When You’re Overcharged or Undercharged

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While doing my weekly shopping trip (incidentally, this was also when I prepared for the breakfast burrito post), I headed to the checkout with a bunch of produce in my cart. I knew how much the produce was marked for in the aisle, but I often find that produce pricing results in a lot of errors at the checkout, so I often make a mental note of produce prices (and sometimes, I even jot them down for my own records).

This shopping trip was no exception. Two of the produce items rang up with a per-item price that was different than what was listed in the aisle. One of the incorrect prices was lower than what was listed in the aisle, while the other one was higher.

Without thinking too much about it, I pointed out both prices. When the price change benefited me, the cashier called over a manager, pointed out the error, and corrected it. When I pointed out the error that benefited the store, the cashier just rolled her eyes, said “I won’t tell if you won’t,” and kept ringing up the groceries.

As I walked out of the store, going through my usual routine of reviewing my receipt, I came across those two produce items – and I couldn’t help but wonder what the right thing to do was.

If the store is overcharging me, I don’t doubt that it is my obligation to call them on it. As a customer, I deserve to pay what is marked for the item in the aisle – that price should not change suddenly at the checkout.

When the store undercharges me at the checkout, though, I’m not entirely sure what the best ethical route is. Let’s look at the two arguments.

I shouldn’t say anything because I am simply receiving a price that the store deems as fair. The store is charging me that price – why should I question it just because they have some other number marked in the aisle?

I should say something because it’s the truly honest thing to do. Most likely, this is a simple human error, and I am taking inappropriate advantage of this mistake.

Another question I kept asking myself is whether there should be two different courses of action depending on whether the aisle price is lower or the checkout price is lower. Shouldn’t I act exactly the same regardless of where the error occurs?

I kept debating this question over the last few days, and I finally came around to what I think is the appropriate conclusion. I should mention any incorrect price to the cashier. If the cashier chooses not to take any action on the price, then I won’t push it further.

Doing things this way makes me be honest about the things that I notice. However, most of the time, it will result in me getting the lowest price of the two no matter what the situation.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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134 thoughts on “When You’re Overcharged or Undercharged

  1. Hey! I understand your angst. I was recently undercharged by $12.00 at a grocery store and when I said something I was basically told not to worry about it and the cashier hinted that I may get the cashier who made the mistake in trouble. I went to the same store today and was overcharged by a dollar or so and decided not to go back and say something because I feel like I owe them anyway!

  2. Two days ago I picked up two quilts that had been quilted (the top stitching line) for me by a professional quilter. She had accidentally undercharged me for the wool batting – instead of charging me $12.20 a yard (for about 3-4 yards) she had written down just the per-yard price in the batting line on her invoice. We both noticed the error, and discussed it. I asked her to adjust the invoice, and she decided not to. I don’t feel bad about being the recipient of her error because I was sincere in my desire for her to charge a fair price for her goods and services. She made the choice not to adjust it and we went onward. I always tell retailers when I notice that they have undercharged me, just as I do when they overcharge me. I am not responsible for their actions, just mine.

  3. I always point out the errors. Otherwise I feel guilty (for not pointing out the one that benefits me) or feel cheated (for the one benefiting the store) I use these feelings as my emotional ethical guide.

    At one store I go to the manager once took time to explain their chain’s policy of giving the item free if the price was wrong, either high or low. He told me that they can be fined during a state inspection if too many items scan wrong. He said his mystery shopper from corporate marks down the score for the store if the scans are wrong. He also said bad scans erode trust from the customers in the whole scanning system, and cause delays at the registers while the correct prices are verified. The store is only authorized one pricing clerk with limited hours who must download, print, sort, and put up all the new prices, and remove all the old sale prices in one night.

    So in short, by reporting the incorrect prices, the store gets to correct the prices on the shelves, and the customer gets the item free.

  4. Character is doing what’s right, even when no one is looking. Simply, you should point out the undercharging the same way you would being overcharged.
    I wouldn’t hold up the line to discuss the price though; a quick stop at the front desk on the way out will probably result in a price correction. Plus, the front desk, not the cashier, has the ability to change the price.

  5. The path you chose totally agrees with many ethical philosophies. You fall right in line with Kant, who uses deductive logic when constructing his ethics. The basis of Kant’s ethics is the Golden Rule: do unto others and you would have them do unto you. You made the ethical choice, when you look at most philosophers.

  6. You are worrying too much about a very small issue. I wish I had time to worry about stuff like this, but I just get my groceries and get out, and as long as something doesn’t look unreasonable I move on.

  7. Having worked at a grocery store when I was younger, typically, it’s okay to take the advantage you might have. I think they expect this to happen every now and then.

    That said, if the shop is a MOM and POP kind of store (produce or otherwise), that pricing mistake can hurt them much more. They usually will correct the pricing mistake, if they have it priced wrong, thanking you as they do so. The amount of profit they get makes it tight, especially when competing with Super Grocery stores…

  8. “When the price change benefited me, the cashier called over a manager, pointed out the error, and corrected it. When I pointed out the error that benefited the store, the cashier just rolled her eyes, said “I won’t tell if you won’t,” and kept ringing up the groceries.”

    Do you have that backwards? Because right now it reads like the cashier fixed the price that was too low but kept the one that was too high, which would be absolutely awful customer service. Based on her comment, it seems like you meant to say that she fixed the price change that helped the store, but kept the one that saved you some money.

    Your solution sounds like a good one.

  9. I think you did the right thing, Trent. I probably would have just called it even as long as the two price differences weren’t unreasonably far apart.

  10. In our area, if a customer is overcharged via a scanning or check-out error, they can take the receipt to the customer service desk and will receive 10 times the difference up to $5.00. We never point out those mistakes while still in line. Rather, we just head to customer service to get our “rebate.” This system, as pointed out by @russ (post #2) helps keep the store honest with their scannings. I don’t see anything “unethical” about this whatsoever. In fact, if we’re shopping at the same store the next day, we might purchase the item again just to see if they’ve fixed the scanning error…if not, good for us – more free groceries! Store managers need to know how to run their business.

  11. Pointing out the error is the right thing to do, however, having worked retail, sometimes getting the correct price can be more hassle than what it is worth. I can only speak for myself, but when there would be an incorrect price, the cashier would have to call over her manager, then they would have to get ahold of someone in that department, then that person would have to find the item and return the call. Sometimes that took a long time depending on who was working and where the item was.

    The cashier would no doubt give you the lower price if you were overcharged, you are the reason they are there, but if it rang up less than it was marked, it may just be easier for all involved to let you have it at that price. It saves you the wait and them the headache of getting the right price while a line backs up behind you.

    Good that you said something though, many people wouldn’t.

  12. The only things I notice are when something is drastically reduced and I’m buying it for that reason. For instance the other day I found some Martini glasses for 50 cents each. I’m trying to decorate my bar and looking for cheap glasses, otherwise I wouldn’t be buying the glasses. So I made sure the glasses rang up correctly. But everyday items I don’t notice – some will be overcharged and some undercharged – I figure it always balances out in the end.

  13. I’m not always able to watch things ring up, but I always speak up if they’ve overcharged me (and I can catch it… I’m usually loading or unloading groceries and can’t watch like a hawk). I can’t honestly say I’ve ever thought to correct an undercharge. I guess I’ve just always assumed that the posted price was wrong… an unannounced sale, or maybe the sale tag from the shelf went missing.

  14. I always seem to catch the errors going against me, but I still report the error to the cashier, I personally would not feel that I was an honest person if I did not. But most times they will give me the lower amount and I am always appreciative.

  15. You originally maintained this ethical belief:

    “As a customer, I deserve to pay what
    is marked for the item in the aisle –
    that price should not change suddenly
    at the checkout.”

    Your subsequent problem stemmed from your desire to gain financially from someone’s error. To justify this desire you searched for a loophole in your own personal ethics. The justification you came up with was: “I am simply receiving a price that the store deems as fair”. However, that doesn’t pass your own ethics test, for if you truly believed that, you would also believe it when the store overcharges you at the register. After all, what the store deems as fair is fair, right?

