Costco will accept food stamps
Food stamp cards will be welcomed at half of its stores by Thanksgiving.
Costco, the warehouse club for the more sophisticated shopper, will begin accepting food stamps at all of its stores.
"It's a big about-face for a retailer that has catered to the bargain-hunting affluent -- and a sign of the grim reality facing retailers and their customers. Food-stamp users recently hit a record 36 million," BusinessWeek said.
Sounds like a smart move, for several reasons:
Everyone else is doing it. OK, not a good reason when you're trying to convince your mom that piercings are cool, but it's legit in the dog-eat-dog competition for food dollars. An Associated Press story said Sam's Club began accepting food stamps in the fall of 2008, and BJ's Wholesale Club got on board in April. Actually, you have to wonder what took any of them so long.
- Bing: Costco coupons
Lots of people get food stamps (actually the stamps were replaced long ago with a card similar to a debit card). The rolls have grown by 10 million in the last two years, AP said. So before you get all snooty about sharing your Costco shopping experience with those who need help, remember they could include your friends and neighbors.
"Certainly this economy was a wake-up call," Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti said, according to AP. "It is not just very low-end economic strata that are using these."
It's good karma. Stores like Kroger Co. have put up welcome signs for customers with food stamps. That attitude will likely build loyalty.
People can save money. There are good buys to be had at warehouse stores, particularly if you stick to a list and check unit prices. Also, if you're new to food stamps, know in advance what they'll pay for and what they won't. Others in the checkout line will thank you.
AP said Costco tried out food stamps in New York City in response to local political pressure and was surprised to find that people on food stamps would pay the $50 membership fee (you can't use food stamps for that). Galanti admitted the company was "probably a bit arrogant."
Costco CEO Jim Sinegal told The Seattle Times, "The rules are different today. People who were in good shape financially all of the sudden are needing some assistance."
Food stamps will be phased in and will likely be accepted at half of Costco's 407 stores by Turkey Day, so check with your local store. And if you're struggling, you can see if you might qualify for food stamps with this government eligibility tool.
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Quotes are real-time for NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX. See delay times for other exchanges.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.