Costco’s Incredible Return Policy

I know a lot of folks love Costco, I’m one of them. Did you know that their return policy permits you to return ANYTHING (except computers) with or without the receipt whenever you want as long as you still have the same membership. If you bought a pair of pants, as I did, and found that you didn’t really like them but tossed the receipt already… no fear, just go back and they have it all on record. Yes, I bought these pants two months ago and had been meaning to return them for two months. You can also use this as a (semi-free) extended warranty – buy a TV or DVD player and if/when it stops working after four or five years, just return it! The only exception to this rule is a computer purchase and that return period expires after six months.

Update: Costco recently amended their return policy. Televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, iPOD / MP3 players and cellular phones can only be returned within 90 days of purchase.

Don’t believe me? My friend David bought a mattress from Costco and emailed them to find out their return policy on mattresses. In short, he could return at any time, at no cost, to a store or arrange with customer service for pickup if you can’t get it to the store because of size and weight. Pretty sweet.

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Costco Gasoline & Neighboring Stations

One of the reasons I joined Costco was because the price of gasoline at a Costco was about a ten cents (or greater) cheaper than the surrounding gas stations when I lived in College Park (the neighboring gas stations were two Exxon’s, a BP/Mobile, and a Gulf). At the time, even with a 5% rebate on gasoline credit card (AT&T Universal Cash Rewards, though here’s the latest list of the best gas credit cards), the difference in price was greater than 5% plus I had the benefit of buying in bulk at Costco for things like 7 lb. tub of nacho cheese. The downside of using Costco was that they only accepted American Express (1% cash back) or debit cards (0% cash back), so I couldn’t double dip and use a higher cash-back card with the cheaper gas, until I ran into a concrete and useful real life example of price competition.

When I moved up to Howard County, the Costco Warehouse still had gas but it also had two Exxon’s right next to it (you can debate the usefulness of two Exxon’s within a mile of each other, but whatever). Due to the proximity, the Exxon’s gas prices were depressed compared to gas stations not in the region. If you strayed more than a mile, you could see “regular” gas prices not affected by the lower Costco price.

Here is where the price competition comes into play: The Exxon gas prices are essentially pegged to be three or four cents higher than Costco’s gas price (based on my experience only, no actual concrete evidence). So I can get Exxon gasoline at a price cheaper than Costco after you factor in the 5% cash-back and current gasoline prices (at $2.00, if you can find it that cheap, you get 10 cents back).

Price competition in a capitalist society in action! I better find a pretty good reason to keep Costco around now… I mean, other than the 7 lb. tubs of nacho cheese. 🙂


Why Buy Your Tires at Costco

Costco occasionally sends out Passport to Savings, which are glorified coupon books for their warehouses. One of the most important things about this book is if it lists a sale on tires – a frequent event. Buying tires at Costco is typically a little higher than a straight purchase from but after you factor in installation and disposal of old tires (at around $20 total per tire), many times the higher price is justified for the perks. For June, you can save $60 on the purchase of four Michelin tires which for some tires can mean “Buy 3, Get 1 Free.”

Why did I buy my tires from Costco?

  1. Lifetime Warranty Replacement – If for any reason your tire goes flat, Costco will attempt to repair the tire or give you credit for the percentage of tread that remains. If it goes flat and the tire is pretty close to full tread, they just replace it for free. My girlfriend’s Celica had what appeared like an intentionally slashed tire (she was driving on the NJ Turnpike in reality) and Costco replaced the tire free of charge. They’re not supposed to fix intentional problems but they let it slide – it’s pretty subjective I think.
  2. Lifetime Rotation & Balancing – If you figure a rotation and balance at around $15, you can actually stop being a cheapskate and rotate your tires on schedule. The only pain is waiting for the service to be completed, which is quick if you arrive early morning on a weekday.
  3. Inflation with Nitrogen – They use nitrogen which is supposed to keep pressure better than air with changing temperatures. It’s supposed to also stay inflated better. I don’t necessarily believe the hype but whatever. They also inflate to optimal pressures when they rotate and balance. WARNING: That’s why your tires have green inflation tube caps, you cannot put in regular air at the gas station!

The lifetime warranty is the primary reason why I pay the premium to get the tires installed at Costco. If you decide to use Costco, call ahead to make sure the tires are in stock. If they aren’t, all you need is your membership card and a deposit and they will order the tires in. Shipping is free and they usually arrive within seven to ten days. If you don’t happen to have the coupon, they have copies at the register and will probably scan it for you since, in theory since you are a Costco cardholder, you should’ve received it anyway (just tell them you forgot it).

I know of friends who get tires shipped to NTB or a local service station to get them installed but I don’t believe many of those have the warranty like Costco.

To see if you have a Costco nearby, use their Warehouse Locator.

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