    In the end, your feelings of guilt were appropriate because you believe that fairness, regardless of who ends up with the financial benefit at the moment, is the best policy for you.

  16. I think many stores have a policy that if something rings up for less than marked, you’ll get the lower price. Check out your store’s policies on incorrectly scanned items before you spend too much time angsting about this.

  17. A lot of the grocery stores I go to say that if you are overcharged at the checkout, then you get that item free (or some other variation on the theme). It seems to me that implicit in that policy is that if you are undercharged and point it out, they would not charge you more. In any case, it is illegal to charge more than the price marked, but I don’t believe there are any laws that prevent a store from charging less.

  18. I think it’s important to inform the store about their price discrepancies either way. They should not charge you a higher price if the item rings up lower, but they may need to adjust the number in their system for future purchases.

    Over-charging is obviously something you should point out for your own benefit. However, keeping an honest stance overall benefits not only you but those around you as well.

  19. Something like this happened to me yesterday. Shopping for a new suit I misheard the pricing (Was discussing a discount)… I mistook “one hundred off” for “one hundred” (300 euro suit).

    The shocked girl rant to the store manager, who came over laughing and immediately told me I could take the suit for 100. (While I was willing to pay the 200.)… Sometimes it does pay to have a miscommunication. The manager must have been in a very good mood, he kept smiling all the time.

    Yes I checked the pricing on the suit… I didn’t get conned or anything.

  20. At many stores, including Hy-Vee (since you’re also an Iowan), there’s a pretty good incentive for letting the cashier know that you were undercharged as well. Pricing mistakes either way mean the item is free. However, even without that incentive, I still think it’s the right thing to do.

    Just like I’ll let someone know that I paid with a twenty and expect the change for a twenty if they make a mistake, I’ll tell a cashier that they gave me change for a twenty if I only gave them a ten.

    BTW, I once found an item at a store that rang up at $.00 at check-out and had no price listed on the shelf. Instead of following the store’s normal policy, the cashier decided to make up a price he thought was appropriate, and offer me $5 off. I refused to accept that, as it violated store policy, and called a manager the next day. Individual cashiers making up their own rules undermines all of the rules.

  21. I’m not sure if they still have this policy, but A&P in NJ would give incorrectly priced items to the customer for free. This policy has the advantage of providing the incentive to always speak up. It also forces the store to fix pricing mistakes as soon as possible.

  22. Interesting question, and I think you chose the correct course. However, what you point out is the employee flaw. The owner of the store would want everthing to be charged correcting. This is good for the customer experience but also the profitability reports for the store.

    When I was in highschool I worked in a grocery and each department was concerned how products were being rung up. Is that the deli department or the bakery. I don’t care said the cashier but I care immensely said the department managers responsible for their profit centers.

    At times I used to joking think the job would be ok if not for all the pesky customers. I later realized that mangers often think the business would be better without all the apathec employees.

    The lesson I’m drawing… well of target from your original message I suppose, is that as managers or employers we have to consider how we engage our employees through the implementation of policies and practices designed to benefit the customer.

    OK, thanks for helping me launch a thought! Keep up the good work and good decision making!

    Dave

  23. We all get overcharged and undercharged on grocery items over the course of our consumer lives. I just figure it all evens out in the end. You get a free item and before you know it, you are charge for one you didn’t buy. Overcharged, undercharged. Etc. Etc. No use stressing or obsessing over it. I just take it as one of those quirky facts of life.

  24. In Australia the large supermarket chains have adopted a voluntary code of conduct – “Code of practice for Computerised Checkout Systems in Supermarkets 2004″. Where “If the price displayed at the checkout … is higher than the shelf price, the customer is entitled to receive that item free of charge” or “Where multiple items … are scanned and the scanned price is higher than the shelf price, the customer is entitled to receive the first item scanned free of charge and the remaining items at the lower price .

  25. if it’s the right price, it’s the right price, there are no ethical questions involved and it should be pointed out

    you were willing to pay the price on the shelf when you picked it up and that’s the price the store set as fair – someone in their employ made a mistake but that’s the price that should be charged — ragardless of what it rings up at the register (higher or lower)

  26. I was undercharged for a burger at a nice independent brewpub. When I pointed out the error to the owner, he offered me a free after dinner drink. They’d been serving all night and I was the first patron to point out the discrepancy. I didn’t accept the drink because I was full and needed to drive. But I agree that it’s always the right thing to be honest. It’s the simple old “do unto others” rule. And sometimes doing the right thing pays off.

  27. I balance efficiency and accuracy by not carefully checking purchase amounts under a certain threshold. Consider an example.

    Say you frequent a store where your total bill is typically $30. Say there is an error in 10% of visits. If the error is big, say over 10%, you would notice it right away without carefully checking.

    Under these conditions, checking carefully every time would save you up to $3 on one out of every 10 visits. That’s an average of 30 cents or less per visit. Possibly not worth your time.

    But say the bill is $300, other things equal. Then you save an average of $3 per visit by carefully checking. Possibly worthwhile.

  28. And regarding the ethical question, I think one has a responsibility to at least mention an undercharge. If they don’t follow up, that’s their problem.

  29. Having worked in retail for a number of years now, I can tell you that most people won’t really say anything if they’re undercharged – what they will say is ‘Oh, is that on sale?’ or something along those lines if they think that the price on the shelf is lower than the price it rings up at at the register. I don’t think you should feel bad about saying anything or not saying anything; I agree with you when you say that if it rings up differently, there must be some valid reason. It’s also entirely possible, and quite likely, that a sale sign was not put up or something along those lines.

  30. At Hy-vee, if the price that is rung up is different than the price on the shelf tag, you get the item for free. I have run into that a couple of times.

  31. I agree with your conclusions. I think it’s important to point out to the cashier if he/she is undercharging you as well as if he/she is overcharging you out of courtesy to your cashier. As someone who works in food service, I’ve had issues where certain prices won’t update and have been reprimanded by my superiors for not typing in the new amount, even if I wasn’t aware of the price change. When customers let you know that they were charged differently for the item recently or that the sticker says something different, it really helps your cashier.

  32. Over the years I’ve found that teen cashiers don’t know the names of vegetables. This has led to many cases of erroneous charges, so I usually tell them the name as they pick it up. Many times they indicate they’ve never heard of that before.

  33. In Canada this sort of thing falls under the Competition Act of 1985. Basically the onus is on the store to have correct prices on all their items, as well as maintaining those items in the correct shelf/rack.

    If the item was marked at the shelf as one price but rang up higher, the store is obligated to give you the price on the shelf. If the item rang up lower than marked then they should give it to you for the lower price since it was their error and not yours.

    Of course this doesn’t always happen in practice, but most stores honour the lower price, and sometimes beat it by 10%, etc. as other posters have mentioned. After all, it is in their best interest to have correct prices on everything.

  34. With 2 or 3 young children hanging on me while I’m in line at the grocery store, I usually wait until after I am checked out to look over the receipt. If there is an error – in either direction, then I go to customer service. This way I don’t hold anyone up in line.

  35. I check prices while they are being rung up, especially for produces, but I’ve never really had any problem. I have rarely been undercharged; but usually I will not say anything in order to keep the lower price. If I am being overcharged, I will simply point it out to the cashier. However, we don’t not get discounts or anything for pointing out the higher price. They simply fix it to what it should be.

    I also watch to make sure they don’t scan something twice. I would say that it is the mistake that happens the most. Especially if you are buying many of the same thing. I also always go over my receipt before leaving the store, and often have found more mistakes that way, especially on being charged for an extra can of soup for example while being many that were on sale.

  36. I used to work as a grocery cashier. I think you’re definitely entitled to speak up if you’re being overcharged, but please be reasonably sure about it (i.e., as you shop, make sure the product you pick up is the one on sale). Often, people who thought they were being overcharged were mistaken – for example, one version of a product was on sale they assumed a different version was as well. Or products had been carelessly placed on the shelf so the customer thinks the sign for one item is meant for another.

