Money To Live

January 19, 2010

Overpaying at the grocery store?

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 10:27 pm

Stores have been piling on the discounts for months, in an attempt to lure shoppers into spending more money. The discounts are sometimes complicated – they may only apply if the consumer buys enough of a certain product on certain days of the week when the moon is in the waxing gibbous phase.

In general, I am a pretty conscientious consumer, and I like to think that I can read a store label and identify which product it refers to. But, apparently I cannot! At three different stores, I have been foiled by the pricing schemes/labels – and in each store I got a different response from employees.

These are the reasons I was mischarged or confused about the price of an item:

  • only certain sizes/ colors are discounted, and it is not clearly labeled

  • sale/ non-sale items get mixed together (commonly related to the issue above)

  • when the sale item runs out, employees stock the shelf with non-sale items without changing the price label

  • computer systems have not been updated to reflect promotions.

These are my customer service rankings based on a small sample of getting advertised prices/discounts:
  • QFC – great customer service
  • Safeway – adequate customer service
  • Target – poor customer service

Target – silver coffee mugs cost $20 and (otherwise identical) brown coffee mugs cost $10.
After spending several minutes matching price tags and coffee mugs, I selected the silver mug, which I thought cost $10. When it rang up as $20, I had the clerk remove it from my order, and I finished checking out. I then went back to select a brown mug, and I had to check out again.
Target – frozen scallops $16 or $8?
On another Target visit, the frozen scallops were listed at $8 on the aisle but rang up as $16. Because the clerk would not let me view my receipt until I paid, I had to return the mislabeled scallops at customer service. Because the food was originally frozen, though, it could not be restocked and had to be destroyed upon being returned.
QFC – bread for $4 or $2?
On a bread display, a bag of rolls was advertised for $2, but the bread in the bin did not match the bread described in the price (and the bread in the bin was not described anywhere). This is a deceptive practice of stocking a not-on-sale item on the shelf/bin of a discounted item. I took the bread to the check out, and the cashier honored the lower price without even checking it herself.
Safeway – 3 bags of broccoli for $2 each or $2.30 each?
At Safeway, frozen broccoli was sold at a discount when 3 or more bags were purchased. Of course, at the check-out, the discount did not ring up. The cashier sent the bagboy to check the price. He confirmed the price I quoted, and the cashier rang up the price manually.
Recently at Safeway, I had another issue with the price of lemonade. When the price rang up higher than advertised, I told the employee I did not want to purchase the item, and I said that it is very difficult to read labels. He agreed with me! He said that it is even harder for the store employees and that he thinks it is an intentional technique to charge consumers more!

This opens up new questions:
* How much money are stores making by offering confusing promotions and discounts? (I estimate that if I did not pay careful attention, my grocery bill would be about 10% higher.)

* Is a confusing pricing system intentional?

* At what level of management are these types of decisions made?

* Why hasn’t there been a strong consumer response about this issue?

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1 Comment »

  1. This is generally not a problem at stores where I live (and most of the time I avoid the store and go for the markets). But, I was thinking of you when I got caught out for the first time (ever?) last week — the sale price was placed between size A and size B, and I thought it applied to size A when it actually applied to size B. I was a bit annoyed when I saw my mistake, but by then it was too late.

    Comment by anita — February 16, 2010 @ 5:20 am |Reply


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