Safeway Doesn’t Seem To Care That It Repeatedly Overcharged Customer

Safeway is no stranger to overcharging customers. In fact, the supermarket chain has twice been sued by the state of California for failing to have the prices on the shelf match what shows up at the register — and even a court order, it’s continued to screw up. And while Safeway corporate claims to care about accurate prices, that message is not getting through to some stores.

Consumerist reader Ralph is a Safeway customer in Arizona, who got fed up with seeing products scan for higher than they were supposed to. His previous attempts to bring the problem to the attention of management had gone unheeded, so he contacted Safeway via its “business ethics” e-mail to voice his concern.

“There is a pervasive issue of charging customers more than the clearly posted signage within your store,” he wrote. “Curiously, I have never experienced the opposite, or Safeway charging less than the posted or advertised price.”

He provided the store with two recent examples, one for a product that rang up as $7.99 when it should have been $6.99, while another showed $3.19 at the register but was advertised in the store as $2.21.

While some might shrug and say that $1.98 total overcharge is a huge deal, you have to wonder how many other items in the store are mispriced — surely Ralph couldn’t have been so unlucky as to find the only two products in the entire store with pricing errors — and how many other customers are paying more without paying attention. Given the problems Safeway has had elsewhere, it’s unlikely that Ralph found the one store outside of California that overcharges.

A couple weeks later, Safeway responded to Ralph’s e-mail, saying, in part:

We place a high priority on accurate pricing, and this does not reflect our standards.

Your comments have been directed to the District Manager for immediate review and corrective action. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We have asked the District Manager to contact you regarding the incidents in this store.

Ralph even got a phone call from that district manager, who restated Safeway’s conviction to accurate pricing. But that message seems to have never been passed down the line to the actual store.

Earlier this week, Ralph visited the same Safeway that had overcharged him on previous occasions to purchase a bottle of wine that was supposed to cost $24.99. Of course, at the register it came up as $29.99, a substantial difference.

He alerted the cashier to the error but was told that the $24.99 price was only if for people who purchased six bottles. Ralph knew that wasn’t true, but says the cashier refused to believe him.

“I was told that I would have to go back to the aisle and retrieve the shelf sticker to prove my case,” he writes. “I did exactly that and was then told the UPC did not match, for which they could not explain, as the name of the item and its exact description clearly reflected that particular item at the $24.99 price, NOT $29.99.”

Eventually, the store manager conceded that the price of the bottle was indeed $24.99. Once again, management insisted that it considers overcharging a serious matter.

“But the proof is in the pudding, and any objective and reasonable third-party would have to conclude this here pudding is unpalatable,” writes Ralph, who says he’s done with Safeway after this latest incident.

Because there may be others who have been overcharged by this same Safeway, we’ve suggested that Ralph file a consumer complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s office.