MA Supermarkets Ban Hyper-Savvy Shopper

One time we bought some kitty litter at a NJ Shop Rite and noticed the price at checkout was higher than on the in-store label. Standard store policy says this means we get it for free. We brought bag up to customer service. They sent a stock boy to check the aisle. He returned and said we were wrong. We went back to the shelves ourselves, grabbed the label, and presented it to the desk. Customer service people sheepishly gave us the litter on the house.

Good thing we didn’t make a habit out doing so or we might have ended up like Alana Lipkin, banned from three MA supermarkets.

Lipkin is extremely adept at spotting price discrepancies. On a typical trip, the 45-year-old single mother of two scores over $200 in free goods. Her car and garage are filled with goods she’s snagged.

Spokespeople for the supermarkets, Stop n’ Shop, Shaw’s and Star Market, call her a “disruptive influence.”

Lipkin goes to stores just to find mispriced goods and get them for free. Consumer crusader or manipulator of store policy?

Her mission: Find price errors, get free stuff” [Boston Globe]
[login: tips@consumerist.com, pw: kr0n0s] (Thanks to Joe!)

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  1. Kornkob says:

    See now, on the second page where they describe her process there is evidence that she’s being disruptive.

    “At the checkout aisle, she ran through 10 items that she believed were clearly mispriced. She asked the cashier to check the price of another 15 items that she thought might be mispriced. Only two were. Lipkin bought the items she would get for free and left the others at the register. The total value of her haul was about $65.”

    So she’s hauling crap up to the register in order to find out what she can get for free and then ditching it there. She’s manipulating store policy, clear and simple.

    Does that mean that the store shouldn’t be held accountable when they’ve got pricing mistakes? Absolutely not.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    The policy is there to keep the stores on their toes, to make sure the prices are accurate. Also to give customers some modicum of security in knowing that if the price on the tag IS wrong, they won’t have to pay the higher price, in fact they’ll get it free.
    This lady is jerking the system, and all that will come of it if more people do this is that the supermarkets will stop having policies like this, and they’ll stop giving a shit about the shelf labels.
    I’ve worked in stores that do manual price tag changes, and they’re a pain to do, even in a small drug store. Imagine having 200+ sheets of price labels to have to change on a weekly basis.

  3. pete says:

    Ever been on a supermarket line when the guy in front of you has a price check on one item?
    Now imagine being behind someone who has 25 price checks.
    I hate to side with the establishment, but I can totally see their side here.

  4. Pelagius says:

    The supermarket clearly has this woman’s best interest in mind -
    removing her from the store before she is beaten to death by the
    seething people stuck in line behind her.

  5. Ass_Cobra says:

    Any banks in Massachusetts offering $100 if they don’t say hello to you?

  6. Jupiter Jones says:

    On the other hand, she’s doing a service to all the other people buying these items who should thereafter get the correct price. Shouldn’t this story be about the clear fact that this store is ripping off its customers with a huge percentage of mis-priced products? She fairly easily found 12 items that the store was effectively gouging its customers with.

    Of course, this assumes the store actually corrects the price after she brings it to their attention, which I highly doubt.

    That said, I wouldn’t want to be in line behind her.

  7. Triteon says:

    I don’t know how I feel about this…the store has clearly mismarked their prices, but they also hold the right to refuse service.
    I wouldn’t stand behind her in line either, but I may follow her through the store and “buy” what she “buys.”
    RRP– You got a greeting, and it began with an “h”. How does $20 sound?

  8. RandomHookup says:

    Actually in Mass., you have to give a crap about the shelf labels because the state has an item pricing law and there’s a gentleman who make it a point to sue the ones who don’t comply (I think Staples and Home Depot have felt his ire). Perhaps the groceries should do like Staples, CVS and Walgreens by providing self scanners for consumer price checking.

  9. Papercutninja says:

    She is clearly wasting the time of the store employees and of other customers, even though she is within store guidelines. And the store? Since they are a private business, they can refuse anyone’s business. They are totally in the right on this. She’s a troublemaker, plain and simple.

  10. KevinQ says:

    Jupiter Jones, the article says that, on average, about 1% of items in a store are mis-marked. Having worked retail, that seems reasonable to me. A supermarket easily has 1200 different items, if not many more, making 12 items mis-marked less than 1%. Also, she didn’t “fairly easily” find them, she spent an unspecified amount of time on her hands and knees digging through the aisles to try to find them.

