Patrick-Murray Administration Retailer Scanner Survey Finds High Accuracy Rates, but Some Costly Errors
Overall accuracy at 99.58 percent, items found overpriced by $49.99 and $34.50
Inspectors from the Division of Standards checked 88 stores representing 39 retailers across Massachusetts from Nov. 29 through Dec. 9. In all, inspectors found 12 overcharges on 2,875 items checked. The overall accuracy rate is slightly ahead of the 2009 rate of 99.51 and the 2008 rate of 99.18.
However, four stores - Best Buy in Mansfield, Kmart in Fitchburg, Macy's in Braintree, and Target in Lanesboro - failed to meet the 98 percent accuracy threshold mandated by state regulations. Last year, every store checked met the 98 percent standard. In all, nine stores this year were found to have inaccurate prices, leading to $1,300 in fines. For results of the entire survey, click here .
"The holiday shopping season is a busy time for consumers, and the last few days can be especially hectic. These results are good news for consumers, who know that retailers take seriously their responsibility to accurately price items," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "In the last few days of the shopping season, consumers can hit the stores with renewed confidence when it comes to scanners and accuracy."
Thirty-one of the 39 stores checked did not have overcharges. The amount of overcharges ranged from 40 cents for Christmas goblets at a Target in Lanesboro to the $49.99 overcharge. Some overcharges represented a significant percentage difference. The $49.99 overcharge added 166 percent to the $30 actual cost of the television mount. The $34.50 overcharge represented a 100 percent increase to the $34.48 garage door installation kit. A set of $19.99 set of salad tongs at the Braintree Macy's had a $9.01 overcharge, a 45 percent increase.
"We consistently remind retailers of the importance of scanner accuracy, and in recent years the results of our survey show that message is getting through," said Charles Carroll, the Director of the Division of Standards. "This is good for consumers, and strengthens the trust that is the foundation of a retailer's relationship with a customer."
In order to ensure the price at the register is the right price for consumers, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation offers the following tips:
- Bring sales circulars with you. Generally, retailers are required to sell you the item for the lowest marked or advertised price. There are some exceptions, such as when there is a limited quantity of items advertised or if there was unexpected demand for an item and it is out of stock. Ask the manager for a rain check, but be aware that exceptions to this rule exist.
- If an item scans higher than advertised or marked, ask for a price check from the store manager.
- Some retailers have a price accuracy guarantee. That will apply if an item scans higher than the advertised or marked price.
- Check your receipt before you walk away. If you notice an error, ask the cashier to fix it. If you've already left the cashier, talk to a store or department manager.
- Make sure the store's refund, return or cancellation policy is clearly and conspicuously displayed. The merchant must display a written policy that the buyer can see before the purchase is made.
- A store cannot use its disclosed policy to refuse the return of defective merchandise. You can choose to have the item repaired, replaced, or ask for a refund. If the merchant has an "all sales final" policy, it must disclose that policy upfront without limiting your rights. For example, "All sales final with the exception of defective goods."
The Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards enforces laws, rules, and regulations relating to weights and measures and the use of weighing and measuring devices in commercial transactions. It consistently checks item pricing and pricing methods at retailers throughout Massachusetts. The Division is part of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. For more on the Division and the Office, visit http://www.mass.gov/consumer and the Office's Consumer Connections blog, and follow the Office on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.