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Costco will accept food stamps

Food stamp cards will be welcomed at half of its stores by Thanksgiving.

By Karen Datko Oct 28, 2009 9:05PM

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.

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.

 

Related reading:

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