Costco Return Policy: 12 MUST Knows Before You Shop In The Warehouse

Updated September 16, 2021 by Kyle
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The return policy at Costco is so darn good that it deserves it’s own article. While I’ve talked about some of the better retail return policies in the past, Costco’s policy is arguably the best of them all. Here is exactly how it works and everything you need to know to take full advantage.

Update: I originally wrote this article back in 2016 but recently went through all of the 100+ comments and tried to answer all of your return policy questions. I hope you still find this resource helpful.

The Costco Return Policy: 12 Ways To Make It Work For You

COVID-19 Update:

Costco was limiting the return of items that people tend to hoard, but in recent months their return policy has returned to normal.

Also, for the Costco food court lovers out there, they are limiting their menu and not letting you sit down to eat, you gotta take your chow with you until further notice.

What Exactly is the Costco Return Policy?

Costco calls it their “Risk-Free 100% Satisfaction Guarantee” and with very few product exceptions, they’ll refund you the purchase price if not completely satisfied.

Pretty much everything in the warehouse is returnable with no time limit. No questions asked.

This guarantee also includes your Costco membership. You have 364 days from the date you sign-up to try out the membership and see if it works for you.

If not completely satisfied, you can get a full refund on your membership cost.

See Also: How to Essentially Get a $60 Costco Membership for Free

 

Can Product Packaging Be Opened or Missing?

Yes. You do NOT need the original packaging or product manual in order to return the product to Costco.

But, you do need all of the parts and accessories that came with the product.

This is a wonderful feature, especially when you’ve had a product for a while and no longer have any of the original packaging.

Can You Return Food to Costco?

Yes, you can return produce, food (opened or unopened), and anything else you’d put in your mouth, to your local Costco.

No questions asked. Makes for a great reason to try new products and see if your family likes them.

Just be aware that Costco is tracking all of your returns and if they think you’re abusing the return policy they might flag your account.

Update: A comment came in saying that a lady was refused her return of unopened buns that she bought the day before. So it seems your mileage may vary when it comes to returning food.

Keep in mind that most food items will be discarded by Costco, even though they’ll get reimbursed. If you’re buying bakery items you can always freeze them for later use if you overbuy.

Bottom line, don’t abuse their return policy as it’ll eventually go away, and hurt all members, if more and more folks abuse it.

90-Day Return Policy on Electronics and Appliances

Due to some abuse from shoppers in recent years, Costco has shortened their return window on electronics from unlimited days to 90 days.

You now have 90 days from date of purchase to return televisions, tuner-free displays, projectors, major appliances, computers, tablets, cameras, camcorders, MP3 players and cell phones.

The 90-day policy is still fairly liberal and simply keeps Costco members from bringing back 5 year-old HDTV’s that now have a yellow picture. (For example)

Do You Need Your Costco Receipt?

No, you don’t need your receipt to return anything to Costco.

Simply take your Costco membership number, and the item you want to return, to the customer service desk.

They’ll be able to look up all of your past purchases and quickly find evidence of your purchase and issue your refund.

See Also: 12 Things You Should Never Buy at Costco

Can You Get Cash When Returning Items Bought with a Debit Card?

Thanks to reader Olivia for this information: If you buy items with your ATM card you might be stuck with a Costco cash card when returning something.

This is especially true if the item is a gift and the person returning it has the original receipt but not the ATM card.

Great information if you regularly buy gifts with your ATM card as you might want to use a credit card or cash to make returns easier.

What Items Can’t You Return to Costco?

Here are the handful of items that you can’t return to Costco for a full refund.

Alcohol – Bottoms up on any wine, beer, or liquor as you can’t return them to most states in the U.S. and thus all sales are final. Opened or unopened, it doesn’t matter.

Cigarettes – Light ’em up, or throw them away, as you can’t return them to any Costco location.

Diamonds – Any diamonds 1 carat or larger must be returned with all original paperwork and has to be verified via the Costco fulfillment center before you get your refund.

