Costco Has a Secret Pricing System You Need to Know About
Retail experts say the number a price ends in can tell you a lot about the deal you're getting.
There are many reasons shoppers love Costco—free samples, rotating inventory, and those rotisserie chickens, to name a few—but perhaps nothing is more enticing than the great prices available to members. The savviest shoppers, however, know that to truly get the best deals, you have to pay close attention to the price tags. That's right; Costco has a secret pricing system. Read on to hear from retail experts about how this hidden code can save you money and let you know when a product may be leaving shelves forever.
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If the price ends in .97, it's a clearance item.
If an item ends in .99, it's the regular full price, according to a TikTok video posted by licensed personal finance content creator Queenie Tan under her username @investwithqueenie. However, if an item's price ends in .97, it's on clearance.
"These should be the same across all Costco stores, as these price changes come from the corporate office essentially," explains Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. "If you see prices that end in .97, take a peek at the bottom right corner of the price tag; there should be a date there which indicates the last time the tag was updated. If it's been a bit, you may want to consider taking a gamble and waiting for the clearance price to come down further."
If the price ends in a 9 that's not .99, it's on sale.
We know that .99 means no markdown. But if the price ends in, for example, .49 or .69, it signifies a special low-priced deal that Costco got from the manufacturer, according to a video on TikTok posted by the banking app Step. In a separate TikTok video from Credit Sesame, they note that these prices are likely to get you "a better deal on this than you could elsewhere."
If it ends in .00, it's the lowest price.
In her video, Tan explains that "manager markdowns" will have a price ending in .00 or .88 and are items "heavily discounted so they can get rid of it."
"Anything ending in .00 is probably the lowest it's going to go," confirms Ramhold. "These are reportedly manager-level decisions rather than Costco stores as a whole, so if you see something on sale in your club that ends in .00, that doesn't mean it'll be that way at every store."
If you see the asterisk (*), the item might not be restocked.
Most, but not all, of the time this is true. "The asterisk is called the 'Death Star' by the Costco Reddit community," shares Ramhold. Shoppers believe that when they see this symbol next to a price it means the product will soon not be available anymore.
But, as Ramhold notes, this isn't always the case. "Employees have noted that essentially it just means that product number is flagged in the system as a pending deletion, which could mean that yes, it's going away for good, but it could also mean that it's a seasonal item that'll be back or even that the number or packaging is changing."
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This secret pricing system appears online, too.
According to Marie Clark, editor of shopping and retail site CostContessa, online prices operate the same way as price tags in the store. You may have to pay for shipping, of course, but you might also find a better selection, especially when it comes to apparel.
"You'll find a lot more size options online, and it's also often these sizes that are left when the clearance deals are marked down to their lowest price or almost sold out," explains Clark. "I don't think a lot of people realize there are extended sizes on Costco.com because the warehouses don't stock many."
Check out the "While Supplies Last" section of the website for clearance items.
This category offers special discounts for as long as supplies last (as the name suggests). This is where you can find those markdowns with prices ending in .97 and seasonal items that Costco is trying to clear out.
"When I last looked, I saw things like puffer coats, fleece pajamas, fleece jackets, sweaters—basically wintry items they were trying to get rid of," shares Ramhold. "Because of the section they're in, these items can go fast, so you may want to check regularly."
Clark suggests sorting the results from low to high–but know that not every online markdown is included. "Costco loves customers to go on treasure hunts, so always check products in the categories you're interested in, and you will find more markdowns hidden among the website pages by looking out for prices that end in a 7."