Cashier Mistakes

I’ve known Ben since 1969. In fact, I have it on the best authority that he attended my third birthday party that year. Ben has always been consistent. I could always rely on him to be loyal, genuine and completely scatterbrained at times.

Once, when he was about nineteen years old, Ben’s parents ordered pizzas (from Calitri’s on Route 1 in Danvers, Massachusetts) and sent Ben to pick them up. Ben was focused on his task and dutifully drove the eight miles to Calitri’s, paid for three pizzas, went back to his car and drove home. When he got home, he walked into his house and sat down to watch TV. After sharing quizzical looks for about 30 seconds, his parents and sister asked about the pizza. Ben looked very confused and could not answer their questions.

This was somewhat typical of Ben so Ben and his Dad drove back to Calitri’s and solved the problem. The pizzas were located scattered about 100 yards down the highway from the restaurant. Ben and his Dad deduced that Ben had put the pizzas on the roof of his car in order to unlock the door and had forgotten them when he drove off. What could Ben’s Dad do but laugh? Of course, none of Ben’s friends have forgotten that story and so he is reminded of it regularly.

My point is not to poke fun at an old friend, but to note that we all make mistakes. We forget to bring things to the office or we forget to pick up laundry on the way home. Sometimes, however, other people make mistakes and it can cost us money or convey a benefit to us that we really should not be receiving.

For example, last week I went to the grocery store and purchased about $150 worth of groceries. When I got home, I found that there was a tooth brush that I had not purchased bagged with all of my other groceries. The tooth brush was priced $3.69 and probably was part of a different person’s grocery bill, but inadvertently placed in my bag.

I thought about keeping the tooth brush. A return trip to the grocery store would take about a half hour and I did not think I could convey to the customer service department what had happened if I called on the phone. Nevertheless, I realized that the person who had purchased the tooth brush would probably go back to the store looking for it and I did not want that person to be out $3.69 because of an error made by a teenage bagger.

My experience with the tooth brush got me thinking about the ways that we can gain and lose value due to bagger and cashier mistakes, and at what threshold we stop overlooking the error. Here is how I answered my questions but I hope you will also tell me how you would answer them.

Cashier Gives Me Too Much Change

This is an easy issue for me. Whenever a cashier gives me too much change, I immediately return the excess and point out the error in his or her calculation. I know that if the cashier gives me $5 too much, the cashier will be accountable for that at the end of the night, and if the cashier makes a lot of mistakes, he or she may be accused of theft. I would hate to contribute to a cashier losing his or her position just so that I can pocket money to which I am not entitled.

Cashier Short Changes Me

I think we are all likely to be in agreement on this point. If a cashier fails to give me sufficient change, I politely require it. There is no shock in that, but I mention it here in the interest of covering all of my topics.

Bagger Fails to Bag an Item

I hate it when I go to a store and everything I purchase does not make it into the bag. When all of my items are not apparent when I get home, I immediately check my receipt to determine whether the item was actually purchased. I have been known to forget things so I don’t automatically assume that I purchased an item that is missing. After I confirm that I did purchase the missing item, I either decide that it is not worth the hassle or I decide to go back to the store to retrieve it. Usually I will walk away from anything that is priced under $3 unless it is something that I need immediately. If I decide to go back for the item, I ask my wife to call the store to let them know that I am on my way back to retrieve it, receipt in hand. I have my wife make the call so that I will have a better chance of getting back to the store before the item is put back on the shelf.

Bagger Gives Me Someone Else’s Purchase

I generally try to return an item that is not rightfully mine. I just don’t want the bad karma that comes from keeping another person’s purchases. If the item cost less than $1, I might wait until the next day to return it, but otherwise I will try to go back to the store right away.

What are your standards when you receive “bonuses” from cashiers and baggers or when they fail to give you everything to which you are entitled? Do you keep the extras? What is your threshold for not caring about something that a bagger forgets?

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14 Responses to Cashier Mistakes

  1. Annie Jones says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever found something in my grocery bags that I didn’t purchase myself.

    There have been a few times that something I purchased wasn’t in the bag when I got home. I don’t think I’ve ever gone back for it, though. I always figured it was returned to stock right away and that customer service wouldn’t believe me anyway.

    As for getting too much change or short-changed, if I catch an error as it happens, I’ll correct it then and there. Otherwise, it would have to be an error of at least $3 off before I’d make a special trip.

    The same goes for scanner mistakes. I’ll ask for a correction if I see that something is scanning wrong, but if I don’t catch the error until I get home, then I wouldn’t return to store unless the total errors for the receipt were at least $3.

  2. Ann says:

    Hmmm. Although I’ve never had someone else’s purchase in my bag or been missing something I purchased (I tend to watch the bagger lol), I have had incorrect change and returned or corrected the situation immediately. Balancing a drawer at the end of a shift can be a nightmare and I don’t want the clerk to suffer from a momentary lapse. Unbelievably enough, the last time I was given too much money was at a bank, so I ALWAYS count my money when I cash a check!

    I recently heard of a cashier scam where the cashiers were adding cashbacks to larger purchases on debit cards and pocketing the money, so it’s always a good idea to take a quick look at a receipt before leaving the store. (There’s always going to be someone who’s dishonest enough to try a new way to take advantage of a system, unfortunately.)

