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Price scans often wrong at checkout

LORRIE COHEN Citizen Business Writer

Almost 60 percent of Arizona’s retail stores price items incorrectly when scanned at the checkout counter, based on tests by the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures.

This means shoppers better check their lists twice before leaving stores this holiday season.

”On average, price verification inspections have revealed a low passing rate within Arizona retail stores,” said John Hayes, Arizona Weights and Measures director. ”Consumers need to be aware of the Arizona pricing laws so they are not overcharged.”

Basically, the law says prices must be marked on or near the product and that price must match the scanned one.

The 1997-98 Arizona survey includes 472 stores. If more than one item is priced incorrectly by the checkout scanner, a store fails.

In all, 274 stores failed.

Most of the price inaccuracies are simple mistakes – and many of the errors favor the customer.

If you find an error, bring it to the store manager’s attention. Ask what the store’s policy is. Albertson’s, for example, will give you the item for free if it does not scan properly.

Contact Arizona Weights and Measures at (800) 277-6675 to report violations.

Testing keeps managers on toes

LORRIE COHEN Citizen Business Writer

Arizona Weights and Measures is in charge of testing retail stores for the accuracy of their scanners.

In a typical grocery store test, an inspector enters a store unannounced and randomly picks about 50 items off the shelves. Although one error may seem small, it’s not. If a grocery store has 40,000 items, that could translate into 800 incorrectly priced items.

The test makes even the most secure managers squirm.

Take Javier Lopez, manager at Albertson’s at East Glenn Street and North Campbell Avenue. He waited nervously last month as the inspector slid grocery items onto the conveyer belt to be scanned.

Lopez’s store passed – 100 percent of items scanned were priced correctly.

Some types of retailers did better on the agency’s tests during the past two years than others. For example, of the eight electronics stores tested, 75 percent failed and not a one of the three pet food stores tested passed.

Arizona law states that prices should be marked on or near the product and that price must match the scanned one.

Retailers are also required to give the shopper a pen and paper to write down prices so they can be checked against the scanned prices.

The Arizona Department of Weights and Measures is attacking the problem.

”After we got the numbers together and found a serious problem we decided to start a corporate and consumer education program,” said Dennis Ehrhart, chief enforcement officer. ”We plan to meet with corporate leaders and first start focusing on grocery stores by explaining laws and show them they have a problem.”


• Consider jotting down prices on items as you put them in your shopping cart. If you ask, a retailer must provide a means of recording prices on each item, such as pen and paper.

• Know the price. All items offered for sale in Arizona must either have a price displayed on or near the product. The displayed price must be in bold type, no less than three-eights of an inch tall. If the display is less than 18 inches from the floor, the price must be angled at least 15 degrees from vertical. If you don’t see a price, ask the manager.

• Pay attention to the display as the cashier rings up you purchase.

• If you notice an error in the display, speak up. Ask the cashier to make an adjustment immediately.

• Bring a store flier or newspaper ad with you to verify prices of sale items or advertised specials.

• Verify with the cashier the cost of merchandise or the fact that special promotions apply to your items before the item is scanned.

• Check your receipt before you leave the store.

• All stores must provide a written statement of policies regarding errors in pricing.

GRAPHIC: Scanning errors

Source: AZ Dept. of Weights and Measures/Tucson Citizen

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