Walgreens Implements "Scanner Price Guarantee" (But Only In California)

For the next three years beginning this February, California Walgreens shoppers will enjoy a “Scanner Price Guarantee” that rewards customers who are overcharged at the register and bring it immediately to a cashier’s attention. “If the item in question costs less than that amount, the customer will receive it free. Otherwise, $4 will be subtracted from the item’s price or the customer can opt to take home a $4 gift card instead.” The guarantee is part of a larger settlement Walgreens made with several California district attorney’s offices regarding a lawsuit over price discrepancies at the register.

District attorneys’ officials say audits performed in nearly two dozen counties showed that on several occasions, the electronic price scanners used at Walgreens checkout counters registered a higher price than the lowest posted or advertised price for the item scanned.

One deputy district attorney said she thought the overcharging was more “a question of negligence or carelessness”—”Often it’s a question of old sales tags not being removed at the end of the sale.” That doesn’t really make us feel any better—why shouldn’t we assume the same pricing errors occur at Walgreen’s across the country, and at other retail chains as well?

In addition to the three-year-long $4 price guarantee, Walgreens agreed to the following terms:

  • Walgreens does not admit to any wrongdoing
  • It has to pay $767,000, of which about $349,000 will go to district attorney’s offices (“which will go toward enforcement”)
  • It’s “required to begin regular, in-store price-check audits by employees and to keep records of the results.”

“Settlement reached in price dispute” [Inside Bay Area] (Thanks to Kyle!)
(Photo: Payton Chung)

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  1. CanadianDominic says:

    In Quebec there is legislation that forces this kind of thing on stores. If there is ANY error between the price on the shelf and the price at the scanner, you are awarded the product for free if the cost of the item is less than ten dollars (pre-tax), or ten dollars off, if the item is more than ten dollars.

    A poster from the province indicating this must be hung at the register in at least half of the registers in any given store.

    I think its a pretty decent law.

  2. Hawk07 says:

    This happened to me this morning!

    The Excedrin that’s on sale for $3 with a $3 MIR came up as $4. Then the cashier argued with me that it was $3 after MIR. Then, I showed her the ad that clearly stated it was supposed to be $3 with a $3 MIR and she called the manager.

    This isn’t the first time it’s happened to me either. Walgreens has good customer service and they’ve always fixed their price goofs for me which makes me keep going back.

  3. MattO says:

    looks like walgreens is taking the matter seriously in california…screw the rest of us..

  4. Buran says:

    @MattO: Yeah no kidding. Except, isn’t it true that if you are charged more than the advertised price in ANY state, it’s illegal?

  5. rmz says:

    “That doesn’t really make us feel any better-why shouldn’t we assume the same pricing errors occur at Walgreen’s across the country, and at other retail chains as well?

    It does. We usually just aren’t aware of it.

    Oh, well. As long as I can keep a mental note of what each thing costs (at least, ballpark) I can hopefully spot any glaring inconsistencies (say, an item costing 20% above the sticker price).

  6. MattO says:

    i know in MA (and i believe CT) if its advertised at a lower price, they legally have to sell it to you for that price. a few years ago we were at a supermarket and they had bags of pistachios, and the ticket said $1.99 when it should have said $11.99…and the rang it up at 11.99….we told them to look at the sticker, and they gave it to us for the 1.99…..was a good thing too cause we grabbed like 5 bags at that price :-)

  7. Hoss says:

    Why is the customer obligated to inform the cashier immediately? If we get home and see that there is a problem (thereby having to make a call or return to the store), shouldn’t we get the same benefit as the person that as some insane photographic recall of the store’s pricing?

  8. randombob says:

    Ha. I work in retail, and I say what about people who actually change the tags to get a lower price? Mistakes happen, and from being on both sides of the fence, I can say honestly that yes most pricing errors are not purposeful on the store’s part.

    However, I’ve seen it too many times where someone has taken a tag and placed it on the product they want so they can argue the “advertised price” BS and basically rip the store off (or at least try; I don’t go for that crap but some do).

    Plus how do you account for other customers putting stuff in the wrong bin/spot? Now the store has to pay for the carelessness of some of their own customers, as well as the shady behavior of SOME “customers” as mentioned above…

    Hey I’m all for fairness, but if it has a tag on it that has an expiration date, and it’s clearly AFTER that expiration date (most sales tags have expires on them), then I’d say they’re mostly covered. How can you argue that you should get a price that’s advertised to expire on last tuesday when it’s this thursday? And anyway, where I work, if that happens we give the “advertised price” to that customer who brings the issue to our attention (out of fairness) then pull the incorrect pricing tag. Simple & fair.

  9. target_veteran says:

    Tag switching and wrong bin/spot are completely seperate from this issue. Most places don’t use stick-on tags anymore; they just go by the UPC. This means prices are listed by labels, signs, encap headers, etc. It’s pretty easy to tell when someone has switched a tag there, since the tags in this case are clearly labelled as to the corresponding product. Putting stuff back in the wrong spot is even easier, the conversation goes like this:

    “It said 4.99 on the shelf!”
    “Was there more than one there?”
    “Well, no, there were other things behind it…”
    “Then those other things were supposed to be there, not this.”