A Costco Graduate Gemologist will inspect the diamond and issue a jewelry credit memo that allows you to purchase a different diamond or get your money back. Could take up to 5 business days.

Limited Lifetime Products – Think car tires and batteries. These are sold with a product-specific limited warranty.

Special Order Kiosk – While you can’t return special orders, you can get a warranty repair or replacement due to failure to meet product specs.

Custom Installed Programs – The same as above.

Pretty limited list when you consider the thousands of products Costco stocks on a daily basis.

Can You Return Items Bought Online to Costco?

Yes, just bring in the item and your Costco.com receipt to your local Costco and they’ll process your refund.

Also, Costco now has a handy Online Return Form to make your Costco.com purchases even easier to return.

What About Returning Furniture That I Bought Online?

I started a live chat session with Costco and asked this exact question.

I used a couch as my example and was told the following, “Our returns for couches are quite easy. We do everything for you! The same way the couch gets delivered, would be the same way it would get picked up. Our carrier would call you once a return is requested and they would set up an appointment that works best for you.”

I then asked, “Even like 2 years later when the couch starts sagging?”

I was then told, “Yes, if for any reason you become unsatisfied with this item, you can return it!”

Pretty amazing. Why would you buy furniture anywhere else?

How About Returning Gifts to Costco?

Yes, you can return items to Costco that were given to you as a gift.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a member or not, you can walk in and return stuff.

But keep in mind that if you DON’T have the receipt you’ll need the membership number of the person who purchased the gift for you.

See Also: 5 Brilliant Money-Savings Hacks for Buying Costco Meats

Can Someone Else Make a Return For You?

If they are not listed on your membership then NO they will not be able to make the return on your behalf.

You’ll have to find the time to make the return yourself.

Can You Make a Return Beyond the Manufacturer’s Warranty?

From some recent comments I have received it seems Costco will not take back an item if it has gone beyond the manufacturer’s warranty.

The example in the comments section was HP printer ink that had “expired”.

In this case, Costco would not take it back.

Can You Return Something If Your Membership has Expired?

No, Costco will only let you return items if you have an active (and paid) membership.

Can You Return a Mattress to Costco?

Yes, but if you try and return a mattress that you’ve had over a year you’re going to end up dealing with the store manager.

The manager will take a look at your buying history to decide if you spend enough at Costco to make the return worthwhile.

It’s been suggested that you return it to a Costco out of your hometown as you might make some enemies returning a nasty old mattress.

Can You Return Car Tires?

Yes, Costco basically gives you 30 days to test out your new tires.

If you don’t like them for any reason they will let you return or exchange them for a new set.

See Also: Here’s How Costco Tire Prices Stack Up to the Competition

Strangest Items Ever Returned to Costco…

I loved this article from Clark Howard that breaks down some of the strangest returns that Costco employees have seen over the years.

Some of my favorites include an empty bottle of wine that gave the lady a headache, a package of opened underwear, a used chicken coop, and a broken 15-year old pressure washer.

Also, a woman was able to return a dead Christmas tree in January and get a full refund. Crazy.

Moral of the story? Be smart and don’t abuse Costco’s liberal return policy as it’ll end up costing us all.

Ask the Reader: How often do you use their return policy? Any smart Costco tips I may have neglected to mention?


By Kyle James

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Robeh

I’ve been wanting to say this..all these years I was told that returns without a receipt is not a problem since all purchases are tracked. One day, I purchased an item for the first time to try it out and but didn’t like it and returned it some weeks later without a receipt. On the receipt, we didn’t receive full price and the person said all he did was to scan my membership and if I have the original receipt, bring it in for adjustment. We found the receipt and brought it back, we were told that usually you get the lowest sale price when returning without a receipt. The item was currently on sale. I was certain that this isn’t true unless it is Macy’s or JCPenney. Anyway, they gave us the adjustments but tax difference wasn’t taken into consideration.. meaning I lost out on tax.
Keep your receipts!

robeh

About the returns.. I would advise customers to keep their receipt. I normally return with a receipt if I have them but I don’t usually care to keep it since Costco keeps track of purchases. Few months ago, my wife and I return an item we purchased for the first time for about 3 weeks, and didn’t like it without a receipt.

