Sunday, March 01, 2009

Scanning for Checkout Errors: Grocery Alert

In the current environment of massive fraud and monetary mayhem, the financial error I recently encountered was small. But I refused to accept a 25-percent loss at the checkout counter, where I was charged an extra $1 for a pint of organic grape tomatoes.

As a weekly special, the advertised price was $3.99 per container. But when I studied my receipt in the checkout lane, I saw that I had been charged $4.99.

Here's what that episode taught me:

Always check receipts. Checkout errors are common, according to one industry survey. In 2003, A.T. Kearney found ''data errors'' on 30 percent of retail items. My own shopping experiences mirror those findings, and after a spate of checkout errors at several stores, I've learned to quickly review receipts before leaving a store's parking lot.
Many errors are computer-driven. Occasionally, sale prices and special markdowns are advertised but not updated in the store's computer system. For example, the scanning code on my tomatoes did not reflect the hand-written sale price tacked to the produce display.

Check the error policy. Some stores will compensate shoppers for mispriced items. In my neighborhood, Publix will give you an item for free if "the scanned price of an item . . . exceeds the shelf price or advertised price.''
Examine large purchases. ''You have to really scrutinize receipts, especially for big-ticket items,'' said Jane Bennett Clark, senior associate editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance.
During a recent interview, Clark identified three types of pricing errors.
1. Customer errors occur when shoppers select an item that is not covered by a sales promotion.
2. Due to employee error or computer glitches, merchandise is mislabeled.
3. Shoppers are lured into a store with the promise of low-priced specials, but are directed toward comparable merchandise at higher prices.

The third scenario is against the law, and shoppers should contact local regulators if they suspect a bait-and-switch scheme, Clark said.

Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders


Debra said...

Great post.....I find an error almost 75 percent of the time easy. The worst was for buying 1 home and saw I was charged almost $7.00. I check in the parking lot.

Anonymous said...

I live in Australia and every week I check my dockets against error's, this has saved me a fortune each and everytime I have been in the supermarket from washing powder, clearence christmas cards, fruit and vegies, and much much more..It has paid off for me and I am sure the supermarkets are sick of me complaining but after the third time at our local supermarket I complained to the manager and critizied the way things were run I got a $20.00 free gift card.

It pays to check in Australia if a item is scanned at a higher price then the advertised you get that item for free and if you have duplicate items they are scanned at the lower price.

Anonymous said...

This has saved me money in the past too. The few seconds it takes to linger at the cash register and check your receipt is well worth it compared to the gas you will spend driving back to the store to correct the problem.

And it's not only grocery stores, errors happened to me at Toys R Us TWICE with the same item!

Anonymous said...

I'm store gives me the item for free if it rings up at the wrong price. So, I ALWAYS check my receipt!

Unknown said...

I always check my receipt before leaving the store. I have been charged twice for one bag of potatoes, charged 3 times for times I gave back when they were more than I thought, many times charged at higher prices than listed. Our store gives it to you for free also, so it's worth the few seconds I take to check!

Catherine @frugalfreebies