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Computers Don’t Make Mistakes, People Do

With bar coding a standard merchandising practice, some places sometimes forget or intentionally forget to post the unit price on the shelf with each item. Things can be deceiving. Just last week I stopped at a large grocery superstore. Cruising down the aisle I saw olive oil at an unbelievably low price. I even put on my reading glasses to read the tiny sign. Sure enough it was half price. I grabbed a bottle and headed for checkout. After paying for my purchases, I checked my sales receipt only to find that the olive oil did not reflect the shelf price.

Off to the courtesy desk I went. (The name for customer service there was inappropriate.) The woman there took a barcode scanner to verify the price. She then told me that virgin oil doesn’t go on sale, just the others. I asked her to send an employee to check the shelf. Grudgingly she did. When her worker returned, the girl verified the entire order of virgin oil was under the SALE tag. The woman still refused to correct the error. I gave her back the oil in question, told her to refund its price, and get me the one on sale.

Incidentally while waiting, another woman came up to the desk complaining that the grapes she just paid for which were advertised at $1.99 per pound max. four pounds priced out at over 18 bucks for her 4.5 pound bag. Lesson: humans program computers AND machines.

6 thoughts on “Computers Don’t Make Mistakes, People Do

  1. I always watch when they ring the things I shopped at the counter , sometimes one item appears twice on my receipt.

  2. I shop carefully and usually purposefully and watch as it’s being rung up as well as scanning once I get to the car. I have often found errors, and most times the store fixes it promptly and without argument. However — it would be so nice not to have to do that (maybe the day pigs start to fly?)…

  3. I run into this problem alot at walmart and also the bad customer service too. I Mostly shop at Safeway and have not had this problem and at Safeway I get excellent customer service. As a consumer, we have to take our time and really make sure that we are getting the price that the item is advertised/listed for. A lot of people are in a hurry and just don’t take the time.

  4. Yes, Pat…it happens to us all the time. Today we went grocery shopping and THEIR lead store brand was of course ALWAYS priced to see…but other marketed manufacturers that are even CHEAPER are not listed a LOT of times in our local store. You have to look good and hard to find them. In your case though, it seems like it was human error putting the wrong bottles on that shelf space. You STILL should have been given it at the sale price because it was THEIR mistake.

    We also have had a HUGE problem in our store with selling OUTDATED foods! I hope you do a story on this sometimes…forgive me if you already have. But, I know GOOD and WELL that they knew these were outdated…as they had them on a 2 for 1 special. Chocolate muffins were dated May 29th…that was WAY over 2 weeks ago! Wonder if stores can be in legal trouble for selling foods that are expired like this. there outa’bealaw! Maybe the codes should have the expiration date SHOWN and then some kind of special code pops up if it is NOT within expiration. Youd think with computers that would be possible.

    thanks for more heads up on shopping…I try hard to look a the receipts after a shopping trip. So many times they go so fast I dont catch it, so am dealing with customer service desk afterwards. a person should not have to wait in line to deal with these issues while our fresh & frozen foods wait in a cart!


    1. Dear Eileen,

      Hope things are going well. Will be traveling into Milwaukee at the end of August for the National Legion Convention. Let me know any recommendations or not on shopping, restaurants, and attractions in the area.

      In fairness, most dates are recommended for best use but are safe to use after. Still the way that products are marked is clearly confusing with codes undiscernible to anyone untrained. I usually check unit prices before I decide which brand and size then go from there. I started checking receipts after checkout because it was a pain a week later to have to return for adjustments. Then I leave the store. I know what I buy and check for coupon credits (double couponing is popular here). Yes, errors are frequent at least one a month if not more in the same chain. However, it happens in other superstores as well when I shop for convenience or a special sale item. I am not shy about calling the error. It is good business for consumers to be on the alert.

  5. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience! Whatever happened to “the customer is always right?”

    Most stores would honor their mistake and give you the item at the posted price. Stores that did not would not receive my patronage any longer.

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