Costco Is Cracking Down on Freeloaders and Kicking Non-Members Out of the Food Court

No more sneaking in with your friends.

<p>Getty Images / Adobe</p>

Getty Images / Adobe

It's about to become harder to get a table at the Costco food court than at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

In recent months, Costco has taken a more drastic approach to ensuring only actual members are able to get all those sweet, sweet perks. And now, Costco is taking aim at freeloaders hoping to snag a $1.50 hot dog at the food court sans membership card.

In March, a Reddit user shared a sign in the r/Costco community that they spotted at their local Costco in Orlando, Florida. The sign read: “Effective April 8, 2024, an active Costco membership card will be required to purchase items from our food court. You can join today. Please see our membership counter for details.”

As The Takeout notes, accessing the Costco food court always technically required a membership, but it was a rule rarely enforced in many locations. But that appears to be changing. 

Related: Yes, the Rumors Are True, Sushi Is About to Come to a Costco Near You

However, this new crackdown likely really isn't about losing money on those aforementioned $1.50 hot dogs, as those are likely already costing the company a bundle anyway. As Richard Galanti, the soon-to-retire chief financial officer of Costco, shared with CNBC in 2022, the only reason the company has been able to keep that hot dog price stable since the '80s is because it's leveraging profits from somewhere else. "Some businesses that are doing well with margin…those things help us be more aggressive in other areas, or, as you mentioned, hold the price on the hot dog and the soda a little longer — forever," he said.

But what this could really come down to is getting more people to actually sign up for that all-important membership. Entrepreneur pointed to Costco's fiscal year 2023 earnings report, which showed that memberships generated $4.58 billion in profit. In 2021 that number was just $3.88 billion, marking a $700 million increase.

And really, these memberships are still a steal starting at $60 for a Gold Star membership — a cost that hasn't increased since 2017. So maybe it's worth investing that $5 a month into an actual Costco membership so you don't have to shamefully sneak in to enjoy a snack. And this way you can impress strangers by telling them you're a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in town. 

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