Massachusetts Supermarkets Want To Remove Price Tags From Items

A bill is advancing through the Massachusetts legislature that will allow supermarkets to leave off item price tags and instead force customers to rely on electronic scanners spaced throughout the store. Although prices will still need to be displayed on store shelves for most items, you’ll have to rely on your memory and your faith in the store’s scanner system at checkout. John Hurst, the president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, “said consumers will benefit in the form of lower prices and shortened lines once stores no longer need to devote resources to item-by-item pricing.” But kjd aa- [thump]

–sorry, we just fell out of our chairs laughing at the idea of a supermarket out there that will heroically pass the savings downstream to consumers instead of profiting directly from it.

The bill’s critics, which include the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group and the Web site, say consumers will suffer because they may be forced to wander as far away as 5,000 feet in a particular store to scan an item and check its price. If a retailer opts for the scanning system alternative, prices would still need to be displayed on store shelves for most items.

The critics say it will be harder to catch overcharges at the cash register, and the scanning machines may not pick up on sale prices or special prices for customers with loyalty cards.

“Consumer groups worry that item pricing could go away at supermarkets” *warning! obnoxious ads* [] (Thanks to Linus!)
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dripdrop says:

    Are they for real? This just sounds ridiculous to me.

  2. Rippleeffect says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some pro-supermarket lobby group is behind the push for the law. MA is a pretty small state; I’d just go shop in the next state.

  3. mdoublej says:

    As long as they have to keep the prices on the shelf, it doesn’t really bother me. I am hard pressed to think of many items (other than meats, because they are priced by weight) that have prices on them at the grocery stores I go to.

  4. mobilene says:

    What? You mean that in some states they still price-tag items?

  5. Farquar says:

    I’m pretty certain that this isn’t all that uncommon. In NC, VA, OH, KY, and CA (the states I’ve lived in during the past 8 years) I don’t recall seeing price tags on the items themselves. The shelves have prices for the corresponding products, but the products themselves do not have prices.

  6. Bladefist says:

    How the hell does this stuff even make it to the floor of the Massachusetts congress? Seriously?

  7. Skankingmike says:


    want to save money? get rid of cashiers and install only self check out.

    I don’t use Cashiers, and i hate when other people bag my stuff.

    this bill is stupid

  8. jakesprincess says:

    Here is Arizona we don’t have price tags on the items, just on the shelf. I’ve never considered it a hindrance to saving money at the grocery store.

  9. GoldPigeon says:

    Two Words: Legislative Masturbation.

  10. Brain.wav says:

    I didn’t even realize this was a law on the books anywhere. In Pennsylvania, prices are on the shelf at most places.

  11. homerjay says:

    I live and shop in MA and I seldom see prices on items in stop & shop. What I do sometimes is take a sharpie with me and write the price (sale or not) on the box (if there’s no tag) before I put it in my cart.
    Then I check it against the scanner at the register.

  12. tastybytes says:

    they are now going to have to devote resources to the balefuls of items being left at the scanner.. i would put every item into my cart, take them all to the scanner.. then leave what i did not want. i would also tally the items.. and make sure the checkout total was the same..

    but this is still ludicrous. pretty soon, stores will just tell us to give them all our money and they will hand back our change.. reminds me of national lampoons vacation.. when he paid for the tires.. he asks, how much for the tires? the guy responds, how much you got?

  13. DarrenO says:

    I can’t remember the last store I shopped in that priced every item individually.

  14. Chris Walters says:

    @homerjay: This is why you have a star by your name. Awesome idea.

  15. EvilConservative says:

    Exactly my reaction, mobilene. I’ve lived in Maryland, Virginia and now Georgia over the past 35 years and I’ve only seen price tags on groceries at “convenience stores”, not supermarkets, for years and years. I’ve never had a problem with the scanning systems. Ever. That includes Giant, Safeway, Publix and Kroger, Target and Wal-Mart.

    Imagine that the MA laws regulate this to begin with! Life is great when the central government regulates free commerce, eh? Nothing like bringing on the future faster.

  16. jimv2000 says:

    I don’t understand what the big deal is. I live in Oregon, and the only stores that I ever see with the price actually on the item are the tiny little shops in the middle of nowhere.

    Wal-Mart did the scanner thing for awhile, but I think they stopped doing even that.

  17. tomok97 says:

    I guess this sounds crazy if you still live in a state where they put prices on everything. I live in Missouri. I don’t ever recall a time when stores did this and I’m 37.

    I worked at two major grocery chains in town for a combined 10 years and neither priced items individually. We never had any major problems. Occassionally an item would ring up wrong but both chains had a policy that if an item scanned for more than it’s shelf tag, the customer received the item free. That was a pretty good incentive to make sure prices were correct.

  18. mike says:

    BTW, to be clear, the bill refers to having prices for individual products on the shelves, not in individual items.

  19. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    What’s the big hullabaloo? In Texas I haven’t seen price tags on groceries for years. Prices are displayed on the shelves. Works for me.

    “consumers will suffer because they may be forced to wander as far away as 5,000 feet in a particular store to scan an item and check its price.”

    5,000 feet? That’s almost a mile! Maybe that’s why Walmart insists on receipts. “I’m just going out for a price check.”

  20. Shappie says:

    Since when do supermarkets price items? The only place I see price stickers nowadays is at the corner gas station, and that is if its not a national chain.

