San Francisco, CA

Costco cracking down on membership card sharing

Ed Walsh
Inside San Francisco's Costco store on 10th Street in the SOMA districtPhoto byEd Walsh

San Francisco's Costco store on 10th Street in the South of Market Area is one of the busiest Costco stores in the country, but the enforcement of a policy against card membership sharing could cut down on some of the crowds at least a little.

In a statement to NewsBreak the warehouse club said,

"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’s membership policy has not changed. We have always asked for membership cards at our registers at time of checkout. 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. We don’t feel it’s right that non members receive the same benefits and pricing as our members. As we already ask for the membership card at checkout, we are now asking to see their membership card with their photo at our self-service checkout registers. If their membership card does not have a photo, then we ask for a photo ID."

Currently the basic Costco membership is $60 per year. The store allows two separate users to use a membership as long as they share the same address. For example, in the case of a married or cohabitating couple, each of the spouses can get a card in their name under the basic $60 membership.

But many are gaming the system by lending their card out to friends and relatives. Costco generates most of its profit from memberships, not from markups. That allows the company to charge lower prices than even many online retailers.

To cut down on card-sharing Costco is requiring a photo identification to prove that you are not "sharing" someone else's membership card.

Stores in San Francisco have been hit by retail thefts but shoplifting at Costco has been kept at a minimum in part to its requirement for a membership card upon entry. Many regulars can be seen almost every day enjoying Costco's traditional $1.50 hot dog and soft drink. Few items are kept locked up, so you can look at the ingredient labels of the item before a clerk has to come over and unlock the case.

The bottom line: Costco does not allow membership card sharing. You must have an ID to prove that you are the the person who is using the membership card.

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