An age-old practice still in wide use, price codes on tags continue to alert staff when an item is heading to clearance. Now, blogging snoops are regularly telling the shopping world about each store's unique code.
Probably the biggest surprise, however, is that Costco readily admits to using such a pricing alert system.
"It's more for efficiency, for the employees," Richard Galanti, the wholesale club's EVP and CFO, told Reuters. "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."
Under Costco's system:
Mr. Galanti notes that the pricing differential is often relatively minor at Costco and shoppers may want to buy the newer item at full price. He added, "The question is, do you want something at the end of its season or at the beginning of a new season?"
Kyle James, who identified the "Costco Code" on Rather-Be-Shopping.com, estimates that he and his wife have saved at least $300 over the last seven months after deciphering the code. His website also includes decoded prices on American Eagle, BJ's, J.C. Penney, Gap, Home Depot, Kohl's, Office Depot, Old Navy, PetSmart, Sam's Club, Target and Sears.
Most of his information, he told Reuters, comes rather easily from store staff. His website also includes printable cheat sheets for consumers to carry while shopping.
Other websites that have run articles decoding price codes include consumerist.com, lifehacker.com, and thekrazycouponlady.com. Thekrazycouponlady.com has Target's apparent markdown schedule, or when certain categories go on sale each day of the week.
Should clearance price codes designed for staff be more or less transparent to consumers?