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Protection for price disputes

That means that if you were charged one price on the scanned item, and it wasn’t what you thought the price was supposed to be, you can be given a discount or have the charge waived altogether.

Example: recently a customer at Food Basics; University Mall store thought the price of Mason St. Bakehouse’s Fruit & Seed Bites, small doughy rolled oat concoctions with ingredients including currants, flax, cranberries, and raisins, was $2.99

In fact, the price was almost three times that. 

When the cashier rang up the sale the customer balked.

 He and a clerk then walked over to the display in the bakery department where the item was located.

There was a $2.99 price on a large hand-written sign. 

But the sign was taped to the shelf immediately above the Mason St. product.

The customer apologized for misreading the price. 

And, upon returning with the clerk to the cash, he told the cashier he wasn’t interested in buying it.

But the clerk not only didn’t charge him the $2.99 price – based on a presumed misunderstanding of the sign – but she gave him the product free of charge.

Is this the typical policy of Food Basics, one of several deep discount groceries – banners of larger mainstream groceries, in this case Metro – that are vying for customers in a highly competitive industry?

(Metro also recently converted its Metro bannered store at University Mall to the Food Basics.)

Metro Ontario spokesman Mark Bernhardt said that in this particular case “it appears the store made a discretionary decision not to charge for the item.”

The company, like a large group of retailers – grocery and non-grocery alike – follow a set of guidelines known as the Scanner Price Accuracy code, drawn up under the auspices of the Retail Council of Canada, and specifically to deal with these types of discrepancies.

The code “is applicable if the scanned price of a non-ticketed product is higher than the advertised or displayed price,” Bernhardt said.

But, he added, if the scanned product has a price sticker attached to the item, the policy “would not apply.”

In this case the product, packed in a plastic clamshell case, had a sticker on it but the sticker only had the best before date, but no price.

“Normally in this case if a customer felt misled by or didn’t understand a sign, typically a store as a customer-care gesture will sell the product for the price the customer saw but they wouldn’t necessarily have to provide it free,” Bernhardt said.

So, in this case, the Food Basics staff at University Mall were simply being extra nice.

Meanwhile, the Retail Council says the code applies to all scanned Universal Product Code (UPC), bar coded, and-or Price Look Up (PLU) merchandise (those little annoying stickers on fruit), with exception of goods “not easily accessible to the public” like prescription drugs and behind-the-counter cosmetics.

For customers still not satisfied with a price discrepancy they can file a complaint at 1-866-499-4599.


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