Scanning Errors For Fun & Profit

If you want to save money, watch your prices! Watch them figuratively by shopping around for the best deals, but also watch them literally when they are rung up at the cash register. If a scanned price is different from the price marked on the shelf, you may get that item free.

Mass merchandisers, grocery stores, and other chains nearly always have scanner policies that compensate you if a price scans incorrectly – either too high or too low. In many jurisdictions, laws require stores to give you a free item or the price difference plus a bonus if the scanner price is too high; the stores often expand their policies to include prices that scan too low because it benefits them if you catch their mistakes.

If you have trouble following the prices on a cash register, consider taking along a calculator to keep track of what your total bill should be. If the total at the register is off, you’ll know to look for errors. You might also devise your own system for remembering the prices of the things in your cart.

Be sure to check your receipt before you leave the store. If any prices are incorrect, go back to the cashier or to customer service and ask about the store’s scanner policy. At the very least, they should correct their mistake. Checking the receipt also ensures that you haven’t paid for items you didn’t buy, which sometimes happens with large orders at grocery stores. Once you have the merchandise home, you can’t prove that you never bought those items; having your full shopping cart with you helps your case.

Some bargain hunters make a game of finding scanning errors. Whether or not it’s something you enjoy doing, watching prices as they scan is a good way to ensure you aren’t overcharged, and you may earn the surprise benefit of getting something you want for free.

This entry was posted in Food / Groceries, Personal Finance, Saving Money, Shopping. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Scanning Errors For Fun & Profit

  1. fern says:

    A simple “I’m sorry about that,” along with a refund for the overcharge, would go a long way.

    Why am i made to feel like i’m putting someone out when i point out an error?

  2. A Marino says:

    It is a rare day when I go to my grocery store and not have an error on it. The worst part is that even though you catch it at the time, they want you to go to the customer service counter to fix their mistake.

    The worst part is that the customer service counter is for cigarettes, lottery, western union, utility bills, cashier’s problems, customer problems, etc. and you could be there for a long time.

    Fern is right about the cashier’s making you feel guilty about finding a mistake. I don’t care if it’s .50, I’ll get it back. Can you imagine .50 x’s the number of customer who pays that? It’s like they question you for everything.

    Best thing to do is to call the district office and tell them about the situation.

  3. mj says:

    How do you find out the store’s policy for this? Can you ask for a paper that lists it or do you just have to ask the store manager?

  4. Shannon Christman says:


    Some stores will have it in writing, but at others you have to ask. If you go to a large chain store, you can try emailing customer service through their website first. The big stores will often send you a copy of their scanner policy, which you can print out and take to the local store in case you have any problems. (This approach also works well for coupon policies if local stores are reluctant to accept certain coupons.)

  5. Susan Bonoski says:

    Foodtown in Monroe,Michigan constantly cheats me by lying about the product they overchared me and I,m geting sick and tired of these women. I need a copy of the scanning law. PLEASE help me teach them the law!!!!!!mad about it. SUSAN

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