Target Will Pay $1.7 Million After Inaccurate Scanners Overcharged Californians

Target has agreed to pay a $1.7 million penalty after weights and measures inspectors found “numerous occasions where the price charged at the cash register was not the lowest posted price,” according to a statement from the Sonoma County district attorney’s office.

The San Fransisco Chronicle says:

“Customers should not have to worry about being charged the correct price,” said District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua. “We believe the settlement sends a message.”

Target also agreed to improve their “pricing procedures” in the future.

If you’ve noticed any of this sort of nonsense going on where you shop, why not report it to your local department of weights and measures?

Target to pay $1.7 million for overcharging customers at registers [SF gate]
(Photo:
Dallas Allison Krewe
)

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  1. m4ximusprim3 says:

    From the “News in perspective” department, I had to pay my mom $.10 for stealing a $5 bill out of her wallet.

    The settlement sends a message that overcharging is worth it if done on a countrywide scale and fined on a local one.

  2. RamV10: The Axeman Returneth says:

    do the customers get that back, or is this just a “hey we see you overcharged your customers. pay us 1% of that back and we’ve got you covered” sort of thing?

  3. wolfwithdances says:

    “Without admitting guilt”? Sounds like someone’s in denial. Way to dodge the issue, Target! Also, I agree, it’s a small fine for a big problem.

    At least it’s being addressed at all, and $1.7m isn’t too small to feel a hit. Think of how many abstract bullseye-covered commercials that would pay for! Or don’t, because it’s depressing.

    p.s. Santa Rosa is my hometown. Good to see Sonoma County in the news.

  4. nybiker says:

    Maybe that’s how they’re able to ‘give back’ to the community? The warm and fuzzy feeling from their charitable contributions gets frozen when one reads stories like this.

    • crazedhare says:

      @nybiker:

      Bull. As I have stated before, my daughter is 6 months old and being treated at St. Jude for brain cancer. I live in beautiful housing provided free of charge by Target Corporation, as do hundreds of other families. That allows our children to have a chance at stahying alive.

      Take your rhetoric and shove it until you actually need some charitable contributions; then complain about 6 cents on the price of Tide.

  5. Major-General says:

    Why not report it? Because the county’s department of Weights and Measures has a two year backlog just for doing there normal inspections. Plus the don’t like to put out convenient phone numbers.

  6. Zanorfes says:

    I wonder if given the option to pay the 1.7M fine or admit guilt and pay only say 100K, which option would Target have chosen?

    If they’re going to get fined, “Not admitting guilt” should not be an option available to these large heartless corporations.

  7. Vander says:

    So we’ll get a coupon for an overpriced Chox bar?

  8. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    Under California law, they also have to post a notice in the window at each entrance to their stores, stating that “On xxx date, inspectors from the California Dept of Weights and Measures blah blah blah inacurate prices” and keep it up for a year!

    I remember when this happened to Robinsons May about 3-4 years ago (before they were bought by Macys) — They had that notice up on their door for a year!

    Oh, the shame!

  9. MoneyLint says:

    The Wal-Mart I shop at in Dallas routinely overcharges by $0.25 to $1.50 EVERY time I shop there and I only purchase roughly $50 worth of groceries at a time.

    I notified their customer service via the company website and a very nice lady called me the same day with an appology and a give of a $20 gift card for my troubles. She said to report any discrepancies to the cashier or customer service and they will adjust the price.

    Since that date, I’ve recorded every advertised price of every item I buy and compared it to the register price after I check out. The same still applies ALWAYS in the favor of Wal-Mart. If this happens to me, it’s happening to thousands of people who shop there on a daily basis. Wal-mart is making a killing from these nickel and dimes.

    Too bad it’s not worth my time to wait in the customer service line to get a $0.50 refund everytime. I think they know this too. Try writing down the advertised price Vs. the register price. Just for shits and giggles.

