What You Must Know About Costco’s Return Policy (And How Using it Too Much Could Cost You Your Membership)

You love Costco for its $4.99 rotisserie chickens, employee-friendly policies, and great deals on everything from vino to vacations. And if you’ve ever bought an item you ended up having second thoughts about, you also love its return policy.

Costco is known for having one of the most generous return policies in retail. The store promises to refund almost any purchase with no questions asked. While customers love the flexible approach to returns and refunds, some people take advantage.

Costco’s return policy: The details

Costco Wholesale warehouse

Costco | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Costco accepts returns on almost everything, no matter when it was purchased, with a few exceptions.

  • Electronics: TVs, projectors, tuner-free displays, major appliances, computers, tablets, smart watches, cameras, drones, camcorders, MP3 players, and cell phone have a 90-day return window.
  • Diamonds: If your engagement doesn’t work out and you need to return your Costco diamond ring, you can do so. But if the stone’s over 1 carat you’ll need all your original paperwork. A gemologist will also need to inspect the diamond to confirm it’s authentic.
  • Cigarettes and alcohol: These can’t be returned in places where it’s against the law to do so.

Custom products also can’t be returned. Products with a limited life expectancy, like tires and batteries, may have a limited warranty. (In other words, you can’t take your AAA batteries in for a refund just because they’re out of juice.)

If you bought something from Costco online, you can return it to a warehouse or complete a return through Costco.com. Costco also offers full refunds and cancellations of memberships at any time.

Costco’s return policy in practice

Costco says you can return a purchase at any point if you’re not satisfied. But is that really true? For the most part, yes.

When disgruntled MoviePass subscribers had trouble canceling their memberships earlier this summer, some who had bought their 1-year subscription through Costco reported being able to get a full refund. On Reddit, Costco employees recounted people who returned months-old moldy strawberries, a dirty mattress, a litter box still filled with cat litter, 11-year-old pillows, and a mostly eaten rotisserie chicken. One worker recounted the shopper who showed up at the store with a truck full of Costco purchases:

[A] guy brought a uhaul full of his possessions he bought throughout the years at Costco. We had beds, furniture, throw carpets, bikes, fridges, and everything else he could fit in that truck … I asked him why is he returning everything and he told me straight up he’s moving to New York and he’ll just rebuy everything there and it’ll be new and clean.

Other “what were they thinking?” returns Costco workers on Reddit have encountered include:

  • “[A] lady returned a bottle an empty bottle of wine cause it gave her a headache.”
  • “A huge safe bought online was returned reeking of marijuana. The police were called.”
  • “13 year old fish. Lady left it in her freezer and forgot about it. Wanted to return it and when we said no she threatened calling corporate and all that jazz.”

You can take it too far

Costco warehouse

Costco membership desk | The Cheat Sheet

Costco’s return policy is generous, but sometimes, members cross the line. One woman told Business Insider her membership was revoked after she tried to return a printer she bought eight years earlier, back in 2010. She said the printer stopped working shortly after she bought it, but she hadn’t gotten around to taking it back. A manager at a store in Virginia said she’d made too many returns over the years and refused the return. When she contacted the store’s corporate headquarters, they stood firm – and then canceled her membership.

“It is apparent from a review of your membership account that you are not happy with the products you have purchased from Costco, and we are unable to satisfy you as a member,” Jeff Long, the chain’s senior vice president of Northeast operations, wrote in a letter.

A spokesperson told Business Insider that Costco reserves the right to cancel a membership if a person abuses their member privileges. So, returns-happy shoppers beware. Your effort to save a buck could put your Costco membership on the line. 

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