What to do when the price at the register is wrong

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How often have you stood at the register, convinced that your item scanned at a higher price but unwilling to make a scene by requesting a price check? It happens to me all too frequently. The California Attorney General recently reached a settlement with Wal-Mart over charges that the price of items when scanned at the cash register were higher than marked on the shelf. The chain's customers will receive $3 when victim of a price mistake.

In practical terms for Wal-Mart customers in California, this means that the Wal-Mart employee is the responsible party. If the cashier sees an error (or one is pointed out) then that person must give the customer $3 off the item. And if the item is less than $3? Well, then it's free. This starts now and goes for four years.

The L.A. Times holiday shopping blog adds that the investigation leading up to this decision was three years in the making and spanned the state. The finding was that oercharged customers paid an average of $8 more than they should have paid.



What can you do about inaccurate pricing? I have a few suggestions.

  1. Mark each product with the price as you add it to your basket. The guerrilla shopper might simply carry a felt-tipped pen to mark the product, aware that by doing so he won't be able to put it back, and that the store management might protest. If you're accurate (double check!), what's the harm?
  2. If you aren't willing to be quite so bold, carry some removable adhesive labels of your own, apply to each item you select and write the price on them. Place these labels on the opposite of the product from the universal price bar code so that your price will be visible as the product is scanned.
  3. If you find a price that seems too good to be true, take a shot of it with your camera phone to show to the clerk.
  4. Don't fiddle with the credit card reader until you've confirmed each item scanned at the proper price. If a price doesn't match yours, ask for a price check, knowing you're on solid ground. If you can't see the price as it is scanned, ask for the store manager. Tell him that the Attorney General wouldn't be pleased with his setup.
  5. If you don't want to follow the scanning at the time of purchase, check each item's price against the receipt as you unpack at home. Set aside any that don't match to return for credit when you go shopping next time.

How often do YOU encounter prices at the register that don't match the price on the shelves? What do you do when you encounter this situation?

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Wal-Mart in the News

    Shoppers wait in line to pay inside the Wal Mart store at Fair Lakes, Virginia on Black Friday November 28, 2008. Shoppers turned up early for holiday sales at U.S. stores on Friday, but the annual pilgrimage appeared thinner this year and many consumers vowed to spend less due to a shrinking economy. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)

    Reuters

    Shoppers walk with a loaded cart inside the Wal Mart store at Fair Lakes, Virginia on Black Friday November 28, 2008. Shoppers turned up early for holiday sales at U.S. stores on Friday, but the annual pilgrimage appeared thinner this year and many consumers vowed to spend less due to a shrinking economy. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)

    Reuters

    A long line of customers wait early in the morning at the Wal-Mart in Niles, Ill., Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

    AP

    Margaret Coyne waits in line early in the morning at the Wal-Mart in Niles, Ill., Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

    AP

    Raymond Feliciano catches up on some sleep after waiting in line from midnight to 4 a.m. at the Wal-Mart in Niles, Ill., Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

    AP

    Rachelle Transtrum pushes her cart around the Nampa Franklin Road Wal-Mart as she navigates through the large crowds Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, in Nampa, Idaho (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Greg Kreller)

    AP

    Mike Hernandez, top left, of Union City, N.J., a Wal-Mart employee points a customer to a sale item at the Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, N.J., Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. Hundreds of people lined up to get into this Wal-Mart for the annual pre-dawn Black Friday bargain hunting. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)

    AP

    Shoppers run through the doors at a Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, N.J., shortly after 5:00 a.m., Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. Hundreds of people lined up to get into this Wal-Mart for the annual pre-dawn Black Friday bargain hunting. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)

    AP

    Shoppers run through the doors at a Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, N.J., shortly after 5:00 a.m., Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. Hundreds of people lined up to get into this Wal-Mart for the annual pre-dawn Black Friday bargain hunting. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)

    AP

    Jose Gutierrez balances a desktop computer on his head while shopping at an Oakland, Calif., Wal-mart on Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

    AP

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