    As for being undercharged – feel free to mention it if it makes you feel better, but don’t make a fuss about it. The cashier may well choose to let it go, because investigating it is time-consuming and has no benefit to the cashier. Furthermore, the other customers waiting in line have their time wasted, and in turn are more likely to be cranky at the cashier.

    Also, be aware that the average low-level employee of a big store has very little sense of loyalty – because of bad pay and bad working conditions, they’re more likely to feel animosity towards the store. Correcting undercharges is an aggravation that benefits the owner’s profits but doesn’t benefit the cashier who gets the same crappy wage either way.

    As a customer, my feelings about correcting undercharges depends on the size of the store and who I believe would be losing on the deal. When an automatic checkout machine at Home Depot gave me an extra $20 change, I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t feel bad for the big corporation trying to cut down on its employee headcount. On the other hand, when I got an extra $10 in change from a small shoe-repair business run by immigrants, I did return the money, because I felt that it would make a difference to them.

  37. i feel it’s my responsibility to point out both instances to the cashier. then it’s the cashier’s responsibility to respond correctly.

    an employee who is willing to cheat their employee will be found out eventually.

  38. We ALWAYS tell cashiers when they undercharge us. Most of the time they just say “forget it” or words to that effect. There have been times my husband has gone to great lengths to try and explain to a cashier how she/he is wildly undercharging us at times. We find this especially at Safeway when they have Select drinks on sale and there’s a recycling charge and charge for the cans and so on (this is in Canada). Most of them just do NOT get how to give the sale price and figure it all out, it happens a LOT, and he tries, but after he’s done his best he just has to let it go cause either the cashier starts to get ticked, or thinks he’s telling him/her how to do the job or whatever. But we ALWAYS do our best to pay the right price. It’s sad when the most common comment is “Wow, you’re honest!” Hey – don’t forget karma, also. :D

  39. If you always do the right thing… i.e. Speak up whether it be undercharged or overcharged, you never have to worry about looking over your shoulder to see who might be watching. I think this applies to how you live your life everyday. Maybe that dollar doesn’t matter much to the cashier now, but enough of those undercharges and she might be looking for a new job when the store closes. Bring it to their attention either way.

  40. Biblically, the proper thing to do is to bring it to their attention the discrepancy and let them decide to give you the ringing price, or have you pay the difference, but also by bringing it to their attention, you are sparing them a large loss on a product, (using their own discrepancy as to whether or not to take action immediately to correct this). YOUR CONSCIENCE is cleared.
    I went to my drive through banker a few weeks ago, to pay on a debt i have with them. When i retrieved the tube, i saw a $20 bill, well that $20 bill was multiplied by 5 = $100 (of someone elses money), i had to stop and think about what i was going to do with it, (send it back to the teller and hope she/he is honest / take it and say nothing, or wait to see if someone would return looking for their own hard earned $$. I sent it back to the teller, who gave me a funny look, and told her, It’s NOT mine. Shortly after sending it back, a car pulled into the lane to my left, and the teller paged me, and said “It’s hers”. I know we are all struggling, but when it comes down to honesty, it is a value, that often is lacking in society, and it is OUR OWN INTEGRITY, that we must confront. Would you want someone to be honest with YOU, if so, then honesty is expected on YOUR behalf too (blessings and maledictions).
    You made a wise choice, and your conscience does not have to review it over and over again.

  41. I agree with you and I’ve done the same before too. Whether it benefits you or not, it’s the right thing to do, and to me that’s worth any amount of difference on the price.

  42. I almost always say something if I notice a discrepancy either way, but often I don’t notice until after I’ve left. At that point, it isn’t worth my time, and it usually averages out since most of the errors are around a dollar or so, gain or loss.

    Once I went to Performance Bike to return a jacket I’d gotten through the mail, and the girl there refunded the full regular price of the jacket, even though I’d gotten it on sale. I told her she was giving me back too much, so she fixed it, but credited me for shipping! I was really happy with her and the company, she didn’t get fired for giving back the wrong amount, the company didn’t lose that particular money, and everybody was happy (as far as I could tell).

    BUT if it’s just a scanning error, where the price is entered in wrong, but not too significantly, I don’t think most cashiers would care, and most managers at good stores would prefer for you to be happy than to charge you the exactly correct price. There is also the cost-efficiency issue. At a store near my house, there’s a policy of not going after anyone who steals less than $10 of merchandise, because catching them isn’t worth it. In the same way, tying up two or more employees and one checkout line to correct a $0.50 error isn’t worth a company’s time. It’s good to say something, but it shouldn’t be a big deal if no one does anything about it. It’s their decision!

  43. I agree, I do the same thing. I was recently returning an item to a clothing store and told the cashier that I had bought the item on sale for $29.50 but didn’t have the receipt. She called over a mgr to authorize the return w/o a rcpt. I repeated the price I had paid to the mgr who replied, “I can only issue you a store credit for what it rings up as today.” She rang it up and issued me a credit for $45. I figured, I already told them twice how much I paid, so like you Trent, I just accepted it and walked out. It felt weird, but I felt I had done my part by being honest.

  44. I agree with you – what’s right is what’s right. And the nice thing about just doing what is right, is that you never have to stop and contemplate about what you are going to do in a situation (unless you’re going to write about it in your blog later…), just do what is right. My son works in a grocery store – he has been trained to always err on the side of the customer’s interest because that creates goodwill from the customer. It’s a benefit to the store, and if the occasional customer takes advantage of that, it’s just a cost of doing business.

    On the other hand, it’s your responsibility to point out all errors. The cashier might go your way anyway on the small errors, but once I pointed out an undercharge to the cashier that amounted to 5 or 6 dollars and she said,”Oh thanks! I could have gotten in such big trouble for that!”

  45. I would bring both up. By putting an item in my cart, I am agreeing to the indicated/advertised price. If they get it wrong – either way – it’s wrong/incorrect. My self respect/esteem is worth more than the win or loss. Accuracy does have a value. Otherwise we live in chaos.

  46. I believe the right response is to point out any discrepancy in pricing. That way you can go to sleep with a clear conscience. I’ve had a store clerk charge me the overprice just because that’s what was marked on the package even after pointing out the price difference. Now, when something is priced lower PER POUND, such as meat, I just buy the item without pointing this out. I figure it may be past a date, or they have a surplus, or it was a package priced from before a price increase. By the way, we have a salvage grocer near us, and I can save even more money with your burrito recipe by buying dented cans and a lesser known brand of cheese, tortillas, and beans. Thanks for a great information site, Trent.

  47. You did the right thing. Some stores, by the way, have policies about giving the item free if the price rings up wrong. You might want to ask about this next time.

  48. i go to the same place for breakfast, and get the same thing each day. Every day, there’s a different price. I tried correcting it, but gave up after the first 8 times. Now, I just pay whatever it is. Sometimes it’s over, sometimes it’s under. It’s hardly ever what the actual cost is. It’s mindblowing they let this person run the register.

  49. I would have only told the cashier if they mis-charged me. If the store still owe me money and they cashier did not fix it I would tell the manager! Hope that helps! ;)

  50. If you notice an error, absolutely, positively point it out. For instance, when cashiers give me too much change, I always give it back…much to their amazement. This has set a good example to my daughters. It’s called being honest!

  51. “The true content of one’s character is not measured by their actions when others are watching, but their actions when no one is watching.”

    I may not be perfect, but I always point out any discrepencies in ALL things I pay for, and usually it’s because they have undercharged me.

    Thanks for the reminder— we need to not only tell our kids this but model the same behavior.

    You did the right thing Trent!