  21. Gopher bond says:

    I can’t argue here as I owe a grocery store hundreds. When I worked there, I stole stuff off the back of the trucks (boxes of candy, etc.) and sold them in school.

    Step 3 = Profit.

    I am shrinkage, hear me roar.

  22. nikalseyn says:

    In Michigan they need to price tag items, and if it scans higher than the price tag, they have to pay you ten times the overcharge, up to a max of $5, plus the actual overcharge itself. I catch them all the time, especially at Walmart and Meijer. They all know the routine and we have no problem. I always watch at checkout and if I see the scan is more than the price tag, I keep my mouth shut and on the way out stop at customer service to get my “reward”—–that’s what we call it here. I don’t understand the People’s Republic of Massachusetts trying to stop price tags. I thought they really cared for their citizens!

  23. katylostherart says:

    so they want us to bring items to one spot on the aisle and wait in another line to find out the price before we stand in line to buy the item? that’s pretty dumb…

    @mdoublej: yeah except i’ve had LOADS of times where they put the wrong item over the wrong price. like how there are six types of cheerios, so it’ll say CHEERIOS and then some garble of letters representing the type but it won’t be actually under the correct line of boxes. same with things like shampoo, right brand, wrong type, wrong price. so they already fail at the non-individual item pricing.

  24. jimv2000 says:

    “What I do sometimes is take a sharpie with me and write the price (sale or not) on the box”

    Hmmm. Maybe don’t deface the store’s property until you buy it and it becomes your property.

    “they are now going to have to devote resources to the balefuls of items being left at the scanner.. i would put every item into my cart, take them all to the scanner.”

    Maybe just look at the price on the shelf where you grabbed the item and save yourself some time.

  25. jimv2000 says:

    “consumers will suffer because they may be forced to wander as far away as 5,000 feet in a particular store to scan an item and check its price.”

    Are there actually stores that are a mile long? I can’t think think of a store large enough where you’d have to walk 5000 ft to get anywhere.

  26. laddibugg says:

    oooooohhhh…prices on each item. I thought there were no price ANYWHERE, and you had to scan everything…LOL

    The only time I see prices on things is in the corner store and bodegas.

  27. RandomHookup says:

    @homerjay: My Stop & Shop in Mass. has hand scanners, so you can check the prices as you go. Works great because discounts are almost always figured in (other than the ‘end of the order’ stuff) and S&S still has a price guarantee — wrong price = free.

    I’m okay with this. Most Mass. supermarkets don’t do item pricing, except on the shelf, and I can use scanners to find mispriced items. Self-scanners are so much better than taking a single item up to customer service. I use it all the time at CVS to find out if a certain item is included in the sale.

  28. EBone says:

    We haven’t had individual prices on items here in California for over fifteen years now. Grow up Massachusetts.

  29. catskyfire says:

    Most stores where I am have the price on the shelf, not the individual item. Not a big deal, to me. The fact that they HAVE scanners available is nice.

  30. ChrisC1234 says:

    @mobilene: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking… I haven’t seen that in any major chain store in YEARS.

  31. donopolis says:

    As mentioned above, we in TX haven’t had individual prices on items for years…usually this does not present a problrm as they do have prices on the shelves. One thing I do like about the shelve pricing is that they have helpfully incuded a breakdown on most items for instance it would say 2.59..24cents and ounce..and that makes teaching my daughters shopping skills a little easier. I always carry a calculator with us when we shop to give us a good idea how much we are spending….


  32. domesticdork says:

    I’m with those who don’t understand what the hullabaloo is all about. I’ve only ever been to one grocery store that actually had price tags on the items (it was a health food store) and they recently switched over to a no-tag system.

  33. Ein2015 says:

    Gah donopolis you beat me to it! Excellent post.

  34. ElizabethD says:

    I haven’t seen price tags on grocery-store items in several years. Everything is scanned from the SKU code on the packaging, or keyed in when weighing produce with numerical codes on little stickers.

  35. MeOhMy says:

    Uh…why would this require a legislative act??? I can maybe see one requiring stores that choose to go without pricetags to have a way for customers to verify pricing on their own and of course many states have penalties for scanner errors.

    But…a law requiring stores to do away with price tags? I guess the MA legislature ran out of ideas on what they can tax so they have to kill the time somehow! Who knew the barcode scanner industry had such virile lobbyists!

  36. ElizabethD says:

    Oh, I’m in Rhode Island, and I also shop in nearby Massachusetts (at Stop & Shop supermarkets mostly).

  37. ffmariners says:

    @homerjay: That is a good idea for people who care!

  38. nadmonk says:

    Not really seeing how lines will be shortened. I guess the added weight saving from not having to put a 0.00001 oz price tag on each item will allow the cashier to more quickly scan them.

  39. randombob says:

    Yeah sorry, but working in retail I can tell you that priced items create confusion and nothing more.

    Prices change, sometimes for the better (I know, shocking huh?), and if we had to price EACH item, it would require TOO MANY man hours to accomplish.

    As long as it’s priced on the shelf location, what’s people’s issue? We price clearance items on a per-item basis and some seasonal stuff… and I despise it, and honestly, if you cut out those man hours in pricing the items, it DOES lower costs.

    Let them do it. We’ll be better off with better efficiency.

