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When The Grocery Mischarges You


weinoo
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So today, for about the bazillionth time, two of my produce items rang up incorrectly at Whole Foods...strangely, both times it was in the store's favor. I was charged 50 cents a pound for organic cabbage; it was plain cabbage and it was on sale for 33 cents a pound. I was also first incorrectly charged $2.49 a pound for some Murcott tangerines that were on sale for $1.99. When I told the checkout person, she first rang up organic clementines for $2.99 a pound, which she corrected. Then she asked if I wanted her to go back to the produce department to check the price. I responded "yes."

What the hell is it with these stores? Why can't they change the prices in their systems when they put items on sale? And why aren't the cashiers trained properly - maybe even ask the customer what the item is?

So, do you run into this problem? What stores are the most egregious offenders? And, do you say something?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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There is one offending store where I seldom shop but do occasionally because they carry some items I can't get elsewhere.

I have a cell phone that takes photos so I take photos and make a note of the "specials" that are so often mis-charged at the register and I keep a close watch on what I am charged and check the price against the notes on my shopping list. When I catch an error, I show the dated photo to the checker. This usually will allow the problem to be fixed but sometimes they do go back to the aisle, sometimes with a snide remark that is aimed to make me unpopular with the folks in line behind me.

What usually happens is that those people began to check their charges too.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Recently Ralphs in Los Angeles was fined something like $67,000 for overcharging customers by not subtracting the package weight when weighing products and charging for the ice which was clinging to frozen fish, etc. $67,000 is like petty cash to Ralphs. If the fine had been $670,000 it would have gotten Ralphs attention.

If I'm not mistaken, Whole Foods has come under fire for the problem you indicated. Their cashiers are supposed to be trained to know every item in the store and what you did was absolutely correct. If it happens more than once you should ask for the manager and ask for the number of the corporate office and tell them why you want it. That will perk them up.

'A person's integrity is never more tested than when he has power over a voiceless creature.' A C Grayling.

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This usually will allow the problem to be fixed but sometimes they do go back to the aisle, sometimes with a snide remark that is aimed to make me unpopular with the folks in line behind me.

What usually happens is that those people began to check their charges too.

Which really pisses them off! I can do without the snide remarks when it's THEIR mistake. I don't take pix because I have a pretty good memory when it comes to the prices in the store, but a good idea.

If it happens more than once you should ask for the manager and ask for the number of the corporate office and tell them why you want it. That will perk them up.

Trust me - I've talked to the manager in this store. BTW, when I lived in California, Safeway used to have a policy where if they overcharged you for something, you got it for free. I used to make out pretty well at that chain.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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In Australia the major supermarkets have been forced into a " Voluntary industry code of conduct "

From the ACCC website.

" For instance, most of the major supermarkets in Australia have signed up to the Scanning Code of Practice, a voluntary code designed to protect you from errors in checkout systems. Signatories are required to ensure their checkout systems are price accurate. If a product incorrectly scans at a higher price, you may be entitled to receive that item free. Where multiple identical items are purchased, you may be entitled to receive the first item free of charge and the remaining items at the lower price. "

A mistake by one of the majors can make my day.

John

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I only make sure on big tickets or if I buy lots of one thing on sale, Safeway is pretty good there, I don't shop often at Whole Food, mostly because they don't have everything else for the household and I like one stop shopping, but also do check on items I buy on sale. Same at Trader Joes. Sometimes they go and check, sometimes they just take my word and change it.

For some reason I generally do not notice mistakes when they're in my favor though, don't know why :cool:

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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The Canadian Competition Bureau has in place a Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code. It says that if the scanned price of a non-price ticketed item (ie, price label stuck on the shelf, or otherwise displayed, rather than on the product itself) is higher than the shelf price or any other displayed price, the customer is entitled to receive the item free, up to a $10 maximum. Retailers participating in this may have a label posted at the checkout counter or by the store entrance.

This is voluntary, of course, and I think only some large chain retailers are participating in it. However, not all cashiers may be thoroughly familiar with the code and small retailers likely aren't participating in it. Actually, about a yr ago in Vancouver there was some fuss about it with a large retailer which caused them to review the code with all their cashiers and managers.

ETA: Ha! What they said ^^!