The Costco’s flaw when I found out was they refunded is less than what we paid for. My wife saw the return receipt and assure me that we paid full price. The Costco return rep said all he did was scanned my membership and that’s how much I paid for. I asked that if I find the receipt, will they honor the adjustments and yes they will. Luckily,we found the receipt and surely enough my wife was right. She is always right. We brought the receipt back and explained the situation, here’s the problem, the item was on sale with a discount when we returned it. One of the returns rep that was around when we explained the situation said that returning without a receipt will get me the lowest sale price.

I think she doesn’t know Costco policy or may have worked in another retail in the past. They went ahead and made the adjustments but not the tax difference..but I didn’t care about that and just didn’t want to get stuck dealing with this and holding up their line as their returns process is usually slow enough.

My advise us to keep your receipt and pay attention to how much you are getting refunded when returning something. I emailed Costco but didn’t hear back for a month and pushed for an answer and it went nowhere.

Dre

I have a 6 month tablet that I would like to return but I’m not sure if they would let me…so I just wanted to ask…the tablet is not broken or anything

Abbie

I bought a security camera set from Costco.com last November. I just finally opened the box. The unit is bigger than I anticipated (Costco doesn’t have this product on display). Do you think I can send it back to Costco.com? The system has not been used or installed. Most of the system are still in the box unwrapped.

steph

My friend received a box of diapers for her babyshower from costco but she does not have a costco where she lives and is needing a bigger size. She is not a member but can she still return or exchange the diapers?

Blaine

I went in to buy a new printer because the last one I purchased at costco was 2 years old and stopped working.

I didn’t k ow about the return policy at the time, so When I mentioned I got my old one at Costco the guy in electronics said I could return my old one.

He even said he did a return for a 5 year old hot tub.

Sure enough I brought my printer back without the box, CD, papers or receipt and they just scanned my membership card and gave me a full refund.

My next thing is some old pillows that have lost their fluff.

Andrea

My Husband bought a total gym about 8 months ago!!! Can we take it back for a refund? We still have the box.

Mario

Bought a drone two weeks ago used it twice the thing fell out of the sky during play and didn’t land like it was supposed to when the battery is low. The drone isn’t broken but the blade protectors are. In addition the 2 batteries it came with don’t charge. Can I return it?

Cmid

I work for Costco, anyone that says it’s up to the manager on what to bring back is either lying or at some fucked up Costco. Call corporate if they won’t take items back, 90% of items are guaranteed just for simple satisfaction. I’ve seen Christmas trees, grills, 10 yo vacuums, cracked TVs, mattresses, fans, so much food it’d make you sick just thinking about it, and even one time saw a kitchen sink. It says in your membership agreement they have to accept anything that is not electronics or like Kyle said in local laws (alcohol and cigarettes).