  40. SnickerDoodle says:

    In Quebec…Yeah in Canada….

    Grocery stores don’t need to have price tags on the items, but the price MUST be on the shelf.

    The safety catch is that if an item scans wrong the consumer gets the item free (for anything under $10) and gets a $10 discount on the lowest price (for anything over $10)

    The current law was written with the help of store operators and consumers.

    It helps keep things above board and store owners honest, but you need to be vigilant and question any price you’re unsure of.

    I’ve gotten free beer, cheese, canned vegetables and a $50 circulating fan for less than $25.

    Giving things away free helps convince merchants to keep their systems up-to-date and honest.

  41. Corydon says:

    Colorado doesn’t require stores to tag everything.

    I’ve never caught my local Albertsons substituting a higher price at the checkout stand than what was listed on tag on the shelf or in the weekly ad, and I’m one of those nutty people who actually reads his receipt.

    Grocery stores are in such a competitive, low-margin business, this is one of the few cases where I believe they actually would pass the savings on to consumers, at least in part.

  42. fluiddruid says:

    Here in Iowa, tags on the shelf and not on items is standard procedure. For items on sale or bigger-ticket items, I’ll watch out to make sure it’s correct.

    For what it’s worth, of pricing errors I’ve discovered later, it’s generally almost always been something that was underpriced (a sale item no longer on sale) rather than the other way around.

    I’d rather pay lower food costs to not have all items individually tagged.

  43. superchou says:

    I have not seen a shelf item priced individually in years at the chains… small shops? yeah… but Giant or Superfresh… nope.

  44. superchou says:

    i like the Quebecois way!

  45. bobbleheadr says:

    Checking in to say that I’ve lived in MD, PA, OH, WV and DC and have only seen individual prices in a couple places (mainly a pair of rural non-chain stores that didnt have scanners).

    I wonder if individual pricing actually cuts down on the number of sale items, since companies wouldnt want to temporarily reprice items.

  46. bonzombiekitty says:

    Not much is individually priced around here. I can’t think of the last time I saw an individually priced item from a big supermarket. All the prices are on the shelves.

    Really, it makes sense though. Prices change a lot, and it takes a lot of time to make sure things are priced correctly.

  47. P_Smith says:

    There are two obvious and insidious reasons for removing prices from products:

    1) Yes, stores want to save costs and pocket the savings.

    2) With no prices on the items, customers can’t do a quick visual total before going to the checkout counter. It would not surprise if their hope is customers spend more than they intend, driving up revenues. Personally, I find it annoying and embarassing to get to the till and find I don’t have enough cash on me.

    This is all the more reason to make a shopping list and stick to it. And since you’re carrying a piece of paper or a notepad, why not bring a pen write the prices down as you pick up items? This lets you keep a running tally of what you’ve picked up *and* gives you a reference in case the checkout prices are higher than the shelf prices.

  48. katylostherart says:

    @SnickerDoodle: i’ve seen that sign in a stop and shop here in ct. if the item scans at a higher price than on the shelf you get it free or get like a $20 credit or something like that.

    now i wish they’d just put all the potatoes in one freaking spot on their self-checkout computer menus.

  49. homerjay says:

    @jimv2000: Hmm… Maybe the day you take a job in Stop & Shop loss prevention will be the day I give a crap about what you have to say.

  50. helloashley says:

    Do they mean banning price tags on each individual item or also on store shelves? There are almost never price tags on each item here, just on the store shelf.

  51. wonderlic says:

    I beleive you’re required to have prices on individual items in Mass. — i.e. the old little stickers applied with a gun, or the price printed directly on the box. I remember Home Depot getting sued a few years ago by a consumer activist becasue they didn’t have individual prices on single sale nuts and bolts or some such thing. Seems a little absurd to me. I’m all for a law requiring prices on shelves and providing for hand held scanners, but the price of each individual item seems like overkill.

  52. johnva says:

    @P_Smith: I find I’m generally pretty good at just remembering the prices of the items I put in my cart, and I double-check them against my receipt. But maybe I’m atypical, because I carefully check prices and keep a mental note of which ones have gone up or down since I was last in the store.

  53. Prions says:

    Awesome! No more expired price tags! Everything can be stored in one database, in other words the price you find on the “shelf” (ie the scanner) will be exactly the same as what you’ll be rang out for.

  54. NoWin says:

    @Bladefist: It sure is a thrill a minute living in this state, let me tell ya’!

  55. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I was in Whole Foods yesterday and apparently they have a policy of giving you the item free if the price on the shelf is less than the price at the register. This even applies to bulk items. I bought a big bag of granola, something like seventeen dollars worth, out of the bulk bin and wound up getting it for free.

  56. rellog says:

    Some easy fixes for this bill….

    A.) mandate so many scanners per square-footage.
    2.)Create some sort of repercussion for mistakes made by the store to ensure compliance (for example- $2 refund, or item free if below that.)

