SmartMoney Blogs

Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Why You Shouldn’t Trust Grocery Store Prices


Credit card statements and cellphone bills aren’t the only documents you need to review line by line for inflated charges these days. More errors are popping up on your grocery receipt, too.

Recent Department of Consumer Affairs inspections of New York City supermarkets found that just 33% are properly pricing items, leading the city to “deputize” consumers last week to act as secret shoppers on its behalf and report problems like nonworking scales or items without price tags. In February, Ralphs Grocery Co. pled no contest to allegations that it overcharged shoppers in Los Angeles stores for pre-weighed products by including ice and the packaging in the price. (The chain was fined $16,900 in 2008 and 2009 for similar problems.) Michigan also revised its so-called scanner law this spring. Effective Sept. 1, stores must display prices at the items’ shelf locations.

How much of an impact do pricing problems have on your bill? A big one, if older figures are any indication. When the Federal Trade Commission last studied grocery pricing errors in 1998, it estimated that the average item over-charge was 66 cents. Other estimates from that time put total losses between $1 billion to $2.5 billion each year. And that was before the advent of self-checkout lanes, virtual coupons linked to your store loyalty card and register restrictions to limit extreme couponers, which lead to errors planned and inadvertent, says Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game. “We need to be alert at the register,” she says. “A lot can go wrong — it’s like Murphy’s Law.”

At the register, consumers should pay attention to the price of each item scanned, and any discounts taken off for coupons or club card promotions, Gault says. “It’s a lot easier to catch errors when you watch [the checkout tally] on the screen,” she says. Items may be accidentally scanned twice, or a coupon doesn’t actually go through. Also check that the weight of produce seems accurate — checkers often accidentally lean on the scale. Keep your weekly sales flier on hand to confirm sale prices. “There’s over 10,000 items in a supermarket, and they change sales every week,” Gault says. “Sometimes the sales just aren’t in their system like they should be.”

Errors are easily remedied right there at the register, or even days after the fact with your receipt, Gault says. Finding one can be more lucrative than recouping a few cents lost, too. State laws often award victimized shoppers extra cash. Michigan, for example, requires stores to refund you the difference, plus a bonus worth 10 times that amount; at least $1 and no more than $5.


We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (2 of 2)

