Thursday, February 14, 2008

Erie County's Scanner Accuracy Law Lives

Somewhere in the late 1980's retail establishments challenged item pricing laws (having to price each unit for sale individually). Scanning the bar code had become the new way at the check out and it was argued that placing those little stickers was time-consuming and price changes made them messy. There also was the documented fraud by some customers changing or peeling off those little buggers.

Erie County enacted a Scanner Accuracy Law that in exchange for an item pricing waiver the stores must be held accountable for the accuracy of the scanners, with escalating penalties for violations. This requires customer vigilance, but so be it.

In the early days going to a certain supermarket was like picking up money laying on the ground. They were really bad at scanner accuracy. With 2 kids in diapers this was a boon for my finances. See, the "prize" for catching mistakes is 10 times the amount of the error, not to exceed $10. Plus the overcharge, of course. So a $1 overcharge would lead to an $11 payout. The stores face escalating fines and mandatory reporting to the Department of Weights & Measures.

The stores themselves have become experts at attempting to circumvent the penalties. Store managers have claimed that since the item in hand weighed 7.2 ounces and the ad said 7.5 ounces, it doesn't count (shelf tags rule). Or the item was out of place (doesn't count). Pointing out a pricing error during the checkout results in "But you WEREN'T overcharged, I corrected it - doesn't count".

I really haven't been pouring over my receipts lately or memorizing the prices. Scanners and pricing have become such a retail obsession that it's really not worth the effort. An apparent $5 error changed that however.

Last night at "Bull's Eye" I finally picked up McAfee Virus Scan after looking at it for the weeks leading up to the current expiration of my old product. There had been 4 units on the top shelf with a tag reading $29.99 for over a week (I can be indecisive). Finally I bought it, got home and realized I had been charged $34.99. So I went back.

The girl at customer service called electronics. Rather than ask for a mere price check, she specifically stated to the lad what I had been charged versus my claimed price. I decided to go to the store shelf to meet him. Lo and behold, all the units had been moved to a lower shelf with a corresponding shelf tag of $34.99!

As it turns out, there were 2 separate products, one being for single computers, the other for multiple PC's and they had 2 different prices. But rather than explain to me that the items were mis-shelved (if the kid had realized this), there was attempted deception. In fact, after reading both shelf tags, I had to explain it to the kid multiple times how I had been mistaken (I wasn't trying to rip off the store). "The products are NOT the same. See - this one says 3 PC's, this one doesn't."

I exchanged products to the smirk of the CS rep, got what I had originally intended, and went home.

The big thing is, the employees appear to have been taught to do whatever it takes to avoid being in violation of the scanner accuracy law. Prompting the price checker. Moving the product. Whatever else might be in their barrel of tricks to avoid responsibility, if indeed they are in violation.

I blame management and top-down pressure that they face, as the kids are too young and they have no real stake in any customer-centric outcome (unless they are somehow penalized as part of their employment).

I was mistaken, but the store was wrong.

My son said "Who cares?"

I do. In my opinion, maybe you should too.

Update: More on the subject May 5, 2009


Anonymous said...

I am in the process of getting the run around from a retailer who will not be responsible or recognize this scanning law. The Manager gave me a hard time and told me the "OH no. We are not gonna go on like this cause your bad additude is gonna rub off on me". What bad additude? I was not yelling or talking rude. I just wanted the price that was stated on the item. Which was only $1.25 difference. I am one of their valued customers that recieves special flyers and I spend hard earned money there just about every month. Do you think the Manager could have handle this with some of his costumer service skills. Well he told me that he has never hear of this law and that he would know of it because he has been manager here for over 2 years. So! Plus he showed me a sign that states pricing will be verified at register. So what, if I had a sign on car reading I can go though red lights that makes it alright. The law is the law and if it's your business to know it and you don't that does not accuse you. I failed to mention I went home and called their home office in TX. I was treated like a scumb bag that was trying to steal from them. I also spoke to the customer service manager who COULD have said "Seeing that you are a valued customer we'll give you a $10.00 gift card and we will look into this matter. Sorry for you inconvenience." But this is what she said to me "I can't help you. I never heard of this law. We would know about it if it existed. I don't see it online. If you find the law send it to me." For a customer service manager she needs more training. I can not believe I have to do their work for them. They really made me feel like a low life. I have called them two more times leaving a message with the name of the law and the section it falls under. No one has called me yet. If they do not fix this with me, not only will I stop shopping there, I will persuit this so that they get a large fine. They not only have poor service skills and inaccurate scanning and signage but they are also lazy and rude. Not only what I inconvenienced but also insulted. I do not want something like this happen again. I knew of this law but was never sure of the name nor did I ever complained of a scanning error. I have been charged a larger cost for items before but never did anything about it after the ride home. This retailor has alot of nerve. To treat me in such a mannor and have me do their work for them, not call me back plus have the knoledge that I spend my money there supporting their business. Thanks for letting me vent.

Anonymous said...

get a life