(NEXSTAR) – Sorry, Costco moochers: Gone are the days when you could borrow your sister-in-law’s membership card to buy yourselves a Kirkland rotisserie chicken.
Last month, Costco announced its intentions to more strictly enforce its membership policy, which stipulates that only Costco members are allowed to make purchases at checkout — and not just anyone who happens to be carrying a valid membership card borrowed from a family member or friend.
“Our membership policy states that our membership cards are not transferable and since expanding our self-service checkout, we’ve noticed that non-member shoppers have been using membership cards that do not belong to them,” reads a statement released by Costco. “We don’t feel it’s right that non-members receive the same benefits and pricing as our members.”
To curb any non-member shoppers, Costco employees have begun to check for membership cards at self-checkout, to validate each shopper’s status using the photo on their card.
“If their membership card does not have a photo, then we ask for a photo ID,” Costco said.
However, as most Costco members are likely aware, even the most basic of the three Costco membership options (Gold Star, Business and Executive) allows the primary member to assign a “household” card to someone else at the same home address, at no additional fee.
That person, though, needs to be at least 16 years of age, and will need to provide proof of residence before they can be assigned the secondary “household” card. That card, too, will be printed with the name of the other household member, as well their photo and unique member ID.
The secondary member is then free to shop at Costco without paying for an additional membership, but only with the household Costco card tied to their name (and face).
Members wishing to obtain more than two cards per membership are out of luck — unless they decide to sign up for a Business membership ($60 per year). This option, unlike the Gold Star ($60 per year) or Executive membership ($120 per year) allows the primary user to assign an “affiliate cardholder” to the account for an additional $60 annual fee. That affiliate, too, can then sign up a household member for a secondary account, if they so choose.
Confused? Basically, it boils down to this: Costco allows only two card-carrying members per Gold Star or Executive membership. Business members can have a total of four people linked to their account — but only after paying an additional fee which effectively doubles the annual price.
There are still a couple of completely legitimate ways to shop at Costco without a membership, but they’re not quite as convenient. For starters, anyone can shop online at Costco.com — member or not — but non-members will be subject to a 5% surcharge. (They may also have access to a more limited array of items, according to a Costco customer service representative.) And anyone with a valid Costco membership can also purchase a Costco Shop Card (basically a gift card) that any non-member can use to shop at any Costco location.
But for those of you who simply want to buy a Kirkland chicken every few months, and don’t feel like paying for your own membership, you’re going to have a much harder time sneaking through the checkout.
“Costco is able to keep our prices as low as possible because our membership fees help offset our operational expenses, making our membership fee and structure important to us,” Costco said of its membership validation policy.