Off the Shelf

Michigander’s are still being ripped off at the grocery store, despite the Michigan Scanner Law, which was enacted in 1976, with a great deal of fanfare I might add.

In fact, it came to our attention that the law has loopholes. One such loophole, allows businesses the luxury of not individually price-marking up to 25 classes of merchandize.

Stores such as Meijer normally will have prices affixed to the shelves where the items are located. These items are not subject to the scanner law, which states:

"…a buyer who suffers loss because the price charged for the item is more than the price stamped on or affixed to the item shall notify the seller in person or in writing that the price charged is more than the price stamped or affixed. The notice shall include evidence of the loss suffered by the buyer. If, within 2 days after the notification, the seller tenders to the buyer an amount equal to the difference between the price stamped or affixed and the price charged, plus an amount equal to 10 times that difference but which is not less than $1.00 or more than $5.00, the buyer is barred from any further recovery for that loss."

On a recent visit to Meijer I purchased a bag of potato chips, the price was not marked on the bag of chips, but on the shelving unit below. The price marked on the sticker was $2.50. However, when I checked out, the chips rang up at $2.99.

Check your Receipts

I am in the habit of checking my receipts, and caught the mistake before leaving the store. I then went through the hassle of standing in line at customer service so that I could get my reward for catching the stores mistake. However, because the price was not marked on the item proper, I was entitled only to the 49 cents I had been overcharged.

I was a little disappointed only because my time is worth something. Had I realized it was not subjected to the scanner law provisions, I would have been tempted to ignore the error and the hassle. After all, it was only 49 cents.

To add insult to injury, the very same thing happened to my husband just a few short days later.

I sent him to the store for chips. In fact, I specifically asked him to check to see if they were still "on sale." He, too, purchased the chips and was over-charged that same 49 cents. Needless to say, I was irritated.

Apparently, since those potato chips weren’t costing the store any money, they were not in any hurry to correct the mistake. I’m wondering how many unsuspecting consumers bought those same chips believing they were on sale, only to be ripped off by 49 cents.

Does the scanner law go far enough?

I am diligent about checking my receipts and I have to tell you, it’s the rare occasion that I shop at a major grocery or department store and not find a mistake on my receipt.

To be honest, sometimes the mistakes are in my favor, but not often.

Consumers would be well advised to check their receipt after each shopping excursion. The amounts may be small but they quickly add up over the span of a year.

If you notice you have been overcharged take the time to bring it to the stores attention, then check back to see if the error has been corrected. With the rising cost of groceries we can little afford to tolerate lazy store clerks and unscrupulous business practices.

It may seem as though I’ve singled out Meijer, but I’ve merely used them as an example. They are by no means the only store with this problem.

Check those Stickers

Those shopping at Kroger will need to carefully check their sale items against the shelving unit stickers, because more often than not, they do not match. I’ve been "taken" several times, thinking I was purchasing a sale item, only to discover I had the wrong item and ended up paying more than I had anticipated.

If you find a store that repeatedly over-charges you, do yourself a favor, find a new store to shop. Dealing with reputable businesses will go a long way to promoting fair and honest consumer practices within your community.

Share your Story

If you have had similar experiences, we’d like to post your story. Have you been taken to the cleaners? Do you think shoppers are being swindled? Does your local store do an excellent job of pricing?
Tell us about it!

Updated June 2, 2005)