A busy day at Costco means you not only have to line up at the cashier, but probably at the exit too.
Costco shoppers are well aware by now that before they leave, an employee standing at the exit will take your receipt, do a quick scan, and approve you to leave the store with the items you purchased.
Most people think that the reason for this is because Costco is being overly careful in making sure people don't shoplift. And while that's partly true, it's not the only reason why receipts are checked.
What employees are really looking for when they check your receipt at the exit
Costco wants to make sure that you don't have any items you didn't pay for, but it's also to make sure you didn't get accidentally charged by the cashier for items you don't have.
According to a former Costco employee we reached out to, shoplifting is a rare occurence at Costco, but hundreds of dollars of accidental charges are made by cashiers each week. It's not a large amount by any means, considering Costco has over 800 stores worldwide and does $163.2 billion in annual revenue, but it's still necessary to prevent their customers getting charged for items by mistake.
Shoplifting does happen at Costco, but it's not a common occurence. This is suprising considering that the only thing stopping shoplifters is a human that does a quick scan at the door. Oftentimes, lazy employees don't even do a thorough check and just let you leave.
Specifically, these are the 4 things that employees look at when they check your receipt
1. The daily code
The very first thing that employees look for when they examine your receipt is the daily code. There is a code at the top and bottom of your receipt that changes daily to ensure that the receipt you're presenting was, in fact, printed on that same day. This is a preventative measure for shoplifting, so that customers can't just flash an old receipt to the attendant and hope they get away with it.
2. The item count number
The item count number shows how many items were purchased. Most attendants won't stand there and count each and every item in your cart, but they'll use the item count number to do a quick scan and see if it matches up. If the item count number is 10, but it looks like you have 50 items in your cart, you'll be asked to step aside.
3. High-end items
High-end merchandise need to have supervisors' initials on them. If you have a laptop in your cart, but no initials on your receipt, that's a clear sign that an error was made.
What are considered high-end items at Costco? Jewelry (watches, rings, necklaces), electronics (TVs, laptops, speakers), and any item that costs more that $300 is considered a high-end item.
4. Large items
And lastly, employees do a quick scan of the largest items in your cart. While they won't stand there and count every little thing in your cart, it's easy to check the count of large items in your cart, such as toilet paper, water, beverages, etc. This is, again, to ensure no mistakes were made by the cashier.
What does a Costco receipt look like?
Here's a full-sized picture of a typical Costco receipt.
What happens if my receipt doesn't match up with the items in the cart?
Don't worry, you won't have to go through an embarrassing ordeal and be suspected of shoplifting.
Because the main objective for receipt checking is to prevent mistakes by cashiers, if you have items in your cart that don't show up on the receipt, their first assumption will be that the cashier made a mistake.
The main reason why Costco checks your receipt isn't to prevent shoplifting, but to prevent customers being overcharged for items by mistake. Shoplifting isn't common in Costco, but errors from cashiers happen more frequently that you might think.
While employees can't check every single item in your cart (it would take way too long and back up the line), they do a quick 4-step scan that includes checking the daily code, number of items, large items, and high-end items in your cart.