20 Things You Didn't Know About Costco Gallery

If there's one word that most accurately describes Costco, it's big. Its stores are big; its products are big; it's the second-biggest retailer in the world (after Walmart); and it sells more prime and choice beef, rotisserie chicken, organic foods, and wine than any other retailer. So yeah, it's big. But even if you're an Executive Member who knows exactly what time to arrive for that rotisserie-roasted fowl, we bet that there's still a lot you didn't know about this big-box chain.

It Started Inside Howard Hughes’ Airplane Hangar

The very first Price Club (Costco's progenitor) opened in 1976 inside six old airplane hangars that were once owned by Howard Hughes. It's still open today.

It Originally Sold Only Boxed Items Directly From Palettes

Walking into the earliest Costcos really was like walking into a warehouse, as nearly every item was still inside its box, on a palette.

Membership Grew by 5 Million in the Past Year

Membership was at 85 million in 2016, and by 2017 it had increased to 90.3 million.

It’s One of America’s Largest Pizza Chains

Costco has around 400 locations in the United States, and with all but a few selling pizza, this officially makes it the 15th largest pizza chain in America in terms of number of units, with more locations than such chains as California Pizza Kitchen, Fox's Pizza Den, and Jet's Pizza.

A Typical Store Sells Only 4,000 Different Products

Products come and go quite quickly, and a typical Costco sells a relatively small number of products — usually around 4,000, about the same number sold at most Trader Joe's locations. In comparison, Walmart Supercenters stock about 140,000 products.

It Utilizes Some Creative Cost-Cutting Measures

You've probably noticed that Costcos have some idiosyncrasies, and they're primarily the result of trying to save as much money as possible, in order to keep prices low. For example, there aren't any shopping bags so old merchandise boxes are used to pack up purchased items, and skylights allow for lights to be turned off on sunny days.

Membership Has Some Surprising Perks

An Executive Membership ($120/year, as opposed to $60 for a regular one) will get you a lot more than just access to the store; Executive members can also receive home loans, check printing services, car insurance, and travel benefits.

There Are Several Things You Can Buy Without a Subscription

If the food court is outdoors, you don't need a membership in order to buy food there. Some states also require that the pharmacy and optician be open to the general public, not just members.

The Pizzas Take Less Than a Minute to Prep

Those pizzas are marvels of technology: First, balls of dough are lightly hand-stretched and run through a sheeter. Then, they're spread out on a tray and docked for even cooking. The trays are then placed onto a machine that evenly applies sauce, cheese is added, and finally they're baked. You can watch the whole process here.

The Price of a Hot Dog-Soda Combo Hasn’t Increased in More than 30 Years

You will rarely, if ever, notice a change in the prices at the Costco food court. Pizzas cost $1.99 per slice and $9.99 per pie, chicken bakes cost $2.99, and a hot dog and soda combo will always cost $1.50. In fact, the company switched from Coke to Pepsi fountain drinks in 2013 because Coca-Cola raised its prices.

They Make Their Own Hot Dogs to Keep Menu Prices Down

Costco sells about 100 million hot dogs annually, which is four times more than what's sold at Major League baseball ballparks all season. The low price is one of the reasons why so many sell, and the chain does everything in its power to keep the prices down. In 2013, they switched to selling all Pepsi products after Coca-Cola increased their prices, and in 2009, they switched from Hebrew National to Kirkland Signature (its private label brand) in order to avoid raising prices as well.

The Bacon is a Must-Buy

Not only did Consumer Reports find that the bacon sold under Costco's store brand, Kirkland Signature, tastes better than most other brands, it's also about $1.50 cheaper per pound than the competition.

Top Shelf Booze is A Lot Cheaper There than at the Liquor Store

Top-shelf booze is usually a lot cheaper at Costco than the liquor store, and in some states you don't even need a membership to purchase it.

The Rotisserie Chicken is the Cheapest You’ll Find Anywhere

The three-pound (minimum) rotisserie chicken at Costco is always $4.99 across the board, which makes it the cheapest you'll find anywhere. The closest competitor, Wal-Mart, sells theirs for a dollar more, and the chickens they use are smaller! Costco would rake in 30 to 40 million more dollars annually if they raised the price by a buck, but they're sticking with it, and we're grateful for that.

Kirkland Signature is Named After its Former Headquarters’ Location

From 1987 to 1998, Costco's headquarters was located in Kirkland, Washington, a Seattle suburb. Hence the name!

It Has Published a Free Monthly Magazine Since 1987

The Costco Connection is a publication that's available for free to members, and is also available online. Believe it or not, the paper edition is the largest-circulation print monthly in the United States!

It Offers a Free “Concierge” Service to People Who Purchase Electronics

If you buy an expensive electronic product from Costco and can't figure out how to actually make it work, just give them a call and they'll help you out.

It Recently Launched Same-Day Grocery Delivery

In October, Costco launched a service called CostcoGrocery, in which two-day delivery will be available for many non-refrigerated foods, with free delivery on orders over $75. They're also partnered with InstaCart for same-day delivery of fresh food, with free delivery of orders over $35, plus a 10 percent service fee.

Employees’ Hourly Pay and Health Insurance Coverage is Better than the Competition

Costco is well-known for paying its employees well; non-supervisory hourly wages can be as high as $21, and 85 percent of employees have health insurance, as opposed to less than 50 percent at Target and Walmart.

The Free Sample Folks Don’t Work For Costco

Those magical people who stand at the end of Costco aisles, gently prodding you to sample some free food? Those folks (called "product demonstration employees") don't actually work for Costco; they're primarily employed by companies named Warehouse Demo Services and Club Demonstration Services, and they're usually paid less than Costco employees. Sad face.

Looking to stretch your food dollar at big-box stores? Here's how!