Costco discontinues half-sheet cakes; people say coronavirus is to blame

Costco Wholesale is the go-to retailer for many Americans who prefer to buy in bulk.

Among the many perks associated with shopping at Costco are free samples, which the company announced would return this month, dine-in areas with cheap pizza slices and specialty sheet cakes.

The $20 cakes, which were advertised as appropriate for up to 48 people, have been a fan favorite for graduations, weddings and birthday parties. Measuring 12 by 16 inches, they came in two flavors: white cake with vanilla cheesecake mousse and white buttercream or chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate buttercream.

But Costco has halted the production and sales of half-sheet cakes in all its locations across the country.

The reason? Many people are saying coronavirus is to blame. State guidelines have recommended limited gatherings in many areas.

The company provided some insight in a comment on Facebook last month.

“To help limit personal contact and create more space for social distancing, Costco has reduced service in some departments,” a company representative wrote. “At this time, we are not making sheet cakes for special order.”

The company also said there are “no immediate plans to bring them back.”

While the company hasn’t released any further details about why it has discontinued sales of the popular offering, customers have taken to social media to voice their disappointment.

At least one social media user said she planned to write to corporate about the discontinuation, and others said the large cakes were a primary reason for their store memberships.

"Please bring back the sheet cakes, even if just for preorder," Kristy Murphy wrote on Facebook. "The round are not large enough for larger families. We've had 3 birthdays we would have bought them for, another coming up soon as well as graduation. Our grocery store cakes are good, but not Costco good."

“You shouldn’t be having gatherings with that many people anyway right now,” Kerry Dugan responded.

Still, people are getting creative about ways to gather with distance. Lots of people are resorting to picnics and backyard celebrations with masks.

"Cakes are at the very center of celebrations," Megan Engles told The New York Times. "Entire events are even centered around the cutting of the cake. Being able to have them in this time helps create joy and still allows for celebration in a time that some people may feel there isn't a lot to celebrate."

Costco is still selling 10 inch round cakes, available in white and chocolate. In a statement, the company said it is focusing on the smaller cakes, which “seem to be resonating with ... members.”

One Facebook user, Theresa Baker, said she experienced an unexpected advantage after Costco stopped its half-sheet cake sales.

“I was expecting to get our normal half sheet cake for a celebration, but after discovering that they weren’t currently doing them decided to get both a chocolate AND a white,” she wrote. “Both delicious and we didn’t have to choose. Plus the simple and classy design was perfect! I’d still love the personalized half sheet back, but love this option. Maybe now I can justify just buying one for my family on a random day.”

Costco made headlines in April when it announced a new policy in which all employees and shoppers are required to wear face coverings inside facilities. There has been no specified cutoff date for the requirement. A video that went viral last month showed a Costco employee in Arvada, Colorado, asking a customer to leave and taking away his cart after the customer refused to wear a mask covering.

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