WRAL Investigates

Inspector: One in 10 NC stores ring up wrong prices

Posted November 22, 2011
Updated November 23, 2011

— When buying an item at a store, how many people make sure the price at the register matches the price on the shelf? Those who don’t pay attention could be paying too much. The WRAL Investigates team found that some North Carolina stores are ringing up the wrong prices.

State inspectors examined prices at more than 2,200 stores this year and found that nearly 10 percent were overcharging customers.

Several local stores had some of the worst inspection results in the state this year. Walmart on New Hope Church Road in Raleigh, for example, failed three consecutive inspections, ringing up almost $5,000 in fines before finally passing.

During Walmart’s second inspection, the price of a ceiling fan was off by $30. The shelf price listed the fan at $19.99, but it rang up as $49.97 at the register.

Ronnie Abbott is one of 15 inspectors with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services who are responsible for ensuring that the shelf price matches the register.

“I have had error rates as high as 32 percent,” he said.

WRAL Investigates spent the day with him as he inspected three Raleigh stores – Target at North Hills, Carquest on South Wilmington Street and Kmart on Western Boulevard.

Inspector: One in 10 NC stores ring up wrong prices Inspector: One in 10 NC stores ring up wrong prices

From health items to crayons and office supplies, Abbott used a hand scanner to capture each item's bar code and keyed in the price on the shelf. He then went to the register to see what price rang up there.

Target passed, missing one out of 100 items. At Carquest, the results weren't as good.

“They had $6.99 on the shelf, 13 quarts of oil there, and it actually rang up at $8.99,” Abbott said.

Three of the 50 Carquest items rang up incorrectly, leaving the store with a 6 percent error rate. Anything higher than 2 percent is a failure, according to Abbott.

“They’re obviously very disappointed, because they have people they have to answer to. So, they’re not excited about it, but they know they’re treated fair,” he said.

Kmart on Western Boulevard also failed with a 5 percent error rate.

“Most of the stores are generally cooperative,” Abbott said. “It’s not a case of intentionally overcharging. It’s usually a case of carelessness or (they) didn’t get their price changes done.”

The Carquest and Kmart stores told WRAL Investigates that they take pricing errors seriously and try to quickly resolve any problems.

Walmart on East Gannon Avenue in Zebulon failed three straight tests, accruing more than $3,000 in fines. That includes a base penalty, plus $15 for every item on the shelf that had the wrong price.

“I think it was honest, not intentional, but it’s still your money,” said shopper Linda Perry.

Shopper Rasheema Wooten says she notices wrong prices at the register “all the time.”

“Then they have to go back and look (at the shelf price), and it’s wasting your time,” she said.

Many shoppers say they don’t pay attention, including Jace Kerrin.

“I guess I do (trust the scanners), yeah. I actually like to bag my own groceries, and I bring my own bags with me, so I don't even watch what they're ringing up. I just assume that it’s OK,” Kerrin said.

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  • fury143 Nov 29, 10:24 a.m.

    Yes this is true that items at the register do ring up as a different price. However please do not curse the person at the register as they are not responsable for changing the price. There are people that are on the floor of the store that are supposed to change the price on the items and some of these people are managers at the stores. The person at the register comes into work and goes directly tot he register to work they have no control over the price that rings up on an item. They do not know all the sales in the store either because no one can remember every sale item. Give the person at the register a break, they only check out your items they do not change prices and are not responsable for the procedure.

  • scriptech Nov 23, 5:07 p.m.

    Thank you WRAL for this report. I just shopped the Food Lion on Fayettville Road. I was overcharged by 33.00 dollars. The cashier did not know how to fix it and so a customer service representative did. However, they have a policy that if you are overcharged, you are supposed to receive the item for free. This did not happen. I only found this out by calling their customer service department. Usually I am so busy putting the groceries up that I cannot see them ring the prices. Due to them being short on cashiers I was able this time to see the overcharges. I did not, however, receive any item for free that was wrung up at the wrong price. Additionally, I have not heard back from the General Manager. I do no expect that I will. Thank you WRAL for watching out for us.

  • quaten Nov 23, 4:45 p.m.

    >>Wonder why the mistake is always to their advantage?Amazing is it not.

    My guess is the survey isn't reporting the otherwise mistakes, plus - who among us rushes back to the store to correct the error after realizing we've paid too little?

  • mrman2a Nov 23, 4:38 p.m.

    Wonder why the mistake is always to their advantage?Amazing is it not.

  • wildcat Nov 23, 4:00 p.m.

    So the consumer has been over charged. Always watch as your products are being runged up and call the cashier on it when you realize a mistake was made.

  • barbstillkickin Nov 23, 1:36 p.m.

    WHY DO PEOPLE ACT LIKE THIS IS SOME KIND OF SURPRISE. THEY ALWAYS TRY TO STICK IT TO THE CONSUMER THAT IS WHY I WRITE DOWN THE PRICE BEFORE I GO TO THE REGISTER.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Nov 23, 1:33 p.m.

    Interesting thing is that the biggest offender in Raleigh is the WalMart on New Hope Chruch Road.

    This store caters primarily to minorities including African Americans and Hispanics.

    They are betting that they are dealing with less educated people who don't understand what's happening.

    The WalMarts on Glenwood Avenue, in Briar Creek, off of 540 in North Raleigh, and the Wake Forest location don't have this problem.

    They probably figure the more educated people in North Raleigh and Wake Forest will figure out what they are doing and report them if they tried this in those stores.

  • WooHoo2You Nov 23, 12:56 p.m.

    It is amazing the number of people defending, making excuses, deferring blame etc for these companies that are failing even the most basic part of customer service. Charging the PROMISED price.

  • snowl Nov 23, 12:55 p.m.

    I cannot remember ever noticing a priced item that was LESS than I expected to pay at the register....Go figure?

  • sheep Nov 23, 12:32 p.m.

    I used to work for one of these companies. The product price is entered at the corporate office. It is up to the store managers to make sure the price on the shelf matches the price in the system. Also, the Regional VPs need to be checking on this when they visit the stores in their areas. I don't think the mistakes are intentional. However, store employees need to pay more attention to the price on the shelf verses the price in their system. If the SM's have a question about it then, they need to call the product department of their business.
    Also, customers need to check their receipts. If a price looks incorrect then, ask to speak to the store manager.

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