Edited by Beebs (log)
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When I lived in Santa Fe, Smith's had errors on about 30% of their shelf tags where the per unit price was incorrect -usually much lower than it should have been. So, if a 5lb bag of sugar was $1.50 the per/lb listed in smaller print might say $.20/lb. So, if you were trying to comparison shop brands and just looking at a per/lb prices you could be swayed into buying something thinking it was cheaper than it really was. The store manager did not understand that this was a problem. I still do not trust the per each section of shelf labels.

The store brand tonic water would never scan at the price of the store brand soda pop in the same size containers. It was always shelved with the other store brand sodas and marked on the shelf at the same price, but the cashiers and manager would argue that it was a different price because it was a 'special water' not a soda pop.

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I could swear (though I can't find any evidence) that it is New York State law that if an item scans for an incorrect price, the retailer is required to refund you the difference PLUS an amount equal to 10 times the difference. That doesn't help when the cashier enters the wrong produce code, though. I'm lucky enough to shop almost exclusively at Wegmans, where scales are provided for customers to weigh and label our own produce - that is the only sure way I have found to ensure everything rings up correctly. I have never shopped at Whole Foods, but it seems surprising that they don't offer that option!

Patty

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This reminds me of early mornings (or late nights) at a large chain in the St. Louis area. The computer system was always busy at that time doing the calculations on the 'take' of the previous day so they would put a basket of marking pens near the door. It was on the honor system, you were expected to write the price onto everything. I'm a pretty honorable guy but my handwriting is a little shaky. I'd been to the chain owners house, delivering a pair of shoes, he looked pretty comfortable.

Maybe I would have more friends if I didn't eat so much garlic?

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At my local Bristol Farms I recently got charged twice for the same item. It was a fairly pricey smoked paprika ($10/unit). I did not realize until I got home. And then I saw that it was going to expire in two months...

Now I verify everything much more carefully when I check out.

Edited for typo

Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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My favorite local chain grocery, Publix, is REALLY good about scanned prices. The cashiers know their produce, and if a price is called into question, adjusts are made very graciously. (I can't afford Whole Foods...)

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I don't shop for groceries at chains, ever, and the accuracy of the pricing is just one of the many reasons. If you shop at Publix, Dominicks, Albertsons or Whole Foods the people who are checking you out don't have to recognize the product or the price, because the stock is so limited that everything is digitized, often wrong.

If you shop at a mid-sized independent with a huge inventory -- like the ten kinds of garlic and fifteen kinds of apples at Caputos, the checkers have to actually identify the product and price it accurately. Likewise H Mart, Tampicos or any supermercado. The bigger the variety, the better the training for check out folks. It's just another reason -- apart from the dull-ass choices and the high prices, never, ever to shop at a big chain, and I'm including Whole Paychex.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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My favorite local chain grocery, Publix, is REALLY good about scanned prices. The cashiers know their produce, and if a price is called into question, adjusts are made very graciously. (I can't afford Whole Foods...)

I shop at Central Market (Austin's upscale chain) and I would describe my experience Sunday with some arugula the checker rang up wrong just as you did.

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Sounds like you need a Scanning Code of Practice. At the grocery stores I shop at, if the price that shows up is higher than the price on the signage, you get the item for free, up to a maximum of $10.

OMG, When I lived in Ontario, I used this every single day. NO JOKE!! My Indepedent grocer( division of Loblaws) was NOTORIOUS for overcharging. I have gotten so many things for free because of this. On one hand it was good for me, but I know there were so many ppl who had no clue they were being overcharged.

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I could swear (though I can't find any evidence) that it is New York State law that if an item scans for an incorrect price, the retailer is required to refund you the difference PLUS an amount equal to 10 times the difference. That doesn't help when the cashier enters the wrong produce code, though. I'm lucky enough to shop almost exclusively at Wegmans, where scales are provided for customers to weigh and label our own produce - that is the only sure way I have found to ensure everything rings up correctly. I have never shopped at Whole Foods, but it seems surprising that they don't offer that option!

Michigan has this law. Ive used it many times when I shopped there( while living in Ontario).

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I've had badly trained cashiers work in my favour. I was buying a whole pile of pine nuts - about 2 kilos - and they were going at $35/kg. Cashier scanned them as peanuts. I corrected her, so she cancelled and tried again. She flipped through page after page of the fresh produce book before turning to me and saying "do you mind if I just put it through as pineapple?" $5.50/kg. I told her there was a big price difference and she just shrugged, more out of apathy than kindness I think.

