Shoppers Beware


The older I get, the more I understand my parents. Their parents came over here from Sicily looking for a better life, and were greeted with the Great Depression of the 1930s. Because of medical factors, my mother did not give birth to me (and was a surprise to her) until she was nearly 40 years old. And while both my parents are now gone, I am about their age when they started doing crazy things, or at least what I thought was crazy, and it all comes at a time when things are about as desperate as they were when they were growing up.

I understand when my mother would sit in the parking lot for 5 minutes to go over each and every item on the receipt to be sure it was correct. This way, she would not have to make a trip back and waste time and gasoline to get as little as pennies back for a cashier or computer error.  I get that now.

Every so often the Nightly News does a report on scanner errors at the register around Christmas time.  The stores claim its a computer error, however, it seems to happen more and more frequently.  A dollar here, a dollar there, and a few hundred customers later at the end of the month amounts to thousands of extra dollars on “sale” items. Whether its dishonestly or computer/scanner error, it happens, each and every day, so pay attention, especially now closer to the holidays and especially especially now that we are in emergency mode after a hurricane and just happy to grab the last can of beans off the shelf without even caring what the bill comes to.

Over the past few months, this is what I have experienced at the most reputable supermarket(s).  Being overcharged for limes and being scanned or manually “punched in” as cucumbers.  I understand they are both produce, I understand they are both green, and I understand that the code for a cucumber could be 0660 and a lime can be 0606 and its an easy error to make.  However, if you are awake, and you are in the 10 item or less express lane, the cashier should be able to recognize the error immediately if it pops up on the LCD screen.  But, in this case, they didn’t. And, quite frankly, I don’t know if this was over or undercharging me.  When it comes to produce and the amount I guy its pennies, but still, its frustrating to have to figure it out.

Today, I was in the express lane, 15 items or less. I had 17 items but 3 of them were identical and actually count as one as its 1 keystroke for the cashier. I usually try to help them out and tell them what things are if they are not the usual, like radicchio (they might think its red cabbage which costs less, but there is me trying to be honest), or a hot house tomato instead of an organic vine ripened tomato.  Sometimes the stickers fall off the individual produce items and I am more than happy to help them so they don’t have to call for a price check.  I can understand when I buy a lime, the code might be 6001 and if its a lemon its code 6002, or if it looks like a lime but is actually lemon and rang up or punched in as such, its a mistake and a few cents more or a few cents less.  I can even understand if an orange is 6003 and just one slight slip of the finger makes the fruit double the price.  I understand all that.  However, I won’t accept when my cashier today puts a lemon on the scale to weigh, and then registers it as a tomato by weight.  A tomato is large and red, and a lemon is smaller and yellow.  Nearly everyone knows that lemons and limes are sold by piece and tomatoes are sold by weight because they fluctuate a great deal more in size?

Well, this “tomato” which cost me .49 cents is probably the same cost of what a lemon is (4/$2), but its this simple sort of thing that annoys me and then removes all doubt as to why someone 10 years older than me is working the register that can only take 10-15 items per transaction.  I don’t mean to be harsh, but if you can’t tell the difference between a lime and a cucumber or a lemon and a tomato and/or take half a second to see what that item scanned at, then you need to go back to bagging the groceries, not being the cashier.  Yes, I know its only pennies at the end of the day, but its unfair reporting to the supermarket as well who might just think that cucumbers are in higher demand of limes which will suggest they order more cucumbers and raise the price of limes since they are less in demand.

Again, I hope that this is mostly error, human, computer, scanner or otherwise (I know those small sticky labels from one set of organic tomatoes can accidentally to the hothouse tomatoes), but if a cashier is trusted to take a customer’s money for the supermarket and/or corporation, they should be able to know what is a cucumber, a tomato, or a a lime.  If not, they are cheating the customer, they are losing faith in your company and ultimately they are costing the corporation money either way.  Either by loss of customers, or loss of profits to the supermarket.

There is one place I only go into if there is one item or two I need and I know the price.  Even then, at least 3 times the register gave a different price than what was listed on the shelf.  Yes, they did a price check, yes I was correct, and yes they apologized.  But why must I go through all this trouble for an item or two and hold up the line behind me and waste time while another clerk figures it out?  So, I just don’t shop there anymore, or only go out of desperation for one item like a loaf of bread which is clearly labelled on the loaf itself rather than a produce item which has one price on the shelf and another at the register.

Its getting rough out there.  And with the holidays, please keep an eye on all items you are buying, and check the receipt.  It might only be pennies or a dollar, but let’s keep everyone honest, if not for ourselves, for the industry and the others who are hurting more than us and cannot be taken advantage of.


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