As I was checking over my grocery bill after shopping at a Chinese supermarket, to my surprise, I found that I was double billed for a spring chicken that costs $7.18. Apparently, I was overcharged by the grocery store.
As many consumers living in today’s technology world, I often hold blind trust to the accuracy of the grocery checkout process. With each beeping sound, the price of the item will be scanned by the machine and the price accurately entered into the system. After all the items are scanned, the price total will appear on the screen.
But despite how scientific and accurate the scanning process seems to be, mistakes – either by cashier’s human error or computer error– happen all the time. According to ABC News, American consumers lose $1 billion to $2.5 billion dollars each year because of scanning errors.
Even though sometimes mistakes at the checkout counter turn out to be in consumers’ favor, it doesn’t help the consumer who was overcharged.
Luckily, the errors were detected before I left the supermarket parking lot. When I brought up the issue with the cashier, she quickly admitted her mistakes without even looking into the over-20-bags in the shopping cart, which left me to suspect that she had realized that she scanned it twice before I approached her.
“Errors occur such as an item that has the wrong label or is scanned incorrectly at the checkout,” says the lady standing behind the refund counter. “We deeply regret our error.”
Despite her apologies and the reiteration that it was an honest mistake, I was nonetheless frustrated; my faith in the grocery store had been damaged.
When I do grocery shopping, I always assume that the supermarket will do the right thing and this mistake made me feel that I was naïve.
To maintain consumer’s faith in the retail system, a national program in Canada called Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code is in place. The stores that have signed on to the program will compensates consumers who have been charged the wrong price by offering them the incorrectly scanned item for free, if the item costs less than $10. If it costs more, you get $10 off the price.
In another words, customer like me will not only get the refund for the second spring chicken, but also the first one free.
There are 8000 stores – from pharmacies to grocery chains participate in the program.
But when I mentioned the program to the lady at the refund counter, she shrugged her shoulders, showing a callous attitude:
“Can’t help you out there. We are not in the program, and the $7.18 refund is the best I can do!”
I left the store dissatisfied. It is not about the money, but the system’s integrity and consumers’ faith.
Sometimes verbal apologies are cheap, and grocery stores need a better and more effective way to express their regrets to rebuild their customers’ trust.
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