Costco to Accept Food Stamps

October 28, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Food stamps will soon be accepted at one of the country's biggest "members only' retailers club. Costco began a test run in New York City earlier this year, and was apparently surprised by its success.The central valley's Costco stores will be among the first to accept Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, as a form of payment, possibly beginning as soon as next month. The announcement came as good news to Fresno mother Hazel Russell. "I think it's a great idea because I have young children, so quantity is important to me," said Russell.

The new payment type is just one way retailers are responding to the poor economy. In June, 35 million Americans received food stamps, up 22 percent from June of 2008. Fresno State Marketing Professor Bill Rice calls it a smart move for the wholesale retailer. "They are responding to the economic conditions that are driving their consumers to a lower economic buying level, which is food stamps," said Rice.

Membership will still cost EBT users. That starts at about 50 dollars a year, and Fresno EBT consumer April Lee believes that could keep some people out of Costco. "People who receive food stamps have a low income, so they can't afford a membership. That's why a lot of us go to Smart and Final, because you don't have to have a membership," said Lee.

Rice said savings can outweigh the cost of membership and said allowing customers the option of buying in bulk will help government dollars go further to help feed families. "In this situation, they can get more product for their dollar, so that cost for the initial entrance of fee, it's not a big issue," said Rice. Rice said all Costco customers could see changes because of the company's new policy, with the store offering even more choices, to help the budget savvy consumer.

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