    In WI, they don’t need to price their items, they just are forced to give the lowest price between the item’s scanned price and the shelf price. Although with some generic shelf labels stores try to skirt the issue by saying it was in the wrong place… To circumvent that argument, the label should have to either be very detailed, or have the UPC on the shelf next to the price. Thank god for cell phone cameras these days to foil their attempts at skirting the issue. FYI… ALWAYS go back to the spot to verify the price with their people (unless you took a picture of it first…) I didn’t at Menard’s once and they simply took the sign down and told me it was never there…

    Here, KMart was so horrible with their pricing mistakes (there were cases of up to 50% error rates at randomly tested stores) that they were forced by the state to either cut $3 off the price of the item, or give it free.
    I got about 15 twelve packs of free soda from them because they couldn’t seem to fix their mistakes. I went into the same store 3 times AFTER pointing out their incorrect pricing, and they still never fixed it… morons.

  57. rellog says:

    @Prions: I’m guessing you’re being sarcastic… but if not. Nope, they STILL have plenty of mistakes that they will try and worm their way out of…

  58. csdiego says:

    It’s been years since I lived in Massachusetts, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a price tag on something in the store. In-store scanners, if there are enough of them, would be an improvement over the way it is now (assuming they don’t take the prices off the shelves).

  59. LionelEHutz says:

    Oh brother, that Hurst guy sure is a comedian. When was the last time an industry lobbying group cared about anything other than getting laws passed that make it easier for their members to screw over consumers.

  60. bcsus83 says:

    I can’t remember the last time I was in a supermarket where the items were individually priced. It’s been YEARS…as in 10 or more, most likely. Although I’ve never lived in Massachusetts, so maybe it’s not the norm there yet.

  61. IphtashuFitz says:

    @Rippleeffect: The cost of additional gas to drive from Boston to New Hampshire or Rhode Island and back would likely be more than the additional cost of groceries resulting from this snafu, especially given the cost of gasoline these days.

  62. cef21 says:

    “sorry, we just fell out of our chairs laughing at the idea of a supermarket out there that will heroically pass the savings downstream to consumers instead of profiting directly from it.”

    Like they’re going to have any choice. The grocery business is hyper-competitive, with profit margins on most items in the low single digits. If a grocery store tried to keep this extra savings to itself, its competitors would steal its business by lowering prices.

  63. IphtashuFitz says:

    @mdoublej: Yeah, but will you remember the price at checkout? Suppose you’re buying a jar of peanut butter that was listed on the store shelf as $2.59 but when it gets scanned at checkout it shows up as $3.29. How are you supposed to argue the price discrepancy with the checkout person when the item isn’t even labeled? Will you remember the prices of all your items when you make it the checkout so you can make sure things aren’t scanned improperly?

  64. jenl1625 says:

    @linus: Actually, the bill would relax the current requirement that there be a price sticker on each individual item on the shelf. (Rather than a tag on the shelf giving the price for that class/group of products.)

    The article says there are only 2 states that still require it.

  65. BlueTraveler says:

    Is it just me, or do all the people complaining about this law (stupid as it is) think that prices will not be displayed anyware except through scanning kiosks? No one in their right mind would support a bill such as that. This bill is only saying that stores would only be required to display the item on the shelf and not on individual items. The majority of stores throughout the US currently only show prices on the shelf so this law will have little to no impact on the way a customer shops for items.

  66. BlueTraveler says:

    Why any store would want to continue to put price tags on individual items anyway? The labor required to change pricing for sales would be prohibitive to having sales.

  67. IphtashuFitz says:

    @Troy F.: Because everything in Massachusetts is legislated. Why do you think they’ve been known as Taxachusetts for so long?

  68. ogman says:

    Hurst is, of course, a liar. However, where he shops, all of the items have price tags. Let’s see, State Senators $10,000.00 and Reps $5000.00, except at election time when they are 50% off.

  69. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    @mobilene: No kidding. I can’t remember the last time I was in a store that had price labels on each individual item. Seems wasteful to me to have to put little labels on thousands of items. Once again, I think the Consumerist didn’t think more than 3 seconds before deciding this is an evil act by evil companies.

  70. Red_Eye says:

    GREAT flippin idea, why our local Walmart has 3 of these price scanners! Its terrific, if I need to verify the price of an item I just have to traipse to any of three points in the 2 acre store! Now granted Walmart has hidden these in 2 diverse points (one 10 feet from the cash registers, one in toys, ) Why I know its so much more convenient to make sure I traipse all over the store so they dont have to pay a dipwad to put a price on an item.

    Lets not forget, if the price is in the computer wrong it will be wrong in the kiosk and the register. Screw it if its all about no wanting to waste employee time pricing things just ask your checker to SLOW down so you can verify the price of every scanned item.

  71. nequam says:

    Massachusetts has an item-pricing law, which requires individual items to be priced in supermarkets. This has been around for a while and it is meant to protect against scannin errors, but also it allows the customer form going all teh way up to teh firnt of the store to ask a price if it is unclear from the shelving. (How many times have we seen Consumerist articles about misshelved items at stores). The commenters who say they have seen items in MA supermarkets without price tags are wrong. I guarantee.

  72. Xerloq says:

    I haven’t seen a price tag on an item in a grocery store in years (except the dollar stores – no kidding). I think this actually makes it easier to catch overcharges, because I’ve never seen a clerk who wants to run to check the shelf price of an item. More often than not they simply say ‘OK’ and adjust the price.

    The only places that check are those that have the “correct price or it’s free” guarantee.

  73. nequam says:

    Chapter 94: Section 184C. Price marking of food and grocery items

    Section 184C. Except as hereinafter provided, every item in a food store and every grocery item in a food department offered for sale, whether edible or not, shall have each unit individually marked with the correct selling price. All prices represented to the consumer for the same item shall be consistent with each other and to the price rung up and charged for the item.


