The other day I had to make a run to the grocery store for medication. My wife had been fighting a viral cold for over a week. I only go to this particular grocery store (which shall remain unnamed) for convenience. I dislike almost everything else about it. In only a handful of circumstances does the convenience outweigh driving 10 extra minutes to the grocery store we are much fonder of. This time, however, it literally paid off.
Hustled by a price scanner
It was the Monday before Christmas, and I was hoping to leave work much earlier than I did to come home and celebrate my son’s birthday. I stopped by the store to pick up some ice cream for his cake as well as some medicine for my wife. I have gotten into the habit of not looking at the price tags as carefully as I should, but this time I did. I wanted to get the medicine with the best value, and I specifically remember the Nyquil being labeled at $7.99.
Upon checking out, I noticed that the Nyquil got rung up at $8.99. “Are you serious?” I thought. I pointed it out to the cashier, and she said I’d have to head over to customer service. So I head over to customer service to get in line, a little less jolly at this point. I was standing there, already late, fighting back the thoughts that were telling me how ridiculous I was for making a fuss over $1. No, I decided. I hate this store, and I refuse to let them steal my money.
Not once, but twice!
I finally got to the front of the line, and the lady said she’d have to go check the label. I told her I’d follow her. As she was confirming the $7.99 label, I had the thought to check the label on the Emergen-C that I had purchased for $10.49. I couldn’t believe what I saw. $7.90! I had been overcharged for not one, but two items. At this point, I felt like a full-on scrooge. I tried to keep it inside as I had the lady come verify the second overcharge, which she did.
We went back to the customer service desk, and a few people bustled about trying to figure out what to do in this situation. Finally, someone who had the answers came to help me. She said Michigan had a law that required them to compensate me for overcharges. She had my full attention at that point. She did some manual calculations, and handed me back a whopping $13.59 in cash. I felt vindicated! And curious. What was this mysterious law? Maybe I could quit my full-time job and start exploiting the law at grocery stores statewide.
Price scanner law
The first thing I did when I got home was learn more about this supposed law. I wanted to see what it was all about (mainly I wanted to make sure she had calculated my free money correctly). Here’s what I learned.
Michigan state law imposes a penalty on retailers whose scanners ring up items at a higher price than advertised. They are required to refund the customer both the amount overcharged as well a penalty of 10 times the overcharge. The penalty has a maximum of $5 per unique item. If the retailer refuses to pay, the customer has the right to file a lawsuit and collect the greater of $250 or actual damages.
I had been overcharged on two distinct items. The first overcharge was $1. The second overcharge was $2.59. Each of those amounts were individually multiplied by ten (with a cap of $5 each). So I got $13.59 back ($5+$5+$3.51: the two penalties capped at $5 plus the actual overcharge amount).
That’s a whole lot better than the $1 I thought I would get back after waiting 10 minutes in line. I came home victorious with a smile and ready to celebrate.
Make sure you remember this story if you ever happen to come shop in Michigan.
Does your state have any similar laws designed to protect consumers?