Why Does Costco Take So Long To Ship

Arguably, the best thing about Costco is that you can buy items in bulk for a very attractive price. Especially for families, this benefit of Costco membership is the biggest reason they still keep shopping there. And during a crisis like COVID or a coming snowstorm, it’s easy to go out and buy all the toilet paper and bottled water you can fit in the family vehicle.

Unfortunately, Costco has a reputation for very slow shipping. This has been a problem over the past few years, whether getting a sofa to finally complete your bare-looking living room or simply making sure you have enough bread to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Shipping at Costco has historically been so bad that entire Reddit threads are dedicated to slow shipping complaints.

But why is this such a problem for Costco? Shouldn’t it be like Amazon and other warehouses that seem to deliver practically overnight?

Let’s take a look.

Costco’s business model focuses on in-person sales

This is true of other companies like Sam’s Club and Walmart. However, Costco traditionally has not invested in the type of warehouse space that handles a lot of shipping. Instead, Costco members buy directly from the warehouse, eliminating that shipping step.

Costco’s e-commerce division has been poorly developed until recently, so it doesn’t have a vast army of pictures and packers.

Costco has less control over their logistics

Costco has less control over its logistics than the typical e-commerce site. One reason is that, until recently, they didn’t have their logistics for the e-commerce business. In other words, they weren’t set up for large-scale last-mile delivery like Amazon or Best Buy.

When Costco opened its e-commerce site, it initially relied almost exclusively on third-party shippers like UPS and USPS. And they still do, at least for certain items.

However, in 2020 the company purchased a logistics firm. Now, Costco Wholesale Solutions delivers large items directly to Costco customers. You primarily see this with their white glove service, similar to what a furniture or appliance store would provide.

However, this method is likely still slower than Amazon and its ubiquitous delivery vans.

Bulky items can be difficult to ship

The most significant difference between a Costco order and more traditional e-commerce is the size of its packages. While 10 pounds of peanuts are relatively easy to throw in a box and ship, that’s not the case for 100 rolls of toilet paper. Not to mention heavy items like bottled water.

Here’s the thing — most large and heavy items must be shipped via ground transportation. And if they aren’t, it’ll cost an arm and a leg in fees. Because ground shipping is inherently slower than other methods outside of an immediate geographic area, it’s easy to see why Costco packages can be slow.

There’s a nationwide trucker shortage

The necessity of using more ground transportation at Costco is no doubt exacerbated by the nationwide trucker shortage. This has been a persistent problem for the past several decades, often meaning that items stay in a warehouse for longer. In other words, market conditions inside the trucking industry also slow down the shipping speeds for any company dependent on external ground shipping vendors.

And guess what? World events of the last few years have made the problem worse.

There is a global shipping backlog

While this problem isn’t as bad as it was just a few months ago, all surface transportation by ship has been more difficult for the last couple of years. US ports have been backlogged with ships and containers that need to be unloaded.

Likewise, Lockdowns and other geopolitical concerns have made it difficult to import multiple items. That’s one reason why Costco finally chartered some small container ships to ensure that products would be on the shelves for the holidays. But with those items getting unloaded more slowly, it’s easy to see why shipping to consumers can likewise be delayed.

It’s getting better

Costco has significantly shortened its average shipping time to consumers over the past couple of years. The acquisition of a logistics company has helped significantly, and now they use commercial shippers primarily for smaller orders. As a result, the average delivery time for large and bulky items has fallen from 15 days down to about five.

Another factor in faster delivery is that Costco no longer does drop shipping. In other words, they do their fulfillment and shipping rather than letting their suppliers mail items directly to their customers. This saves time because there’s less need for back-and-forth communication. The Costco warehouse may also be closer to customers than the supplier’s warehouse.

Final thoughts

Costco’s slow delivery has been a customer pain point for a long time. This is especially true when people compare Costco delivery times to those of Amazon or Wayfair. Many delays were beyond Costco’s control, such as a shortage of truckers and ocean transport.

However, Costco has taken ownership of the problem. After acquiring a law logistics company in 2020, Costco has become much more efficient at delivering products to its customers.

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