Costco North Lakes has been the biggest retail phenomenon to hit Brisbane in years, but it turns out you could be saving even more money — you just have to know the code.

US retail blogger Len Rapoport appears to be the first to have published the ‘code’ to Costco’s price signs; and chatter about Costco’s ‘secret’ pricing system has been doing the rounds in the States since then.

bmag paid a visit to Costco North Lakes on the weekend, and our receipt seems to indicate the same pricing system is being used in Australia.

How the Costco code works

If it ends with .99, you’re paying full price


Images via Distractify

That’s not a bad thing, necessarily — it just means you’re paying the wholesale retailer’s usual price markup, which is capped at 14 percent (and is typically around 10 percent).

If it ends with .97, it’s a store manager special


This is a limited deal, decided by the store manager and specific to your local Costco store. If a price sign ends in .97, it means the manager is trying to clear the item out, most likely because of excess stock.

If it ends with a 9, it’s a manufacturer deal


If an item’s price sign ends with .49, .59, .69, .79 or .89 (but not .99 — that’s business as usual), it’s a special offer from the manufacturer, and might indicate the product is having a trial run. You’ll find some good deals this way, but they probably won’t be better than the .97 manager specials.

If it ends with .00 or .88, someone wants it gone — fast


A price sign ending with .00 or .88 usually means the item is on its way out the door as quickly as possible. It might be returned merchandise or a display item that’s still sellable, or it might just be a horrible seller. Either way, if you see .00 or .88, inspect the item closely while you can.

If you see an asterisk, it’s discontinued


A price sign with an asterisk (*) means that the item has been discontinued. This asterisk is seen as the holy grail by US shoppers who swear by the ‘Costco code’. These are the items to stock up on (assuming you have any interest in them in the first place), because you’re not going to see them at a lower price, and once they’re gone, they won’t be coming back.

For what it’s worth, Richard Galanti — Costco’s executive vice president and chief financial officer — has confirmed the existence of the codes, but played down their importance when asked about them by Reuters.

“It’s more for efficiency, for the employees,” Galanti said. “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.”

So, yes, you can save money by looking out for asterisks and other telltale signs — but as Galanti cautions, whether or not you should is up to you.

“The question is, do you want something at the end of its season or at the beginning of a new season?”

More Costco coverage:
Where should the next Costco open in Queensland?
10 things you don’t know about Costco
10 weird things you can buy at Costco North Lakes
The cult of Costco
Following in Costco’s footsteps: 10 other stores that need to come to Brisbane