Mike johnsonm

Can i return something for my sister. I have the receipt and I’m a member

Kate

I never write comments on sites but I have to just say how thankful I am to not work in customer service. Dealing with crazy people like above who actually somehow believe they are in the right. Or maybe the obvious common sense of returning things without being an asshole about it just isn’t in their brains. But come on. I call bullshit. . The dude who “returns wine all night he time”? Like you think that’s ok? That’s embarrassing you even admit that. & im sure the store knows who you are and what a crazy cheap ass you are. Bc you know your just ripping them off. Why don’t you just steal it so you save yourself the gas money on the retun. Duh. My fav though is the mom who had to call the store for her college aged son to complain about his mattress. I can just picture this lady giving Costco a piece of her mind be her “skinny” son should not of had a mattress wear out after a year in college. Lady… come on. Sounds like your son had an active college year. Did it ever occur to you maybe his “skinny” body wasn’t the only body enjoying the Costco mattress you bought him?! Seriously… He was prob having gang bangs on it for a year then his mommy went up there yelling at the poor Costco workers. & lady feeling entitled and mad enough to complain about Costco not returning your open salsa that randomly opened all by itself 🙄🙄 in the same return of bakery cookies & rolls? Costo I’m sure knows you too. Sounds like you need to learn to shop better or not blame Costco for buying too many cookies. Stop by a church or something and donate them. Would you wanna buy bakery items someone returned? & I put $20 on you actually took a few out to gobble up in the parking lot bf you stood in line for 1/2 your day to return. Again, like Doug’s bs wine scam. You might as well just get a big bag & steak it all. Save everyone the hastle. Employees will prob see you guys doing it and be relieved you might spend less time in customer service. These are also the lovely folk that will literally run you over with their cart for a free taste of a 1/4 piece of a bagel bite. Guys—- go get a piece of pizza for a $1 and return the crust saying it made you full. Uggh… sorry but really… don’t do stuff like this. It’s not cool. 🙈🤮✌️

Kate

& Andrea… the gym your husband has had for almost a year? Really? The good intentions of getting super fit is pretty much the majority of revenue by the fitness community. If it’s not defective (which you would of noticed bf 8 mos) then why should they take it back? Honestly, not even meaning to be mean. But I can’t understand why so many of these crazy comments feel like it’s ok to be able to have a bunch of food, some cookies, chips and salsa.. wash it all down with some fancy wine then pretend to work it off on the brand new gym equipment… then pack up all this used now garbage shit & think you should get money for it. What if everyone did that. Grow up & play fair guys.

Kate

& Cmid.. you work there and are advocating for people to call corporate if they are questioned about returning some of the nonsense you mentioned!?? Costco should fire you for trying to promote taking advantage of what they are trying to make a good policy. There just isn’t a proper way to also include in their policy “Costco reserves the right to call you out for just being a complete and total asshole about this.” I bet you get to take home the crazy peoples returned food.

Arienfire

Haha, Kate. Wholeheartedly agree. Some nerve, these people.

Monica

It’s sad to hear of so many accounts that sounds like people are taking the return policy for granted. We love shopping at Costco and appreciate the generous return policy, but sadly those who abuse it will cause the liberal policy to end.

I would have to agree with the comments that it appears to be dependent upon the store or manager if the policy is honored. I had a small refrigerator that was purchased at Costco.com that needed to be returned. While in a local Costco my husband inquired at the return desk if we could return the refrigerator and he was told no because we had had it for a few years. I was baffled when I learned of this because my understanding was of the liberal return policy. I in turn called customer service and explained the situation and was told that they would not only accept the return, that they would also arrange for free pick up of the item if we boxed it up. I was told that they no longer sold that model and if I wanted a refund instead.
Sure enough, UPS was sent after we boxed it up and we received full refund for the item. I was informed however, that it is up to the store manager if they will accept returns for items purchased online. Yet, the store manager my husband spoke to said she could not accept the item because of the age of the item which is not consistent with the Costco policy for non electronic items.

I appreciate the liberal policy and do not abuse it. I actually have a printer that I purchased from Costco that the wireless printing feature stopped working and I never bothered to return it because I have another wireless printer that works fine. I just used the broken wireless printer by connecting it directly to another computer instead. FYI: This was before they shortened the return policy window for electronic items.

There once was a lady in line who had a very full cart of children clothing she was returning and some had very obvious signs of wear. The cashier asked the customer if the items had been worn because they were not to accept returns of worn items. This is probably not an actual policy but it was obvious that she was trying to get over that I’m sure did not fair well with the cashier. Sadly those who abuse the return policy will probably cause the liberal policy to eventually end.

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