  52. If they overcharge me I’ll mention it. If they undercharge me I will mention it if I think they charged me below cost as the store would be losing money. If I think it is above cost then I deem that they are simply making less profit but are still making profit.
    RF

  53. I basically do what you do, Trent…I point out over and undercharges. Oftentimes when I point out an undercharge, the employee will say not to worry about it, as a thanks for being honest.

    My store has a correct pricing policy, and if something rings up at the wrong price, you get it free, so I always check my receipt!

  54. Certainly give back money if a store gives you the wrong change — that is a question that people ask to find out how honest you are — but there must be a penalty for posting the wrong price, so don’t worry about being under-charged.

  55. I recently was UNDERcharged by 12 dollars at a grocery store. When I took my receipt back in to them she said since I was honest about it they will let it stand and I didn’t have to pay them the 12 dollar difference.

    Two shopping trips later I was OVERcharged by almost the same amount. I did not have it corrected since I got a “deal” the first time.

    But I watch my receipts a lot closer now and I am hesitant to take part in those wacky specials they have that caused them to error both times in the way they rang up my purchases.

  56. The choice you made was the choice I would have made as well. I would personally not feel right benefiting from the mistakes of a checker.

    But I believe my opinion is drawn from all my experience on the other side of the counter. My family has a small retail gift shop, and as a salesperson, if I overcharge someone–I’m grateful (if a little embarrassed!) if they point it out so I can make it right. Customer service is really key in keeping a small business afloat, and if they had left the store and found out later–the chances of them being a repeat customer is slim.

    I also feel that if I undercharge them, and they point it out it’s a judgment call for me. If it’s say, under a dollar or so, I thank them for their honesty and say not to worry about the difference. Again, happy customer. What gets me though, about your post is the, “I won’t tell if you don’t.” If I let an undercharge go for the sake of a happy customer who will come back–I have the blessing of my boss. If I’m ignoring a mistake out of laziness, I’m costing the business money.

    I’m guessing some people think there is a difference between a chain grocery store and a small family business without even the technology of scanners. I can see why they would think that. But as a person trying to be frugal, I imagine a big business has a right to frugality too. And maybe that is why I would have to give them the choice. If a clerk were to give me the benefit of the undercharge, I hope their boss would have made that same choice too.

  57. Overcharged items are very irritating and they border on the ‘bait and switch’ methodology practiced by smaller, independent and non-computerized systems. I fight to get it right by watching the items as they ring up. One store has a policy to give the item for free (in Chicago) if the error is theirs!!!!! And, I have gotten Tommy Hilfiger Cologne for free from them! They will ONLY give one item for free, even if you had 5 in your cart.

    For undercharging, I point out the mistake a bit casually, and generally the cashier will not worry about it (too much time, energy and delay is caused for the bigger corporate owned stores). Usually, I will tell the cashier that it is a really good deal, and I want to go and get more (to get their attention).

    BOTH of these are become rare events in Chicago with Automated Checkout lanes, RFID technologies and of course the perfection of Bar Coding that has happened in the Supplier Chain Management solution that have been implemented (I serve these areas for my corporate customers).

    Good topic…..

    Kenny

  58. As a cashier, I think that you should definitely let the cashier know when you’re being overcharged so it can be fixed. However, I think whether or not you should let the cashier know when you’re undercharged is up to you.
    This is because whatever the price of the item is is correct in the computer. In both cases, it’s the sign that’s wrong. If we have a sign up with a lower price than the computer price (thus you get overcharged) then we need to take that sign down. If the sign has a higher price than the computer price, we should still probably take it down to alleviate confusion but whatever price it scanned at is the actual price it’s meant to be.
    Computer > signs, basically.
    I also am a price tag changer. It’s very easy to make mistakes, especially since you’re doing it overnight when you’re sleepy =D

  59. It’s nice to see how many people are responding positively to your choice. I had the lesson brought home to me many years ago: our family struggled financially when I was a child, but one day my mom saw that corned beef was on sale and decided she had to have some even though we clearly couldn’t afford it. When we got home from the store, she realized we hadn’t been charged for it. At the moment, it was the best corned beef ever, but before long we felt terrible that we hadn’t gone back to pay for it (heck, it’s been 35 years and we still talk about it). In spite of her moment of corned-beef-induced madness, Mom raised us right, so I’ve never repeated that poor choice. I hope I’ve evened out the score since then by pointing out undercharges–and, yes, even bringing something back to the store to pay for it (the cashier nearly collapsed from shock).

  60. Lets put it this way, most people are too afraid to pull this off, hence only a few people would just go with it.

    So it basically comes down to how you feel about the situation yourself.

  61. Having worked in a grocery store several years ago, I know most honest stores appreciated being told. There are some out there, that regularly overcharge knowingly as the fine if caught, is usually less than the extra they make. Sometimes the errors are perfectly honest, the person entering the prices is careless and does not check their work.
    I don’t usually worry about small overcharges or undercharges as I feel they balance out.
    I watch as things are being rung up and let the cashier know if a price is wrong. A good cashier should be making a note of the UPC # and the need for a correction.
    I once bought pizzas for 35 cents each. Whoever entered the cost must have misplaced the decimal. The cashier didn’t seem to care, so, I informed the head teller. This was a sale price and they had probably already sold hundreds at 35 cents each. Employees should realize mistakes like this affect future raises. Plus in the store I worked at year end bonuses for department managers was based on total sales for the year for their individual depts. as well as total sales for the entire store.

  62. Kroger does this a lot! Many times I have gong to buy their b/s chicken on sale for $1.99…the sign says $1.99/LB , but if you look at the actual price tag, it says $4.99/lb. Well, even at the register, after scanning my “kroger card” it still rang up $4.99/lb. When I asked the meat guy about this, he said, “oops, guess we didn’t have time to change all the prices. We are sorry” I can see it happening once, maybe twice, but this has happened about 5 times or more! Think about those who don’t check the prices!! Also, their bogo free items….the sign is a pointed sign. The point points up to the item you “assume” is the free item, however, if you are in a rush and don’t take the time to truly look, kroger is ripping off a lot of people. PUBLIX has their sale items set nicely aside in bins with clear sale signs and there is no guessing! What a respectable company!

    DEBT FREE JOURNEY
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  63. I always check over my receipts as they make so many scanning maistakes. And typically the errors are in the store’s favor not mine. They are also famous for placing the sale tag in front of a different item. You have to compare package sizes and make sure you have the correct item. No wonder grocery shopping is so time consuming!

  64. I consider it a “pay it forward” issue . . . I would point out the error. It’s just the right thing to do.

  65. To me it boils down to honesty. I don’t like to be cheated by the store by overpricing and I don’t want to cheat the store by underpricing. It usually is a pain to fix either situation, and most cashiers can’t believe it when I point something out in their favor and would rather not deal with it, but I feel better about myself being honest.

  66. Trent
    I think you came up with a logical and ethical decision to mention any inconsistencies and leave it up to the clerk to decide if they charge you more for the undercharged item. Nice job.
    MLP

  67. I worked in a major chain grocery store for ten years, two of those years were spent as a scanning coordinator. While things may be different in a small mom and pop shop, I know that in the big chains the weekly price changes are downloaded directly from corporate. This means that while computers make mistakes based on human operation, MOST of the time the error is the price tag on the aisle and not the one that scans at the register. For example: if one product is located in two different locations of the store and only one of the shelf stickers was changed it doesn’t mean the item scanned wrong at the register, it means that the price tag on the shelf didn’t get changed to reflect the new price of the item. Consumers absolutely deserve to get the price listed on the shelf, it’s not their fault that the store employee made a mistake. But it did amaze me that frequently customers were so indignant that the store would “overcharge” them by a nickel, but would not hesitate to knowingly benefit from a 3 or 4 dollar discrepancy in their favor. And the policies about receiving the item for free if it rings up wrong? Let me share this: Stores should absolutely honor the price on the shelf, no doubt. And they should also fix all pricing errors as soon as humanly possible to maintain ethics and integrity. It’s the right thing to do. But those who demand their pound of flesh by receiving their “free” item are not doing themselves or anyone else a favor. If you think that those free items come out of the store’s pocket, then you’re wrong. There’s the time spent by employees running around trying to rectify an error and then the fact that merchandise just walked out the door unpaid for. This all contributes to the store raising prices to compensate for the loss, much like loss due to shoplifting. The store will recoup it’s money on free or stolen product one way or another. So enjoy your couple of dollars while it lasts. But know that insisting on your free item will cost you, and the rest of us, much more down the road. It’s another karma/pay-it-forward opportunity. Just pay the shelf price for the item.

