Customer sues Wal-Mart over 2 cents

The Pittsburgh-area consumer advocate made a successful case against the retail behemoth.

By Karen Datko Oct 3, 2011 5:32PM

Mary Bach bought a package of Banquet Brown 'N Serve sausage labeled 98 cents at the freezer case. But it rang up for 2 cents more. When she pointed out the discrepancy, the cashier gave her the lower price.

 

Six days later, it happened again. This time, Bach took Wal-Mart to court -- and won. Post continues after video.

"Murrysville District Judge Charles Conway sided with Bach in her civil lawsuit alleging unfair trade practices. He awarded Bach $100 in damages, plus about $80 in court costs," the Tribune-Review reported.

 

The retail behemoth argued that Banquet had just changed the package and the UPC, so the old ones were ringing up for 98 cents and the new packages cost a buck. Both the old and new were still being sold by the store.

 

Wal-Mart also argued that Bach, a consumer advocate, was just looking for another excuse to sue the Delmont, Pa., store (where, we suspect, employees cringe when she walks through the door). She's sued that Pittsburgh area store four times before over similar allegations. (You can read about some of her previous legal battles here, here and here. She has also successfully sued Kmart and other retailers, but lost a case over how Wal-Mart charges sales tax on items discounted with a coupon.)

 

Bach says it's the principle: Wal-Mart should make sure it doesn't charge more than the advertised price. (The $100 award plus court costs is the minimum allowed under Pennsylvania law for such cases.)

 

To some, Bach is a hero. Posted reader "Kevin Hooper" at The Huffington Post:

Do you people not realize how much overcharging a few cents per transaction costs us? Take a behemoth like Wal-Mart, even if they only overcharge 10% of the time it would mean tens of millions in overpayment.

Said a reader at WeUseCoupons.com, "Well, good for her. I don't have the time for it nor the inclination but she has picked up the gauntlet for the little person and is waving it at Walmart."

 

Some think her efforts are misguided at best. "What a waste of time," commented "Dan Doyle" at HuffPost. "Maybe she should sue the government for wasting her money instead and make a significant point."

 

Wrote "disgusted!" at lehighvalleylive.com: "Really? With everything that's going on in the world she's whining over 2 freaking cents!"

 

Still, there's something everyone should learn from this: Always check your receipt and do it before you leave the store. The Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs has other tips:

  • Pay attention to the cash register display to be sure you are charged the correct price.
  • Immediately point out overcharges to the cashier.
  • Ask about the store's policy on overcharges. If you are overcharged, some stores will give you the item free or offer a discount.

Note: Receipt checks by store employees as you head to the door are also strictly voluntary on your part unless it's included in a membership agreement, like the one at Costco, MSN Money's Liz Weston has said.

 

More on MSN.com:

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

575Comments
Oct 4, 2011 11:38AM
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if its nothing everyone in america send me two cents a week for life ill take it. 

$6,000,000 a week SurprisedOpen-mouthed yea!!!! anyone else you can too.
Oct 4, 2011 8:07AM
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This is sad, in a pathetic sort of way. People complain about 'big, bad, rich companies' all the time, then run right down to Wal-Mart to get everything as cheap as possible, knowing full well that most of what they carry is made in China. Then you complain when they overcharge by 2 cents while the government throws away billions of dollars of taxpayer funds every month. So you complain about the big, bad, rich companies.

How about trying something novel ... stop shopping at Wal-Mart. Sure, you may have to pay a few more cents at a smaller, more local retailer, maybe one that sells American-made products, and maybe you won't be able to buy as much junk as you're used to right now, but all your whining and complaining would then actually mean something other than hypocritical blathering.

Oct 4, 2011 4:30PM
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@tnjb

 

Your right two cents isnt a lot. Do some math for me... What if Wal-Mart charges two more cents to every customer? Pull out your calculator and put in 10 million customers and times it by .02 cents. Is that a lot of money?

Oct 4, 2011 12:41PM
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Better yet, don't waste a cent at Wal-Mart. Why make China richer?
Oct 4, 2011 11:35AM
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it's not 2 cents its 2% and it just happens to be 2 cents now. multiply that by all the items sold for a large family that could be $2-3 every two weeks times the largest retail chain in america for years. 
it also means they overcharge ebt/food stamps which is fraud against the state. that's a federal crime and since it crosses state lines is against a myriad of more federal laws.

understand this their supply chain is the most advanced in the world when a product is scanned it re-orders itself. once they put the change in the computer it is done so a week later it was meant to be missed.
Oct 4, 2011 4:11PM
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How many people shop at Wal-Mart per store?  If every person who shops at Wal-Mart is overcharged "just 2 cents" everyday, then Wal-Mart could be pocketing millions of dollars.

 

Oct 4, 2011 11:28AM
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PS.  Three of the top ten richest people in the US are Walton's and many more are in the top 100.   I guess they need the money they get from cheating the poorer Americans.  Sam is turning in his grave.
Oct 4, 2011 12:31PM
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  It did NOT cost Wal-Mart $180 to defend themselves in this lawsuit. It actuallly cost much, much more. Thousands in lawyers fees, lost work time from anyone who was called to testify for the company, to name two points. Who will end up paying for that? That's right, we, the consumers.

  Here's my two cents worth....Mary can stick those two pennies up her whiny nose.

Oct 4, 2011 11:32AM
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Read the full article. She did not sue because she was overcharged once, She sued because She notified them of the problem and they did not fix it. I think the fact that she has brought this kind of thing to Walmarts attention many times, she should sue. I also think if Walmart has lost 5 or 6 of these cases so far the fine needs to be higher.