I do get overcharged sometimes too, but in general I think it's balanced out for me.

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I can't find it right now but there was a study done recently indicating that on average customers overpay by 5-15% every time they go to a grocery store because of mispriced items (this was true in almost every store they tested from Piggly Wiggly up to Whole Foods). If that is true, I'd say that may be an indication that part of the industry business model includes purposely mispricing items. It's why most stores don't give you much argument when you tell them the price is wrong.

They largely get away with it because most people buy too many items at a time to keep up with the prices. If you catch a couple of mispriced items, chances are you missed a couple more.

Caveat: I just read the popular press rundown of the study. It's possible that it was a poorly done study or that the popular press misinterpreted the results. However, since the study's findings back up my experience, I have given it some credence.

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I can't find it right now but there was a study done recently indicating that on average customers overpay by 5-15% every time they go to a grocery store because of mispriced items (this was true in almost every store they tested from Piggly Wiggly up to Whole Foods). If that is true, I'd say that may be an indication that part of the industry business model includes purposely mispricing items. It's why most stores don't give you much argument when you tell them the price is wrong.

If you think about how many customers a large chain services on an annual basis, even if each customer is overcharged as little as 10 cents, it's a lot of money!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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At Tescos there is a sign that says if the price on the shelf and what you are charged differ, you'll get back double the difference. I have always looked out with great glee, but have not benefited yet!

Interestingly enough, in our class on contract law for my accountancy qualification, we learnt that actually there is nothing a customer can do about shelf labels that are incorrect. A store does not have to sell you anything at the price it says on the shelf. This is because, in contract law terms, price labels are not an offer that customer accepts by picking the item up and taking it to the counter, but an invitation to treat - basically an invitation for the customer to make an offer. So if a computer has a price label reading £10, a customer cannot force a store to sell it for that. Any policy that a store has on giving an item to a customer for free or a reduced price if it scans at a different price than it says on the shelf is entirely up to them.

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Interestingly enough, in our class on contract law for my accountancy qualification, we learnt that actually there is nothing a customer can do about shelf labels that are incorrect. A store does not have to sell you anything at the price it says on the shelf. This is because, in contract law terms, price labels are not an offer that customer accepts by picking the item up and taking it to the counter, but an invitation to treat - basically an invitation for the customer to make an offer. So if a computer has a price label reading £10, a customer cannot force a store to sell it for that. Any policy that a store has on giving an item to a customer for free or a reduced price if it scans at a different price than it says on the shelf is entirely up to them.

Of course laws are different in different countries. What about the sticker price on an actual product or for produce, where there is no price on the actual product?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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What is really annoying is when the item goes off sale and they forget to take down the sign. As far as I'm concerned, if its posted, its valid. In Connecticut we have a "Get One Free" law for scanning errors. If an item has the wrong price, the consumer gets one of those items free up to $20. If the item is over $20, you get a $20 credit on your bill. Its a pretty good law when you can get it enforced.

Dan

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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Interestingly enough, in our class on contract law for my accountancy qualification, we learnt that actually there is nothing a customer can do about shelf labels that are incorrect. A store does not have to sell you anything at the price it says on the shelf. This is because, in contract law terms, price labels are not an offer that customer accepts by picking the item up and taking it to the counter, but an invitation to treat - basically an invitation for the customer to make an offer. So if a computer has a price label reading £10, a customer cannot force a store to sell it for that. Any policy that a store has on giving an item to a customer for free or a reduced price if it scans at a different price than it says on the shelf is entirely up to them.

Of course laws are different in different countries. What about the sticker price on an actual product or for produce, where there is no price on the actual product?

I don't know how it differs around the world, we were just taught it as contract law. I'm not claiming to be an expert by the way! I don't think it matters if the sticker is on the product, on the shelf, on a little shelf label - basically a shop is not under any obligation to sell you anything at a label price. They can charge what they like in theory. Of course, most businesses realise that it's better to be nice to your customer ;) Works in many ways actually - my local corner shop knows my family so I often get two cans of coke for £1, though the label on the shelf says otherwise!

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