Should markdown codes be better hidden?
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:
- If a price at Costco ends in 99 cents, it’s full or regular price;
- If a price ends in 97 cents, it’s usually "a buyer designated markdown," says Mr. Galanti;
- If an asterisk appears in the upper right corner of the sign, then it’s on clearance and likely the lowest price. Said Mr. Galanti, "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."
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.
- Breaking the code at Costco, other superstores – Reuters
- Retailer’s Big Secret: Crack the Price Tag Code – rather-be-shopping.com
- Decoding the Secret Language of Price Tags – Time
- Know the Secret Price Codes at Major Retailers to Save More Money – lifehacker.com
- More Price Tag Codes Decrypted – Consumerist
- Secret price codes can save consumers big bucks at major retailers – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (tiered sub.)
- How to Read Target Clearance Tags – thekrazycouponlady.com
Does it matter if the general public is becoming more knowledgeable of major retailers’ clearance practices? Is there an optimal clearance-alert system for workers?