Complications at the supermarket

Posted by watchmen
October 12, 2018
Posted in OPINION

“Scanner price accuracy is an important criterion for maintaining consumer confidence.” –Former Canadian Federal Competition Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein


A recent trip to a local supermarket turned out to be more complicated than expected. With the store circular in hand, picked up an item that was marked on sale. As usual, there was a hunt for the said item as (and this is a common practice with most retailers across the area) stores often hide sale items or keep them off the shelves completely. The same store held a sale around the holidays last year and items with large markdowns were nowhere to be seen within minutes of opening their doors. Ask any sales associate and all they were able to say was “sold out” – not if the doors were just opened a moment ago.

Found the item – hidden behind a promotional display – and brought it to the cash register (the circular ready in case the price needed to be disputed). Asked the cashier to ring up the item and (as expected) it came up the regular price. Showed her the flyer with the sale price, to which she proceeded to send the bagger to customer service. It took a while for the bagger to come back and, upon return, all he said was to wait longer because whomever he spoke to had to “confirm” the price.

What confirmation is necessary? It’s the store’s flyer.

The confirmation process was another wait. Almost walked out but chose to stick around because it was pretty clear this situation was not common. Not to say wrong prices are not common, but it would appear most customers are probably not very concerned about prices – whether it’s a matter of ignorance, pride, or trying to project an appearance of “money is no object;” even local panhandlers ignore the coins sitting on the ground next to them, how much more a person with an income?

The long and tedious wait came to an end with a supervisor coming around to adjust the price.

Wrote about a similar subject last March and talked about how stores elsewhere handle price discrepancies.

In the previous article, a visit to a sporting goods store in the United States was discussed, where a football jersey was marked $25 but when the cashier rung it up, it was $65. After making him aware of the error, the price was adjusted accordingly. However, upon leaving, the price on the rack was immediately changed – the $65 was the correct price but, as a token of good will to their customers, the store took responsibility for their error.

Some supermarkets in the US offer incorrectly-marked items for free; most just need a couple buttons on the cash register to be pressed in order to solve the matter.

CBC News, a Canadian media outlet, filed a report a few years back regarding policies formed by industry groups on how to ensure cash registers are accurate.

They made three primary stipulations on cash registers ringing up incorrect prices. Items costing less than $10 would be given to the customer for free; customers receive a $10 discount on more expensive items; and with identical items sold at different prices, the second purchase would be corrected.

The report also quoted then-Federal Competition Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein, who said, “Scanner price accuracy is an important criterion for maintaining consumer confidence.”

A column in The Plain Dealer, a newspaper out of Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States, discussed the matter of price scanners. The writer was responding to a letter regarding an incident at a Rite Aid, a nationwide drugstore chain, where a price needed to be adjusted.

They quoted Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower, who said, “As soon as we became aware of the error, our store team immediately resolved the issue and credited the appropriate amount to our customer.” As mentioned with other stores in the US, price adjustments can be done “immediately” with no need for the store to confirm if the price they offered was, in fact, correct.

Not to mention, the piece also discussed random inspections conducted by the county to ensure cash registers are operating properly. The writer even outlined the process (which was fairly basic), “The inspector randomly chooses 50 items and takes them to a register; if more than one scans wrong, the store fails.” With the number of experiences debating prices with cashiers (who mostly just repeat the phrase, “It’s the barcode”), the concept of random inspections must be a completely foreign concept to local retailers and government agencies.

It does not make any sense why the big production is necessary to correct a price. The sale price was reflected on the store’s own flyer – as long as the circular date was valid, there shouldn’t be a need to “confirm” a price.

Do stores not determine their own sales? They’re the ones who released the circular and they should be responsible in ensuring their registers are up-to-date; and, in the event there is an error, there shouldn’t be any question as to the correct charge since the publication displaying the price was put out by the store itself./WDJ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *