How To Understand the Costco Price Signs

July 23rd, 2013 · 11 Comments

Have you ever looked at all the numbers and codes on the big price signs hanging over an item at Costco and wondered what it all meant?  Well, luckily, Len Rapoport at HubPages has created a handy little guide so that it is all clear.  All of this information is a great way to help you learn the secret pricing language at Costco so that you can save a little extra money.  And even though Costco already has pretty terrific pricing, who wouldn’t like to save a bit more on their next shopping trip?  There really is a wealth of information in those simple little black and white signs: mark downs, rebates, special prices, discontinued items, or items that will not be restocked.  So, you’ll know when to stock up, when you’re saving the most and when that product you like is about to make its final appearance at Costco.

This is an extremely detailed article about how to read the signs at Costco, as well as where to look in the store for the best deals.  I know all of this stuff has been talked about at some point on my blog over the last 5+ years, but mostly in comments, so it is great that someone has compiled all of this great information into a single article that you can reference to understand it all.  There are several key areas on the price signs that have really significant information for shoppers.  I’ve made a little diagram with a price sign to try to make it a bit more clear, but in the article you’ll see there are several images showing examples of all the price sign variations.  Hopefully, it’ll all be clear with the pictures as a guide.

Costco pricing signs

Costco pricing signs

So, as you can see, the image to the left is your typical Costco pricing sign.  But I’ve highlighted the areas where you can find out extra information, if you know the Costco-ese of pricing.  I’m going to summarize the big points, but I really do encourage everyone to read the article at HubPages for way, way more information and lots of example photos.

  1. The last two digits in the price can tell you a lot.  Regular priced items usually end with a .99 ending; though sometimes this might not be the case. However, the ones with the .97 endings are those items that did not sell and must be cleared out.  The mark downs on close out items might not be huge, but at least you’ll know that they are somewhat discounted and that they won’t be in stock much longer.  Once they sell out, that’s it.  Also, look for prices ending in .79, .49, .89 (or similar, except for .99).  These types of prices indicate special deals that Costco was able to obtain from the vendor or manufacturer.
  2. Is there an asterisk (*) in the upper right hand corner?  The asterisk in the upper right hand corner of the pricing sign indicates items that will not be restocked.  So, once they’ve sold out of the current stock this item is gone gone gone.  If it is something you really like, this is your tip off to buy extra because chances are it will not be on the shelf the next time you’re at Costco.  These items may, or may not, be marked down, but now you’ll be able to tell that from the the price, right?  
  3. Are there special rebates on this item?  If there is an instant rebate or a manufacturer’s rebate, you’ll see a line for it on the sign here.  If there’s a coupon deal for a product it might show up here too (this isn’t always the case and seems to vary by location).  The instant rebates will be taken off at the register automatically as you check out; no muss, no fuss.  
  4. The little date in the lower right hand corner, below the price, is the last time the price changed.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the price is lower now, (however that is probably the case) but there was a price change of some type.  This tidbit isn’t in the article but was passed on to me by the person that sent me the link to the article, so thanks for that extra information.

The article also has a ton of extra information about where in the store to find special markdowns and things like that, as well as an assortment of other Costco shopping tips; excellent reading for all Costco shoppers.

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11 Responses so far ↓

  1. 2 Is Costco’s Kirkland Organic Rice Milk Being Discontinued? | Oh Mah Deehness! // 2013.10.09 at 9:18 am

    […] a laugh about my Costco-nerd status to the representative when I said I hadn’t seen the ending of the price change at all on Ricemilk (which is usually a signal of an item being deleted from stock […]

  2. 3 JP // 2013.08.08 at 1:00 pm

    At one time there was an asterisk (*) or a plus (+) in the top corner. One meaning pending delete, the second “inactive”. They only use the asterisk for both meanings now. You can always verify the item number with customer service if it is either “pending delete or inactive”. Many times vendors have an issue with production so they will inactivate the item for a spell.

    Items ending in 9 is normal (.29, .39, .49 – .99). While although .09 is somewhat unattractive they will actually lose a bit and round down giving back to the member. Sometimes but not always they do this all the way up to the .19 cent mark to make a nice looking price point (7.99 instead of 8.19).

    The date at the bottom is the date the sign was printed. This is for any reason, be it a change in price, changing the size of the sign (end cap large sign, isle regular sign, small deli sign re print), a member or employee misplaced a sign, old dirty sign, description or spelling change, delete or inactive status change (*), etc.

  3. 4 Tina // 2013.08.06 at 10:10 am

    An asterisk means “deleted” like the above poster stated. After the warehouse sells the product it has on hand in the store, it will be deleted, so the average shopper should take it as “get it now because that’s all there is”

    HOWEVER, in some cases, these “deleted” items are seasonal items like holiday wrapping paper, beach towels, or potato salad. The items will sell out from current stock at the warehouse and be deleted, but they will probably reappear next year during the appropriate season. So if you want it before another year rolls around, then get it now. Or else you can risk that it will be back next year. It all depends how well the product sold that season.

  4. 5 Scott // 2013.07.25 at 6:08 pm

    Line #4 is incorrect.. that date was NOT when the price was changed BUT when the sign was printed….

    • 6 Kimberly // 2013.07.26 at 2:44 am

      @Scott – I’ve heard from more than one Costco employee that I’ve got it right because they don’t really reprint the signs without changing the price. I guess they could all be wrong, but it seems weird that they would both say the same thing.

  5. 7 Brian // 2013.07.25 at 1:50 pm

    The .79, .49 pricing doesn’t always mean a special deal by Costco. Sometimes, because of their limited margins they are able to take on all of their products, they can’t go to a .99 price point because they would either be at a very low margin or they would exceed the acceptable margin amount. Most buyers strive for .99 but usually a different price doesn’t mean a “special deal” from a supplier. Those would be normally reflected as an IRC on the signage.

  6. 8 Sarah // 2013.07.23 at 7:14 pm

    An Asterisk can also means it is going to get rebranded…aka still come back but just under a different item number.

    For example, at our Costco all swiffer products had an asterisk on them…sold out. But then came right back just under a different item number. Products switch item numbers for various reasons.

  7. 9 Robin from Orlando // 2013.07.23 at 7:49 am

    I’ve seen asterisk items come back…but not always. I was told it means a special deal. For example, I love the Carr’s Ginger Lemon cookies they carry. It’s an asterisk items, that periodically returns. Kitchen items they often get in once and not again.

    • 10 Kimberly // 2013.07.23 at 7:58 am

      @Robin – I love those cookies too! I was told that they are a seasonal item, which is why I would guess they have the asterisk.

      Sadly, I cannot find the same cookies here. Carr’s in the UK seems to be exclusively crackers, so perhaps one of the other United Biscuits brands makes them here and I’ve just been discounting them as not the “right” ginger lemon cremes.

    • 11 melissa // 2013.07.23 at 10:05 am

      @robin, the asterisk means “deleted item” – i do stocking at my warehouse. When a price gets the asterisk that tells me that after i run out of what i have in the steel, then i am out. But it doesnt mean more of that product can’t come back

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