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Grocery stores “accidentally” charging higher prices?

Am I the only one noticing a sudden upsurge in how often a grocery store charges more when you get to the register than it said on the shelf? Or you bring up ordinary produce and they try to charge you for a fancier version of your veg? Mistakes happen, sure, but the Department of Agriculture has caught more than a few stores overcharging at the register over the years. And everyone claims it’s just a mistake, even though they find stores are “3.5 times more likely to overcharge customers than undercharge.”

Grapefruits in grocery bin with price

Hmm. Oh, excuse me, I didn’t mean to hit you just now. Oh, whoops, I didn’t mean to hit you again. I’m just so clumsy. Oh, no, did I hit you a third time? Oh, dear, I almost got you again, but this time you ducked. Oh, there, look, now I’ve hit myself. Anybody buying this as an accident?

Scam or accident?

Here’s my most recent suspicious story. I went to a big chain grocery store and picked up some plain ol’ yellow onions that were marked $1.49/lb. I got home and checked my receipt, and found I’d been charged $1.99/lb for “Vidalia” onions. I went back to the store to quibble with them, and they happily returned the money, but here’s why I’m suspicious:

  • Vidalia onions have identifying stickers. My yellow onions did not.
  • The clerk didn’t ask me which type of onions they were. She just went with the most expensive option. Hmm.
  • It happened again the next week. With a different clerk.

Yeah, seriously. The next week, I got home and found I’d been charged $1.69 for Vidalia onions instead of $1.49 for yellow. Yet another trip to customer service. How many people would bother? I did it mainly on principle – it’s not like I can’t afford Vidalia, it’s just that’s not what I got.

It’s hard to imagine all the employees in the grocery store being in on a scam together. But when the same thing happens twice like that, with different employees, you tell me: it is an accident?

As I said before, I’m also noting an increase in how many times an item’s price just happens to be higher at the register than it was on the shelf. Can mistakes really be mistakes, when they almost always happen in the mistake-maker’s favor? Shouldn’t they “accidentally” undercharge about as often as they overcharge, if it’s really just a mistake?