Buyer Beware: Stores Commonly Overcharge Customers at the Register

What’s up with stores thinking it’s okay to overcharge their customers? It happens so frequently now that I have to memorize the price of each item just in case I have to make an objection at the register. Even when the cashier makes the price correction for me, it does not help the next customer who purchases the same overpriced item. Why does this practice so common and why do stores get away with it?

At Target yesterday, the price for my 2-pack of Glide dental floss rang up for $6.19 instead of $5.79 as listed on the shelf tag. I brought it to the cashier’s attention and she adjusted the price — it’s only thirty cents, no big deal. I hate to sound petty, but this happens all the time. I thought about a recent trip to Pavilions where I purchased a bowl of sliced fresh mango. The shelf tag read $7.99 (which is already ridiculous), but it rang up $10.99 at the register. That’s three whole dollars extra! The cashier, who was also a manager, requested a price check, confirming my claim. He gave me back my $3.00 and sent me on my way. I waited around for a few minutes to see if he was going to tell someone to change the tag or make some adjustment in the computer so the next customer is not overcharged. He was a manager after all. Nope. It’s extra profit for them, what do they care?

I care. You should too. I work too hard for my money to have these stores show me one price on the shelf, then pull a switcharoo at the register. This has not only happened to me at Pavilions and Target, but also at Kmart, Ralphs, and almost every time I shop at CVS. It’s not right.

Curious as to whether or not there are any consequences for this sneaky bait and switch operation, I did some searching online. On March 2, 2011, a Van Nuys Superior Court Judge ordered the Ralphs supermarket chain to pay $67,618 in fines and sentenced them to 3 years probation. Ralphs Grocery Co. pleaded no contest the previous month to 62 misdemeanor charges of false advertising and false labeling at fourteen Los Angeles locations.

In 1999, Target Stores Inc. pleaded no contest to overcharging customers at five San Fernando Valley stores when scanners gave wrong prices in almost 13% of purchases in a 1998 sample. Undercover county investigators were overcharged from fifty cents to ten dollars, resulting in a $10,492 fine. Apparently, they did not learn their lesson!

Target and several other stores offer a price adjustment if they advertise an item for a lower price within two weeks of your purchase. That’s nice, but I also think that they need to enact a new policy as well: If the scanner gives the wrong price on an item, customers will receive the item free of charge. I remember that some stores used to have this policy, but it seems to have fallen by the waist side, probably because they had to give away too much stuff.

I do most of my weekly grocery shopping at Sprouts and Trader Joes, who offer wide variety of healthy options, and I have not had this problem at either store. Unfortunately, these stores do not meet all of my shopping needs. I will have to continue to pay close attention to those devious scanners and I suggest that you do the same.,0,7596951.story

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