Costco Cracks Down On Membership Sharing—Again

Membership moochers beware: Your days shopping at Costco could be numbered.

Costco is not playing around when it comes to its exclusivity. After the store enacted some crackdowns aimed at weeding out non-members in 2023, CNN Business reports that a potential new hurdle has been spotted at some Costco store locations: member ID scanners.

The new scanners, seen at some Costco warehouse entrances, are designed to quell the practice of of people sharing their membership cards with shoppers who haven't paid for them. Currently, when shoppers walk into a Costco, they simply flash their membership card to an employee, who glances at the tiny photo and waves them through.

However, customers at a Costco location in Issaquah, Washington recently noticed employees at the entrance taking shoppers' membership cards and scanning them. The scanner then pulls up a larger image of the member's photo ID for the employee to validate, per a Reddit thread detailing the new system.

"It speeds up the process at entry and speeds up the process at the checkout," Costco's finance chief Richard Galanti told CNN. "That's what we believe and we're going to pilot it." Galanti also noted that more people have been sharing memberships since the pandemic (though even prior to that, the company seemed eager to remove any loopholes).

Costco is testing these ID scanners at a handful of store locations nationwide to see if it will help the situation, and in a way, it might speed things up exactly as Galanti describes: If your membership card is scanned at the door, then it won't have to be checked again at the register or self-checkout. However, some Reddit users have commented that membership cards are still being scanned at both the entrance and at checkout, which removes any benefit for the shopper.

The ID scanners are new to U.S. locations, but international customers have noted that Costco stores in other countries have had this validation system in place for some time.

"They been doing this at least in Iceland and Australia since inception," commented one Reddit user. "I've always had to scan in and out. Was surprised its even a topic when I saw this thread, just assumed that was normal."

Costco's efforts to weed out membership moochers have been ongoing for many months. In June 2023, the wholesale club implemented a change requiring that membership cards be cross-checked against another form of photo ID, such as a driver's license. This was especially enforced in the self-checkout lanes, where Costco noticed the most abuse of its policies.

"We don't feel it's right that nonmembers receive the same benefits and pricing as our members," said the company in an emailed statement to The Dallas Morning News last year.

Costco may be using new tech to keep the riffraff out (including this author), but you can't keep a good bargain shopper down. Where there's a need for bulk buys, cheap hot dogs, and free samples, there's always a way in.