JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As "Black Friday" and the Christmas shopping season rapidly approaches, consumers will be tempted by great deals.
But do you always get the deal you are promised?
We are already anticipating the busy holiday shopping season, but something everyone needs to be aware of is the possibility that in all the frenzy, stores make mistakes.
Mistakes that can put a pain in your pocket book.
In this special report, we check-in to the accuracy of electronic check-out scanners.
We set out to several stores in the area from Target, Wal-Mart, Toys 'R Us, and even McDade's Market.
Our process was simple, use the stores' scanners to check items at random seeing if the price on the shelf would match what we would pay at checkout. According to consumer watchdogs, pricing inaccuracies occur more than you think.
"It's important for consumers to watch this, because scanners, computers do make mistakes," said Bill Moak, President / C.E.O., Better Business Bureau of Mississippi.
Our investigation mirrored others conducted by state and federal government agencies looking for price discrepancies.
Our search included the hottest Christmas must-haves, to the most mundane of household goods.
And while descreps are rare, with the up-tick in inventory, the chances for inaccuracies are heightened.
"Generally, these errors are caused by someone entering data improperly it's very easy to do that especially if you are entering large amounts of data," Moak said.
As we went from store-to-store we found that traditional Christmas items checked-out flawlessly across the board.
However, it was the day-to-day items that slipped through the cracks.
For example the diaper rash cream at Target, marked at $4.24 on the shelf, we paid $4.99.
At another Target, this time in Flowood, the mop cloths were tagged at $7.99.
But what did we end up paying?
A full dollar more, $8.99.
When I brought the error to the attention of a target employee, they immediately fixed the problem, and sold me the item for the promised shelf-price, $7.99.
But this instance reinforced Moak's position that these errors do happen.
"These things are generally not a store trying to rip someone off. This is a case where there's just a mistake that's been made," Moak said.
Sometimes discrepancies worked in the costumer's favor, at McDade's we purchased 17 items with only one error.
A box of brownies rang up for $2.59, the shelf said $2.99, a saving of 40 cents.
Greg McDade, McDade's Owner, said that was a case of the product being in the wrong place, as opposed to the price tag being wrong.
Moak prefaces that these issues are not common, in fact he referenced a study by Florida's Commerce Dept. from 2009, stating their retail scanners are 99 percent accurate.
But Moak says if the store's computers are not up to snuff, the ultimate watchdog is you.
"As a consumer it's your responsibility to try to catch these things if they do make a mistake to bring it to their attention," Moak said.
The lesson is to be vigilant, but you don't have to necessarily have a chip on your shoulder.
Out of more than 100 items randomly scanned we discovered only a handful of discrepancies.
In fact, we discovered no pricing issues at the "Toys 'R Us" in Jackson or the Wal-Mart in Madison.
Copyright 2010 WLBT. All rights reserved. This material may not be rewritten, rebroadcast or redistributed.
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