    Section 184D. In addition to the exemptions in section one hundred and eighty-four C, food stores or food departments which, for a majority of the items offered for sale, utilize an automatic checkout system which is at least ninety-five per cent accurate as determined by the director of standards may also exempt up to a maximum of four hundred additional items

  74. Tiber says:

    @RandomHookup: I’ve never heard of stores offering hand scanners. Sounds like a good idea. The meijers I go to uses their yellow “sale” stickers like they’re going out of style. Problem is (besides the abundance that seem to save you only a couple of pennies) they use so many that its easy to confuse which item is on sale.

    @Skankingmike: Definitely not. Self-checkouts have their place, but when you make a mistake and have to sit there for 10 minutes waiting for someone to swipe a key card and walk away because the one person who’s supposed to be looking after 20 of these isn’t even there, you end up wanting to go Office Space on them. I avoid them like the plague if I have more than a couple items.

  75. battra92 says:

    @Rippleeffect: I’d just go shop in the next state.

    Eh, it’s hard to and I live on a border town. (Wow, that makes me sound like I’m from an old cowpoke movie.)

    Guess, we’re going to have to start writing down prices as we go through the store. Wal*Mart already does this with like half of their items anyway.

    I can see where they are going with this though, prices change so quickly (up and down) that they have to keep relabeling stuff and this means hiring less kids to work the sticker gun.

  76. mzhartz says:

    @P_Smith: I agree on #2. It makes it more likely that people will buy more on impulse.

    Before I got a Palm Pilot, I had the grocery list and just wrote the price next to the item. Now I have a program in my Palm called Splash Shopper that remembers the prices for me. It’s wonderful, now I know how much I’m planning on spending before I leave the house.

    Because here in Indiana, we don’t have individual price tags either. But it sure would be nice.

  77. rellog says:

    @IphtashuFitz: I remember prices at checkout, and I scan the receipt to verify. Unless one has a disability, it isn’t too difficult to keep stores honest.

  78. sholnay says:

    I dont get it – Current in California – all of the supermarkets I go to do not have prices on each individual product – rather – the price is on the shelf… What is this bill actually changing? *SOME* items wouldnt need to have a price on the shelf?

  79. @mobilene: Seconded. Apart from fresh meat, I can’t think of any product that actually has a price tag on it. Everything is marked on the shelf, and has been for at least a decade, in MA as well as everywhere else. I lived in Boston for 15 years, and don’t recall seeing tags on individual items. If they were there, I certainly didn’t use them (I check price-per-unit on shelf when I buy), and don’t see why they are necessary.

    What am I missing here? This totally sounds like a non-issue that’s very much in line with current country-wide supermarket pricing display. Is there some sort of devious aspect to this that I’m missing, or is Consumerist once again crying wolf, and its readers hastily and angrily taking up pitchforks and torches for absolutely no reason?

  80. Tunasmama says:

    As someone who worked in retail in the state of Massachusetts for many years, I think this is long overdue. It isn’t so much pricing the items that takes time.

    Each time the price of an item changes, each old price tag must be scraped off (less the customer sees that you have raised prices) before a new one can be added. Even in the most simple of scenarios, this is a huge time/labor issue. Consider the price of a can of soup. For every tiny (or not so tiny price change), every price tag must be scraped off of every can of soup on the shelf, each can must be re-priced, and then the entire shelf must be re-stacked.

    I worked in a big box retailer where there were at least 300 price changes per evening that required that sort of labor. If the only effort involved in changing a price was swapping a shelf label, the time saved would be amazing.

    Just my two cents.

  81. Concerned_Citizen says:

    “Although prices will still need to be displayed on store shelves for most items”
    Isn’t that how it already works? I’ve never seen a price label affixed to a can of soup. It’s always on a shelf tag. Although I do not know what they mean by “most items”. If I went to a store and didn’t see a price tag, I probably wouldn’t even bother buying the item. Not worth the hassle.

  82. sholnay says:

    @AtomicPlayboy: I’m with you – I have no idea what this is actually saying.

    My supermarket recently put in scanners on isles so you can scan items yourself anyway – I dont even remember the last time I saw tags on individual items other than expiration tags on meat and fish OR inside smaller liquor stores – who USE the tag at the register to know what to charge…

  83. IrisMR says:

    …There’s still price tags?

    Around here, big stores only have bar codes. And it goes just fine. Only small shops still have price tags on every damned can (And even then they’re rare.). Welcome in the 21st century, really.

  84. jdjonsson says:

    Good lord, I can’t remember the last time I saw a price tag in a major grocery chain. It’s not the end of the world MA…

  85. John Gardner says:

    what are these price “tags” things? are they descriptive monikers given to items by other consumers, like at amazon? how would such a system work in a store and how did Mass have it first? I’m so confused. :P

  86. DjSnipSnip says:

    Knowing how things run in MA, the bill will pass for sure. MA is one of the least friendly places to live (in my opinion). Laws ranging from health insurance, auto insurance, .. make it very costly and a burden to live here. I am leaving Boston after nearly 2 years since I have been here.