Oct 4, 2011 2:11PM
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According to the numbers on the pump, it's taken 18 gallons to fill my not-yet-empty 16 gallon tank at the gas station.  The Hungry Man turkey dinner that still shows five pieces of meat on the meal pictured on the box used to have those five pieces but, even though the price did not go down, the prime and most expensive meal ingredient . . . MEAT . . . decreased 20% to four pieces and then decreased 25% from four to three pieces.  The Northern "double-roll" toilet paper price did not go down, but the rolls of tissue got noticeably narrower and the cardboard rollers in the middle increased in diameter, making the rolls 16% lighter.  These are some of the ways that big businesses stick it to their customers.  The rich get richer.  The poor get poorer.  Mr. Sam Walton's "thing" was that everything he sold was made in America.  Today, not even a company with a wholesome, folksy name like "Apple" makes their product in the USA.  Products sold at Walmart are more likely to be made in what we used to refer to as "communist China" than in the US of A.  Welcome to the new USA, the best country on Earth?  Where we dishonestly overcharge our own people at the local store and have a significant population of citizens who think it's nothing to get upset about.

Oct 4, 2011 12:17PM
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You are all missing the point! This lady has nothing better to do than tie up the court system with frivolous lawsuits! She will now cause the price of items to increase in the store to make up costs for her lawsuit and defending itself over other ridiculous lawsuits.

A store that sells as many products as Walmart is bound to make price mistakes. Remember, there are human workers responsible for the layouts and changing prices in the store. What it boils down to is free enterprise. If she doesn't like the fact that Walmart makes mistakes...go somewhere else! No one is forcing her to shop there.

I truly hope someone sues her the next time she makes a mistake at her job. If (And that is a BIG IF) she has one. I’m upset with her and equally upset with the kooky judge that decided in her favor. Obviously, a strong understanding of consumer law is not his bag. A computer glitch was the mistake and she never had to pay for the incorrect price of the product.

I would suggest everyone in the Murrysville area to vote Judge Charles Conway out of office.

Oct 3, 2011 9:55PM
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I work at a retailer (not Walmart) and most of the time, the price is correct and the tag isn't.  Who works at the Walmart, or your other retailers you frequent that makes these mistakes?  Your friends, neighbors, and relatives that work there and don't correct the sign or the price in the computer.  Those people make minimum wage, they don't benefit from those mistakes. And if they are missing the prices that go up, they are also missing some that go down.

 

We're all human and make mistakes.  I think the biggest mistake here is that Walmart doesn't have a better system in place when a price is changed at the register to alert someone to check the shelf tags.  Any register change should alert someone that something is wrong.

Oct 4, 2011 11:44AM
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Good for her!  I've been trying for 2 months at least to get our local WM to change the price tag on red vine licorice.  Price tag states $1.48  I get charged $1.64.  I have had them give me the other price, I have had a clerk argue with me that red vines are the generic and that's why the price was different.  I have brought pictures of their tag with the UPC code and the item and STILL no change.  I find this happens so often.  SO, like several have stated, yeah..no biggy for 2¢ but those cents add up and there is a LOT of money being "stolen".
Oct 4, 2011 11:34AM
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kudos for her.... they do it all the time... and I do believe it's probably very regular thing.  I recently bought plums, with the sign adversting them for $.98 a pound, and they rang up $1.25.  Some apples, the sign said $1.35, they rang up $1.87 a pound.   It happens ALL the time, but like so many, with people in line, and my time worth more to me than  a few cents.... I just let it slide, and pay the price without saying anything.  Yeah... I'm sure they make millions this way...

 

Oct 4, 2011 11:31AM
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I, like most other folks, am a coupon shopper. I do buy items specifically because I have a coupon for them. I hate cashiers that do the hand is faster than the eye routine. Inevitably, I'll look at my receipt and find a couple bucks in coupons missed. That's money lost by me and monies paid to the store. I've e-mailed Giant eagle about it----pretty much got ignored. I've seen items priced 1 price and scanned for another. Unless you catch it right then and there, it's just a done deal and over with. I watch my coupons and the register.
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We have experienced a similar situation with Safeway. Because of their complicated online membership/card membership/store sale pricing, you don't get a very clear itemized receipt. Our last visit there resulted in a $18 over charge on a $60 bill. We called customer service, and was given a sincere apology, and told someone would contact us on the matter. After 5 days, no one has called us back. This hasn't been the first time this has happened. When you multiply amounts like this by the millions of customers Safeway have, you come up with some incredible profits that they are making off register mistakes. 

This could well be happening in many other retail outlets, so I urge everyone to CHECK YOUR RECEIPT BEFORE LEAVING THE STORE.
Oct 4, 2011 8:49AM
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I wonder if the price would have rang up lower, if she would have said anything? Probably not, would she than be cheating WalMart? Most people only complain when it's not in their favor, but it is ok if they are not being honest.

 

Oct 4, 2011 2:09PM
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When it's done repeatedly doesn't it sound like FRAUD to anyone?
Oct 4, 2011 1:55PM
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In the last month while shopping at Wal-Mart, I have  been overcharged  several times.  A 12 pack of water, shelve price $1.88, rang up at $2.16, and tomatoes sell price $1.98, rang up $2.98.   The tomato pricing error lasted over a month.  How many people were overcharged and didn't catch it.  Hats off to Mary, even if it was only 2 cents.  Grocery prices are high enough, without being ripped off by incorrect pricing.
Oct 4, 2011 12:51PM
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Several times at walmart i saw discounted redbulls in 4 pack that were $1.50 cheaper and bought them.  Then the rang up at regular price at the register. I even had the manager walk back with me to show that the barcode numbers matched and they charged me the wrong price, this happened twice in about 2 weeks. They finally removed the price on the redbull display, you had to look for the price on the top shelf next to it to find the actual price and were still over charging for them.   Walmart is totally aware of this practice and should be stopped. Yay for Mrs. Mary Bach!
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