Costco Isn't Joking Around With Its New Membership Sharing Ban

As anyone who has ever attempted to shop at Costco can tell you, you can't just waltz in with a shopping cart. You need a Costco membership card if you want to get inside. For some, this is a fair deal; you pay an annual fee to have access to a wide selection of bulk items that are sold cheaper than at other grocers. But only two people can officially share a Costco membership — and the warehouse chain isn't messing around when it comes to reinforcing that policy.

A recent example of Costco "laying down the law" involves the mother of one TikTok user and the subsequent banning from her local Costco. TikTok user @profitplug claims that his mother went to Costco using her husband's membership card to purchase groceries. As she was scanning the card at the self-checkout area, she was reportedly rushed by employees, who grilled her for her membership card and ID number. Upon hearing she was using her husband's card, the mother was told she could never shop at that particular Costco location again. (While many TikTok commenters criticized the chain's reported actions, Costco hasn't issued an official statement about the claims.)

So, has Costco banned other customers for using someone else's membership? And why the sudden crackdown on membership sharing in the first place?

Many have claimed to have been interrogated by employees

Other Costco customers, although they were not banned from their local stores, claim to have faced similar "interrogations" by employees. Some Reddit users shared their experiences of being grilled by Costco employees, describing the feeling that the employees were actively trying to find something wrong with them.  

According to Costco, breaking up the practice of membership sharing is simply protecting the rights of actual membership holders. In a statement published by CNN Business on June 28, Costco explained that it didn't feel "right that nonmembers receive the same benefits and pricing as our members." After all, why would anyone pay for a membership fee when anyone, member or not, can get the same perks and privileges anyway? 

Others blame recent economic conditions for Costco's stricter adherence to its members-only policy. GlobalData managing director Neil Saunders posited to The New York Times that Costco was more willing to overlook membership sharing while the economy was in better shape. Now that the economic situation is a bit rougher, Costco may be trying to do anything it can to keep those seeking a "free ride" out of its stores. Whatever the case may be, Costco joins other membership and subscription-based companies, including Netflix, in cracking down on membership sharing. Whether or not these stricter rules will keep people from trying to share memberships remains to be seen.