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Secret Price Codes at Costco: Holiday Tips and Tricks

Len is the publisher of online magazines and an internationally published author, photographer, and videographer. He is a Costco expert.

A line of grocery carts at Costco

A line of grocery carts at Costco

Seasonal Costco Bargains

In this article, I will show you how to spot and take advantage of seasonal deals at Costco. I find that shopping at a number of local Costco stores enables me to find the best deals. What sells well at one store won't necessarily sell the same at another store. The population mix can determine what sells better at each store.

Of course, each store will have its own regional mix of merchandise, too, but this article will alert you to what to look for in your local Costco.

Costco Codes

There are a number of secret codes to watch for:

  • The big ones, of course, are the ones ending in 97¢. These will be the price-reduced items.
  • The asterisk you will see in the top right corner means this is the only stock they have and they won't be getting any more.
  • The third thing to look for is manufacturer or Coscto special discounts. You know, the ones in the books and others you will now see scattered around the store. These will be instant savings, and they are displayed with a yellow bag going through the discounted amount.
An example of buying and reselling. This spider originally cost $43.99. It's now marked down online at $29.97 + $12.99 S&H.

An example of buying and reselling. This spider originally cost $43.99. It's now marked down online at $29.97 + $12.99 S&H.

On eBay, this seller bought it at Costco at a markdown and is selling it at $64.49 with free shipping. That's a profit of $21.53 if it sells.

On eBay, this seller bought it at Costco at a markdown and is selling it at $64.49 with free shipping. That's a profit of $21.53 if it sells.

Great Deals for Halloween and Christmas

Everyone knows that Halloween is a relatively short season, and stores start receiving Halloween merchandise at the end of the summer into early September. By the beginning of October, the earlier merchandise that hasn't been selling will be marked down.

Buying to Resell or Give as Gifts

Now, if you are like me, you may want to purchase some items on sale so you can give them as gifts. Others buy to resell the items on the internet. Reselling is an art in itself, and you not only need to know what will sell but also when to sell your items.

On some items, if you bought them late in a holiday season, it pays to hold the items in your attic until the following year and take them out early in the season so you can maximize your chances of selling them and have less competition selling the same items as others.

Some people that have read my article will try to unload their inventory as soon as they purchase the markdowns, and the competition selling the same item will be fierce. So if you are a reseller, be sure to check eBay or Amazon and see if others are already selling those items.

Examples of Halloween Deals

Here are only two examples of what is in store for you during the Halloween season at Costco. I have only listed two items for now to show you how you can take advantage of these deals.

Skeleton Dog

Let's look at the Skeleton Dog as a prime example of what I have been telling you in this article. You will note that this item came in at $25.99. I just knew when I saw it that it would never sell. The markdowns began, and in the first week of October, the inventory was still very heavy. It just wasn't selling at all. I noticed this early in September as well. Prices dropped quickly to a new low of $7.97, but even at that price, it wasn't selling.

As you can see from the photos above, they are selling at many different prices now on the internet—from the high of $39.99 to the low of a starting bid on eBay of just $10 plus shipping.

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I hope this demonstrates why I suggest waiting and watching the inventory levels of these items.

Halloween Inventory Gets Pulled

And then they were gone—well, Costco Hazlet, NJ, pulled all of the Halloween merchandise from the floor, but not Marlboro, NJ. The Christmas goods arrived in the second week of October, so Costco needed the room and pulled all the Halloween merchandise from the store (with the exception of the candy).

Skulls were gone, and the Skeleton Dog I was hoping to get for $5.97 was now gone. Since Costco sells their returns, damages, and some regular goods to select salvage vendors, these items may show up at your local flea markets or other discount outlets.

But all was not lost: On a trip to the Marlboro, NJ, store, I found that they still had some Halloween items, including the Skeleton Dog, and I was right—it was $5.97, so I bought two of them.

Shop at More Than One Store

If you want to be a smart Costco shopper and take advantage of their markdowns, you must shop at more than one store. What sells in one store may not sell as well in another.

Christmas Tips and Examples

You can save up to 66% or more for Christmas.

I have given you a few examples of items that were carried and marked down in the past. At that time, I verified the current retail prices of most of these items on the internet, and as you can see (look at my captions below each image), the ones I could find show a discount of around 40–60% or more off sites selling the same items like Amazon.com, eBay or others.

I noticed one seller offering and selling the train set for $75; your cost is only $25, that is a 66% savings . . . wow! No wonder eBay sellers are still shopping at Costco; they can still make a lot of money buying the mark-downs like these. They can also offer a 14-day money-back guarantee too. If an item is returned to them, they can simply return it to Costco.

Look at the captions on each of the following images.

I have attempted to find these items on the internet to help you determine the real value of these items. Internet prices are usually far better than most retail stores, so when you see the prices I have found either at Amazon.com or other internet sites, understand that in most cases these are lower than at most traditional stores.

Now you can compare the prices you find on many items on the internet. You will be amazed at how much you can really save, especially on holiday items.

