Cracking secret price codes at Target, Home Depot, Kohl's, JCPenney, Costco

Shopping experts weigh in to help you

CLEVELAND - Price tags are a treasure trove of information and a crystal ball for possible future markdowns or closeouts. They are details that can help you figure out the best times to buy.

Getting the best price is as simple as reading the price tag, which holds a secret code.

"Knowledge is power when it comes to shopping," said money-saving expert Rachel Krych.  She empowers consumers through her blog "Couponing with Rachel."

We took a stroll with Krych through Costco, checking out price tags and reading their cryptic language. 

For example, she said the date at the bottom right corner means when the price was changed or created. You can use that to your advantage. "To find out whether it's a good time to buy or not, because knowing when to buy is so important," said Krych.

Kyle James is the founder of Rather Be Shopping which is a money-saving website. James told us he's found a ton of stores that use codes in their pricing. 

With Costco, he said, you should checkout prices that end in .97 because those are markdowns and if the tag has an asterisk in the upper right hand corner that means that product is being discontinued. "Look for the one with the asterisk and  the one that ends in 97,” said James. “You're going to save. I've done the research...20 to 30 percent cheaper than anywhere else you're going to find it," he added.

There's more.

Kohl's: Watch for letters in the upper right hand corner.  GV stands for great value.  If there's an "NM", that stands for new markdown.  "What that means is either that night or the following morning they're going to mark this price down," he explained.

JCPenney: Prices ending in .00 are full price; .99 endings are clearance prices, and especially look for prices ending in .97. “That's going to be your rock bottom price at JCPenney's," said James.

When you’re looking at Target’s clearance tags, James and Krych told us to watch for the number in the upper right hand corner.  Those are the percentages off.  “If it's 15 or 30, a lot of times Target will have a weekly sale that's almost better than a 15 or 30,” said Krych. “But if it's getting into that 50 to 70, 70 you know it's going to be salvage or it's going to be sold off to another store, so that's when you're really going to want to get your savings," she added.


Prices ending in .99 – that's full price.
Prices ending in eight – as in .98, .88, etc. – is a marked down price of an item on clearance.
Prices ending in four – as in .24, .04, etc. – this is also a marked down price of an item on clearance. At one point this was considered the final markdown price, but that's not accurate anymore.                     

Looking for a deal at Home Depot? James said to look for items ending in a six or three, such as $5.96 or $5.93.

"When stuff ended in a six, there was a markdown price in six weeks and then there would be a new markdown," he said. "And that new markdown would end in a three and that would be a final markdown, meaning after three weeks it's gone."

Doctor Elad Granot is the Assistant Dean for the MBA programs at Cleveland State. Both he and James suggested asking employees at the stores about the tags.  It's been their experience that the workers will explain the numbers to you.  "And if an associate is not there, by the way, pull out your smart phone and just look it up," said Dr. Granot.

Krych suggested looking into the cracked codes.  “Knowing before you go shopping is so important when saving money,” she told us.

For more inside information on cracking the code at stores like American Eagle, Sam's Club, Sears, The Gap, Old Navy, JCPenney, Kohl's and PetSmart, to name a few, click here:

To print off a shopping cheat sheet, click here:


Happy bargain hunting!

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