Costco hot dogs are safe from price hikes despite inflation, CEO says

Some good news for inflation-weary Americans: There will be no price hike on Costco’s hot dogs.

In an interview Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” CEO Craig Jelinek had a one-word answer when asked whether he would raise the signature food court item’s price: “No.”

Costco has continued to put up strong sales, even as other retailers have spoken about consumers becoming more budget-conscious and spending more on services instead of goods. It’s also avoided another recent problem for many retailers: excess inventory that’s racked up in warehouses and stores, which must now be packed away or marked down.

Yet amid nearly four-decade high inflation, Costco has raised prices of some food court items. That prompted speculation that its hot dog’s super low price could be on the chopping block, too. The hot dog and soda combo has sold for $1.50 for decades. It caused a Mental Floss article from 2018 to circulate again.

In the article, Jelinek recalled approaching Costco co-founder and then-CEO Jim Sinegal. He told him the company was losing money over the iconic food item.

“I came to (Sinegal) once and I said, ‘Jim, we can’t sell this hot dog for a buck fifty,” Jelinek said, according to the article. “We are losing our rear ends.’ And he said, ‘If you raise (the price of the) effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.’ That’s all I really needed.”

Another aspect of Costco’s business has also been under scrutiny: When its membership fee might increase. The vast majority of Costco’s profit comes from the annual fees rather than from selling items. It has historically hiked membership fees every 5.5 years and its last increase was in June 2017, putting it on track for an increase soon, according to Corey Tarlowe, an analyst for Jefferies.

On Monday, Jelinek told CNBC that a membership fee is “not on the table right at the moment.”

“I made it very clear,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right time. Our signups continue to be strong.”

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