  68. I think Trent did the correct thing to inform the cashier of both over and under charges. I’m not sure of the law in Iowa, but in NY the marked price (either on the item itself or the shelf tag), not the scanned price, is the official sale prioe. If the store chooses to give the customer the lower price because it scanned lower, that’s their option. They have no choice if the customer points out the overcharge; even if the shelf tag is for an expired sale, they have to sell the items at the marked price.

    I am blessed with a very good memory, so I always check the prices as they scan. On average, I find an overcharge about once every four shopping trips. I find an undercharge about once a year. In my opinion, some stores intentionally misprice items in the computer hoping that few will notice, and even fewer will bother to complain. I have noticed an increase in the frequency and the value of the overcharges lately. I suspect some stores are using these overcharges to pad their profits.

    Case in point: I periodically stock up on items at suburban supermarkets, where the selection is greater and the prices lower than in Manhattan. On one of these trips a few weeks ago, I purchased seven items, three pairs of two identical items each, and one single item. One of the pairs was marked 2 for $5, but they scanned as $4.19 each. The single item was marked $7.99, but scanned as $8.29. I challenged the prioes on these items, and I was charged the correct shelf prices, a total savings of $3.68 on a $22 shopping trip. That’s a lot of money!

    This supermarket used to have a policy posted of getting one item free if it scanned incorrectly, but they no longer post that policy.

    This is why I never use those self-scan checkouts. If there’s a problem with the scanned price, you’re stuck. I’m sure some stores count on customers not noticing the overcharge, or if they do notice, being too pressed for time or unwilling to endure the additional hassle of the customer service line to get the difference refunded between the scanned and correct price.

    As one of the previous posters noted, if the store is fined by the local consumer afffairs dept for having too many mispriced items, the fine is far less than the profit made from the overcharges.

    I always open my mouth if I am given the incorrect change, no matter the size of the business. Often cashiers have no idea how to count or make change, and I receive more than I should. It’s amazing to see how surprised they are when I tell them, “You gave me too much money back.” The clerk at one local store was very grateful that I pointed out he gave me change for $20 when I only gave him a $10. He’s the owner’s son, and he and the other clerks now give me a small discount on items I buy. My honesty on that $10 transaction has translated into years of discounts worth far more than that.

    I also check the tax on restaurant tabs and complain if it’s rounded up beyond the nearest five cents (most restaurants don’t like to deal with pennies). Some waiters intentionally write up the tax far higher than it should be, because they know that many diners simply double the tax to calculate the tip.

    Bottom line, the Golden Rule applies to all these transactions. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Be honest about over and under charges equally. You’ll sleep better at night.

  69. I personally think if there are people in the queue behind you the biggest favour you can do for the store is to get through the checkout as quickly as possible. The last thing they want is to have people getting grumpy standing in line while someone goes to check whether the soup you bought was $2.90 or $2.80.

    If you’ve been overcharged or hugely undercharged, pay the amount, and then take it up with the supervisor once you’re out the way. Slightly undercharged is not worth the hassle IMHO.

  70. I agree with what you say, I sleep better when my day is free of any dishonesty, whether it’s my mistake or the mistake of others.

  71. I was raised to believe that honesty is honesty, no matter what the situation and your gut will tell you the right thing to do. Most stores will give you the lowest price, whether its on the shelf or in the scanner.

    As far as the change goes, I’ve worked a register and made mistakes that were caught by customers. Depending on the store, you may or may not be expected to make up losses, although it is may not be your legal obligation to do so if it was an honest mistake. The pressure is there, though, and when jobs are scarce, even low paid employees are inclined to do it, for fear of losing their jobs. I’ve rarely had a customer take advantage of a mistake I made whether or not they were irritated that it occurred. Likewise, I would never take advantage of them.

  72. You can call it Karma if you choose, but I was raised that your actions come back to reward or haunt you. The more good choices I make, the more good things happen to me. Try it out for a week or two, you will feel great and be rewarded!

  73. The state that I live in actually has a law that if your item rings up or is marked a price that is less than what it should be, that store cannot legally charge you more. That being said, if the store clerk just types in a number wrong then I would feel obligated to correct them and pay the correct price.

  74. http://www.cacds.com/onrecord/documents/EnglishCashierDocumentSeptember2007Final.pdf

    This is a link to the scanning code of practice (Canadian version, but I believe it’s the same in the US) which stipulates that you will receive the item free, up to a value of $10. When I lived in TX, I got tons of free food at my local Albertsons because of this policy – in fact, I deliberately shopped there because of it. Add the buy one, get one free, and you get 4 items for the price of 1. But I did feel kind of guilty about it.

  75. On a practical level, if you develop a reputation for reporting undercharges as well as overcharges, they will give you the benefit of the doubt in a conflict. If your reputation is for only mentioning overcharges, when push comes to shove, your reputation doesn’t look so good.

  76. I know you made the right decision. I even point out undercharges at the 99 cent store! I had 2 of an item just yesterday…they rang up one & I pointed out there were 2. I would have felt guilty taking the item home if I hadn’t mentioned it. Even 99 cents makes me feel guilty. I always point out undercharges, and if I’m overcharged it depends on how much…under a couple of bucks & I don’t bother…usually not worth my time or the trouble involved (calling the manager & all). More than that and I’ll point it out. Always a good thing to be honest…you have to live with yourself and be a good role model to your children. You seem to do a good job at both, Trent. Keep up the good work!

  77. Wow, Trent your blog must attract a whole lot of honest people or alot of brown nosers or some of both. Everyone says they would speak up if overcharged yet why are there so many who don’t return those pesky shopping carts, or bring in their own bags? HMMMMM………..

  78. Wow, Trent your blog must attract a whole lot of honest people or alot of brown nosers or some of both. Everyone says they would speak up if undercharged yet why are there so many who don’t return those pesky shopping carts, or bring in their own bags? HMMMMM………..

  79. As a former retail manager, I generally followed the dictum that “the customer is always right.” I always gave them the benefit of the doubt, and expected that my help would do the same. If my mistake was in the customer’s favor, well, we just ate that loss. It was never very much, and it made for good customer relations. Well worth it, in other words, to err in favor of the customer!

  80. I don’t think that it is a customer’s responsibility to report errors in pricing unless it benefits them. It certainly isn’t stealing or unethical to receive an item that the store has programmed into their computer system. If it is in there then the item sold at that price at some point.

    That said, if you want to mention it to help the store avoid situations like those mentioned in the earlier comments (state inspections and such) then by all means be a good citizen but I think the store should still honor the lower price no matter what.

  81. Michigan has a scanning error law. If the marked or aisle price are different than it rings up, then you have the opportunity to get not just the difference back, but a reward as well.

    From the attourney general’s website: (as linked) Our State law requires that most items on store shelves be clearly marked with a price tag. If an automatic checkout system (scanner) charges you more than the marked price of an item, and:

    1) the transaction has been completed, and

    2) you have a receipt indicating the item purchased and the price charged for it.

    Then:

    You must notify the seller that you were overcharged, within 30 days of the transaction, either in person or in writing. Within two days of receiving your notice, the seller may choose to refund you the difference between the amount charged and the price marked plus a “bonus” of ten times the difference, with a minimum of $1.00 and a maximum of $5.00. If the seller refuses to give you both the refund and the bonus, you may bring a lawsuit to recover your actual damages or $250.00, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney fees up to $300.00.

