From scanning errors to prices changing from shelf to register, there are plenty of ways you could end up with an overcharged grocery bill. Consumers lose billions each year because of such practices, which are not as uncommon as stores would have us believe.
In fact, Whole Foods has been fined for overcharging customers by chancing the price per pound on packaged items while Target had to pay around $4 million to settle an overcharging lawsuit. Dollar General, CVS, and Walgreens have also received fines for similar complaints. To make sure you pay the accurate price for the things in your cart, here are 5 simple steps you can take to avoid grocery store scams and overcharges.
Use the scale
Contrary to what many people might think, the scale you usually use to weigh items sold by weight such as cheese, fish and the like can also be used for pre-packaged products. Generally, these items have to comply with strict standards and the labels need to include all sorts of details about the product, including how much it weighs.
However, some items are not what you think they are, that’s why it’s better to double-check. If the scale reveals a different result than the label, it might be time to call the manager. Unfortunately, it’s not something grocery stores are strangers to. At Whole Foods, for example, coconut shrimp was $14.84 more than it should have been.
Another thing you should pay attention to is the price per pound for pre-packaged items against the same items from a bulk bin. You might be shocked at what you find.
Keep tab of things on your phone
It’s easy to mindlessly toss things in the cart whenever you’re in the supermarket, especially when you don’t have a list of the items you really need. And before you know it, you are at the cash register, wondering how you are going to pay for everything.
Want to know how to avoid this sort of impulse buying? Try keeping a tab of things you buy on your phone. This will not only help you stay away from the products you don’t really need but it will also eliminate the shock of seeing the total amount at the register. You can either use your phone’s calculator or install apps such as Smart Shopping List A La Carte. Such apps allow you to make your own shopping lists, calculate sales taxes, coupons, gift cards and other discounts and make sure the store is not making you pay more.
Pay attention to the cash register
Instead of scrolling through your Facebook feed while waiting for the clerk to scan your purchases, rummaging through your bag for your wallet or simply spacing out, pay attention to the register! It’s the easiest way for you to be overcharged or pay for something that you didn’t buy. It may not be intentional on the cashier’s part. After long hours of work, they can always make a mistake for which you will have to pay.
If you notice any irregularities, ask the clerk to eliminate the product from your tab and clarify the situation with the service department or a manager. It might upset those queuing behind you, but hey, they would probably do the same if they were you!
Don’t throw away your receipt
If time is not on your side and you can’t use the scale or compare prices while you’re at the store, there’s still something you can do to make sure you haven’t been overcharged on your grocery bill. After you’ve managed to avoid the evening traffic and finally arrived home, check the receipt for any discrepancies.
If something’s wrong, call the store and ask about their refund policy. You might have to bring in the item along with the receipt to receive a refund. Most shops will refund you the difference, while others will even offer an extra cash boost as an apology You can also check the store’s website for more information. It’s not always about the money but about raising awareness and possibly prevent similar mistakes in the future.
Whatever happens, keep it together
If you do notice you’ve been cheated on your grocery bill, accidentally or not, don’t lose your temper. First of all, the clerk behind the cash register isn’t probably authorized to give you your money back. If you’re throwing a fit, the cashier might be more reluctant to help you out by calling the supervisor. If you’re calling the store employees stupid, it won’t help your case.
On the other hand, a different, calmer approach might help you solve the situation faster. After all, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, right? In other words, you can win someone more easily by gentle persuasion than by hostile confrontation.