RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The price of the item should be the same on the shelf as it is when you pay for it.
But that’s not always the case.
One state official calls overcharges at the register a steady violation.
CBS North Carolina checked into the situation to find out why it’s so common.
Inspectors from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Weight and Measures division conduct unannounced checks of weights, measures and prices in stores on an annual basis.
And you’d be surprised at the number of stores that fail price inspections according to Weights and Measures Manager Allen Katalinic.
“It’s probably in the 20 percent range,” he said.
Shopper Tim Harvey said he wasn’t confident the prices he pays are right because, “I don’t look at my receipts.”
But state inspectors like Ben Foster do look at receipts.
He walked CBS North Carolina through the price checking process.
“I conduct a scan test. I go through the store and do a random selection of 50 items. Pick the item up and scan it,” he said.
North Carolina allows a 2 percent error rate for 50 items.
That means if just one of those 50 items are priced wrong – the store fails.
That store would then need re-inspection, which takes place 30 days later and involves the checking of 300 items.
“Most use the first one (inspection) as a warning and correct all the issues,” said Katalinic.
The paperwork regarding overcharges and fines are public records, which are kept on file at the Agriculture Department.
CBS North Carolina asked the Department to pull the file for one of the worst offenders.
It was for the Family Dollar store at 3416 Poole Road in Raleigh.
It had to be inspected six times before it finally passed.
The state said an initial inspection in March 2016 found an error rate of 8 percent, based on four overcharges in a 50-item lot.
- A second inspection in April 2016 found an error rate of 3.33 percent, based on 10 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,290 in penalties.
- A third inspection in June 2016 found an error rate of 4 percent, based on 12 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $1,865.
- A fourth inspection in August 2016 found an error rate of 4.67 percent, based on 11 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $2,785.
- A fifth inspection in October 2016 found an error rate of 3.67 percent based on 11 overcharges in a 300-item lot. The store paid $3,420.
The fines totaled $9,360 before the store finally passed inspection in January.
Company spokesman Randy Guiler told CBS North Carolina the firm has responded to fix the problem and said “We have processes in place to ensure that our teams are promptly updating price labels.”
As for why so there are so many price errors occur at the register in stores across the state, Katalinic said most of the overcharges his inspectors find aren’t intentional.
“You enter stuff into a computer,” said Katalinic. “I understand you can make mistakes, transpose a number for instance. That’s what a lot of it is, just mistakes.”
But even so, he said merchants bear responsibility for the errors.
“You’re open for business. Your doors are open. Your prices should be correct,” Katalinic said.
And though the state does its part, you need to do your part too.
As a consumer your best protection is to take a moment to check your receipt to make sure you paid the right price.