The Reason Costco Doesn't Have Express Check Out Lanes

From the famous free samples to the mass quantities of food you can buy in one trip, Costco is a one-of-a-kind store. Because Costco operates its own warehouses, it can sell its products at much lower prices than normal grocery stores and wholesale outlets (via Costco). This makes the chain the perfect place to stock up on the essentials, whether you're feeding a big family or just want to make less shopping trips.

It's hardly surprising, then, that Costco sells over a billion rolls of toilet paper every year, making it the chain's most popular product, according to The Ascent. Second on the list is the $4.99 rotisserie chicken, followed by bacon, hot dogs, and gas. But the chain isn't only good for buying the basics — Costco also offers a plethora of goodies like bakery treats (the cherry and cheese pastries are particularly delicious), steak, and holiday food and drinks. And while customers may come for the staples and treats, Costco's 90% member retention rate shows they're sticking around, according to Forbes

An ever-improving customer experience may have something to do with Costco's success. Yet if Costco is so focused on satiating customers' needs, why doesn't it offer express check-out lanes?

Costco customers wouldn't use express lanes

Simply put, Costco doesn't offer express check-out because it believes the lanes wouldn't get enough use. According to Costco, most of its customers buy about 16 items every visit, and considering the average express check-out lane limits people to 15 items or less, an express Costco customer would be an anomaly. This makes sense when you think about it — most customers go to Costco to stock up, not just to grab a few items.

Omitting express lanes may have been a smart move on Costco's part, as they've created difficulties for other stores. Some argue that the item limit on express check-out lanes really comes down to semantics — after all, would the cashier turn you away for having 16 items? And who's really counting? According to the Detroit Free Press, in 2016, Kroger's express lanes told people to have "about 15 items" in an attempt to satisfy customers who were confused over the phrase "15 items or less."

As for Costco, however, the chain has found other ways to streamline their check-out process. According to 12 Tomatoes, Costco's motto is, "No more than one member in line, and two members behind." To accomplish this, it has spent millions to get its average customer checkout time down to about one minute. And while we won't see any Costco express lanes in the near future, it's not entirely opposed to self-service check-out, which it has already rolled out at limited locations.