  87. UnicornMaster says:

    How many trees and cows go into making those adhesive price tags? Yeah, we don’t have them here and I think it works fine without it. You might have to REMEMBER that the can of Chef-Boy-R-Dee costs $0.79. I think the only people who are lobbying against it are the price gun manufacturers.

  88. packetsniffer says:

    “they may be forced to wander as far away as 5,000 feet in a particular store to scan an item and check its price”
    Someone please find me this fabled supermarket that is a mile wide.

  89. mdoublej says:


    I usually remember the price at checkout, because that’s usually the reason I chose the product.


    I hate self-checkout. When I go grocery shopping, it’s usually a cart full, and 100 bucks. The day my grocery store makes me ring all that up myself is the day I leave the full cart in the store, and never come back.

  90. azntg says:

    @elrefai: I’d say many of the laws recently passed in Massachusetts were well-intentioned, but virtually all have backfired against most people.

    Personally, I think the Pathmark closest to my neighborhood (Long Island City, NY) should’ve been an example why price tags on items is a legitimate idea.

    Prior to A&P purchasing Pathmark, I had to either reject items at the checkout line as the cashier scanned or go back to the Customer Service desk and request a refund. Two years ago was the worst to date, as I had it do that more than I can count with two hands.

    My local Pathmark was notorious for misleading customers. They’d always display a “sale price” for an item on the shelf, but stock a similar looking item that’s not on sale (the size would be off, a different variety not covered under the sale, etc.) in its spot.

    I usually read the fine print, so I avoided some of their pricier traps. But my father and my younger brother wouldn’t, so we’d be asking “Wait a minute, why is our total ~$10 higher than it should be?”

    They also pulled off the same crap for items near the front door. They’d always display the sale price, but always stock items that wouldn’t qualify for the sale price. The item actually on sale would be on the shelves, under a nonsale price label on the shelf.

    Definitely don’t think this was an isolated incident. It was systemic.

    After the A&P buyout, those incidents seemed to have stopped overnight… at the expense of prices getting higher across the board (D’oh!)

  91. carbonmade says:

    Wow. Here in Colorado prices have only been on the shelves and not on items for years. We can only rely on our memory because unless you go to Target, there are no scanners throughout the store so you can check the price.

  92. I can see both sides of the argument here. On one hand it’s a bitch to individual mark every item with a price tag and god forbid some schmuck get paid 6.15 an hour screws up and labels 50 boxes of Jimmy Dean sausages half off the store is obligated to honor the prices. On the other hand it seems like grocery stores in Massachusetts just want to make it harder for consumers to remember prices and possibly dupe them at the register (although that’s unlikely).

    Ruling: Grocery stores. I can pretty much add up most stuff in my cart in my head and end up within $15, if you’re really worried then use a calculator and write down the prices on things that are claimed to be on sale. (Maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve worked in a grocery store and it’s a shitty enough job that I feel bad for the poor bastards that still work there.)

  93. Xkeeper says:

    @packetsniffer: You (and most others) seem to be forgetting that a store only need to be half a mile wide and long for there to be the possibility of there being 5,000ft of walking to do.

    That isn’t saying it makes sense, but at least get the math right if you’re going to whine about it.

  94. audiochick says:

    @mobilene: Exactly! I’m in Seattle and I don’t remember the last time items were individually priced in a store. It’s not a big deal.

  95. DeadWriter says:

    I thought that this was the standard practice now for most other states.
    I don’t have prices on individual items, less meats and specialty breads, where I live.

    I keep a running tally in my head, and I am usually right with in a few dollars.
    I round with 25 cents, so I am at worst off by a few dollars.
    I have caught overcharges by doing this.

  96. adamcz says:

    This is a dumb article. Shame on consumerist for posting it. Nothing I buy at the grocery store has a price sticker on it. Quit buying so many mass produced frozen dinners Consumerist.

  97. firesign says:

    @Farquar: you are correct. ohio and kentucky do not have individual price tags.

  98. RandomHookup says:

    Remember folks, it is always tough to get laws off the books once they are there. The item pricing law kept stores from changing prices on items already on the shelf and was a protection back in the day when scanners were new things (isn’t there still a decent error rate?) Someone has been fighting any change in the law for years and filed some big lawsuits over it.

    It’s like the law in NJ that consumers can’t pump gas and in PA that make it almost impossible to buy a six pack of beer. And we still can’t buy wine in most grocery stores in Mass.

  99. megafly says:

    The current law isn’t about consumer protection, it is a method of ensuring low paying jobs for high school dropouts. This is the same as states that require full service gas.

  100. RandomHookup says:

    Seems the 5000 foot requirement is square footage not liner.

    It allows supermarkets to remove price stickers on items, and substitute in-aisle self-service scanners located one every 5000 square feet (equivalent to being only in every 2nd or 3rd aisle)

    It would be a mile long store about 1 foot wide.

  101. SexierThanJesus says:

    @adamcz: I was wondering when we would get a “this doesn’t affect me, so why is Consumerist talking about it?” post. Cheers.

  102. TPK says:

    If I were as stupid as “the bill’s critics” quoted in the source article appear to be, I would never let myself be interviewed on the record… for anything!

    “The bill’s critics … say consumers will suffer because they may be forced to wander as far away as 5,000 feet in a particular store to scan an item and check its price.”

    Already well hashed out here in the comments… unless your store is a maze… there aren’t even very many malls where this would be true!