    Leaving old signs up is a different matter, since the expiration date is normally in very small text and it is the store’s responsibility to make sure that all prices are current. I shouldn’t have to check every sign and label to make sure the date is correct when I’m shopping.

    Now, when the shelf says one thing and the register rings up at some other price, there’s a problem.

  10. r4__ says:

    @randombob: Oh my gosh, you’ll have to do like every other store does and actually have people who put things back in the right place! In addition you’ll have to have identifying information on the ad signs and shelf labels that allow you to determine what the object is that’s being priced! If you keep this up you might have to have some method of keeping track of what ad signs have gone up and what hasn’t!

    Welcome to retail. If people are able to switch your prices and catch you unawares, you don’t belong here.

  11. parad0x360 says:

    walgreens also has a policy where if you dont get a receipt they give you $5. Well one time they didnt give me one, I was about 16 at the time so i was more then happy to collect.

    I got back in line and told the lady i didnt get a receipt. I was being nice. She told me that it only applied if you left the store so I walked out and walked back in and got in line again. I again asked for my $5 and she told me she was going to call security.

    I told her to go ahead and that I would call the police in return. I ended up getting my $5 from the bitch of a lady, and these days I probably wouldnt press the issue over $5 but I was young and broke so…I went for it.

    I wonder if they will honor this policy the same way they honored the receipt one.

  12. snoop-blog says:

    @target_veteran: “Now, when the shelf says one thing and the register rings up at some other price, there’s a problem.”

    not if the register is under charging.lol. i was laughing out loud because i was thinking there was probably no such thing as undercharging. can’t ever say its happened to me.

  13. snoop-blog says:

    the drug store in my town is called AL REENS…..whoever that is.

  14. Adam Rock says:

    I once (2002) got a 21″ television for free (Apex) from Albertson’s. It said 99.99 on the label but it rang up as 109.99 at the register. I didn’t even notice this, and the attendant pointed it out to me before running to check the listed price (very kind). Needless to say, I was surprised…and so was the manager!

  15. Xerloq says:

    @CanadianDominic: AFAIK, Albertsons always does this (granted, there are two companies operating with that name, so YMMV). They give you the item free, no matter the discrepancy. Heck, I bought a blender there once, and it came up $15 less than the shelf price. I remarked that it was cool that it was less than I was planning. The clerk immediately did a price check and deducted the whole thing from my transaction.

    They also printed a new sign with the correct price and posted it.

  16. RandomHookup says:

    @Xerloq:

    Shaws/Star Market (owned by Albertsons) has jettisoned their ‘scan right’ guarantee. They now guarantee you will be charged the price you are supposed to be (how generous). It was fun while it lasted.

  17. StevieD says:

    Just went to WallyWorld (about 20 minutes ago).

    Walked by two elderly women changing the weight and price stickers on packages of bacon.

    I guess saving those pennies is important.

  18. rworne says:

    CA only is no surprise. Every register has a yellow sign next to it specifying CA consumer law: Customers are entitled to the lowest posted price.

    The only store that seems to be in constant trouble over this is Fry’s, where my local store has had a new overcharge conviction posted on the front door every week for as long as I can remember.

  19. randombob says:

    @r4__:

    You missed the point. I’m not talking about EMPLOYEES not putting it right, I”m talking about customers putting things that they picked up back wherever they feel like. It’s not about “welcome to retail.” if you knew what you were talking about, you’d know that you cannot possibly have as many employees walking the store as you have customer or even aisles. So it’s a certainty that some customers are going to put things back into places they don’t belong and anther customer’s going to nab it before you get a chance.

    AND, I recently had a lady switch tags (not just the sale tag, the WHOLE TAG behind the plastic) to get a queen-sized blow-up bed for the twin-sized sale price, a savings of some $30…

    Yeah now if we had been following her around we could say that it wasn’t so, but what are you going to do? Well I wasn’t the Manager on Duty, but if I had been I would not have allowed that, seeing as how the item description / UPC on the tag did not match the item she was trying to buy.

    I’m all for fairness and I agree that if a customer finds an item advertised for a price it should be that price charged. BUT, I think there’s a line where you have to protect the store’s existence, too. Like I said, if that happens where I work, we give the price to that customer and fix the issue (pull the tag, correct the price, etc). That’s FAIR and I would expect no less myself.

    But If everyone could switch tags or just find anything laying around anywhere wrong (like $10 name-brands that someone put back into the generic spot because it was empty) and just say “PRICE ON THE SHELF, PRICE ON THE SHELF!” and get what they want, there’d be NO businesses around, huh? It’s gotta be fair both ways.

    It’s more a problem of volume; too many stores under the control of one group, too few employees on duty to police things up, too many customers to manage the inventory coming through/being strewn around the store daily. Gotta love big-box retailers, huh?