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The price you are paying - right or wrong?


Are checkout scanners accurate?

Have you finished your shopping? It is time to join the queue at the checkout counter. "That's no problem", you say to yourself, "this supermarket has an electronic scanner. It is fast and more importantly, it is accurate. No more human errors."

Think again.
An investigative study (with hidden cameras) conducted over a span of four years by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in malls and supermarkets in 36 states throughout the US, reveals pricing errors in one of every 28 sale items checked and almost two-thirds of the errors were overcharges.

Scanner mistakes can take the spirit right out of the festive shopping season. The FTC investigators were overcharged on sale items at every single store and a random check at five different stores during the hectic Christmas rush saw one out of every four sale items purchased scanned wrong.

Though retailers have stated that errors are mimimal, the study had some disturbing results to show - all indicating gross human negligence :

  • Over a period of four years, undercover shopping (by FTC) across the country has found scanner mistakes on all kinds of sale items ; even nationally advertised sale items chosen by stores weeks in advance.
  • The investigators spent about $150 at reputed outlets on at least a dozen sale items, all advertised in flyers or on store signs. About one out of every seven items purchased by the investigators scanned wrong. (Reputation or no reputation, you should be on alert all the time!)
  • Though the mistakes have been brought to the notice of the stores' management, the errors persist year after year.
  • The excuses have been many - 'expired ad sign', 'inaccurate signing', 'newly inducted staff'...but the fact remains that the consumers are being overcharged.
  • The FTC investigators were overcharged on sale items at every single store and a random check at five different stores during the hectic Christmas rush saw one out
    of every four sale items purchased scanned wrong.
  • Investigators found grocery stores were the most likely to have accurate pricing, while hardware stores were the least likely.

Though it is fair to note that in every case, the investigators were given refunds, when they had been overcharged, the US FTC gives us the following guidelines as to how to avoid an overcharge:-
  • Watch the display screen for prices. If you think you're being overcharged, speak up. Ask about the store's policy on pricing errors, and ask the cashier to make the adjustment before you pay. Although some stores simply adjust the price, others deduct an additional amount. Still others offer the mispriced item for free.
  • Bring a copy of the store's flyer or newspaper ad to the checkout counter. Some advertised specials -- 15 percent off an item for two hours, for example, or a two-for-one promotion may not be in the computer and must be entered manually by the cashier.
  • Consider jotting down prices or special sales as you wend your way through the store. In grocery stores, you may want to use a pen or crayon to note the product prices on the packages.
  • Check your receipt before you walk away. If you notice an error, ask the cashier to adjust the total. If you've already left the cashier's lane, see the store or department manager or the customer service department to correct any mistakes.
A little caution will ensure that you pay the right price, while doing other shoppers, a great service!



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