

Another Costco employee told Business Insider about customers who returned a “10-year-old mattresses.”

Another employee from California said that members frequently abused the warehouse chain’s “incredible return system” by hauling in old items “stained mattresses.”


… old toilets and household appliances …

One Costco employee described how a woman returned two dirty, five-year-old toilets to their warehouse.

“She said she didn’t need them anymore,” the employee said. “She didn’t even clean them. I’m embarrassed that we ended up taking them back, but we did make her take them outside and clean them before we did.”

Two Costco employees from Ohio and California also described seeing customers return “a 10-year-old vacuum” and a “20-year-old refrigerator,” respectively.


… and long-dead vegetation

A Costco employee from Illinois reported witnessing members successfully return dead trees and plants to the store. A different Costco employee reported seeing customers handing back “dead roses” at the returns desk.

Are you a Costco employee with a story to share? Email [email protected]

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