It is a tight scenario for any member of Costco – access to the warehouse only to find that you forgot your membership card.
Because Costco is a warehouse for members only, members are expected to show their cards in advance. Typically, Costco sites have one or two employees at the entrance to the store, ensuring that only members have access to the warehouse.
But what happens when someone shows up without a card – or even refuses to show his card?
"Members will be asked to go to the membership section where we can provide them with a new membership card or a temporary entry card," Costco's spokesman for Business Insider said in a statement. "There are no known issues with members rejecting this, as it is part of our Terms and Conditions when members subscribe. "
I asked Business Insider seven Costco employees about how to direct them to deal with members – or people claiming to be members – who show a sans card.
A staff member in Costco, Minnesota, said it was often "harsh" because "people usually break our cards in us" without "giving us a chance to see the picture on her back."
"They come from this door so quickly and furiously that if you have to look at the back of each card, you'll have a lot of traffic," said a Nebraska employee at Business Insider. "A picture of anywhere from 300 to 400 members comes in from the entrance every half hour, plus their family members or" guests. "There is only a way to control this, all you need to be friendly and keep moving.
An Illinois employee told Business Insider that the most important verification would come later.
"At the door, members flash the card remotely," the employee said. "You do not need to verify until a member reaches the record."
But what happens if a visitor says they have forgotten their card – or even refuse to show their membership card – at the door?
According to staff, it may depend on the warehouse.
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"When a member refuses to show his membership at the door, they are asked to leave," a Pennsylvania employee told Business Insider. "The same thing if they show a card that does not belong to them."
This is not enough to stop some shoppers, though.
"When I do the door, no one enters without showing their card," a Washington employee told Business Insider. "I have heard that a few female employees have been affected by some male members who refused to show a card, in which case a manager is called in to intervene and the situation is calmly resolved."
However, according to staff, other Costco sites are less stringent about allowing access to the warehouse.
"We have allowed them to go very much," a Kentucky state employee told Business Insider. "We will not physically restrict someone."
In some cases, employees are actively discouraged from interference.
"One of my colleagues got the study because a member complained about his claim to be a member," said an employee at Costco, Nebraska.
If a person shines a card that does not clearly belong to them, the employee from Kentucky said the staff would ask them "if the cardholder is with them."
"If they answer yes, we ask them to wait for the cardholder," the employee said. "If they ignore the question or continue to walk to the store, the treasurer will often notice when he signs out and contact the supervisor to explain to the person that the member can only use the card because membership is not transferable."
So if the policy seems to be different across the warehouses, why does Costco bother to ask people to show membership cards at the door?
Staff say that the card policy works to prevent problems from appearing on the road, specifically at check-out.
"Basically it is our first line of defense – and technically our only line of defense," said an employee from Costco of Canada to Business Insider. "It prevents non-members from filling the buggy in full with the material, just to get to the cash register and find out they need membership." This has happened many times. "
If the frustrated shopper ends up rushing, it leaves the staff to return "$ 400 worth of frozen and freshly cooked items" to where they belong in the warehouse, according to a Canadian official.
An Illinois state employee said that while the warehouse often refused to sell to non-members, the administration sometimes cheated if the customer was giving enough nubia.
"The supervisor will allow them to pay money or discount," the employee said. "This comes with a strict warning that the cards are not transferable, but no one listens to the rules anyway … there are a lot of boxes that do not impose these rules – so non-members feel they can escape these cards many times."
But if you are a legal member of Costco without your card, you have one way to go.
"If the member does not have a card of their own, they only need to be swung by the membership office with the ID card and we are printing them either with a temporary card or a new card," said the Minnesota Insider employee. "There is no limit to how often you can get a new or temporary card."
"I do not think there is a specific protocol. You're trying to deal with every situation as it is," said a Nebraska employee. "Most members are very frank if they forget their card, they will go directly to the member service desk."