It never fails. The cashier zips those bar code labels at light speed while we make small talk. She gives me a grand total, I swipe a piece of plastic through a gray box, then sign away a large sum. The total seems a bit off but with five people behind me, I succumb to "move along" pressure. When I get home and review my receipt, I find that four items did not ring up for the advertised sales price and I was charged for five cans of chicken broth instead of the three in my bag. Is it worth a 30-minute return trip to the store?
These innocent mistakes are more common than we'd care to admit. Our wastefulness and pride in not haggling keeps us forking over extra for our groceries. Unless you're fond of paying ignorance tax, I suggest you perk up and pay attention to the most common mistakes your checker makes.
1. Cashier rings up the same item twice.
The problem here is you won't notice it until hauling all those bags back home (quickly so they don't melt) and you review the receipt. Your best bet is to cut back on small talk and watch the register. This is easier said than done as many checkers work with inhuman swiftness. Just watching makes me dizzy.
2. Cashier doesn't recognize special sales codes.
Many establishments keep a promotional flier to quickly identify any specials currently running. Some stores must manually input the discount while others are automatically updated in the system. Since you are the one parting with money, responsibility rests with you to be aware of the specials in your cart and monitor their prices. Keep a small pad and pencil to jot down specials if you have a rotten memory.
3. Bagger neglects to pack all your items.
Sometimes you even end up with a pack of gum from the customer in front of you. Keep an eye on the bagger. Quickly glance through the bagging area to make sure everything you paid for is in your cart. I promise you won't notice missing items after you leave the store.
4. Cashier gives incorrect change.
Apparently adding and subtracting is not at the top of our public school agenda. My favorite is the minimal change back method, which throws them for a loop. The total comes to $26.02. I hand the cashier a $20 and a $10, but before she gives me change, I produce another $1.02. What to do! Be ready to give a quick math lesson unless you don't mind several awkward seconds of hemming and hawing.
5. Cashier is not familiar with coupons.
There are several types of coupons and discounts. Some cashiers are not familiar with the varieties of discounts and will leave you stranded with a blinking light for several minutes while your fellow shoppers shoot eye daggers at you. Your best defense is to find out how your stores redeem coupons to help inform the checker.
6. Store computer glitch alters price.
Arguing with a computer is as effective as reasoning with a dog. The system will have snafus. Unfortunately, the only way to remedy extra charges is to consult with a manager. A stocker will have to run back and check the price manually while you wait.
Just remind yourself that monitoring your grocery store purchases isn't for the miserly coupon fiend. You owe it to your finances to be an effective watchdog on cashier mistakes. Pipe up respectfully and maybe they'll be more precise on prices in the future.
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