View all Comments »
    • By WebOsPublisher

      Annoyed by those pesky new Facebook icons? Here is how to get rid of them AndroidiPhone / iPadWindows rss youtube facebook twitter googleplusAboutContactSend News Tips! #avail_phones_display img,#upcoming_phones_display img
      HomeCarriersAll CarriersCarrier CoverageDownload the Carrier Coverage App Recent Carrier NewsHTC One VX now available from AT&TT-Mobile going hard in 2013: $4.7 billion in spending c…AT&T LG E940 boasting 1080p full HD display pops u…T-Mobile gets the iPhone — will Android take a ba…Verizon, Motorola remind us of DROID RAZR HD’s Je… PhonesAll PhonesBest PhonesAvailable PhonesUpcoming PhonesRumored PhonesCompare PhonesPhone ForumsTop Available1Samsung Galaxy Note 22HTC One X Plus3Samsung Galaxy S34HTC DROID DNA5Motorola DROID RAZR M 1 Upcoming $ Rumored1ASUS Padfone 22LG Optimus Vu 23ADzero Bamboo Smartphone4Huawei Ascend D Quad5Meizu MX2 1 Phone NewsHTC One VX now available from AT&THuawei exec confirms Ascend Mate coming in early 2013 w…More Nexus 4 orders starting to ship, but some still be…Samsung Galaxy S4 could feature ‘unbreakable&#821…MetroPCS announces Samsung Galaxy Admire 4G, available …Phone ReviewsPantech Flex reviewNexus 4 ReviewHTC Droid DNA ReviewHuawei Ascend D Quad XL ReviewSamsung Galaxy Note 2 ReviewTabletsAll TabletsAvailable TabletsUpcoming TabletsRumored TabletsTablet ForumsTop Available1Nexus 72ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity3Samsung Galaxy Note 10.14Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7.05Sony Xperia Tablet S 1 Coming Soon1Wikipad2ARCHOS GamePad3Toshiba AT300SE4Notion Ink Adam 25ARCHOS 80 Cobalt 1 Tablet NewsArchos GamePad goes up for sale in EuropeToshiba Excite 10 SE now available for $350Matrix One 7 manufacturer shut down with tons of orders…Amazon launches Kindle FreeTime, monthly subscription b…Fun-filled “nabi Jr.” children’s tabl…Tablet ReviewsHuawei MediaPad 10 FHD ReviewBlurex Ultra-Slim Folio Case for Nexus 7 reviewToshiba Excite 10 ReviewA short review of the $35 Aakash/Ubislate tabletASUS Transformer Prime ReviewAppsAll AppsBest AppsApp NewsGame NewsHey Developers! Did you know you can easily submit news about your apps and games to Phandroid for publishing? And it’s free – click here for details.Featured AppsPhandroid NewsFootball PickemVOTE 2012TecTileFootball ScheduleFeatured GamesBeach Buggy BlitzGranny SmithJuggernaut Revenge of SoveringHomerun Battle 3DFieldrunners HDAndroid Application NewsBlueStacks Android app player hits 5 million installs, …SnapSeed comes to Android with unsurprising Google+ bia…ASTRO File Manager update adds Facebook photos integrat…SwiftKey Flow Beta now available for download, we go ha…Google Now update makes holiday travel easierGame NewsEternity Warrior 2 update to bring dragons into the mix…Raiden Legacy for Android brings four classic shoot &#8…Rayman Jungle Potpourri update adds 10 new levelsGameloft: Modern Combat 4 is coming to Android “s…PhoneJoy Play transforms smartphone to handheld gaming …TopicsSuggested:All NewsFeaturedHandsetsTabletsReviewsTips $ TricksAccessoriesAndroid MarketContestsDealsDevelopersEventsGoogle TVPhonesHumorIndustry NewsInterviewsOpinionOTA UpdatesPhan GiveawaysPhanMailPollsPress ReleasesRetailersReviewsRootingRumorsSDKService PlansSite NewsTabletsTips $ TricksVideosForum Coming soonContact Search We’ve launched our new website, we would love to hear your thoughts $ feedback. Close XAnnoyed by those pesky new Facebook icons? Here is how to get rid of them posted on Apr 28th 2012 by Edgar Cervantes Share This Story The latest Facebook app update may not exactly be that re-design we have all be waiting for, but it definitely has some new stuff. Apparently, the guys over at Facebook HQ thought it would be great to give us two new icons that work along with the main application – Messenger and Camera. And we have found a way to get rid of them.These apps work directly with the social network and allow you to chat it up with your buddies or share your images quickly with Facebook’s very own camera app. Said shortcuts may come in handy for some, but we noticed many of our readers were quite upset about this. We don’t need more bloatware, right?If you have been looking for a solution to this issue, developer Cory Charlton has come up with a handy app for root users. It will get rid of both applications. More exactly, it gets rid of the icons, as these services can’t exactly be completely taken off the phone – They are part of the main Facebook app.Facebook Icon Remover pretty much does the same job as many custom launchers. It hides the icons from your app drawer. This can also be done with most Android 4.0 devices, but manufacturers have the ability to disable this. If you don’t like launchers, and don’t have the ability to natively hide your apps, this may be your best bet. But remember, it is only for root users.It comes without saying that the usual disclaimer is applicable here. Rooting, flashing and tinkering with your device in any way may void your warranty and/or harm your device. Be careful, and don’t go blaming anyone if something bad happens. With that, head over to the Google Play Store if this is the app you need. How upset are you guys over Facebook adding these icons to your app drawer? Have you taken any measures to get rid of them?[Source: XDA Developers Via: XDA Developers] About The Author Edgar Cervantes is a Contributing Editor for and has posted 433 articles. Connect with him on G+. Further Reading T-Mobile going hard in 2013: $4.7 billion in … Samsung Galaxy S4 could feature ‘unbrea… T-Mobile gets the iPhone — will Android… Huawei exec confirms Ascend Mate coming in ea… More Nexus 4 orders starting to ship, but som… Samsung shows off new features coming to the … Redacted HTC/Apple settlement documents relea… AT&T LG E940 boasting 1080p full HD disp… /**/ Best of Phandroid Sony Internet TV Review (NSZ-GS7 Google TV) Accidentally Deleted The Android Market? How To Get It … Getting Acquired: How To Transfer Ownership of Your And… ASUS Transformer Prime Review Is HTC Preparing Siri-Like Voice Controlled App of Thei… Android Overload: Google TV, updates, humor and more TrendingFeaturedRecentT-Mobile going hard in 2013: $4.7 billion in spending c…Rumored HTC M7 to have 5 inch HD display, quad-core pro…Samsung Galaxy S4 could feature ‘unbreakable&#821…T-Mobile gets the iPhone — will Android take a ba…Confirmed: SwiftKey Flow Beta launching in less than 24… Preview: Anomaly Korea from 11 Bit Studios [VIDEO] HTC Droid DNA Review Phandroid Holiday Gift Guide: Chris’ top picks, g… Phandroid Holiday Gift Guide: Top 10 Phones and Edgar&#… Huawei Ascend D Quad XL Review Jabra Solemate just $160 at Best Buy for all of Decembe… Eternity Warrior 2 update to bring dragons into the mix… Vic Gundotra ceased tweeting at request of boss, at lea… BlueStacks Android app player hits 5 million installs, … As Apple and Samsung post-trial motions conclude, judge… Samsung Galaxy S3 © 2012 Sitemap | Disclaimer | Terms Of ServiceHomeCarriersPhonesTabletsAppsForumContactAndroidiPad iPhoneWindows PhoneGoogleTVChromeWii U (function()var nstrack=document.createElement(“script”),el_nstrack=document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0];nstrack.async=true;nstrack.src=””;el_nstrack.parentNode.insertBefore(nstrack,el_nstrack);)();

    • I ALWAYS check my receipt before I leave the store. I am constantly surprised as to the mistakes made, and it has saved me much in the past. I do pull away from the register so that I don’t hold up the line. Coorections are easily handled at the service counter.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.