Costco Enforces Members-Only Gas Model

Joel Eisenberg

Beginning this month in New Jersey, Costco has limited its gas purchases exclusively to members. Will a national rollout follow?

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Costco GasShutterstock

Author’s Note

This article is based on corporate postings and accredited media reports. Linked information within this article is attributed to the following outlets: NJ.com, TheStreet.com, and News.Yahoo.com,

Introduction

News was widely reported late last month of Costco selling gas exclusively to club members in New Jersey. According to NJ.com’s “Costco’s Plan to Sell Gas to Members Only Doesn’t Violate State Law,” protests went unheeded: Costco’s announcement that it will limit gasoline sales at its gas stations to members only starting July 5 doesn’t violate state consumer protection laws, state officials said Tuesday. “The practice of offering members-only gasoline sales does not violate any of New Jersey’s consumer protection laws,” said Steve Barnes, a state Consumer Affairs spokesman.

The issue, though, may be more complex than it appears. According to TheStreet.com, in their piece also from last month entitled “Costco Is Making a Big Change (and You're Not Going to Like It),” the controversy was based on the details: Costco has historically required a membership to fill up at the pump. The only exception to this rule, according to its official website, is when a person uses a Costco Shop Card, which is essentially a gift card. That doesn't seem to be the case everywhere. Costco does not openly advertise it, but depending on the location, some people report that they are able to get gas at their local Costco outlets without membership cards. 

The gist is today the company appears to be enforcing the rule, and the New Jersey scenario is being closely monitored as a new company-wide model.

Members-Only Costco Gas

In March of this year, News.Yahoo.com published “Long Lines Build Up Outside Costco and Sam's Club Gas Stations as Shoppers Load Up on Cheaper Gas Amid Further Price Spikes.”

As excerpted from the article: Long lines are forming outside Costco and Sam's Club gas stations across the US as shoppers flock there to load up on cheaper gas amid the soaring cost of gas. Dozens of shoppers at these warehouse clubs took to social media over the past few days to complain about the long lines that start at the crack of dawn... Meanwhile, gas at warehouse clubs is typically as much as 30 cents less than regular gas stations, according to IHS Markit's Oil Price Information Service; shoppers say this is one of the biggest perks about having a membership there.

Several social media posters have blamed the rising gas prices for Costco’s recent actions, blaming the company for taking advantage of the consumer by effectively forcing them to buy a membership.

A July 6 article from TheStreet.com in part responded to those accusations, and asked in its title: “Is a Costco Membership Worth It Just for Gas in 2022?

The article stated: Even though a price increase for Costco memberships could be coming soon, based on the chain's history of doing so every five and a half years or so, it makes a lot more sense for consumers to shell out a little extra once versus at the pumps over and over right now. As it currently stands, the Gold Star membership is $60 a year and the Executive is $120. Depending on the car you drive, you could easily spend a chunk of even the cheaper membership on today's fill-up if you went to a BP or an Exxon.

TheStreet.com offered one final noteworthy point in the piece, alluding to realistic expectations on the part of new members: If you do plan to head over to Costco and sign up for a membership, be warned: You definitely aren't the only person with that idea. People in the Costco Subreddit have been reporting that the gas pumps are slammed and customer patience is wearing thin. So grab yourself your beverage of choice, bring something to read, and prepare to trade your time for saving those precious dollars.

Conclusion

Time will tell if the company will indeed globally enforce its purportedly mandatory membership rule for gas. To reiterate, the requirement has indeed been long instituted though not always enforced as variously those with gift cards and non-members of Costco were able to fill up at company pumps.

I will report any updates on the matter here, on NewsBreak.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

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