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The Consumerist had an interesting article last month about certain retailers using a price coding scheme to indicate different discount classes. For instance, if you are at Sears and see something priced ending with .95, it means it’s an out of production, clearance product. At Office Depot, prices not ending with 0,9, or 5 are final markdowns, and supposedly the same holds true at Target for prices ending in 4.

This got me to thinking about other stores which do not use a price coding scheme. Is there a way to tell how much an item has been discounted if it’s not quoted on the tag? Many places will price their products at *.99 initially and then discount items at 10, 15, 30, 50 or 75 percent. How far they go depends on the initial markup and how badly the item needs to move.

If you take a look at the possible prices at those typical discounts, you can see a few patterns. I’ve included a third decimal digit where it could affect the outcome when the number is rounded up instead of chopped at 2 digits.

10% 99(1) 09(1) 19(1) 29(1) 39(1) 49(1) 59(1) 69(1) 79(1) 89(1)
15% 99(1) 14(1) 29(1) 44(1) 59(1) 74(1) 89(1) 04(1) 19(1) 34(1)
30% 99(1) 29(1) 59(1) 89(1) 19(1) 49(1) 79(1) 09(1) 39(1) 69(1)
50% 995(5) 495(5)
75% 497(3) 747(3) 247(2) 997(2)

Assuming the prices would be rounded to the nearest cent (instead of floored), you get something like this:

Number after decimal Likely percentage off
00 or 50 75% or 50%
75 or 25 75%
99 or 19 10%, 15%, 30%
other *9 10% or 30%
*4 15%

So while a Target price ending in 4 might be clearance, chances are good that at a non price-coded store, this would only represent a 15% discount. Furthermore, assuming there is no price coding, if you find something that seems discounted and its price ends with 00, 50, 75 or 25, it’s likely been priced at %50 or 75% off!

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