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Cracking the price codes

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Store savings, hiding in plain sight -- right on the price tags.

(To see the store codes, click here: http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/PriceSecrets.pdf.)

Kyle James is the founder and blogger of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. He used to work in retail.

Now he's working to reveal the secrets of retailers' internal pricing systems.

James said some retailers' price tags and shelf tags are coded to indicate a product's place in the inventory. 

The tags' cents often give away savings secrets.

"By knowing the cents at particular stores, you can figure out if you're paying full price, a discounted price ... it might go even cheaper," said James.

At JC Penney, for example, James said tags ending in ".00" are full price. ".99" indicates a clearance item. 

But if you find something with a tag ending in ".97," it's a reduced clearance item.

"The .97 is going to be the 'clearance-on-clearance' price, so it's going to be your lowest price," said super-shopper Jessica White, blogger of MyMemphisMommy.com

Using James' price tag decoding system, White found a children's Disney T-shirt with a price tag ending in ".97" at JC Penney. Having shopped similar shirts at other retailers and consignment stores, she said she'd never seen a comparable price for that particular shirt.

"You can almost get it cheaper here for brand-new than at a consignment sale, where it's previously used," she said.

"For competitive reasons, I cannot provide comment, but did want to clarify that prices ending in '.99' are typically sales prices (not clearance), which still provide a great deal," said JC Penney's Senior Manager of Media Relations & Corporate Affairs Kate Coultas.

Target clearly identifies its clearance price tags.

But what Target doesn't reveal is the tiny number in the upper-right hand corner of its clearance tags is the percentage off the original price

James said when Target first puts a product on clearance, that number will be a "15" -- 15 percent off. So he suggested that if you find a clearance item at Target that you want with a "15" in the tag's corner, hold off.

Don't buy it yet.

"Wait, then come back when you can get it at '50' or '75,'" he said.

"At Target, we use a number of different factors to determine the price of an item," said Target's corporate spokesperson Evan Lapiska. "The ending digit of a clearance price is determined by several factors, including the original retail price and the applied percentage discount."

James said Costco's where shoppers can really crack some great price tag codes. He said if a Costco tag ends in ".99," it's full price. If it ends in ".97," it's been marked down.

But there is potential for some serious savings, he said, if you find a Costco price tag or shelf tag with an asterisk (*) in the upper right-hand corner.

"The asterisk means it is a discontinued product," he said. "They're going to stop selling it. If you find one of those, you're going to get a good deal."

In fact, we did -- while shopping an asterisk-labeled product at Costco, 2431 N. Germantown Parkway in Cordova, TN.

White and I found a Con-Air fabric steamer with an asterisk-marked shelf tag, listed for $49.99. Right there in the store, we whipped out our smart phones, searching price comparison sites and our price comparison apps for a lower price on the fabric steamer.

The lowest price we could find, $69.00, barely came close to Costco's asterisk-tag price -- almost 30 percent less than any other price online.

"Wow!" exclaimed Costco shopper Lynn Bergwerk of East Memphis. "I wish I had those codes!"

She does now. We gave them to her.

We're giving them to YOU, too -- right here: http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/PriceSecrets.pdf. Click it, print it, put it in your wallet or purse. Store the URL in your smart phone. It includes additional retailers' price codes that James has cracked.

And he's adding more.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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