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Mike Mozart via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

8 Under-the-Radar Costco Perks You're Probably Missing Out On

Mike Mozart via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When I was looking to buy a car last year, my stomach would churn with every trip to the dealership. It was hard not to feel like I was getting a terrible deal, no matter how many times I hemmed and hawed and the salesperson made a better offer. But when my sister-in-law suggested I look at Costco, I had no idea what she was talking about—despite being a long-time member. “The place where I buy bulk apples and cheap chicken sells cars!?” Well, not exactly. But the great, no-negotiation-needed deal you can get is just one membership perk you might not be taking advantage of.

1. CAR HAGGLING ON YOUR BEHALF

More than 3000 dealerships are part of the Costco Auto Program, which means they agree to sell new and select pre-owned vehicles to Costco members at low, set prices. When I finally found out about the program, I called to check out the Costco rate I could get at a nearby dealer—and it was nearly $2000 below the “best offer” I’d been able to negotiate on my own.

2. WATER DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR

Take your pick of H2O: Spring, purified, and artesian water can all be delivered to your home or office, starting at $6 a (large) bottle. Dispenser rental ranges from $1 to $3 a month, depending on your membership level.

3. FREE EAR AND EYE EXAMS

Members can take advantage of free hearing tests at Costco’s Hearing Aid Centers—along with free follow-up appointments and hearing aid cleanings. You can also get your peepers checked out for free at Costco Optical.

4. DEEP TRAVEL DISCOUNTS

The same bulk rates that allow Costco to sell giant packages of toilet paper for less also allow the warehouse club to negotiate better member rates at all-inclusive resorts and theme parks and on airfare, car rentals, and cruise ships.

5. TECH TROUBLESHOOTING

Whether you’re befuddled by your flat-screen TV, printer, exercise equipment, or security system, if you purchased the gadget or appliance at Costco, you can call the concierge line for free over-the-phone tech support.

6. PRESCRIPTION DRUGS THAT DON'T COST AN ARM AND A LEG

If you don’t have prescription insurance—or it doesn’t cover all of your meds—check out the list of drugs included in Costco’s Prescription Program. Many meds cost just $5 for members, and you can pick up scripts for Fido as well.

7. CHECKS CHEAPER THAN YOUR BANK

Sure, it probably takes you forever to run out of personal checks these days, but when you do need a refill, you’ll pay about half as much if you have them printed at Costco instead of your bank. The warehouse club also offers business checks, ink stamps, and tax forms for small business owners.

8. BULK MOVIE TICKETS

Film fanatics can make quick work of a four-pack or 10-pack of discounted movie tickets, but even casual moviegoers can get in on the savings, because these tickets never expire. They’re also good for any movie at any time or day of the week.  

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Want Priority Boarding On Your Alaska Airlines Flight This Holiday Season? Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater
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Between steep fares and crowded terminals, flying during the holidays isn’t fun. But on Friday, December 15, a special Alaska Airlines promotion will ease boarding stress and transform packed planes into mile-high ugly sweater parties, in honor of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the airline will offer free early boarding to travelers willing to don their holiday worst at the airport.

The promotion is good for all Alaska Airlines flights in the airline’s 115-city network, and for flights offered by Virgin America and Horizon Air (both of which are operated by Alaska Airlines). In addition to escaping the waiting crowds, passengers who share the most festive knitted looks will be featured on Alaska Air's social media pages if they tag their photos and videos using the hashtags #UglySweaterDay and #MostWestCoast. And since no plane aisle-turned-catwalk is complete without a soundtrack, “festive holiday-themed boarding music will play all month long to help get guests into the holiday spirit,” according to a press release.

Worried you’ll be the only person on the plane wearing a sequined Rudolph cardigan? Even if other passengers don’t get the memo, airline crew will also be wearing ugly sweaters—so feel free to unleash your inner Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item baked in an older kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. Historically, lead has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red. The chemical is avoided by potters today, but it can still show up in handmade dishware baked in older kilns that contain lead residue. Antique products from the era when lead was a common crafting material may also be unsafe to eat or drink from. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. Independent artisans have also moved away from working with the ingredient, but there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

This piece was updated to clarify that while lead may be present in antique ceramics and old kilns, it's no longer a common ingredient in ceramic glazes.

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