WRAL Investigates

Attention shoppers: NC stores could be overcharging you

Posted November 25, 2013
Updated December 12, 2013

— Every year, hundreds of stores across North Carolina overcharge customers for their purchases, according to data from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

State inspectors do random checks to make sure the prices on shelves match what rings up at the register, but the WRAL Investigates team found that shoppers still need to pay attention when they check out.

(Search stores' price scanner results by county.)

The state inspected scanners at 1,805 retailers from Nov. 1, 2012, to Oct. 31 of this year and reported that 110 stores – or about 6 percent – failed. At each store, inspectors check 50 to 100 items on first pass. A 2 percent error rate or higher is considered a failure.

State inspector Bryan Moore recently visited a Toys"R"Us at Crossroads Plaza in Cary, where he found an 8 percent error rate.

Among the problems was a $69.99 scooter that rang up $79.99 at the register and a monster truck track kit valued at $19.99 that scanned as $29.99 at checkout. Toys"R"Us now faces a 300-item re-inspection and the potential for fines if the store doesn't pass next time.

Toys"R"Us spokeswoman Katie Reczek said the price discrepancies were largely due to products being put in the wrong place on the shelves. "Our Cary store team has worked diligently to ensure products are placed in their proper locations as we move forward during this busy holiday season," she added.

Moore also recently checked a Kmart on Western Boulevard in Raleigh, which failed its previous two inspections when more than 2 percent of its checked items rang up above the shelf price. Kmart was ordered to pay an $870 fine in those cases.

On the day Moore visited, however, the store passed with a zero percent error rating.

“Overall percentage, most (stores) do fairly well,” he said.

Moore is one of 21 inspectors who check scanner accuracy at retailers across the state. He recommends busy shoppers keep track, especially during the holiday season when sales and deals are rampant.

“They have old signage tags, (and) they forget to pull them off,” Moore said. “When you have your items scanned at the register, just take your time and watch the price as the item is being scanned. And if there is a discrepancy, let the cashier know right there on the spot.”

A Walmart in Knightdale failed two straight inspections last year until correcting the price scanner problems. In one case, a bike that was priced $89.97 on the shelf rang up $124 at the register – a $35 overcharge.

State inspection supervisor Wayne Compton says he suspects stores’ price problems are due to disorganization, not dishonesty.

“They miss too many things. They let too many things fall through the crack, and it goes unchecked,” he said. “A consumer should be aware.”

Walgreens on Timber Drive in Garner failed three straight inspections. Among the problems, inspectors documented 20 undercharges, but those don’t count against the store. Only overcharges can lead to inspection failure.

Shopper Andrea Finucane says she has caught overcharges while shopping, but it’s difficult to be diligent.

“I do my best,” she said. "Obviously, having kids, it’s a little hard to do sometimes.”

N.C. Department of Agriculture officials estimate they inspect major retail store price scanners once every 18 months. Besides store inspections, they also check out holiday products, such as a turkeys, hams and candies, to verify that they are weighed and priced correctly.


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  • Mustang Nov 26, 2013

    Many Food Lions are bad at overcharging for beer and wine. The sale price is not given at the register. They always say it's the vendors, but don't seem to do anything to correct it. In the meantime the checkout line is backing up while a bagboy goes to check it out.

  • gobbledygook Nov 26, 2013

    This is usually an issue for me at Toys-R-us and best buy.... I ALWAYS check the prices/receipt while i'm staying in line, even if there is a crowd behind me. Sometimes it happens at grocery stores or the cashier won't know what the produce is and randomly charges it to something 'similar' - Toys R Us prices are really hiked up, you can get the same toys for cheaper at walmart or online (/w free shipping)... If you use 20% or 15% coupons at toys r us, it just comes down to walmart's basic price.

  • rushbot Nov 26, 2013

    here's a hint..don't go buy a cartload of stuff at once..that way you can stand at the register with a general idea of what things cost..i always look at the price and total the costs in my head as i shop..by only buying 15 or 20 items at a time, i can keep track of what is happening to me..as always, buyer beware!!

  • Couriernew Nov 26, 2013

    What? Private businesses making mistakes and costing people money?! I thought only the government did that! Here in NC, businesses are infallible!

  • fireguy Nov 26, 2013

    Every single time we shop at target we are over-charges at least $1 up to $3. This is not the end of the world but if they do that to the thousands of customers that shop there daily they would be making out like a bandit.

  • Inside The Beltline Nov 25, 2013

    This is why Harris Teeter has such great customer service. If something scans wrong they will give it to you, not just fix the difference. This is called accountability, do you think department managers will be slack with pricing and signage if they are giving stuff away? Harris Teeter is definitely customer friendly.

  • Big Willy Magnum Nov 25, 2013

    This is a pattern for Walgreens, they just paid millions in fines for Medicaid fraud and millions to settle with many of the attorney generals in the US for deceptive pricing and over rings. An accident can be understood, it seems to be the culture at Walgreens.

  • Made In USA Nov 25, 2013

    If you shop at the Walgreens located at Maynard near N. Harrison,pay close attention to the prices advertised verses what they charge you. I have had 3 instances of being overcharged in this store and made them correct the mistake. I also have been in line behind people at the register doing the same thing... making them correct the wrong prices on their purchases. It's very time-consuming for the cashier, and usually results in people in line having to wait extra time to get checked out. My advice... make them wait and make the store correct their mistake.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Nov 25, 2013

    I had this issue at ToysRus on Saturday. The items (all of them) were put in the correct spot with a tag that read what they were (Barbie Dolls). They were 50% off. My husband took a pic of the tag on the shelf just in case. We got to the register, they rang up full price $14.99. I told the employee and she said she couldnt see it from her system, but assured me the discount would be taken off at the end. I paid, got the receipt, lo and behold- $14.99. I went to the guest services desk and after 15 minutes of waiting, they corrected the price and gave me a credit back to my card.

  • whatelseisnew Nov 25, 2013

    "If more stores had policies like Harris Teeter, then they'd be more careful. Harris Teeter will refund your money and give you the item if it scans at a higher price."

    Yes they do and I have benefited from that more than once. I pay attention to what rings up vs what was supposed to ring up.