YOUR MONEY-Learn the secret codes to shopping success

Wed Apr 16, 2014 11:26am EDT
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By Lou Carlozo

NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) - As superstore pricing mysteries go, it's not the equivalent of "The Da Vinci Code," but there's still something deliciously elusive about the so-called "Costco Code" that has set the tongues of shopping mavens wagging for the past several months.

At least the plot line is direct enough: If you can interpret what the various sequences of digits and asterisks mean on Costco Wholesale Club price signs, you're on your way to scoring serious bargains.

Here's how it works, according to Costco shoppers spreading the word online: If a price at Costco ends in .99, you're paying full price. But if it ends in, say, a .97, it represents a deal with a special price decided by the manager. And if you happen to see an asterisk in the upper right corner of the sign, then the item is on its way out of the store-and probably at the lowest price you're going to see.

"That asterisk, that's the holy grail," says Kyle James, who runs the shopping blog ( He has shopped at Costco for 20 years now, and the Redding, California resident has studied the matter of the Costco Code well. By his count, he and his wife have saved at least $300 using the Costco Code over the last seven months.

For the record, he doesn't claim to have discovered it; he says there's been Internet chatter about Costco and its pricing system going back about five years before he took up the topic on his blog.

So is the Costco Code really so much of a pricing potboiler as it seems? No one would know as well as Costco's Richard Galanti, who's the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Indeed he confirms that the codes do exist, though "It's more for efficiency, for the employees," Galanti says. "It's not any sort of secret agent stuff. But you see it on a blog and people think it's a secret. It's just a way of moving some merchandise, to help the fork lift operators and the stocking clerks."

Galanti says that "when a price ends in a '7,' usually it's a buyer designated markdown." And as for those asterisks, "That's what we call a pending delete. Sometimes an item's not selling well and we want to move it out, or it could be the end of the season. Let's say we've got three TV models and the latest and greatest comes out; we might want to bring the newest one in."   Continued...