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?

Posted on December 12, 2008, in rants. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m afraid I’m another sad b*****d who checks his till receipts religiously and I do find the odd pricing error (or things that have been scanned twice). However on each occasion when I’ve raised the matter (in a variety of stores, with one notable exception below) I’ve always found the staff to be courteous and helpful, and have never had a problem getting a refund.

    Regrettably with supermarket pricing based around massive computerised inventories, the staff on the shop floor rarely have the authority or means of correcting errors of the type you describe.

    The one time when I did get a bit stroppy was when Tesco refused to sell me a bottle of wine altogether because the scanner didn’t recognise the bar code, even though there was a price label also bearing a clear description of the wine on the shelf. Tesco refusing a customer’s cash? Now there’s one for the books…

  2. I normally check my reciept, often find things wrong – well I also used to expect to find things wrong as I’d see dual pricing on the shelves, where an old price was also still on display, so I just needed to point that one out.

    Tesco were always very good about refunding the difference, and giving you the item for free, as was their promise (don’t know if they still do this) so there was a big incentive to do it.

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