Count The Pennies And Save Pounds: How To Avoid Being Overcharged At The Supermarket:

Do you check the change you are given when you are using cash to pay for your shopping? If not, perhaps you should. Social media forums such as Money Saving Expert.com (MSE)regularly feature complaints by people who say they have been cheated out of sometimes substantial amounts by the person who served them. The problem, inevitably, is how to deal with this situation if or when it arises.

According to one MSE contributor, there’s really only one solution if you think you’ve been shortchanged by an assistant deliberately ringing up a lower denomination note: “Calmly and firmly state that you will stand there – no matter how long it takes – and wait for the manager to come to verify how much is in the till as well as requiring the assistant to empty their pockets”. This doesn’t, of course, only happen in supermarkets. Another MSE correspondent has recounted how someone they knew who worked in a newsagent shop regularly shortchanged customers as a way of increasing her income: “The till was always correct as she ‘drew’ the extra money from it whenever she had the opportunity to do so without being seen”.

A website that focuses on “Tricks Companies Play” suggests that customers who are paying with a £20 note should declare out loud (so the people behind them in the queue can hear, in case their support is needed) “That’s a twenty” or “I’m sorry I don’t have anything smaller” because bars, clubs and shops will often say that you only gave them a £10 note. Furthermore, you “shouldn’t put the change straight into your purse or wallet as then you can’t prove they shortchanged you. Keep it in your hand and quickly count it”. As an extreme measure, they add, you should quickly memorize the last 4 digits of the serial number on the bottom right corner of the banknote before handing it over. The “WeeklyGripe.co.uk” considers this to be particularly advisable in pubs and clubs, because “some of their staff are a bit unscrupulous and seek to take advantage of customers once they’ve had a few too many drinks. Maybe they also watch to see who checks their change and who doesn’t”.

B C Forbes, the Scottish-born American financial journalist and founder of the prestigious business news Forbes Magazine, contended that it is “Better to be occasionally cheated than be perpetually suspicious”. Lena Kovadio, a “contact author” with “ToughNickel.com”, however, evidently does not share this view, particularly in the context of the supermarkets. She has asserted that the main thing she has learned when shopping is: “Never leave the store without checking the receipt first. You may be charged for items you never bought, or the price of the items you did buy will be higher than specified on the price tag of the items themselves or on the shelf where you found them.”

Kovadio’s scepticism as to whether the UK’s food retailing giants can really be trusted has been shown to be to some extent justified following an investigation carried out by BBC TV’s “Inside Out” documentary programme in February. An undercover reporter visited 50 of Tesco’s 3,500 UK stores during a three-month period and discovered that in 33 of them, the discounts that were advertised on the shelves were not applied at the tills. So a customer who selected two packets of Old El Paso Guacamole because of the special promotional price of £2.50 in fact paid £4.18 for them at the cash desk. Among the many other discrepancies identified by the reporter were: Ambrosia custard – offer price £1, price paid £1.50; Bachelors Pasta – offer price 5 for £3, price paid £4.80; Walls Cornetto Ice-cream- offer price 2 for £3, price paid £4; Whiskas Cat Food- offer price 3 packets for £8, price paid £8.50.

As Martin Fisher, the Commercial Director at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute told the BBC, these “mistakes” could mean that Tesco has been contravening the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. He also pointed out that “the underlying problem is that very few people remember the price from the shelf to the till”, hence they don’t realize they are being overcharged and so complaints are very low”.Tesco is not the only supermarket chain accused of “unlawful practices in their pricing and promotion policies designed to encourage shoppers to spend more than they intended”. The International Business Times columnist, Kedar Grandhi, observed last year that food retailers such as Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda have all been facing a possible ban by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on “offering buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF) and other similar special deals”.

In yet another controversy surrounding the supermarkets, research conducted recently by Channel 4 Dispatches “identified a list of at least14 products which have shrunk since June, though in many cases the price has stayed the same or even risen”. Examples cited by the MSE commentator, Faye Lipson, are: Birds Eye Fish Fingers: originally 12 in a box, now just 10; Mr Kipling Angel Slices: 8 in a box instead of 9; Maltesers: reduced from 121g to 103g; Bulmers Original Cider: was 568ml, now 500ml; Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Pork Chipolatas: 16 in a pack instead of the previous 20.

Tesco in particular has continued to infuriate many of its customers who – according an article titled “Every Little Doesn’t Help” by The Sun journalist Brittany Vonow on 17th March – are threatening to take their business elsewhere. Before, under the “click-and-collect” arrangement, they could pick up their groceries from their store free of charge. Now it will cost them between £2-£4. As one angry shopper wrote on social media: “If I wanted to pay, I’d have my groceries delivered to my home instead of collecting them myself”.

 

 

 

Filed under: Society | Posted on April 19th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon

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