    I attempt to be meticulously honest when making purchases, etc. It’s one of the things that I figure I have control over and, like you, I figure I don’t need bad karma coming back at me. lol

  3. Snowy Heron says:

    If you see a mistake in your bill or get merchandise that you haven’t paid for, it is important to be honest about it. I might not have made a special trip to return the toothbrush but I would take it back on my next visit. I have told restaurants about things that were not on my bill, and once when I bought some furniture from a store for $800 and they messed up their billing for it, I had to call them 3 times before they actually sent me a bill for it. I would not have persisted beyond the 3rd call, but it would not have been right to not let them know about it and make an honest effort to correct it.

    You have to be a good example to your kids, otherwise they will end up with no morals.

  4. henrik says:

    I have a question…
    Here in Denmark we have a national debit card which virtually every store takes and it is free to use (except if you want it to be a Visa card too)

    Plus it is safe to use (even on the internet), because if you get cheated the bank can pull the money back, unlike normal bank-to-bank transfers

    It also has the great advantage that I can see what I spent my money on on my home banking system (again free)

    So my question is..
    Why are you using cash to pay for things? Why bother with notes and coins and counting change ?

  5. Annie Jones says:

    Henrik does have a point. I suppose the reason I don’t have a lot of problems with getting too much or too little change is that I almost never use cash. Except where it’s not accepted (like garage sales) I use debit for all of my purchases.

  6. Lou Russo says:

    I agree with Henrik and Annie. I don’t even carry cash unless it’s for a specific purpose, like a haircut. I use my debit card for everything.

    As for incorrect orders, if something is not bagged (although I do a lot of my own bagging), I generally return to the store. The last time it happened, the cashier had kindly set the item aside next to the register in case I came back. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything that didn’t belong to me.

    My wife always checks the receipt when we get home to be sure we got proper credit for coupons and discounts. (We usually have enough for 35 to 35% of our bill). There have been a few times when the correct amount was not credited. Generally, I return to the store, and find them most willing to make the adjustment.

  7. Jackie says:

    I tend to use cash for purchases under $5 or $10. I most often encounter incorrect change if I’m giving the cashier a $20 bill for something around a dollar or two. When I was a cashier, I tried to always count the change back so I knew what i was doing and the customer knew what I was doing, but I don’t see many people doing this anymore.

    I’ve gone back once when I was supposed to get $20 cash back and didn’t – waited about 40 minutes in the store while they closed that line and counted down the drawer.

    I’ve never had someone else’s stuff end up in my bags, but being single I don’t get just a crazy amount of stuff. If something ends up in my bag that I didn’t pay for – honestly, I just consider that a freebie and I don’t really worry about it. It doesn’t happen often, I’m not trying to make it happen, I’ve always found out after I left the store and it’s never been anything worth more than $5. I would hate to see someone get fired over it and if I noticed while I was rung up, I would say something … but otherwise, if that cashier has a history of letting small things slide then they do need to know and to start re-training or firing them. I’m sorry, but while I’ll correct something onsite because I’m an honest person, it’s also not my job to do their job for them and I doubt they’ll get fired for one or two things – probably more like 10 or 20 and then maybe being a cashier isn’t for them, maybe they don’t have the attention to detail necessary to do a good job?

  8. inneedofhelp says:

    I am not the best person, and yet I do have to admit that when I have been given too much change, or not charged the full amount of what I bought, I do tell the cashier. I have been a cashier before and I know that they need to have an even til at the end of their shift.

  9. Ann says:

    Henrik, in the US there’s no guarantee that the bank won’t charge you or that they’ll correct a fraud situation without something more drastic having to happen, like moving you to a new account or issuing you a new card, which is a royal pain.

    Also, I worked as controller for an advertising firm at one time and found out that using a card tracks every single item that you purchase. This information is then used for all kinds of marketing gimmicks and I hate the junk mail that generates! The database(s) that generate this info are handy to advertisers because their better able to target their audiences, but…

    Although I use my credit card for certain things and electronic payments for others, I also use cash-on-hand as a budgetting tool. It’s probably old-school, but I find it handy. 🙂

  10. Ann says:

    Correction — they’re not their!

    Sorry about that.

  11. sewingirl says:

    You missed my personal favorite, finding things left in carts in the parking lot. That has happened to me at least a dozen times in the last 25 years. I always take it back into the store. I don’t think that I’ve ever found something that wasn’t mine bagged with my stuff, but a few times I have gotten home, and found I “lost” something that I was sure I paid for. I called the store most times, but no one had ever “found” my things!

  12. spicoli says:

    I agree with sewinggirl, as I am the guy who leaves things in his cart! Just last week, I left a dvd that I had rented in my shopping card after I loaded my groceries into my truck. I realized my mistake when I got home and was greatly relieved when I called the store and learned that someone had found the dvd in the parking lot and returned it to the store.

    My Dad once left a whole turkey in his cart. We found it but could not really do anything with it but throw it away, as it had been out in the sun for about 45 minutes and my mother was not about to risk killing us by cooking it!

  13. henrik says:


    I am sorry to hear that US lacks such basic consumer protection.Guess Denmark is leaps and bounds ahead here.

    Also PBS (The payment service who admins the debit card) doesn’t sell the information to advertising firms at all,(again by law) so no risks there. Even if they couuld get the information, isn’t targeted spam better than generic spam ?

    (and if we are talking snail mail spam, I can just put a “No advertising,please” on my letter box and 99% is gone)

    I can see that cash is better budgeting when the risk of overruns are great. But card is definently better for keeping track of expanses.

  14. persephone says:

    I won’t make a special trip to return something that I should not have received but I always return it when I make my next trip. I will call to let the store know that I have received something that was not mine. If the store fails to give me something for which I paid, I call and then go straight back to the store to retrieve it before the shift changes.

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