Cracking secret price codes at Target, Home Depot, Costco

Coupon blogger Kyle James runs the website He says former and current employees who set product prices for major retailers like Target, Home Depot and Costco recently gave him inside information on when to buy something or wait for the best price.

They told him it was as simple as reading the price tag, which he says holds a secret code.

"By looking at the cents, not necessarily the dollars, you can determine if it's full price or a markdown price and it might go even lower," James said.

Price tags are a treasure trove of information, he said, and a crystal ball for possible future markdowns or closeouts.

Take Target for example:

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.                     

Do you want to know how much off the original price you are saving?  Check the top right corner of the Target price tag. "In the upper right hand corner you'll see a little number. It'll be 15, 30, 50, 75 or 90. It will be one of those five numbers. What that is is the percentage off the original price," James said.

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

"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."

Then there's Costco. Prices ending in nine means you're paying full price. If it ends in a seven it signifies it's on sale. And if you see an asterisk in the top right corner, James said to snag it fast.

"If it ends in 97, you know it's a markdown. If it has the asterisk in the corner it's a clearance item, so those two combined are going to be the best price you're going to find," James said.

Scripps sister station ABC Action News reached out to those three retailers. Costco did not respond to our request for comment. But Target and Home Depot did.

“At Target, we use a number of different factors to determine the price for an item. The ending digit of a clearance price is determined by several factors including the original retail price and the applied percentage discount. It is not possible to determine the final markdown or timing of the price change from the item’s current price," Target spokesperson Evan Lapiska said.

Catherine Woodling, a spokesperson for Home Depot, said James’ pricing information is not accurate. She said customers should look for the “New Low Price” tags, which are good for 90 days. She also says to keep an eye out for “Special Buy,” both in store and online, which is "as low as the item is going to go."

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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