    The critics say … the scanning machines may not pick up on sale prices or special prices for customers with loyalty cards.

    And this is the funniest one of all! These “critics” clearly have no idea how a modern retail store scanner works! Electronic scanning makes it much easier to implement both sale prices and loyalty card programs! What a bunch of moroons!

  103. ptr2void says:

    Like others have said, this would just put Massachusetts on a level with 48 of the other 50 states. It will, however, put Colman Herman out of a “job.”

  104. TechnoDestructo says:


    If anything it makes me think I’m spending more than I am (I mostly round up when doing my mental running total), thus making me more cautious.

  105. orlo says:

    I think the main opposition to this is the massive price tag manufacturer lobby. These tags were useful for: 1. You could peel of the top tag to reveal the older one and the supermarkets gouging 2. You could get an item for free if it was incorrectly labeled.

    …and 3 to find out what the price of an item is. Items are put over the wrong shelf tags all the time. Hunting for a scanner, then going back to shelf to compare to prices, then going back to the scanner will be a pain. Really, most people will buy the item that they thought was a different price and not waste gas in returning it. And if you do return it, it won’t be free.

    This is not an improvement. I’m with the price tag lobby.

  106. If it means lower prices I could care less. Who looks at the price after you’ve picked out what to buy anyways? As a Mass resident I’d gladly do it if it meant cheaper prices. I think the critics are ridiculous. It’s not hard to scan an item.

  107. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    Stores want to save on labor costs. Someone has to remove all the stickers when the prices go up.

  108. RandomHookup says:


    It’s not hard to scan an item.

    True, but it also depends on the scanners actually working. The ones at CVS and Walgreens have a very high not available rate and “item not found” rate. In a big grocery store, it will be a pain if two out of 4 scanners are down.

    If they add a pricing guarantee law like CT (accurate price or it’s free), then have at it. They will still make plenty of pricing mistakes.

  109. Kanti_V2 says:

    Man, the anti-consumer trolls really came out in force on this thread. And clearly these pro-business trolls don’t even do their own shopping, and have never worked at a a retail store, because scanners are very infrequently updated with sales, for the obvious reason that if you’re going through check out, and you don’t realize you didn’t get the discount (say if you’re buying a large quantity of items), then the store just suckered you into buying something you might otherwise not have, and kept the extra money. I NEVER leave the super market without having to prove to a cashier that an item was marked for less than I was charged.

    All this is for is to encourage bad shopping habits, such as impulse buying, by removing associative sticker-shock. It’s saves the companies money, and ends up costing consumers more. Anyone who sticks up for this, or is dumb enough to think it will save consumers money, is probably too stupid to even type the English language, and so is most likely part of the troll infestation around here. Why are libertarians/corporatists/conservatives/free-market zombies so threatened by this site?

  110. bobbleheadr says:

    @Kanti_V2: You lose the argument.

    Any time you call people names to make a point means you can’t make a rational argument.

    What most of the “Stupid Trolls” are pointing out is that 99% of the stores in the country already comply with the new law. And my point still stands, price sticker requirements actually mean fewer sales, since the time involved in repricing can be prohibitive.

    I sure hope they ban you for your nastiness.

  111. forgottenpassword says:

    That’s the way it is around here! I dont know of any grocery store that actually puts prices on their products anymore. They are on the shelves.

  112. freejazz38 says:

    @Bladefist: It makes it because the retail special interest groups LOBBY for it to. Welcome to America

  113. freejazz38 says:

    @AbstractConcept: Yea, you MUST be a mASS resident. DUMB AS A STUMP. A. Moron, do you REALLY think it would me lower prices???? B. Um, dillweed, CONSUMERS look at prices after they picked the item. C. The shelves usually don’t have the prices either. Ever play, GUESS THE PRICE! at a store?? Not EVERYONE has a 6 figure income jerkoff.

  114. @Kanti_V2: Lovely screed. Now, a quick rebuttal from a “free-market zombie” who does his own shopping and who has worked in a supermarket:

    1) Somehow, the rest of the country has been able to work with this system without being “suckered”. If you are fighting The Man by checking each individual sticker against the register display, then more power to you, you valiant crusader for justice. To disparage those who don’t need every item to be individually tagged in order to monitor the correctness of their orders is pretty odd. Also sounds a bit paranoid.

    2) You claim that the infrequent update of scanners is employed by vendors as a deliberate tactic to hoodwink customers. Wouldn’t this go against the vendor at times? Prices go up and down.

    3.) How does tagging each individual item discourage impulse buying? Are you saying that people ignore the posted prices on the shelf? Would these people behave differently if the price were on the actual item? This doesn’t make any sense. I suppose some people just grab items off the shelf and then look at the price only when they are at the cash register. In that scenario, individual price tags are actually enabling an annoying and financially unsound behavior.

    4.) Could you explain how this “costs customers more”, apart from the poorly constructed arguments I’ve refuted above?

    Finally, your diatribe ended with this lovely nugget:

    Anyone who sticks up for this, or is dumb enough to think it will save consumers money, is probably too stupid to even type the English language, and so is most likely part of the troll infestation around here. Why are libertarians/corporatists/conservatives/free-market zombies so threatened by this site?