    • TemporaryAphasia says:

      @MoneyLint: I know I’ve seen signs posted at the register at at least one Wal-Mart (and it very well may have been in Dallas) that if the item rings incorrectly, you get it free. Of course, that requires you to actually watch closely or check your receipts, and I’m not sure if they still do that, or if it’s just specific locations.

  10. jdhuck says:

    @undefined: @Vander: I always read chox as ‘chokes’

  11. JennaBelle says:

    I’ve always had an issue with the self-bag layout. If I have to bag (or even if I just have to grab my bags as the disgruntled cashier whips the thing around) I can’t watch the cash register and it drives me nuts. I usually don’t think to look over my receipt until after I’ve left the store or even the next day when I balance my checkbook, which does me no good, because I’m probably not going to turn around and go back in the store (unless it’s a larger sum of money).

    I just hate that I either have to be the really annoying customer who holds everyone up because I won’t move my bags into my cart quick enough or I get ripped off. I wish they’d either bag my groceries for me so I could keep an eye on things or get their scanners in check.

  12. CaterinaFapack says:

    This happened to me last weekend at the Target store on US41 in Sarasota, FL.

    The posted price for Gerber Organic baby food was 1.09 per 2-container pack. When I got to the checkout, the scanner had rung up $1.19 per container. I didn’t notice this until after inspecting my receipt on the way out, so I went back to the baby food aisle, tore the posted price off the shelf and submitted it to customer service. They refunded $2.30 to my Visa.

    I then promised my infant son that when he is older I would explain to him why we waited in a long line to get our $2.30 back.

  13. Outrun1986 says:

    I don’t have a problem at all with Target in NY state where I live, their prices are probably some of the most accurate I have seen. I maybe had to call for a price check once in 3-5 years of shopping there. California may be different.

    Walmart is arbitrary, often the “rollback” prices do not ring up correctly, so I have had to ask for a price change a few times there, at least they are very helpful and friendly about it and make every effort to get the change done in a timely manner.

    They should be investigating Kmart, where the price does not ring up correctly 90% of the time. Don’t even get me started on what I have had to go through at Kmart just to get the correct price on an item. Kmart also refuses to make any changes to their inventory system so that the prices get updated more accurately.

  14. yashichi8bit says:

    I have recently been noticing being ran up twice for the same item. Same stores too.

    Its kinda been pissing me off because I have been the one noticing it and not the clerks who are doing the ring ups.

    I feel stupid for not keeping a closer eye on my grocery purchases in the past. But with my money getting tighter and tighter these days its just more important for me now.

    • Zulujines says:

      @yashichi8bit: I check nearly every time now, and I can’t believe how many errors I find…always in the store’s favor.

      Once, when our grocery bill seemed higher than usual, I looked at the receipt (while still in the store), and noticed an $8 charge for figs. We bought eight tomatillos, which were like 18 cents a piece, but the cashier assumed they were figs, and charged us for those, which were $1 a piece. Rather than just ask us to clarify, she guessed and just typed in a code. It was a seven dollar mistake! That, and they charged us twice as much for tomatoes than the advertised price. We left with a seven dollar refund and free tomatoes! I felt like a million bucks! :-)

  15. AtwoodMelbo says:

    I worked for Target (as a manager in the Marin/Sonoma region) for more than eight years, and though I could complain about LOTS of what Target does, their pricing is pretty spot on for a big box retailer. Weights and Measures actively seeks out mistakes in Target, Safeway, Wal-Mart b/c it’s easy picking for them. They would visit our store 1-3 times/month. Keep in mind that underscans (Things rining up for LESS than the price posted ) count against the store as well, in exactly the same way that overscans count against the store. I

  16. WashingtonMinnows says:

    In Michigan there is a law on the books that (according to the state AG’s web site) mandates a bonus payment in certain circumstances:

    Our State law requires that most items on store shelves be clearly marked with a price tag. If an automatic checkout system (scanner) charges you more than the marked price of an item, and:

    1) the transaction has been completed, and

    2) you have a receipt indicating the item purchased and the price charged for it.

