Is Costco membership worth it?

Is Costco membership worth it?


I’m wrong, it looks like in a lot of states this may not be the case (detaining). I was confusing it with searching. They may not be able to search you, but in many states it looks like they can detain you (while they gather more evidence to search you or call the police to come).


There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about what store security/loss prevention officers can do in this thread, so as a former law enforcement officer I feel like I should say a few things. Generally speaking, loss prevention is not hampered by a lot of the legal doctrine that police must follow when it comes to search and seizure.

The “detaining” usually happens after the searching. Stopping you at the door to do a check of your bags isn’t really considered detaining. Generally speaking, they can search your bags and your pockets if you set off the alarm walking out of the store or if they saw you in person or on camera looking like you were trying to steal/conceal something. Being detained or “backroomed” usually happens after they find stolen merchandise in your bags or clothes. It can happen while they review tape, but there should be a reason they feel they need to review the tape, not just because they don’t like you. Refusing to show a receipt at a door where they regularly check receipts of customers regardless if they did anything suspicious could be enough to get you searched and/or backroomed while they look at the tape and/or pull up your transaction from the register. Many states have laws saying how long you can be backroomed before the police have to take over.

Good luck getting a police officer to charge a loss prevention agent with assault for searching you or with kidnapping/abduction for backrooming you. The police know these guys. If they are generally calling them with legit shoplifting cases, they are going to side with loss prevention. In order for them to be convicted of a crime, the state would generally have to prove beyone a reasonable doubt that they had absolutely no reason to search you or backroom you. If they do loss prevention for a living and have been to a courtroom on a few shoplifting cases, they know the terminology to use to make it sound like they saw you do something. You would probably have to convince a police detective to obtain and watch the whole video of you walking around the store and he would have to see that you didn’t do anything (not even accidentally) that would lead a loss prevention agent to think you were acting like a shoplifter or stealing/concealing something. If you’re the very first person to complain about that loss prevention agent, good luck convincing them of that.

But, I’m not saying you shouldn’t call the police and start down that road if the loss prevention officer really is abusing innocent people. There are definitely really bad loss prevention agents out there that are breaking the law. The police need to be made known of those sort of things.


Also, nearly all stores are located on private property, so one’s rights are limited if detained thereon.

Nevertheless, whether private or public property, there must exist probable cause established for store staff or a cop to detan, arrest, or search as may be applicable.

If you know you are innocent or believe you are being mistreated by store staff, or both, call the police and don’t say anything until they arrive. Remain calm and give your side to the police. Don’t sign anything.

If you have stolen something, call the police, call your attorney and don’t say (or sign anything) to anyone other than your name and limited identification information. Beyond that, let your attorney do all the talking.


Why would I call the police after stealing? That defeats the whole point of stealing.


Ahem, this thread is off-topic. Perhaps we can put discussion of exit-searches on another thread.


Did you see my original comment to start this thread?

We can almost always beat Costco prices even on bulk items by shopping the weekly sales. What items do you buy that save you money over prices elsewhere?


So a lot of this is obviously how things actually go down vs what the law is. Often times, more important than what the law says is what employees, police, and customers think is “right.”

I guess to start, stopping someone at the door and not letting them leave is certainly detaining them. But it depends on what you do. If the loss prevention employee says “stop” after the thing buzzes, that may not be considered “detaining.” But if he grabs your arm and stops you from leaving, that’s absolutely detaining you. Even if they don’t touch you, but surround you with NYC type club bouncers, that could be considered detaining you. I think, if you voluntarily stop for them, unless it’s someone like a police officer in uniform, that’s probably not considered detaining you. However, the amount of time isn’t actually relevant to the determination of whether you were “detained.” It does seem to be relevant to whether the detainment was “reasonable.”

Refusing to show your receipt at the door is not the same thing as the anti-theft alarm going off. Based on my very limited and non-expert-style research, the shopkeeper’s privilege would not allow a merchant to detain someone simply because they refused to show a receipt. But this is probably a “law” vs. “real-world” difference. I’m not sure what you LEO experience was, but if you dealt with these things, you’re experience is probably more relevant to a customer than what some circuit court judge decides 3 years after the incident takes place.