    Has any of what I’ve written (typed in the English language, no less) resonated with you, or maybe altered your perception of the people you’re condemning here, or are you still sure that anyone who disagrees with you on this is a “dumb”, “stupid” part of an “infestation”? You sound like the one who is “threatened” by an alternate view.

  115. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    @cef21: I’ve found that all too often the editors here default to an attitude that flatly can’t accept companies are out to do anything than unfairly screw over consumers. I hope it’s a shtick, but unfortunately I think they honestly feel that way.

  116. @freejazz38: Why do I get the feeling that your offline communications are done with letters cut out of magazines and pasted on construction paper?

  117. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Do you mean to tell me that there are states where they still put price tags on food items? I haven’t seen anything in a NH supermarket with a price tag on it since the 80’s.

    I always shop the the unit price tag anyway, and I do actually watch every item go through the scanner to make sure it rings up correctly. I also keep a running total in my head (within $5 or so) so I know when I’ve reached the limit of my budget.

  118. stinger4040 says:

    I don’t think people are reading this quite correctly. The individual prices on the items are the ones that are being eliminated not the shelf sign.

    I used to work at Shaws in MA. I had to schedule a crew of about 10 people to work overnight to change prices and only change prices once a week this took about 60 man hours to accomplish.

    Think about it how would you like to change the price of thousands of cans of Fancy Feast Cat food from 65cents to 3/2.00. It can take a huge amount of time and this expense is naturally going to be passed onto the consumer.

  119. Leohat says:

    Here in Washington state, I haven’t seen price tags on items for about 20 years.

    In fact, I remember losing my first job because the store I worked at went to a all UPC code price system.

  120. Lemony-Fresh says:

    Wow – in the major chains, I haven’t seen a price tag on each individual item for YEARS! I’m surprised nobody here has mentioned that yet.

  121. ShariC says:

    In Japan, this is already the case. The prices are written on small placards in front of the food and are not on the food items themselves. It’s not that big a deal as few people look at the price on the product once it’s put in the cart. If you can’t price compare by looking at a sign in front of the food and have to have a sticker on the food, I’m not sure what your problem is.

  122. Quatre707 says:

    Grocery and retail stores would be able to lay off 20 to 30% of their workforce if this law passes… this would jump the unemployment rate significantly.
    As if the rich haven’t shit on the poor enough… they are going to have the companies they have stock in lay off thousands of their minimum wage workers just to increase their stock’s value a little bit.

    Here in Michigan the job market is so bad that people with bachelors degrees are fighting over jobs for minimum wage as cashiers at retailers.

  123. wjmorris3 says:

    I can say that here in New Jersey, they just require us to put the price on the shelf. That said, I believe it’s state law that the price tag must also show the unit price of the product.

    Our state does not appear to have an accurate pricing law per se, but I’m pretty sure it falls under standard policies requiring merchants to charge the lowest price posted. In any case, a lot of the grocery stores around here will give you one item for free.

    In regards to Massachusetts, I believe that if the Commonwealth wants to pass or repeal a law requiring individually pricing products, then they have the right to do so.

  124. LUV2CattleCall says:


    I save a ton of money this way…by ringing up Pomegranates as Red Apples!

  125. Lambasted says:

    If I see a price tag on an item at my local grocery or drug stores, I immediately think it must be an old item they dug out from behind boxes in the stockroom and I won’t buy it.

  126. MrEvil says:

    They’re not talking about removing the shelf price, but the price sticker on the item itself. A practice that has been the norm in Texas for just about as long as I remember. I remember being a little kid and each item had a price-sticker on it and now you only find said sticker on reduced for quick sale items. I wouldn’t panic as it’s not the end of the world, it’s just the MA grocers trying to cut back on labor and materials. Shelf stockers can get more work done if they aren’t busy putting price stickers on every goddamn item.

  127. synergy says:

    Uh. They do know that a mile consists of 5280ft, right? I seriously doubt a scanner would be nearly a mile away! I mean, how big are these stores???

  128. ablestmage says:

    I wasn’t sure whether this was posted in sarcasm or not, or if it was some kind of joke as I kept reading looking for a punchline.. I haven’t seen prices on the product in decades here in Texas. The big-box retailer I work for has almost no prices on anything unless it’s clearance — it’s all on the shelf. A few retailers even have LED price markers on the shelf that change depending on the hour of the day for special sales. How is MA that far behind??

  129. MauriceReeves says:

    @IphtashuFitz: Yes, my wife remembers the price of every item we shop for, and she will argue until she gets it. She also will recognize when something’s been stocked incorrectly over the wrong (lower) price tag and will get that price as well. She’s a retail shark.

    We’ve never had a problem here in PA getting the price on the shelf, and usually the times that happens is rare.

    The nice thing we have now at our local Giant are portable hand scanners that you carry through the store with you. Bring your own bags, scan the items you want at the cart and put it in your bag. When you’re done you walk to a special register and return the scanner and pay what you owe. That’s a hell of a lot faster and easier, and completely negates this problem as you see the scanned price on your scanner when you’re at the shelf.

  130. MissGayle says:

    Stores in Kentucky already do this – and you absolutely have to write down the prices of everything on your grocery list as you go along – because they will ALWAYS scan at least one thing if not more things for a higher price than is posted on the shelf, which is actually against the law here. The price posted on the shelf is the one they are required to give you, and you will have to argue with them about it when it scans differently – every time. It’s a complete hassle.