Given the high-ticket items a person can buy at Costco—$3,000 TVs, laptops, engagement rings—I always assumed the receipt-checkers stationed near the exits were tasked mainly with preventing theft. But at my local Costco, these employees give my cart a cursory glance, at best. There’s no checking under boxes or peeking inside cardboard carriers—so how hard could they really be checking for pilfered jewelry or hidden rotisserie chickens? Turns out, that’s not their primary job.
The Cheat Sheet points out that former Costco employees say the receipt-checkers are actually there to spot cashier errors, not shoplifting. This Quora answer from a former staffer explains it in more detail, stating that in their 12 years of working there, the receipt-checkers spotted theft zero times, but caught cashier errors several times per day. Shoplifting, this person writes, is caught before people ever reach the door: “Sometimes they’ll try to hide some DVDs under the big toilet paper package, as the cashier is supposed to clear the cart at the register, this strategy of theft fails before getting to the door.”
A Reddit thread on the same subject echoes the fact that theft at these big-box stores rarely happens at the exit. Writes one former employee: “Trust me, we’re not loss prevention, we have loss prevention in the store and that’s not us. We’re literally just trying to make sure our cashiers do the job right, and when we DO catch it, all the information gets stored. Who did it, what time, etc...and those cashiers get spoken to. This is not to benefit anyone but the member to improve the experience overall.”
That person also makes the very valid point that if you were trying to steal a TV or laptop or even a case of ramen, how would you wheel it past the cashier in the first place?
Consumerist has yet more testimony from a former Costco employee, who says the receipt-checkers weren’t even specifically instructed to watch for theft: “We weren’t trained to catch shoplifting, we were trained to make sure that people were not being overcharged. During the time I spent receipt checking I probably caught well over $1000 in overcharges.”
That explains why the exit-door employees at my Costco don’t go rummaging through my cart: They’re mainly checking to make sure I haven’t been charged multiple times for an item, which presumably would make me unhappy once I returned home and checked my receipt. If they deter someone from stealing roasted chicken in the process, well, that’s just a bonus.