    Any store wants to have accurate pricing. If a customer figures out that they were overcharged, that generates ill-will toward the store. And if the customer was undercharged, then the store is losing money.

    That’s why some stores are switching to electronic, networked price signs, so that the store doesn’t need to risk price errors.

    K

  11. JAFO says:

    Why doesn’t the store just change their policy? Instead of giving the customer the product for free, they could charge them the correct price and give them a $5 gift certificate once a month for helping them find incorrectly priced items. They could also require that the information be turned over to the store manager at a location away from the checkout counter to be eligible for the once a month gift certificate.

  12. KevinQ says:

    JAFO, what they should do is give a refund for the value of the mispriced product, but give it as a gift card instead of cash. That way, a legitimate customer gets something of value for pointing out the store’s mistakes, and gaming the system becomes less profitable, since the gift card wouldn’t be as valuable to the “shopper” as the cash would be.

    K

  13. North of 49 says:

    I used to do it to one of the grocery stores where I lived. I never got banned, but often thanked for finding the discrepancy.

    If you think about it, 100 people buy an item that is mispriced by 10 cents. That means that the store just made 10 dollars by overpricing something. Or has lost 10$ for underpricing. A lot of the stuff I found was overpriced by 1-5$. One was meat that was mislabelled and I caught it just as the meat department was handing it out. Instead of 20$ for a steak, I paid less than 5 because they mispriced it.
    If we don’t keep stores honest, then they’ll keep on gouging us. So what if the stuff has to be priced checked. If there is an error, let the store have a chance to fix it.

    If anything, all consumers should be encouraged to check prices and claim things that are mispriced. Maybe then the stores will get the hint.

  14. RandomHookup says:

    I think they should have hired her instead of banning her. Would have been cheaper than her sharing the wealth with her buddies (which she will be doing now). Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

  15. Ben Popken says:

    btw those “0′s” in the password are zeroes.

  16. Mojosan says:

    Did she also seek out items that were incorrectly underpriced and alert the store?

  17. etinterrapax says:

    Papercutninja, I was trying to explain this to my MIL when we saw this story in the Globe. She couldn’t understand how they could ban her from the store when the store is a public place. But it isn’t. It’s private property; same reason as they can kick you out if you’re not shopping or intending to shop.

    I suppose I should get all self-righteous about this lady’s right to buy what she likes and the store’s responsibility to have items scanning at the correct price, but let’s face it. If I wanted the thing at $3.35, I’d probably still buy it at $3.45, and if it scanned at $2.95, I probably wouldn’t bother correcting them because I’m both dishonest and lazy. Since MA is an item-pricing state, unlike NH, it’s easy enough for me to see what the price should be, should there be an issue. And if the person in front of me were pulling this on an entire order, I’m sorry, but I’d have to kill her. My time, too, is valuable.

  18. Papa K says:

    This is one of those mixed bags.

    She definitely is abusing the system (and time) by having them check every item on her list. I’m not clear on the state law, so maybe changing policy is not possible, but whereas she was definitely abusing a system – ‘buying’ only what she’d get for free, and the store never fixed it’s labeling problem.

    Of course, I worked in retail, and more then once caught ‘honest people’ trying to swap price tags so it’d ring up different (and even pasteing different UPCs over the other ones).

    It’s kind of funny when you tell someone that their car speakers aren’t really a .50 cent candy bar.

  19. fedupwithher says:

    It’s a real shame that people like her need to resort to disrupting businesses. She brings her children with her so she can teach them the same type of morals she has. It’s too bad she doesn’t work for a living like store employees do. After all we are only human and don’t go out of our way to rip off our customers. She probably doesn’t realize that although she thinks she is getting these items for free the cost of her free items is being passed along to other consumers when prices are increased for stores to make a profit.

  20. parchay says:

    I have been in the store when she is doing her thing and let me just tell you this lady is rude, nasty & plain old white trash. Miss Lipkin & children wear the same outfit everytime they went into the store, not to mention that the outfits are always filthy. She opens up items for her kids to play with or to read to keep them quiet, so after her little darlings are done destroying them she will toss them to aside. Now lets talk about how she has made many employees cry from the way she treeated them and yelled at them. Or the fact that she gave some of these items to her friends and then the friends return the items for $’s. She is not this concerned shopper that she says that she is. Better still how about the fact that she pushed a General manager of the edge and he finally had just all he could take from this lady and he swore at her and SHE MADE SURE THAT HE WAS FIRED. So shoppers beware of this devil shopper!!!!!