NJ thought this was illegal … but it’s not? Costco requiring membership to buy gas
Questions linger about the legality of Costco moving to require a membership for gas purchases at its New Jersey locations starting July 5.
Signs with the announcement have been reported at many of the chain's 17 gas locations in New Jersey where prices can run as much as 20 cents per gallon cheaper than other gas stations.
Both members and non-members can take advantage of the bargain as Costco and other warehouse stores have seemingly been prohibited from requiring membership since 2004, when the state told the company that doing so violated state law, according to news coverage at the time.
At least that's what everyone thought. Nobody, however, seems able to pinpoint that exact regulation or ruling.
"I am learning they (Costco) are taking a position that it is not illegal to limit their customers to members at their New Jersey gas stations and I see nothing in state law that prevents them from doing this," Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, and Automotive Association, told New Jersey 101.5.
Risalvato said that the state Division of Consumer Affairs has also had difficulty finding the law cited in 2004 and officials called him looking for help to identify it.
On Wednesday, the Division of Consumer Affairs and Costco had not responded to New Jersey 101.5's request a day earlier for more information.
Members complain about long lines
Costco's decision could be in response to member complaints about waiting in long lines with non-members.
Anthony C., a member from Clifton, told New Jersey 101.5 that he is disappointed in how Costco has treated members.
"I personally can't waste time like this. I work an average of 65 to 70 hours per week. I have discussed this with my wife and decided once my membership expires, I will no longer renew it," Anthony said. "My time off is too valuable and not worth the stress and anxiety this matter puts on me. Hopefully, Costco will make some fair changes and do what's right."
The store is already gearing up for the membership requirement.
An employee at the Costco in Lawrence said he's already been told that someone will be positioned at the entrance to the gas station checking memberships and turning away the general public.
Chris Rollins and Diana Tyler contributed to this report