    Then:

    You must notify the seller that you were overcharged, within 30 days of the transaction, either in person or in writing. Within two days of receiving your notice, the seller may choose to refund you the difference between the amount charged and the price marked plus a “bonus” of ten times the difference, with a minimum of $1.00 and a maximum of $5.00. If the seller refuses to give you both the refund and the bonus, you may bring a lawsuit to recover your actual damages or $250.00, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney fees up to $300.00.

    Sounds good, but there are a couple of huge gotchas in the law:

    2. If a price is not marked on a sale item and it scans for more than the sale price, do I get the sale price and the bonus?

    You are entitled to the sale price but not the bonus. There must be a price marked on the item – and the item has to scan for more than the price marked on it – for you to be entitled to the bonus.

    3. If I am charged more than the marked price for several duplicate items, do I get the bonus for each duplicate item?

    No. When you purchase multiple identical items you are only entitled to one bonus payment of ten times the difference between the marked price and the price you were charged, but not less than $1.00 or more than $5.00. However, you get the difference between the marked price and the price you were charged for each item you purchased.

    More on Michigan’s law can be found here:
    http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,1607,7-164-34739_20942-134114–,00.html
    The above quotes are excerpted from that FAQ page.

    Some Michigan stores used to be quite bad about pricing errors before this law was passed. However, I suspect that that too many people have caught onto this and when they see a cashier overcharge on an item they keep their mouths shut and then immediately go to the service desk and demand a price adjustment plus their bonus. Many of the stores don’t realize that it doesn’t apply to sale prices if the item still bears the original price sticker (and that is what was charged) so they pay the bonus anyway – perhaps because they don’t want the customer making a scene in the store about being overcharged, or leaving and calling the AG’s office, which might result in the store being investigated for violation of Michigan’s item pricing law.

    It’s very rare to catch a local Meijer (a large chain that started in Michigan, for those that don’t know) in a pricing error these days (at least for the things I buy) but when I used to shop at Wally World I got the bonus on a few occasions. There was also another local chain that was always overcharging; I wound up hitting them up for the bonus on at least one item nearly every time I went in. They finally closed the store, which is not surprising given that they were only about a mile down the road from the nearest Meijer and they were often out of stock on advertised items – but I suspect those bonus payouts were cutting into their profits as well!

  17. Shaggy says:

    Heh. Michigan’s got this scanner law that says if there’s a difference between the scanned price and the price on the shelf (or sticker), the retailer has to refund the difference PLUS 10X the difference (up to $5) for EACH ITEM. For example, if you buy a candy bar for $.50, and the scanner charges you $1, you’d get $5.50 back ( $.50 overcharge + $.50 x 10).

    Target used to be really, really bad here for wrong prices. My mom used to get about $20-$30 in CASH back from Target every time she shopped there. That was five or six years ago, though…they’ve gotten much better since then.

  18. gatewaytoheaven says:

    Where’s the claim form?

  19. TheKingBoar says:

    Best Buy did that to me a couple weeks ago. I needed a surge suppressor (more for the extra electrical outlets than the suppression). I found a decent one for $10, which rang up for $20 at the register. I got it fixed, but it still annoyed me. If I hadn’t bought just that item, I might have missed it.

  20. UnicornMaster says:

    Scanners don’t lie or have prices in them. It’s the computers and databases on the backend that tell you the price. That’s why I think all stores should have electronic price tags that update prices to the minute.

  21. Indecent says:

    This is what I miss about living in Illinois. If they got a price wrong there, the item was free up to a certain amount (I believe 30 dollars) and 50% off thereafter.

    Now I live in Ohio…there is no law like that, and as such, I have to play eagle eye every time I go _anywhere_ because it is SO common for it to happen.

  22. discounteggroll says:

    umm…DIBS!

  23. GirlCat says:

    Not toallt off topic, but doesn’t NYS have a law requiring unit pricing on grocery store shelves? Because neither Wal-mart or Target uses them, and I hate it. I spend more damn time using my phone calculator determining that the big package of whatever is actually more expensive than the smaller one. Which I guess is connected to the no unit price shelf stickers.