Fact Check

Did Costco Make a 'Shocking' Policy Change?

A headline from December 2020 claimed "customers are so mad" after Costco Wholesale made "the most shocking change to their return policy."

Published Dec. 19, 2020

PEMBROKE PINES, FLORIDA - JULY 16: Customers wearing face masks leaving a Costco Wholesale store on July 16, 2020 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Some major U.S. corporations are requiring masks to be worn in their stores upon entering to control the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Johnny Louis/Getty Images) ( Johnny Louis / Contributor)
Image courtesy of Johnny Louis / Contributor
Costco announced a change to its return policy in 2020.

Perhaps the last thing the world wants to do is relive the year 2020 all over again. Yet, a story on the website SheFinds appeared to go back in time nine months to around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The article, posted on Dec. 15, 2020, claimed to have "shocking" news about a policy change at Costco Wholesale. The headline read: "Customers Are So Mad: Costco Just Made The Most Shocking Change To Their Return Policy."

Costco has changed its return policy for Covid-19–and customers are freaking out!

According to notices posted at Costco stores last week, the wholesale change is no longer accepting returns on key items amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, such as rice and toilet paper.

An eagle-eyed customer snapped up this picture of a sign at one of the chain’s checkout registers that warns customers that returns will not be accepted on such items, as well as water, sanitizing wipes, Lysol, paper towels and more.

The story embedded an Instagram post that showed a Costco Wholesale sign at a checkout register. It read: "Returns will not be accepted on toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizing wipes, water, rice, and Lysol. Thank you for your understanding."

However, the Instagram post was from March 18, 2020. Costco had not "just made" a change to their return policy, nor did the SheFinds story provide proof that customers were "so mad" (in fact many comments on the cited Instagram post seemed supportive of the announcement). Some expressed confusion at why anyone might need to return items like toilet paper, but we wouldn't label that as shocking.

It's true that beginning in March 2020 Costco made a policy change that limited purchases on specific items that were being hoarded. On March 17, 2020, KUTV reported:

(KUTV) — Costco is implementing new measures to help with social distancing and hoarding of items now in popular demand.

The warehouse chain is also placing restrictions on the number of purchases allowed for certain items, including toilet paper and hand sanitizer, Business Insider reports.

Three employees at different Costco warehouses told Business Insider that the company recently implemented a new policy on returns. Customers will not be able to return items that are in high demand, such as hand sanitizer, water, paper towels, rice and Lysol.

Also in March, Costco announced the policy change on its website: "Limits have been implemented on certain items to help ensure more members are able to access the merchandise they want and need."

As of this writing, the products listed in the Instagram post were not mentioned among Costco's exceptions to its return policy.

We previously reported on other misleading stories from SheFinds.com. One article claimed that Wendy's fast food chain had made "the most heartbreaking announcement ever."

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.