    8. If I notify the clerk that I was overcharged for an item before I pay and the clerk corrects the overcharge, am I still entitled to the bonus?

    No. The transaction must be complete, and you must have a receipt evidencing the overcharge before you can request the bonus.”

    Of course, that doesn’t answer the question about what to do if they undercharge you. But my opinion is that one should deal honestly with all people, no matter who the mistake benefits.

  82. @Shirly: Everyone says they would speak up if undercharged yet why are there so many who don’t return those pesky shopping carts, or bring in their own bags?

    Please explain. I don’t see the connection between bringing your own bags or leaving shopping carts in the parking lot and the trait of honesty.

  83. Hey,

    I spent a lot of time working retail in high school/college and at everyone we had a rule that if we overcharged a customer, we fixed it. If we undercharged, it was our fault and the company sucked it up.

  84. Here in Brazil, customers are guaranteed, by law, to get the smallest price possible when the store has 2 or more different prices for an item. The customer can’t be resposible for mistakes on the part of the store.

  85. Well, actually, as I understand it, Kant did NOT use the Golden Rule, because that (doing unto others as you would have them do unto you) using people as means, not an end, and it is trying to create an outcome.

    What Kant actually proposed fits Trent’s solution (to which I subscribe, I should add) even better; a former colleague called it the “Platinum Rule” –Do unto others as you would have become a universal maxim. You’re not reporting prices because you want people to be fair to you in return. You’re reporting prices because you think behaving honestly should be universal practice for everyone, and thus is the correct thing to do. (A subtle difference from the Golden Rule, to be sure, but a very critical one).

    Long-winded response to Michael, by way of saying that I think Trent is correct in his ethical response.

  86. Shirley–I bring my own bags because that way I use fewer resources. It’s a small thing which many stores encourage. I’m not sure why bringing one’s own bags is equivalent to stealing shopping carts.

    I also suspect that the population which walkes off with shopping carts is not the same as the majority of the people here.

    I live in a poorer neighborhood, and a lot of people use the shopping carts to enable them to get a few days’ worth of groceries home more easily rather than walking blocks or miles with heavy items, or having to shop every single day. The store simply asks that the people who remove the carts either bring them back and use them on each shopping trip, or that they drop them at various locations throughout the neighborhood. The store goes around on Mondays and picks up all the carts. Their prices are lower because of it, and they have fanatical loyalty int he neighborhood.

  87. I am not blessed with a good memory, and my two carts at the checkout would be too much to remember anyway. I am usually busy wrangling kids and writing a check to watch the prices very carefully, but I am always alert when my produce is scanned. I purchase organic veggies whenever available and they are often rung up as conventional produce, or my cilantro as Italian parsley. Even when red bell peppers are $1 each conventional and organic are $3 each, I’ll correct a misring for two reasons:

    1) It’s honest. And that would be enough of a reason even if I had no other.

    2) I want my organic purchase duly noted in the computerized inventory system. I want the store manager to know he has a faithful organic produce customer, that he needs to keep purchasing organics and that I am willing to pay more for them. I also want marketing research companies to see that purchase and tally my “vote” for organic food.

  88. I find that there are plenty of times that I’ve picked up an item last minute (especially at a store like CVS), and it says “$4.29″ on the shelf. However, due to them not marking their sales well, they ring up as “$2.50″. The first time this happened I checked the flyer, and sure enough, it was advertised in the flyer but not on the shelf. I guess if things ring up lower than I thought, I’ve just assumed I didn’t notice a sale tag, or that the store didn’t advertise it on the shelf.

  89. “I won’t say anything if you won’t.” is theft aided by an employee who most likely does not have the authority to discount items, and is too lazy to correct the problem. This is part of a bigger problem in that people see a business as a thing that is ok to cheat. Look at the store owner. This is their paycheck. This is how they put food on the table, pay their mortgage and send their children to college. If someone were to shortchange your paycheck, I’m sure you would be up in arms, but you actually vacillate on the ethics of shorting someone else!

    Look at it this way, could you live with yourself if the cashier looked away and you were to reach into the register and steal a few bucks? What is the difference between that and knowingly accepting something for an incorrect amount? Most stores have rules in place that will benefit the customer in a case like this; however, it is still your responsibility to call attention to an undercharge when you have no qualms about pointing out the overcharge. I don’t care how big the store – right is right and wrong is still wrong!!!

  90. You are ultimately responsible for yourself, and no one else. What they do with the information is now their choice. You have done what feels ethically correct for you and that is all that matters.

    As to it being a ‘small issue’ which someone else pointed out. I do not agree. Any matter that causes you to be who you want to be in life, is not a small issue.

  91. I believe the right thing to do is tell the cashier. Some summers ago I bought 2 bags of BBQ charcoals and I had them at the bottom of my shopping cart. I told the cashier so she could ring them up so I wouldn’t need to move them. Before paying, I asked if her is she had rung up the bags yet and she said yes. I later looked at the receipt and saw she had not. I went to the service desk and told them my story and they thanked me and I said I would like to pay for them yet. I realize not everyone would do this, but it’s the right thing to do as a Christian.

  92. What a lot of comments! I’m late on this, and no one will probably see it, but what do you do if you somehow leave the store with an item still in your basket unpaid for? On very seldom occasions I’ll find a small item (a pepper, can of tomato sauce etc.) that was totally unintentionally not unloaded from the shopping cart. The item is never worth more than $1.00 and hardly seems worth marching myself back into the store and explaining the whole thing as well as taking up a cashier’s time.

  93. I’m amazed at the number of replies that report over or under charging a customer. This used to be a rare thing in my past…what’s going on, I wonder?

  94. I wouldn’t call myself a brown noser, but I do believe that if I’m over-charged, under-charged, or not charged, it is my moral obligation to rectify the mistake. Besides, what message does it send to my children if I think it’s okay to be dishonest about the “little stuff” ? When they see me go to the store manager to point out my mistake, or even theirs, they are learning that it’s NOT okay to bend your ethics to suit your needs. You either have them, or you don’t.

  95. There are a few comments made about marching to the manager to explain the cashier’s mistake (charcoal) or his/her not bothering to change the price (I won’t tell if you won’t) and I strongly feel that getting a cashier in trouble over these things is morally wrong. Mention the correct price if you want to and leave it at that.

  96. EVERY time I leave the store with something I haven’t paid for, no matter how inexpensive, I march right back in and pay. Otherwise, it IS stealing. Also, getting back to the reputation thing, if I do that and later someone does accuse me of shoplifting, I will get the benefit of the doubt. Never assume that you weren’t seen by an employee, who will be happy to testify against you as a person who has left the store with merchandise you didn’t pay for.

    Besides being the right thing to do, it is some protection for you should you be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if you do absent-mindedly leave with something and get accused of shoplifting. If you won’t do it because it is the right thing to do, do it because it will give you some protection later should things go wrong.

  97. If I see it, I will mention it (either way), but I usually shop with three kids under 6, so my attention is divided, to say the least. One store here is TERRIBLE about making errors — charging for three items when you bought two, not giving the full amount of a coupon, NOT PUTTING ALL MY GROCERIES IN MY CART WHEN THEY ARE BAGGING (this really drives me crazy since, 1, they stole my groceries, and 2, if I don’t find out until I get home to the farm, it is quite a trip to go back to town if I can’t wait to pick up the item on another trip). I have mainly stopped shopping at that store due to the errors. Another store is usually good, but one time I had a terrible cashier — I bet she made 20 mistakes on my bill, which I didn’t realize until I got home. I noticed that she had charged me for an extra jug of milk, so I went through the bill and found that she had missed items, put in extra items, charged my for the wrong fruit (charged for peaches which were more expensive than the nectarines I had actually chosen). However, I worked it out the best I could and figured I was undercharged by $1.33, but after all that work and frustation figuring it out, I didn’t bother going back, but now I wish I had and gotten that nitwit reprimanded.