Remember to buy the sale items when you see them; they may only be available for a few days. Keep returning to Costco every few days to check other deals, and don't forget if you see one of the items you purchased at a lower price, buy one to lock that price in and bring your receipt back to the store and get a price adjustment on the first ones you bought.

Important Tip: If you don't buy one of the items you bought at a higher price and try to get a price adjustment at the lower price,e you may not be successful if they don't have any in stock at the lower price. In order to get that lower price adjustment, they must have the items in their current stock at the lower price. If they are out, they can't give you a price match refund.

Buy Them Now: Retain All Your Receipts

You won't see these deals in their booklets or on any advertisement,s and some may not be marked down yet at your local Costco, so be vigilant and keep checking back at your local Costco for those great holiday deals.

If you see they only have a few remaining pieces of an item you may want, buy them and remember you are always covered on their 30-day price protection guarantee. You can always return items to Costco even after the holidays, so having a receipt will make it easier. If you don't have a receipt, you will wait as they look up your purchase on their computer, and with the holiday return lines being so long, this could make others very unhappy to be behind you.

Did You Get Your Black Friday Gift at the Exit?

If you have been a Costco member for years, you know that on Black Friday as you leave the store you will receive their annual Costco Cook Book. I have a number of them now one for each of the years they gave them out. They all sit nicely on my bookshelf, and from time to time, we will look for a new recipe using some of the food items we have purchased at Costco.

They feature loads of recipes from all the food vendors Costco does business with and will give you some new ideas to make some exciting meals, desserts, and treats. I hope you shopped at Costco on Black Friday and got one too.

This lighted tree is selling for $180.00 on eBay after the seller's $20 discount.

This lighted tree is selling for $180.00 on eBay after the seller's $20 discount.

Past Holiday Markdowns

Since I have been shopping and writing about Costco for many years, I think I have a pretty good feel for what will sell and what won't. Now I must confess I have been wrong at times, but on holiday goods, it is fairly easy to know when to wait and when to buy.

Looking at these past holiday markdowns will help you know which ones this year might prove to be a great deal if you can wait. You can see from all of the new items in our slide show that every one of them has the * asterisk in the right-hand corner. That tells you that this was a one-shot deal on these. No reorders, but they may have some back stock; it's hard to tell. Usually, Costco likes to put all of their inventory on the floor, but it could be in the rafters too.

So if you need to buy some of these early because you tend to start decorating your home in early November, then hold onto your receipts. You may find that the items you purchased will be marked down within the30 day price adjustment policy, and you can get the difference refunded on what you paid and the current price.

If you can wait, it is best to do so, but don't miss an item that you want just to wait for it to be marked down. Some items just sell out early. Of course, if you can shop at more than one Costco, that is the best way to save money and get what you want at a .97¢ price reduction.

Look at this slide show, and let's see how many items you will find marked down in December.

Black Fridays

In the past, I had waited too long to get some of my holiday deals and, of course, missed them. On Black Friday, you can be sure anything that was marked down will most likely be gone.

Prior to Black Friday, buy those items on the spot and verify the retail values of the items and if they are a good deal, stock up now. The mistake is not checking the competitors' cost of the items on your mobile device while in the store. Timing is important on holiday merchandise.

Always Another Good Deal

The good news is that there will be other bargains that you might have missed previously, and you can now grab them on your second go-round in the store.

Be sure to visit your local Costco from October through the end of the year for great deals on Halloween and Christmas merchandise. By the beginning of October, you will start to see some of the Halloween merchandise that were slow sellers being marked down.

For Christmas, you will start to see markdowns end of November and continue through December. By January, they will all be gone. The closer to Christmas, the less will be available and certainly won't be available at markdown prices. Always check to see if one of the other local Costcos still has some of these or other close-outs.

Remember, hold onto your receipts should you need to return an item or apply for their price protection if the prices go down, even after the holidays.

Shop More Than One Costco Store

You may be a bit disappointed that you didn't act fast at your local Costco store, and many of the items you wanted were either gone, or the prices returned to their original Costco prices, and the mark-down signs on those items were gone.

If you are close to a second Costco location, be sure to check that store's inventory too. You just may find the items you missed in your local store now sitting on the shelves in the second store. If that is the case, quickly scoop up a bunch of the items you may not get another chance to get at a close-out price.

Even if you have to pack some of these items away for next year in the attic, you can be sure next year everything will be more expensive. Remember, even if I do decide I purchased a bit too much, I can always return anything you decide you don't really need. Save your receipts.

Remember, one store, based on their customer mix, could be selling certain items faster, therefore no reason to close them out, while another store may be sitting with stock. Our Marlboro, NJ store is located in a largely Jewish neighborhood, and I had a feeling that some of the Christmas merchandise would still be there; I was right. My neighborhood is 98% Italian and Irish, so Christmas items are gone faster, but I can get my Chanukah wrapping paper and other items at a great price in my local store.

In our family, many of us celebrate both holidays because there are so many mixed marriages that we can take advantage of all sorts of sales for both Chanukah and Christmas merchandise. Our grandchildren have the best holidays ever and get toys and gifts throughout the month of December.

More Costco Secrets to Save You Money

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Len Rapoport

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