Watch Out for Price Scanner Errors

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When checking out at a grocery store, pharmacy or other retail store, we don’t always pay attention to the price that rings up on the cashier’s display screen. We are often busy unloading our cart, distracted by family, or in a hurry to pay. However it does pays to watch as your items are rung up to make sure you’re being charged the correct price.

Recently two national pharmacy chains were fined for overcharging consumers for purchases due to price scanner errors. In most cases, the problem is simply an error in programming the price scanner. Once alerted to the problem, most retailers work quickly to resolve the problem. Some supermarkets may even offer to give the consumer the item free of charge, because the price was incorrect. Errors typically center on:

  • Scanned price does not the price on the shelf.
  • Tax charged for nontaxable items.
  • Scanned price does not reflect sale price.

What can you do to avoid being overcharged?

  1. Be vigilant at checkout. Ask the cashier to wait until you’ve unloaded all your items, before starting to scan.
  2. Write down or take a picture of the shelf price for your item, especially sales items, before going through check out.
  3. If you are buying a number of sale items, be sure to take the sales flyer with you to readily compare the scanned price to that listed in the periodical.
  4. Unload sale items last, so you will be free to observe the scanned price for each item on the cashier’s display.
  5. Check your receipt before leaving the store to deal with any pricing irregularities quickly.

Sources: Store Scanners - The Price Is Not Always Right and Price Check: A Report on the accuracy of Checkout Scanners -United States Federal Trade Commission, - not subject to copyright protection. 17 U.S.C. 403.

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