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Tips for Shopping at Costco

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by Lisa Nolte (subscribe)
Fifteen years ago I traded a corporate career for life on the river. Close enough to Melbourne to get a quick City fix, plus a great community with excellent coffee and four healthy active boys to keep me entertained, I've never regretted the change.
Published January 14th 2014
Enjoy finding multiple deals at a fraction of the usual cost
Tips for Shopping at Costco

Costco bulk grocery market
Popular quality grocery items at cheap prices

What is Costco?
An American-based wholesale warehouse aimed at families and small businesses, Costco stocks large quantities of popular goods at very reasonable prices. Have you always wanted to check out Costco in Ringwood or Docklands, but been a little unsure of how it works? The following pointers are from a self-confessed Costco tragic. You never know, it may just change your life. Have a nice day.

Be prepared for the underground Carpark

At Costco Docklands there is a time limit on free parking, a small fee per hour follows, payable at a single ticket machine before leaving the carpark via a set of boomgates. You will need small change. This carpark can get quite busy, and there isn't much manoeuvring room. It is essential that you pay for your ticket before getting to the boomgates.

Costco Ringwood Parking
Costco's Ringwood carpark is spacious and free

Costco Ringwood has excellent, spacious free parking over 2 levels each reached from a separate entry in New Street. The lower level seems to be the least crowded.

Grab a trolley BEFORE you go inside and always use the lift

Make no mistake, you will need a trolley, and they are only available on the outside.

Take a refundable coin for Ringwood, but Docklands trolleys are free.

Costco lift
The large lifts are safer than the ramps

Costco trolleys are supersized, as are the rather scary ramps that lead shoppers inexorably to the great maw on the shopping level. So to avoid heart-palpitating near-misses on the slopes, use the large and well maintained lifts. In general, the traffic flows smoothly. At Docklands, head the trolley in forwards from the carpark as the lift disgorges from the opposite side to the entry. There is only one way in and out at Ringwood, so try backing in like the pros.

Have your membership card handy

Membership Card
Membership card must be presented

One does not simply walk in to Costco.

There are guards at the gate, cleverly disguised as friendly pamphlet distributors.


This is the key to the store, and no-one gets past these smiling coupon handlers. Newbies who haven't sorted a membership online should head to customer service, tucked away just inside the exit, where you can pay your $60, have your photo taken on the spot and be shopping in a matter of minutes.

Take a list, but don't expect to find everything you want today

Chocolate brownie mix and giant Mayo
Who can resist chocolate brownies, sweetcorn and giant mayo jars?

This is the hardest part. The store is laid out for maximum impulse and it is all so reasonably priced that temptation is around every corner. But be warned, everything is giant sized, or multi-packed, so unless you have a good use for a 20 pack of cucumbers or 2 quarts of Best's Mayonnaise (1.9l, it is an American store and all the measurements are in U.S. customary measurements), leave it in on the shelf.

There are two types of grocery at Costco; Kirkland, and everything else. Kirkland is the store brand, and pretty serviceable. You will probably notice over time that your trolley has more and more Kirkland items per visit as you bravely commit to trying 1.45 gallons of laundry detergent or a four-pack of pale butter sticks.

Some days you may leave with nothing but a coffin-sized package of Danish smoked salmon and the ubiquitous slab of freshly baked croissants.

There appears to be no unbleached toilet paper - ever.

Plan your route to finish with the perishables

Shelves are laid out for maximum impulse

The rule of thumb is dry goods to the left, homewares to the right, books, sports and clothing in the middle, meat on the back wall, bakery and fresh produce in the bottom right corner, dairy at the bottom left. The freezer cabinets are in a block in the middle of the grocery section. At Ringwood the booze is down the back, at Docklands it is the last thing you pass before the registers. Hmmmm. Did I mention how reasonably priced the duty-free-sized top shelf labels are?

Take a cash-paying guest for free and let the professionals take control at the register

Here you and your trolley part ways

You can introduce another shopper for free, but when checking out, the name on any credit card must match the membership card, so if you have invited a guest, they must pretend you are buying the goods and pay cash.

Each checkout has at least 2 smiling attendants. One heads you off at the top of the register, whisks your trolley away and unpacks, the other grabs your membership card - yes, you need it again to get out - and you are efficiently and courteously processed. This may take up to 4 smiling attendants. It will be over before you know it.

