Smart SpendingSmart Spending

How to behave at Costco

Must we put up with bumper carts in the checkout line and people blocking the aisles to eat free food samples?

By Teresa Mears Dec 14, 2010 4:38PM

Nothing keeps me out of stores more than other shoppers.

Particularly in big-box stores, the noise level is often incredible -- even on the rare occasions when you're not surrounded by screaming kids and people shouting on their cell phones.

Curmudgeon that I am, I was delighted to see Ron Lieber's post at The New York Times Bucks blog on "4 guidelines for polite Costco shopping." Feel free to apply his advice to Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and anywhere else you shop. He did a humorous commentary on the topic for MarketPlace. You can hear a podcast here.

Anyone who has ever been shopping at a warehouse store (or any large store) knows what Lieber is talking about. Post continues after video.

From his MarketPlace commentary:

Every time I'm at Costco or Sam's or BJ's, I find myself maneuvering around the lost tribes of the warehouse: people without a shopping list or any palpable sense of purpose. They veer and meander, as if this were a locus of comparison shopping.
No. Please. Go home. This form of consumerism is like the expert level on a video game, and there are rules here, lest the quest take an entire afternoon.

We plead guilty to a bit of wandering, though at least we do it without a cart, thereby being less likely to block the aisles. We certainly don't violate any of Lieber's other etiquette rules:

  • Leave children at home. This is not just to spare your fellow shoppers the noise (which he doesn't even mention) but because a warehouse club has lots of heavy items that could hurt a child.
  • Don't add additional carts later after you have taken your place in the checkout line. The contents of your cart(s) gives the people behind you information about how long their wait might be.
  • Don't block the aisle while tasting the many food samples.
  • If a new checkout lane opens up, let those who have been waiting the longest go first. No playing bumper carts. (That's a rule we see violated all the time.)

Kristi at And Baby Makes 3 wrote about the frustration of shopping at Costco earlier this year. She complained about her fellow shoppers:

Parking on the wrong side of the gas pumps. Pushing and shoving to the front of the free sample lines as if you've never eaten a day in your life. Ramming carts into small children and slow shoppers because you simply don't give a damn about other people. Dropping your empty free sample cups on the floor instead of in the trash can that is three steps away. Cutting in the checkout line when the very fine Costco employees are working so hard to maintain order. And my personal favorite, discarding your frozen pizzas somewhere in the granola aisle because you decided you simply didn't want it anymore.

Lieber invited Times readers to offer their own advice. Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • "How about a suggestion for Costco? One checkout queue, with an employee directing traffic to open stations so that no one with four items (me, for example) gets stuck behind someone buying two cart loads full of stuff."
  • "I say that if waiting for samples during the Costco rush hours is that important to you, check out with what you need and come back without a cart. There's nothing that frustrates me more than having to maneuver my cart like some sort of ballerino because people want to wait for their tasty fried morsels."
  • "To extend the rules of the road comments, I suggest that 'Hang up and drive' be added. Shopping by cruising aisles while describing every item via cell phone to a remote buyer is nuts."
  • "Spend less time shopping at Costco! I do appreciate that their employees are unionized but the fact is that they peddle an awful lot of stuff that most of us don't need (or need less of than we buy). I prefer to spend my time on fun activities, not pushing a cart around picking up faux-fun things."

I belonged briefly to Costco when I was doing a lot of entertaining, but I found that I rarely wanted anything enough to stand in line 30 minutes to pay for it. I found that a lot more annoying than I did the other shoppers.

What's your warehouse shopping gripe? Do you have any advice for your fellow shoppers? How much bad behavior are you willing to endure to save money? Or are you lucky enough to live where your fellow shoppers are courteous?

More from MSN Money:

Dec 16, 2010 1:08PM
People all over are just rude, being polite and having good manners are mostly gone today and shoppers everywhere are much like drivers today in thinking that they are the only ones that matter. 
Dec 16, 2010 1:04AM

When shopping a Costco I pick up a small item right after I get in the store.

As I go through the store and find someone blocking the aisle with their cart chit chatting or plowing through the clothing tables I drop the small item in their basket when they are not looking. When they get to the checkout they may be buying something that they didn't want. 

Dec 15, 2010 3:56PM
Costco is the absolute WORST place to be a shopper- it seems everyone's common courtesy and sense goes out the window, and it is replaced by a meandering heard of steely eyed, bullish individuals, and many believe quite sincerely, "Yes, I am the King/Queen of England, and no, I am the only one worthy of shopping/sampling at this time, so commoners, step aside!"
Dec 15, 2010 3:27PM

Seems to me that the person who wrote this article and the people who wrote source material are rather impatient and unforgiving of others.  Don't bring children?  Please!  They are the future shoppers and need to learn how to shop and behave in that environment.  Parents, take note, teach behavior.


I'm sorry not all of us are so organized as to know where everything we want is or what deals are in place so as to not have to "wander the isles".  It is the surprise deals that are the fun.  I am a deal hunter and the hunt is all part of the game and you never know what you'll find 'til you are there.

Dec 15, 2010 2:36PM
What a waste of time article....and what is it doing under the Money section...
Dec 15, 2010 10:52AM
I always seem to be behind the 4 people that enter through the well guarded door to Costco and after pushing their cart 6 in, stop and peruse their list.  Effectively blocking the main aisle to everyone behind them.  As my son used to say when he was 2 yrs. old...."BEEP BEEP, move your cart lady, you're in the way!!!!!"
Dec 15, 2010 7:31AM
What I really hate is those that block aisles, etc, with no regard to those behind them.  If they did this on the street, they would be cited or at the very least become hearing impaired from all the honking.
Dec 14, 2010 5:38PM
I'm lucky enough to live 4 hours' drive from the nearest Costco, so it's not worth buying a membership. Never went to Costco. But in any other large store in this area, most fellow shoppers are very courteous. It also helps to shop at off-peak hours.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.