Store scanner errors leave you paying more than the sticker price

Don't Waste Your Money

(WXYZ) - When you go to a supermarket, drugstore or convenience store, you assume the price you pay is the same as the price on the shelf sticker.

But our newest casual check confirmed what many shoppers fear; you are being charged more than the shelf tag.

Happens to Everyone

It's so frustrating: You're standing at the cash register and notice something rang up at a wrong price.

Vonda Schloss said it has happened to her. "Yes, they have done that before and I had to tell them it’s a different price," Schloss said.

It's also happened to Dorothy Trimm. "The stuff on sale they will ring up the regular price," she said.

And it happened to a member of the Don't Waste Your Money team at our sister station in Cincinnati. He went into a number of stores with a hidden camera.

Auditor Dusty Rhodes said most stores have a two percent or lower failure rate, which means fewer than two percent of items rang up incorrectly. 

That’s considered a "passing" grade.

But at some stores, the failure rate can be as high as 20 percent, especially during a sale period.

"We typically find the problem over the holidays or right after there is a big sale,” Rhodes said. “You expect to buy something, and the price rings up different, it’s an issue.”

Rhodes said he believes the mistakes are due to sloppiness – especially during sale events – not deliberate deception.

"Very rarely do we find a store that does not want to comply," Rhodes said. "They want to make it right, and that speaks to the quality of merchants in this area and people running these stores."

Stores Continue to Struggle

While it may not be deliberate, Rhodes' most recent 2013 tests show some stores continue to struggle with cash register accuracy.

At one supermarket, testers found eight percent of items there scanned incorrectly– and we had similar results when we went in with hidden camera.

Of 17 items we bought, five scanned at different prices.

For instance, Frosted Flakes were $1.69 on the shelf, but we were charged $1.79.

A rice mix was marked at 69 cents, but our receipt showed we paid 79 cents.

At at office supply store, meantime,we overpaid for an iPhone speaker: The big shelf tag said $3, but it rang up for $4.

Rhodes said the tests are not a “witch hunt,” but rather a method to keep stores diligent and honest. He said without anonymous testing, mistakes could be more rampant.

"We want to maintain an honest market," Rhodes said. "That's the success of any free enterprise system."

Here in Michigan we have a Scanner Error Bill of Rights. If you've been overcharged and you have a receipt proving it, you have 30 days to notify the seller. They then owe you the difference between the amount charged and the price displayed. There's also a bonus you're entitled to, albeit not very big. You get ten times the difference between the two prices... but that can't exceed five dollars.

You can check out Michigan's Scanner Bill of Rights here



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