Once you are processed, you and your groaning trolley can join fellow shoppers in a celebratory hotdog. At Docklands, this is the highlight of the visit, as the picnic area fronts directly on to the Star Wheel, an impressive, if slightly unnerving view. For a couple of dollars you can have a bottomless soda and a hot dog with mustard and onions from a serve-yourself onion grinding machine. For a little more you can share a very flat pizza in a very large box.

Be prepared for the exit procedure and take a large Esky

Closely related to their coupon counterparts at the entry, the highlighter wielding exit door guards check the contents of your trolley against the list on your docket. Have the docket ready as the crowd building up behind you will be anxious for freedom and can get quite agitated if forced to wait.

car boot
King Island Cheese needs an esky

The handy thing about supersized products is that they are much easier to get in the car. You will notice immediately that there are no tiny little cans to roll around, or awkward shapes in loose plastic bags to have to juggle. Take an Esky for the salmon and those King Island cheeses you forgot to put on the list and remember to leave enough room to drive.

Have you any Costco hints?
Ever bought prescription glasses or a big ticket item such as diamond jewellery? Do you think a visit to Costco is worth it?
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Why? Confidently seek smoked salmon, King Island cheeses and Chocolate Brownie Mix
When: Daily from 10am, Saturdays from 9.30
Phone: (03) 8602 0300 Docklands, (03) 8873 6700 Ringwood
Where: 381 Footscray Road Docklands and 29 Bond Street Ringwood, VIC
Cost: A one-off membership for individuals or families is $60
Your Comment
Don't forget the new Costco in the Eastern suburb of Ringwood, right near Eastland. Very handy if you don't like navigating the Docklands roads.
by clare (score: 1|69) 2600 days ago
I love shopping at Costco, especially the special items they have on offer. I am used to Costco because I lived in Canada/USA where Costco is a very old phenomenon as compared to Australia.
by Happy Mom (score: 2|548) 2603 days ago
Is that $60 yearly or one time payment?
by mlmab (score: 0|3) 2600 days ago
Costco should utilise Moorabbin for their next outlet! They would have never-ending-river of new clients. C'mon Costco - give 3189 a decent go, please!
by fluffynut (score: 2|952) 2599 days ago
Any plans for opening up a store in melbourne north?
Would be really great and heaps of members,
by Preet (score: 0|2) 1913 days ago
COSTCO Moorabbin Opening in 3 weeks - 18th November 2015 at 8am
by Buggy (score: 1|31) 1953 days ago
When the Costco store in Morabbin will be opened ? We are waiting for it. C'mon Costco.
by anfon (score: 0|2) 1953 days ago
I'm in uk, I got a card can I order online and deliver in my house in Cebu.
by Dakes (score: 0|2) 2194 days ago
If you need your hearing tested it is free for Costco members and if the test results reveal that you need hearing aids you will save significantly at Costco. I paid $3000 for my hearing aids which the exact same model are retailing for between $10000 to $10500 at an outside commercial hearing centre. Testing was extensive and very professional audiologist's.
by Barry (score: 0|2) 2232 days ago
Canberra Costco has 1kg bags of naked ginger. Melbourne Docklands doesn't stock it al all anymore. What gives? How can I check product availability online?
by ani
by annid (score: 0|2) 2237 days ago
Have been a member for nearly 3 years . First joined in Canberra .
The Kirkland Salsa Sauce is to die for , be aware of supermarket prices . Stay away from Chocolate isle with children , also good for men's Levis jeans
by dctr (score: 0|2) 2482 days ago
Hi Lisa, thanks for the great advice, really useful. I've been wanting to check out Costco for some time but was a little apprehensive about how it all works.
by Jo Ferguson (score: 2|179) 2485 days ago
A few more Costco tips:
by G2 Noter (score: 0|6) 2597 days ago
buy a bottomless drink before you enter the store and refil on the way out:))
by lindg (score: 0|3) 2598 days ago
I hear they are also looking at opening in Moorabbin around the DFO area.
by Buggy (score: 1|31) 2600 days ago
Is there any plans on coming to Geelong?
by nedzb (score: 0|2) 1884 days ago
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