Shopping sales, using coupons and stumbling across super-discounted bargains are all great ways to save loads of cash. That is, unless you don’t really get the savings you anticipated. How is that possible? Simple, at the checkout counter you are charged a retail price, or more, on your discounted items and never even know it.
Is this some sinister ploy? No, but we’ve seen a level of incompetence in many retail establishments despite constant scrutiny by state departments of weights and measures and numerous investigative reports about “scanner accuracy.” We are told that if there are errors, they usually favor the consumer. Unfortunately, that’s not been our experience.
This is no trifling matter, especially during the holidays when our spending ratchets up because we’re planning fantastic holiday meals and selecting special gifts for people we love. It’s time to take this matter seriously and do what we can to prevent this loss of buying power. Here’s how we deal with it everywhere we shop.
Roughly Calculate Total Price of Goods
If you aren’t buying too many items, round prices up to the nearest dollar and have a total in your head when you reach the checkout (or use a calculator). If the total that the cashier gives you isn’t close, then scrutinize the receipt and ask questions.
Watch Prices at the Checkout
After you’ve carefully evaluated your purchases, the checkout line is no place to “check out” mentally. To carefully watch the checker and the computer screen to see if items are coming up at the right price requires complete concentration at the checkout.
An oversight, as simple as one flavor of soup not being on sale as you had expected can result in a higher price. If that’s the case, ask the cashier about the price and either leave the item or make the proper substitution.
Sometimes the scanner comes up with the wrong price — due to an error in inputting prices into the computer. In the past, we’d get the item for free because most stores had a “Scanner Accuracy” policy. But those days a gone now due to shrewd shoppers taking advantage of the program.
Now if an item rings up incorrectly, we call it to the checker’s attention and usually scoot back to the store shelf and take a picture with our phones. We almost always get the price corrected.
Other times its human error in marking the price on the aisle; the cashier putting in the wrong quantity of multiple items purchased; a double scan or skipping a coupon or two. No matter what, we take the time to point out the discrepancy and usually get the price adjusted.
It Can Be Uncomfortable
We realize that some of you will feel uncomfortable raising a ruckus about an overcharge — you don’t want to inconvenience the people in line behind you or you’re in a hurry — we understand. But would you allow a stranger to reach into your wallet and take out $5 without your permission? Neither would we.
It’s Your Money
It’s okay to be concerned about small amounts of your money. Take the time, walk back to the aisle with a courtesy clerk to confirm a price, do whatever you need to do to get the pricing you expected.
Related Article: Couponing for Beginners
Remember the Coupons
If you’ve taken time to use coupons, make sure you pull them out and put them on the counter — we put the coupons we’re using in a separate envelope as we put items in the cart. We’ve made the mistake of forgetting to turn in the coupons . . . ARRRRRRGH! Now that’s frustrating. In one case, the error wasn’t discovered until we arrived home.
However, since we shop at the same stores month after month and have gotten to know the staff, we made a phone call to the manager and were allowed to bring in the coupons with the receipt and received reimbursement.
Review Your Receipt
After you’ve paid and before you leave the store, review your receipt.
It’s so much easier to check it in the store than to get all the way home and find that you’ve been overcharged. If you do find an error, simply walk over to the customer service counter and explain the situation. You’ll usually be treated with respect, and because you have all your items with you, you’ll be more believable.
Take All of Your Stuff
Getting great deals, but then leaving some of your purchases behind can really be costly. As you wheel away from the register, scan the area, look for misplaced bags of groceries or your purse, coupon container or debit card.
As you unload your cart, take time to check the bottom and the seat too. Yes, we’ve left things in our cart usually because we were rushing or one of the kids had an urgent need.
What About Under Charges?
The grocery store isn’t the only place to be on your guard. Any place you shop, can and will make mistakes so be aware.
Don’t neglect to fix under-charges too.
There have been many times when items have been missed at the checkout, so we go to customer service to pay for them.
It’s a sad commentary on our society today to see the surprised look on the faces of the customer service people — they just can’t believe that we’d want to pay for items that we weren’t charged for.
Shop Off-Peak Hours
Your chances of inaccuracies diminish if you shop at a time when the store isn’t quite so busy. Many times cashiers are concerned with moving lots of people through the lines quickly, so more mistakes might be made.
With careful shopping and watchful checking out, you’ll be sure to get the real deal!