Before you get all excited, no, I do pay for my membership. However, I figure that it pays for itself. Let me count the ways:
First off, we buy the executive membership. It costs more($100 vs. $50), but you get 2% of each purchase back in the form of a gift check to be redeemed at the store. Our annual check is around $75. So, we're out $25 annually.
Second, we try to time our visits to the samples. Yum! If we pick a really great sample day, our family of 6 can get filled up for lunch on samples. If we'd taken the family to McDonalds instead, we would have spent about $25. So say we do that twice a month (which is an underestimate, sad to say), we "save" $600 a year. We end up buying many foods that we sample, so it's a "win-win" situation for Costco, the food manufacturers and us.
I will admit we don't eat that much fast food, so instead of McDonalds, I'll cook a healthy meal at home for $8. At $8 a pop, twice a month for a year, it works out to $192 a year.
If we didn't time our samples right, or it's a light sample day, we have to eat afterwards. So, we go to the cafe they have. We could make that visit even cheaper, but usually at least half of the family will either get the pizza or the salad, which is pricier than the hot dogs. Even so, our whole family eats for about $13, which is pretty amazing for a family of 6.
The products themselves are sometimes a great bargain and sometimes not. Sometimes the quality makes up for the extra cost. They also back all of their products and are great about returns.
Now, I think I shall go kiss a Costco employee. Hope I don't get arrested for assault.