Store Charges Woman $167 for Peanut Butter

County official says about 20 percent of grocery stores overcharge customers

By Lauren Steussy
|  Wednesday, Apr 11, 2012  |  Updated 6:31 PM PDT
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David Wolf

The peanut butter jar cost the Wolf family over $160 before they realized the mistake and received a refund.

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A Poway woman who recently bought an expensive jar of peanut butter at a nearby Albertson’s grocery store has shed light on overcharges at supermarkets and retailers.

Margo Wolf paid for her groceries with her credit card, but when she returned home, she had a bad feeling about the transaction, her husband David Wolf said.

When she looked at her receipt the next day she found the problem: a $167 jar of peanut butter.

“Most consumers assume that pricing is always correct when items are scanned at the supermarket,” David said.

The couple brought the receipt back to the store on Rancho Bernardo Rd. and received a refund, along with a $10 gift card.

An Albertson's spokesperson issued a response to the overcharge on Wednesday apologizing for the mistake.

"We want to get it right every time, but occasionally, human error does happen," Albertson's spokeswoman Lilia Rodriguez said. "We’re thankful that this customer brought it to our attention so that we could quickly correct the error."

The overcharge was one of the largest that San Diego County's Scanner Awareness Program has seen. However it's not uncommon for items to be overcharged, said County Supervising Inspector Nancy Appel.

Appel estimated that about 20 percent of grocery stores overcharge their customers to some degree -- be it 10 cents or $167. The program conducts random undercover inspections at stores and retailers throughout the county and penalizes stores which overcharge inspectors.

Many times the overcharges are honest clerical mistakes. The program conducts outreach visits to correct the mistakes, and is working to raise awareness of scanner efficency.

Appel listed some tips for shoppers to avoid being overcharged:

  • Every cash register is required to have a customer display. Watch this cashiers scan items.
  • Read your receipt before leaving the store. It's a hassle to return to the store when you find an overcharge.
  • If you're charged full price for a sale item, tell the cashier. Even if the item was placed on the sale accident unintentionally, stores are required by law to honor the lowest posted, advertised or quoted price on items.
  • Some stores such as WalMart, CVS, Safeway and Vons are under court-ordered injunctions and are required to give customers low-price items (usually $2 or $3) for free if they are overcharged. Some stores voluntarily offer this service.
  • Notice to Consumer stickers are posted near every cash register. A phone number on the sticker will connect customers to the county program, which investigates complaints.

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