bitguru blog

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Supermarket pricing errors

Posted by bitguru on September 10, 2007

I bought some garbage bags at the supermarket today. They were supposed to be on sale for $4.19 but they rang up for the regular price of $4.69. I’m the type that watches the prices as they ring up, so I usually catch this kind of mistake. I’d say I encounter approximately 25 of them a year.

Often what happens is the sale has ended but they forgot to remove the sale tag from the shelf. I feel I’m still entitled to the sale price in these cases–I shouldn’t be expected to examine the dates on all the sale tags. That’s not what happened today, though. The $4.19 price is valid through October 14.

Way back when supermarket barcode scanners were new (yes kids, before then there were price tags on each and every item) the typical store policy was that a pricing mistake entitled you to one of that item for free. I don’t know if that’s still the official policy, but it hasn’t worked that way for years. Now you just get the price difference, and only if you’re willing to wait for it.

I knew that to get the correct price for my trash bags it was going to take way more than 50¢ of my time. I had to wait for my turn to talk to someone, wait for someone to walk to the isle and verify the price, demonstrate the incorrect price on my receipt (often they are slow to believe, which can be vexing), and then wait for the coins. I’m too stubborn for my own good, though, so I always stick it out for the refund. Not only are they overcharging me but everyone else who buys that item, and I don’t like it

Today they opened a cash drawer and pulled out two quarters without typing any numbers on the keypad or logging anything. This is how they do it more often then not, but it’s not the correct way because it doesn’t refund the excess sales tax I paid. It’s really not worth my time to argue for a few extra cents, so I let that go. I’m stubborn but not that stubborn.

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3 Responses to “Supermarket pricing errors”

  1. Alan Cole said

    Shucks, I put 2 packages of weenies in my grocery cart recently not just because I wanted to eat weenies but also because the sign at the weenie section of the store refrigerator said: Meat Franks, Buy 1 Get 1 Free. At self check-out, both packages rang up. Nothing showed on the check-out TV as a subtraction for the 2nd package. I had the right brand. Sheesh.

    So I rang for help. The store person said the offer was good only for Meat Franks, whereas I had rung up Beef Franks.

    Beef’s not meat? Yes, beef is meat, but it turns out Meat Franks is a different product name from Beef Franks & the BOGO deal was only for Meat Franks. I said No Thanks & the store person got the check-out tabulator to subtract all weenies from my bill.

    BTW, a helpful side-effect of do-it-myself check-out lanes is the ability to deposit all the coins out of my pocket into the coin slot without bothering to count’m up. That way I avoid pocket change build-up without even having to pay much attention to what I’m carrying around.

    I don’t like to give human cashiers huge piles of coins to sort & count, so I do change dumps only at automated check-outs. I do hand cashiers a few cents extra now & then when the value of the extra coins simplifies the change I’m about to get back — e.g., on a bill of $4.79 I’m apt to pay $5.04 in the hope of getting back a state commemorative quarter. Then again, if I’ve recently done a self-checkout coin dump, I won’t have the 4 extra pennies it takes to do that. Sos it goes.

  2. […] read more here […]

  3. bitguru said

    Harris Teeter did give me one item free, so the policy isn’t completely extinct.

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