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Accidental Discounts

Three times this week I have been checking out at one store or another and noticed that something was rung up incorrectly in my favor. First the cashier entered the code for my spaghetti squash but it did not ring up and he moved on, then, after a careful and through review of the coupon I presented, a cashier rang up my item as costing $2, rather than $2 off, and finally I bought 12 bottles of apple juice (hey, it was on sale) and was only charged for 10 of them. Each time, I noticed during my transaction, and each time I pointed out the problem. Hey, I don't think that spaghetti squash rang up. Hey, that is just supposed to be $2 off, I should owe you $4. Hey, I'm pretty sure I got 12 of those. And each time I was assured by the cashier that they were correct, that I was wrong, that my total was correct.

But it wasn't. I was right and they were wrong. Now, I know a lot of people who feel that this kind of mistake in their favor is just their good luck, but I always feel obliged to point it out. It got me to wondering though, what is my responsibility here? How hard do I have to push to be charged more in order to meet my moral obligations? And also, why do I feel I am responsible for correcting the error while I am standing at the cash register, but that noticing a problem at any point thereafter absolves me of responsibility for doing anything at all about it?

(And hey, it happened a fourth time this morning, but at least the cashier pulled the item out of the bag and scanned it when I mentioned it, so I don't have to add a stolen $1.50 hat to my mental tally.)

Comments (15)

Personally, I think if you point it out once you're good to go. I'm the person who will return back into a store to pay for a 50 cent item my kids were holding and I didn't catch the first time around, so I'm not one to avoid paying for stuff, but I'm also not one to argue about paying more when I'm accidentally given a discount.

I think you've done your fair share. I do the same and point it out, but if the cashier insists he/she is correct, that's fine.

I didn't get charged for a $40 set of sheets at Ikea a couple of months ago. I didn't know that for sure while I was there, but I did ask the cashier to double check. She said it had been charged, so I went back to wrangling my three children. Once home, I realized that I definitely wasn't charged. Had it been from the store down the street, I would have gone back, but Ikea is a good 40 miles down the freeway (in Los Angeles, which is equal to at least 90 miles of freeway in another city), so I sure as heck wasn't going back! I felt badly...but not that badly.

Once you've pointed out the mistake, the burden is really on them. I mean, obivously if they've charged you too much you're going to insist that they fix things, but if you're trying to pay the correct amount and they just won't let you, I think you're home free.

If you point it out and they ARGUE, I think you are morally and ethically DONE. I'm trying to imagine calling over a manager and INSISTING that I be charged more money, and...okay, actually, that's pretty funny to imagine, so I might do it just for the laugh factor, saying in a loud voice, "Young man! I INSIST that you charge me for that squash! I will NOT have you make a THIEF out of me, DO YOU HEAR ME!!??"

(No, really, if you corrected them, you're done, unless there were some really unusual circumstances.)

I've gone back twice and called to have something adjusted once. I swear some jobs just put people on auto pilot and they are just careless. The fact that you told the cashier makes it even worse.

I think it's possible that they were being lazy and were willing to let their error go. You did the right thing, just be happy :)

I *always* point it out.

Once, when my boys were little, I left a roll of the good film in the bottom of the cart (remember camera film?) and it's not like I can run back in with two babies, so about a month later I walked up to the checker, handed her another roll of that film, asked her to ring me up for it but explained that I wasn't buying it, I just hadn't been charged for one a few weeks previous.

She looked at me like I had one eyeball and a heart growing on the outside.

I look at is as hey, I don't want costs on EVERYTHING to go up, so I better pay for the stuff now.

Glad to see a new post, Beth!

If it's not crowded, I've been known to take items to the self checkout before I leave the store, scan & pay for them. At some point, though, your time is more valuable than the $2 you are trying to get them to take. So, I agree with most here. You tried, and that means you met your obligation.

Mr. Lady - I've had the exact same experience once or twice. It's sad that honesty confuses people.

I think if you mention it and try to right the wrong, then you've done your part.

I worked in a grocery store customer service center for a few years, and I remember one lady bought a block of cheese. She found out she didn't pay for it when she got home, and she came back the next time she did her shopping and came up and was like "I bought this, but I wasn't charged for it & I want to pay for it." She insisted, in fact, wouldn't take no for an answer, so I rang it up and charged her.

I've done that before, too, though. We were at a new Walmart that just opened up in my hometown a few years ago, and it was crazy busy, and I found a purse I liked, so we walked around with it, then we left. I got halfway to the car before I realized it was still on my shoulder, and I ran back into the store to pay for it. haha :) woops. Accidental stealing.

I also got a hard drive for free once. I didn't even realize it until a week later when I was filling out the rebate stuff, and it wasn't on my receipt (I bought some other high-priced stuff). They didn't ring it up, but I distinctly remember them running it over the thing they use to desensitize the sensors so you can leave. I didn't go back to pay for it, though. Probably should've, but I wasn't driving at the time, and free is a way better deal than $30 off or whatever, so.. oh well for them. LOL

Okay, I am obviously the minority here, but if something I want to buy doesn't get rung up and I notice it after scouring the receipt, I'm cool with it. Andrew and I had a cart full of groceries a few months back with about 6 cases of beer on the bottom rack and went through checkout. Our cashier didn't pay attention to what was below (there's a mirrror on the opposite wall so they can see down there...) and we weren't paying attention and walked out with free beer. Andrew realized it and took it all back in and paid for it. I was prepared to at least put one case in the car before he took it back, alas. We were having a party, not just boozers, felt the need to mention that!

I'd say if you mention it once, you're clear - though if it went over like $10-15 I'd probably I'd feel more like I should talk to the supervisor, or something. Part of the problem I think is that the cashiers (like most people) don't particularly like to cop to mistakes. And yes, 10-15 is apparently the going price for my morals. GOSH :P

You're on firm moral high ground.

yep, mention it once for karma's sake and then take the discount if they still give it to you. if neither you nor the cashier noticed it at the time, it's technically the cashier's responsibility to make sure that they are ringing things correctly so you're still in the clear, it's not like you weren't standing there perfectly prepared to pay exactly what you were supposed to pay whether you were paying attention to the exact total or not. :)

If I notice, I'll point it out but I don't go too much out of my way. (I did once try -- for three months! -- to pay a university for over $1,000 in tuition that I thought I owed them and they insisted that I didn't owe them, so I've done the whole arguing thing!)

When things work out in my favor like that at stores, I figure it's the universe paying me back for the times that things haven't worked in my favor. Like when I pre-paid for my "class shirt" in high school and then was absent on all the days they distributed the shirts and never got one. So...

Nice to see the new post, I miss you when you don't write your blog.
I just wanted to drop a line and say that I am so proud of you for your honesty. I, too, believe that you did your best to make right and they wouldn't listen to you so what more can you do other than go to the manager to complain and that may cause the cashier to get fired. What is a body to do? YOU GO GIRL!!!
Hugs,
T

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