Challenging the supermarket scanner
Consumers lose $1 billion or more annually because of errors in stores’ favor. Are you afraid to speak up?
Wong gave several examples, but the one that jumped out at me was a mistake at the cash register: an item that rang up $2 higher than its actual price.
What would you have done?
Here's what I do: Say "I believe there's been a mistake." If there's a line behind me, I ask if a manager could handle the fix at a different register.
I'm always polite, but I always say something. After all, that's my money the store is trying to keep.
Stretching the food budget
I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Phoebe Hendricks, of Getting Freedom from Debt, says that "every penny counts" when it comes to her family's food budget. She takes all disputes to the customer service desk.
Coupon blogger Briana Carter, aka Bargain Briana, recently had a cashier ring up only nine of 10 free-product coupons. Carter contacted the store manager, who made it right.
"Don't be afraid to ask management for clarification," she says. "Also, don't be afraid to put an item back if it doesn't ring up properly or they refuse to take your coupon."
Post continues below video.
Lauren Greutman usually challenges mistakes, but says she is flexible. For example, if she's gotten her three kids into their car seats before discovering an error, she might let it go.
"I am not embarrassed or ashamed to (protest) someone doing something wrong with my money. I just have to weigh if it is worth it to me," says Greutman, who blogs at I Am That Lady.
On the other hand, Laura Harders has gone to the customer service desk for an error as small as not getting credit for bringing her own bags. "It's just another opportunity to save," says Harders, who blogs at Beltway Bargain Mom.
She suggests a twofold approach: Watch the scanner carefully, and check your receipts before you leave the store.
It adds up
I can imagine what some of you are thinking: Why such a fuss over a missed coupon or a nickel-a-bag credit?
Think of the bigger picture. "Good Morning America" reports that scanner inaccuracies cost U.S. consumers between $1 billion and $2.5 billion per year.
So yes, it does add up. Besides, if a store advertises a sale price, it ought to honor that price. If a store accepts coupons, they should be rung up accurately.
"If you're willing to clip coupons to save a few cents, or buy a sale item to save a few cents," Harders says, "you certainly should not have to pay a 'politeness tax.'"
Incidentally, some stores will give you the item for free if it rings up incorrectly. Just sayin'.
Readers: Do you challenge mistakes at the register?
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I work for a large grocery store and it is always good to correct us on price differences but please do it in a polite way. Honestly, the employees and management of the stores I have worked for are not trying to steal your money by overcharging. Things get missed because of the vast number of changes made each week. Sometimes we goof up, pure and simple.
I guess there are people out there that are dishonest and use these excuses as cover but I have not met any of them as coworkers. We are like so many companies today and are under staffed and each of us is expected to do the work of several people.
So if you notice a pricing error, speak up and make us correct it because we want to have it right. Just don't attack us when you do it, if at all possible.
Dear Ms. Wong,
"Get Rich Slowly staff writer Kristin Wong recently did an article on "The politeness tax" -- money she's lost recently because she was too intimidated to speak up."
You are confusing "politeness" with "intimidation". One can inquire about a price discrepancy without being rude. If one is too shy to make such an inquiry, it is, in effect, a "shyness" tax.
Scanner errors can go both ways. The question I have is do people point it out when the mistake is in their favor or just when it's in the store's favor? I am a consumer, not a store representative, and I have brought scanning errors to the attention of the cashiers whether the mistake was to the store's benefit or mine.
But an even better question for posters is:
If the error is in your favor, and you notice it, are you honest enough to call attention to it?
I do, because I think right is right and fair is fair. There are enough places that will penalize employees personally , like waiters or waitresses, for the errors. If the shoe were on the other foot, I would hope I had honest, attentive customers who caught the mistake and told me about it. And while I don't always hear a "thank you" from the person whose attention I call to the error in my favor, I know that honesty really is the best policy in life.
This article should be renamed, "Being a doormat could cost you money". There is an enormous differance between being a polite person with a quite reserve, assertiveness and inner strength, and being a doormat who is too foolhardy to stand up for themselves!!! This article has nothing to do with being "polite". It's a lesson in assertiveness, which has nothing to do with table manners.
Moving right along...
This isn't challenging the supermarket or an issue of politeness...this is verification. If the scanner is ringing up incorrectly or so fast that I can't see if there's an issue, I speak up!
And that there are others in line isn't my issue; if I'm being rung up wrong so are they and so should appreciate that someone is battling on everyone's behalf.
I always watch and speak up at registers when the prices dont match the signage. Yes, I can remember the prices, if you cant write down your sales items at least.
Walmart is the worse, King Soopers will compensate or have someone check, but they like to embarass you for having to check prices.
Walmart in Colorado had some fishing poles at $19.99 these were ugly sticks that normally run $49.99, when I took 6 of them to the register, the clerk rang them up and I noted that they were on sale, he disagreed and went to the display where there were several ugly sticks. His Walmart response, "Are you nuts, do you really think we're selling them for $19.99, that's a mistake and Im not giving you that price, we have to make profit too, so do you want them or not." As I told him, I didnt set the display Walmart did, so they should honor the price, his Walmart response, "You can go to hell if you think Im giving you that price." I asked him to call the manager and he walked away from the sporting good department and got lost in the store.
Always know your prices and stand up to the register and make these stores work at their profits.
The worst is Wal-Mart, but grocery stores can be just as bad. I always watch the prices as it rings up you would be surprised at what you can catch.
Watch carefully when you check-out at Walmart. I have had more problems with them than any other store. The cashiers are so worked up that they make mistakes every time I buy groceries there. I had one cashier who charged my wife for 14 cantalopes when she only bought 1. Luckily, I looked at the receipt when I checked it off of my charge card statement. I asked my wife why she bought 14 cantalopes and she said that it must have been a mistake. I quickly drove to Walmart (about two weeks after the purchase was made, but right after I noticed the mistake), and the store's assistant manager had to go back into the stores recorded video to check it out. I received a phone call two days later to say that my wife did buy only one cantalope, and she was sorry for the mistake. I told the manager that I expected to be compensated for my time and aggravation and she so generously (not generous at all) gave me a $5 gift card.
That is an extreme example, but Walmart employees are always messing things up.
Be very careful when going through the checkout line. I now go to the store with my wife to buy groceries. I load the conveyer belt while she watches the cashier ring up our purchases. Then, I check the receipt on the way out the door as I push the shopping cart. I also have my wife double check it.
Also, make sure that you check to make sure that they give you all of your bagged groceries. They sometimes forget. Recently, I had 1 cashier who stuffed the bags and ripped them (where my groceries were falling out when I picked up the bags from the turn stile), and 3 cashiers who wouldn't let me turn the turn stile to get my grocery bags (all were women who flipped out and yanked the turn stile back so that they could stuff the bags full (ripping them and making them too heavy to pick up). I hate Walmart as do most people, but from the treatment I get there, they don't care. I tolerate the employees because I save money on my groceries (when they don't cheat me by charging more for items than they are supposed to). Good luck shopping there, and keep your eyes open.
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