  98. It is not STEALING when you are not charged the correct price. It really isn’t stealing when you are not charged at all either but I can more see that point than the former. If you go to the cashier with every intention of paying for every item and you put every item on the conveyor belts then what happens next is up to the store, not you.

    If the store is on top of their pricing then everything will scan as advertised. If not then you ARE entitled to the lesser of the two prices. Anything else is considered false advertising. If something is not scanned at all then it is up to you to mention it to the cashier but honestly, who keeps such a close eye on everything going through the scanner? I figure everything evens out over the long run high, low, or missed.

  99. I wouldn’t want that cashier working for me, if I owned a store. Based upon the eye-rolling described, and the I won’t tell if you don’t tell comment, it may not be the store’s policy to settle for the amount undercharged.

    You did what I would have, and have done. But I think that now, after having the oppotunity to think about it ahead of the next incident (versus hind-sight, if I would have thought much about it at all), I would tell the cashier that I was willing to pay full price for it when I put it in the cart, so I remain willing at the check out stand. If I am told that it is store policy to charge the lesser, then I would accept that.

    We really have to work at integrity. It’s disappearing. We need to stop accepting poor behavior of others, as though everyone does it. Even if it often seems everyone does do it.

  100. Overcharged – you owe yourself the best price and the price you expected to pay; undercharged – you owe yourself the integrity you’d lose by letting it go.

    I don’t let it slide because the last time I shopped there they overcharged or undercharged and it will all balance out — each time is a different occurance, probably different people; however, if there is a line I merely mention it to the casher — if it can’t be resolved with a few keystorks and a swipe of the item, I’ll either give up the product or go over to the service desk rather than hold up a line.

    (#98) “It’s the right thing to do as a Christian.” But what about other religions??? Is that moral superiority raising its head? Sorry if I’m throwing in a can of worms, but it is a personal peeve when people say “As a Christian …” or “It’s my duty as a G*d-fearing Christian”. Please just take a moment and really consider what that is saying.

  101. Generally when a store undercharges me and I point it out. They still give me the lower price just as a measure of good customer service. The lip side is, when I am overcharged, I make sure to get the lower price, or leave without the item in dispute. This can be carried over to getting the correct change. Do you tell when you get too much back, or if you have been shorted? I tell of the mistake either way. It makes me feel better knowing I am not stealing from one of my favorite place, and that they would not steal from a customer.

  102. If you use the self-check you can save yourself some trouble bc you can look up the right name for the produce and double check the price before it is rung up. It won’t save you any hassle on things that just scan incorrectly but i find the bulk of the errors to be in cashiers misnaming the item.

  103. mistakes happen. at one time i was a cashier [department store] so i know that errors happen in all types of shops — but particularly the grocer where prices change frequently. also, sometimes it is a subtle difference: the plain red kidney beans are on sale, but the red kidney beans with chili peppers are not on sale…

    the people in charge of the electronic coding + signage upkeep must be vigilant.

    as must be the shopper.

    i also keep a mental note in my head about prices + watch as my items are rung up.

    that said, i feel it is definitely the correct thing to do to point out errors — both those in your favor + those not.

    is it worth your conscience to save 26¢ on beans?

  104. reulte (comment #106)said:
    (#98) “It’s the right thing to do as a Christian.” But what about other religions??? Is that moral superiority raising its head? Sorry if I’m throwing in a can of worms, but it is a personal peeve when people say “As a Christian …” or “It’s my duty as a G*d-fearing Christian”. Please just take a moment and really consider what that is saying.

    I believe that what Rachel (#98) was saying is that the code she lives by (The Christian Faith) is what she uses to help make her decisions. End of story. I don’t think it was some kind of judgment on others. Take it at face value and try not to assign a hidden agenda. Tolerance to another’s culture is key for us all.

    Back to the subject at hand, I would like to mention that telling a clerk that you don’t need a receipt can make it tempting to the clerk to steal. Take a receipt every time. It helps keep everyone honest. I don’t own a grocery store, but I do have a business that was targeted by an employee in this manner, so I speak from experience. (She spent 9 months in jail, but we lost thousands.)

  105. To Shirley:

    How does bringing your own bags relate to this discussion? There is nothing honest or dishonest in bringing or not brining your own bags into the grocery store. It is a decision we make either because we honestly believe it is socially responsible or to look good to others (be honest, otherwise why would the Hollywood types be carrying $1000 designer grocery bags). That is a separate discussion from the ethics of reporting an over- or under-charge.

    Returning a cart is another thing. I usually return the cart. I am partially disabled, so on bad days I am sorely tempted to leave the cart by my car. I am more likely to accept the offer of help to my car than I used to be and at least then I don’t have the internal debate over returning the cart.

    As to reporting under- or over-charges…if I see it, I report it. I have a much harder time following the charges now that they are rung up on screen first at the original price, then with the subtracted difference which makes up the sale. I simply can’t always do the math quickly enough in my head to keep up with the scanner/checker.

    The attitude of the checker is the one that bothered me. I’m sure stores have their procedures for reporting incorrect pricing, but the “I won’t tell if you won’t” attitude says “it’s too much hassle to me to do the job I’m paid for” and that is offensive on behalf of all employers, other honest, hard-working employees and customers who have to pay more to make up the shortfall. Perhaps it was just an inappropriate joke…

  106. We have been having issues with our local Safeway. On 4 different occasions, my sister has been overcharged. Last time, there was an advertised sale on cereal, something like 2 for $6. They charged her full price, and knowing she only bought it because it was on sale, she went back to check the aisle. They had taken down the sale sticker in the middle of the day (nice), while she was there. They refused to honor the sale because the manager “didn’t remember” it being on sale, as if they have the whole store memorized. The manager argued with my sister, and instead of letting the customer win, and giving her the sale price, made my sister go out to her car and bring the cereal back in to return because she refused to pay full price for something that was on sale. Needless to say no more Safeway!

  107. If you were shopping at HyVee, then you should have received both items for free. If their posted price does not ring up the same on the cash register, it’s free. Gotta love it!
    Karen

  108. On our last marathon trip to Wal-mart, some mistinted paint labeled $4.84 rang up for $11.87 at checkout. We didn’t realize it till we got home, so we took it back and asked for the difference. Their employee said, “Always check your receipt before you leave.”

    How lovely to overcharge us then blame us for the mistake. Keeping an eye on the lit up price scan or analyzing receipts is not as easy as it sounds when you’re flustered or tired with aching feet.

    For this reason and as “retributution” for various items left behind on their confusing carousel bagging system, we don’t always fret about pointing out if we get a barcode bargain. We figure it probably evens out for times we were ripped off but didn’t notice it.

    Most stores can afford to lose a few bucks more than most individuals. So don’t sweat it, Trent, just pocket the savings as insurance against the next time they scam you.

  109. This happened to me a couple days ago at publix…I bought chicken that should have rang up for 4.00, but when she swiped it, the barcode scanner caught the coupon for .75 cents off when you buy the chicken with crispy onions…which I wasn’t buying, so I didn’t even qualify for. When my total came up for 3 bucks and should have been 8 or 9, I figured it was obvious…but she kept going, so I pointed it out and she fixed it. On one hand I was a little sad that I missed on “a deal”…but my integrity is worth more than $4.75.

    As for the person who had problems at Kroger…take your misrung items to customer service! When the computer bills you a price more than what’s marked on the shelf, they give you the item FOR FREE. Yeah. FOR FREE. It happened to me once and I decided to stick it to the man to save .50 cents on some yogurt that I felt I was entitled to…and the girl gave me four or five bucks back. I looked at her like she had two heads, and she pointed to the sign hanging in customer service that clearly said, “If our price is wrong, the item is FREE!”

  110. Yeah, I guess I’m in the minority here. If the error is in my favor, I won’t point it out (at least, not unless it’s some ludicrous amount, say over $10). Usually I just figure it was on sale and I didn’t know.

