Daily Archives: December 12, 2008

Making a fuss

You’re at the supermarket.  You get to the checkout, and pay.  You look at your bill and find you’ve been overcharged, by some trivial amount.  Do you let it pass, or stand on a point of principle?

Related questions: do you take advantage of regular offers, such as buy several of something and get a discount?  Do you buy some items purely on price, because you don’t see the difference between different brands?  If you answered yes to either of those, you need to stand on principle when the discrepency at the checkout wipes out your saving.

Today it was beer.  I only occasionally buy beer to drink at home, but when I do, I usually go for a four bottles for a fiver offer.  That gives me mix-and-match from a good selection of premium ales.  But they must be the $1.49 bottles: don’t get caught out by similar beers at other prices, whether higher or indeed lower.  I carefully selected four bottles at £1.49: three that I know and like, and one unknown.

Checking my till receipt, there was no reduction for the offer.  Checking more carefully, one of the bottles was shown as £1.59, invalidating the whole thing.  So I’ve overpaid by a trivial £1.06.  But more critically, there goes my offer, and my whole incentive to buy participating brands.  Bah, Humbug.

Being something of an obstreperous fool (and seeing no queue there), I marched up to customer services and complained.  The lady accompanied me to the beer shelf with my receipt, and we verified that the beer in question was indeed marked at £1.49.  As was everything else on the same shelf for some way around, including one of the other bottles I’d picked up.  The lady spent some time determining that the labelling was indeed wrong, and agreed to refund me the difference.  But no sign of relabelling it so as not to catch out other shoppers: she removed the wrong label, leaving it surrounded by other £1.49 labels.

I think this is actually happening quite a lot.  The only part of the bill I’d notice it on are those where I’ve taken advantage of a multibuy or similar offer, or bought purely on price, and that’s by no means unusual (last time it was tinned tomatos, which I’d selected on price).  Trivial amounts, but they add up, and if lots of shoppers do the same, it could materially affect the producers of competing products.

What happens when someone from Trading Standards gets the same?  Or are they off-duty when shopping, and can’t be arsed to do or say anything?