Costco is known for having a generous return policy.
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  • Costco is known for having a very generous return policy. Members can return almost any product at any time if they are not satisfied with it.
  • Some members, however, may see this as an opportunity to return worn or used items several years after buying them. A Costco spokesperson told Business Insider that it is up to the discretion of each store manager to make a decision about whether to process a return, which can be confusing for some shoppers.
  • Making frequent returns can jeopardize your membership status. While Costco says there is no limit to the number of returns a customer can make, at least one member who spoke with Business Insider said her membership was canceled after making a number of returns.

One of the biggest perks of having a Costco membership is its generous return policy. The warehouse chain allows members to return almost any item at any time if they’re not satisfied with it.

“We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell and will refund your purchase price, with the following exceptions,” the company states on its website.

The exceptions are straightforward. Select electronics must be returned within 90 days. Diamonds must be returned within 48 hours with the original paperwork. Cigarettes, alcohol, and custom items are not accepted for return, and products with a limited life expectancy might have specific warranties.

While this generous policy might be a way to entice new customers to spend $60 on an annual membership, it has also left the retailer wide open to abuse. Stories on Reddit and Facebook describe shoppers returning things like a Christmas tree in January, an already-eaten steak, and an empty bottle of wine.

It’s up to the discretion of each store manager to make a decision on whether to process a return, which is why the occasional poorly timed Christmas-tree return can slip through the gaps. Costco does not specify on its website what would constitute a violation of the return policy and whether, ultimately, too many returns could put your membership in jeopardy.

But in a statement emailed to Business Insider, a spokesperson from the management team at Costco confirmed that there are instances where a membership could be canceled.

“In the event a member is not satisfied with Costco merchandise, the membership fees may be refunded and the membership canceled. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis and is at the discretion of each location manager. Additionally, memberships may be canceled due to abuse of the Member Privileges and Conditions,” a spokesperson for Costco told Business Insider.

Putting your membership at risk

Maryam Nicksolat, who had been a member of Costco since 2006, told Business Insider that she lost her membership earlier this year after she tried to return a printer she had bought in 2010.

Nicksolat said that the printer had issues shortly after she first bought it, but she didn’t get around to returning it until eight years later. Costco does not have a time limit on its return policy for most items.

As printers are outside of Costco’s exclusions for electronics returns, Nicksolat said she assumed she was within her rights to make a return at that point. But when she attempted to do so at a Costco store in Fairfax, Virginia, the cashier told her that she would not be able to, she said. A…