    The grocery store I shop at is always pretty busy, they don’t have a customer service desk, and they are not very good about having correct labels on things (you always have to be super-careful, because the stuff stacked above the “ON SALE” sign is often not the brand or size or flavor that’s actually on sale). The cashiers are all apathetic and sometimes rude. If I get overcharged, yeah, I’ll hold up the line getting them to correct the mistake (for the benefit of myself and future customers)… but if they undercharge me, I figure it’s their problem and not mine. Maybe someday they’ll lose enough that they’ll get motivated to get their scan prices right. But I expect they more than make it back on people they overcharge who don’t notice.

    However, If a cashier hands me back too much change, assuming I noticed, I would correct the mistake. If they have the wrong amount in their drawer at the end of the day, they get in trouble. I’ve worked as a cashier and had to make up mistakes out of my own pocket, so I’m sympathetic to that. That being said, I NEVER actually count my change, just shove it in a pocket. So I probably wouldn’t notice if I got shortchanged, OR if they gave me too much. One of many reasons I almost always pay with a debit card.

  111. I worked at Walmart as a cashier and a cashier supervisor. It’s not just a question of honesty – store policy usually stipulates that errors in the store’s favor must be corrected, but errors in the customer’s favor do not HAVE to be. If the customer really insists, they will change it. I mention it because it throws off accounting. If an item should cost x dollars and y items are sold then z profit should have been made. When it doesn’t come out that way it just gives an accountant somewhere headache and makes planning for store purchases more difficult.

  112. I’m glad Suzanne (#119) mentioned accounting – this is likely a far bigger problem for the store than the actual bottom line of loosing or gaining the few dollars.

    But the other thing, semi related, is called “invitation to treat”. DISCLAIMER: I’m in Britain, don’t know about US laws.

    But it basically says that the store always has the option to turn down the sale. Which they need for things like, underage buyers, not getting sued for running out of stock, etc etc. So. Flyers, price tickets, promotions, etc. All the things provided by the store that says the price of the item. ***NONE of these are LEGALLY BINDING***. It is only legally binding AT THE CHECKOUT. The flyers, price tickets etc are the “invitation to treat”. The store is inviting you to make a purchase. If you accept the invitation, you take the items to the checkout and make them an OFFER. IE, you OFFER to pay them the amount that they say it is worth. Technically speaking, you could offer a different price if you wanted to (haggle), but cashiers very often do not have the authority to change these things and it’s unlikely managers will side with you either if you just arbitarily reduce the overall total for your goods. Now the store can either accept your offer, or not. They may say they will only accept the price they think is fair for the goods they are selling. Or, they may accept your “lower offer” when goods are ‘overcharged’ by the scanning machine (but really, it isn’t ‘overcharging’ because YOU are the one making the offer!) And when in business (in BtoB transactions) does the business ever make a higher offer than the first business is asking for it?

    But having said that, I too would have pointed out both ;-)

  113. All,
    Several years ago, I was buying multiple parts for my car, and they did not charge me for a part that cost about $30. I realized their error when I got home (about 15 miles away). I immediately called the manager and told them. The manager replied ‘If the cashier didn’t charge me, it was free’. It bothered my that I didn’t pay for that item, so the next time I was in the store, I hunted up the manager, and again told them about the error, fully expecting to pay for the part. The manager said something like ‘If the bozo at the register didn’t charge you, it’s yours. The manager called the cashier a ‘bozo’, I didn’t.

    Even after all that, it still bothered my that I didn’t pay for that part.

  114. In most stores today the prices are stored on the central server – therefore the price you are charged by cashier is the only “official” price and if the price in the aisle differs it’s a mistake “in the aisle”.
    Therefore “undercharge” is OK – they just forgot to change the price in the aisle you don’t need to worry about it. Overcharging however isn’t ok, as you are falsely made to believe that price was lower than it really is.

  115. my behavior, good or bad, is an example for my children. that is one of the guidelines i use for situations like yours.
    i wouldn’t hesitate to inform the store for overcharging me so i feel obligated to be honest when the store undercharges me.
    honesty has always rewarded me with not having to pay the balance and knowing that i did the right thing.

  116. Lynne – I agree with you that Rachel may simply be saying this is the code she lives by and that’s good. Also, I have nothing against the Christian Code as set up in the New Testament (although the entire book of Leviticus gives me the creepies and makes me REEE-LY wonder about various fundamentalist groups that claim they follow Old Testament law). What bothers me is that so many people use pat phrases like this without considering what they imply about other people. The world is getting smaller and we more easily meet people of different countries and religions and beliefs. My favorite tale relates to a woman who turned to the man next and made a similiar comment, only to have him reply that he was Hindu. Tolerance is key for everyone — but that includes recognizing what we are actually saying.

  117. Not sure how it is in the States, but here in Canada if an item rings up at a different price than what is ticketed, the consumer is entitled to the lower price.

  118. Well, most companies wouldn’t reimburse you if they found they over charge you, so why should you care if they under charge you.

    Honestly, can you imagine some one calling from your local grocery store to tell you that they overcharged you $3 on an item?

    Take advantage of whatever you can, companies, corporations, whatever, don’t care about you, no matter how much they tell you otherwise.

  119. I think that either way it is the store’s scew-up – and they should not be screwing up so it is fair that you, the customer who they should be serving, benefit either way.

    Here’s the “But”:

    If it is a small business, I may be more inclined to say something but with a large chain I would not mention a thing since they have enough money to develop a completely accurate pricing system.

  120. I’m a store manager for a major convenience store chain. Our policy in the event of pricing errors is very straightforward.

    The customer ALWAYS gets the better of the two prices.

    I suspect most chains have the same policy, if not better.

  121. I see it this way. I work at a grocery store. When there’s a sign that says something is priced at say, oh…$5, and then the person goes up and the cashier tells them it’s actually $10, we give it to them for $5, because it was our bad, someone forgot to change the sign. If a cashier undercharges you, how is it any different? It’s our bad, you should get it at the price they accidently charge you.

  122. Rather than dwelling on whether an item was undercharged or overcharges, simply inform the cashier that it did not ring up at the correct price and it should be fixed. It’s harder to argue against that or say that it’s not important, whichever direction the pricing error is in.

  123. That being said, once you’ve informed the cashier, who is an agent of the store (whether the best agent of the store or not is separate matter, I think I would leave it at that unless it’s getting me ripped off. Management may give cashiers leeway to make these small decisions in customers’ favor as a matter of policy, and the prices may be corrected behind the scenes after you go. Or not. Or the cashier may just hate the boss or company he or she works for or be a bad employee. But it’s not really your business unless you feel like making it your business.

  124. Having worked in retail, the cashier may not have the ability to INCREASE the price on the register. Some stores do allow that capability and some do not. It may be in the store’s best interest to do nothing, if their checkout area is unequipped to handle an increase in price.

    If I’m a store manager making $30 an hour and it would take me 15 minutes to override the system to increase a price that rang up incorrectly, it’s not worth my time unless it’s a difference of more than $7.50. As long as you’ve brought it to the cashier’s attention, you’ve done everything you can.

    Now, if you are given too much change, you should make a much bigger deal of making 100% sure you give back the overage. A cashier may have her pay docked, or even be fired, if her drawer comes up short at the end of the day. And unfortunately, some cashiers are not the best at counting change.

  125. I am a checker at a grocery store, and what we are supposed to do is give the customer the better price (unless the amount is extremely off), then we inform management after the transaction so they can fix the problem.

  126. When I was working in retail, errors were almost always because a price change had occurred and we hadn’t yet changed it. So when we would decrease because of a pricing error, you were paying less because we were sorry for our mistake. (customer is always right) However, the machines wouldn’t even let you charge you more if we wanted. :P Of course, the “lower” price would have been the most updated and “correct” price.

    So I do make an effort to point it out, not because I feel guilty for getting it cheaper (one at register, especially at chain stores) is more update… but because then they can send someone to fix it- and perhaps get a few more sales because the price was lower. That benefits the store as much as having the $.02 cheaper benefited me.

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