I work at Costco – the psychological tricks they use to get you to spend more and the coded clue that means it’s a bargain
COSTCO stocks everything from hot dogs to hot tubs and is famous for its low prices.
But have you ever wondered how the retail chain, which sells to customers and businesses, encourages you to spend more than expected?
Well, now you don’t have to, because a former Costco employee and retail experts have revealed all.
Speaking on Channel 5’s Costco: Is It Really Worth It on Wednesday, consumer journalist Harry Wallop explains: “The real thing about Costco is that you have to come right in with a calculator and internet access and just check the price because it really depends.”
Some things are fantastic value and some things are not good value at all.”
Costco, which is a giant in the world of cash and carry, is only available to members of a members club – you must be a registered business, be VAT registered or be part of a certain number of professions – teacher, front line worker, lawyer or accountant.
Prices start from £15 per year, rising to £74.40 for individual executive members.
“They really try to make it feel like an exclusive club, like you get access to exclusive deals on brand name products that you can’t find anywhere else,” adds Harry.
Super customer Joanna, who runs a successful cupcake business, has a membership card and knows all the best deals.
“Two reasons why I spend my time,” she says. “First of all, of course, you get your value for money, which is great.”
“However, the second big reason is that shopping trips are a total waste of time, and you can’t put a value on your time.”
After years of successful shopping, Jo has dozens of tips for winning at outlet stores.
“Above all, plan your shopping before you go out,” she advises.
“It’s often so easy to get caught up in those impulse buys that are screaming at you from every aisle.”
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“It will save you a lot of time and money by the time you get to checkout.”
Jo also checks the prices of the goods she plans to buy to make sure she’s only getting genuine bargains.
“I highly recommend locking it all the way to the end of the store – it will save you a lot of money and distractions,” she continues.
Miya Knights, retail expert and author, also highlights the tricks Costco uses to encourage customers to spend money.
“They tend to put basics like milk, bread and toilet paper right in the back…they put their big wow items right in front to distract you,” she points out.
And although there are numbers in the aisles, there are no signs in the store.
“The layout is quite chaotic, so often as a member you have to go on a journey of discovery every time,” she continues.
“It’s absolutely their goal that you walk away with something you had no intention of buying in the first place.”
However, resisting temptation isn’t always easy when the store puts unexpected items in your sights.
“That’s the genius of this very weird layout – there are endless possibilities for impulse purchases,” says Harry.
“The moment you turn a corner in search of bread or butter, you find some discounted underwear and you’re like, ‘Oh, actually, I need some new underwear’ , then they go to the basket.”
And Rachael, a former Costco cashier, adds, “The most common thing you heard was, ‘I only came here for one thing. You used to just laugh and then they’d spent over £100.”
She goes on to reveal that if you are aware, there are super coded clues that could drive prices down even further.
“If you see a 97p at the end of the price, it means it has been discounted,” says Miya.
Rachael explains further: “It could be reduced from the full price to that, so it could have been £20 and reduced to £9.97.”
Miya also notes that the tags themselves have a bit of a secret code.
“For example, if you see an asterisk, it means it will no longer be in stock,” she says.
The former Costco cashier confirms, “Once it’s gone, it’s the last stock left. It’s not coming back after that.”