Also, it’s not about the police officer charging the company employee. Most customers would only be concerned with the civil claims against the company, than any criminal claims, so a police officer doesn’t have to be on your side to proceed against the store in a civil complaint for assault, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, etc.


The rest of the thread has run its course.


This is correct. Criminal and civil are two completely different concepts. Not only would a store be setting itself up for a lawsuit if it told its security to physically stop everyone at the door without any idea if they stole something, it’s also a terrible business practice.

But, even a personal injury lawyer will tell you, without an injury, the case isn’t really worth it. If a security guard stopped you, didn’t hurt you, rifled through your bags and said you couldn’t leave for 25 minutes while he checked the surveillance tape, and then found nothing. And the tape proved he was being overzealous. That case still isn’t likely to be worth enough to take to court.

My overall point? It’s not a good idea to be disagreeable to a loss prevention agent if you haven’t stolen anything. They hold pretty much all the cards. The only time you would possibly get a payday is if they rough you up, and that’s not really worth it to most of us folks that value our normal pain free lives.


Sounds like you had better have some time-sensitive problem but the solution is at home, like asthma, diabetes, or a heart condition without meds or a hungry baby with no baby food :slight_smile:


Yes. There’s a big difference between 15 minutes and 6 hours, even if both are technically “detaining” you. The longer it lasts with nothing tangible happening, the more blatant it becomes that they’re trying to “break” you - which starts adding the concept of “torture” to the equation.

I guess my underlying sentiment is best summed up as, whatever they’re doing, they need to keep it moving along. If the cop they called takes 2 hours to get there to put the cuffs on you, so be it; if they sit there staring at you for 4 hours in the hopes you’ll break down and confess before calling the cops, that’s when there is a problem.


If it makes you feel better, a lot of states have laws saying how long they can hold you. In Virginia, I think it’s one hour. I know the casinos in Nevada can hold you a while, but if you are getting backroomed in a casino, you already know why.


I just went into my expired account to buy $500 worth of Cash Cards. They tacked on a 5% Non-Member 5% Surcharge so the total was $525 in my cart. First time I remember seeing 5% added to Cash Cards.


Interesting. In the past, I have also been able to buy gift cards with an expired account with no surcharge,

You could buy with a Chase Freedom or Discover card and come out even with bonus. Or better yet, use a family member of friend’s account with your credit card. The do not seem to match the credit card holder name with the account.


Mail them to someone in CA? no 5% surcharge here.


I don’t use Costco or Sam’s club. I found myself buying far larger quantities of goods than I really wanted. Why would I want to buy 4 large containers of ketchup that will take a year to consume? For perishable goods, it is risky because there’s a chance some will go to waste. For non-perishable goods you are wasting space in your home and the opportunity cost of your cash.


I agree. We only buy some stuff there that keeps for a long time. TP, canned sardines and tuna, We do buy cheese also but they sell that in 2 pound blocks and we go through that pretty fast.

As mentioned in the thread, you can use the gift card ploy to buy occasionally without a membership.


I agree with you and was just about to cancel our membership. Gas, though, is suddenly nearly $1 less at Costco than at nearby stations. It’s $1.91 at Costco and $2.83 at a Shell across the street. Lines to purchase are very long at Costco, though.

At that price difference, even with our low gas use, membership is worth it. We use about 15 gallons of gas a month. How long the price difference will last may be as ephemeral as the rest of what Costco sells.

Perhaps all the competing supermarket gas-point programs are the reason?


It’s a lesson to be learned for sure, and I too had this “problem” when I was single. I still don’t buy ketchup there. But Costco sells plenty of perishables in quantities small enough to be consumed (especially by a family) before expiration. For non-perishables (let’s say toilet paper), the time and money saved (from buying once and in bulk) can easily outweigh the wasted space and opportunity cost.


And some of the produce is cheap enough that you can throw 20% of it away and still do ok. Depends on the prices of the alternatives, I guess. We don’t shop at any discount grocers other than Costco.