Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wal-Mart only Volunteers on Scanning Code of Practice if you Ask

After the fiasco at McDonald's at Wal-Mart, my wife and I ventured into the Wal-Mart store to do our grocery shopping.  Following grocery shopping, I thought we would investigate to see if there were Rubbermaid Roughneck Bins on sale for our basement storage area.

We checked the housewares home storage department and came up empty. No Wal-Mart standard issued bright coloured shiny tickets showing the old price and the new price for this week in the aisle.  Just regular priced tickets and an oversupply of bins in the aisle.  Dejectedly we wheeled our cart down the front aisle towards the cash.

But, passing one of the two large front entrances, a funny thing appeared.

Rubbermaid 64 Liter Bins for $5.00 at Wal-Mart Trainyards

I guess the Wal-Mart manager of housewares missed having his area reticketed to advertise the 64 Litre Rubbermaid bin being on sale.   Just to be sure this was the correct price, I checked the opposite side of the sign.

Rubbermaid 64 Liter Bins for $5.00 at Wal-Mart Trainyards

Sure enough, $5 on that side as well.  The Wal-Mart associate putting up the sign at least was consistent.

I grabbed two each of the Rubbermaid bins and tops and headed for the cash along with our groceries.  We sped through the cash register and checked our receipt.  Sure enough, the price scanned incorrectly at $5.88 plus tax.  I walked back and took the two above photos and headed to customer service.

We approached the counter as two Wal-Mart associates were working the counter with no one in line.  One was "Joyce" and the other didn't have a the standard issue name tag on but did have the blue Wal-Mart vest.
We explained to Joyce the $5 and $5.88 price discrepancy and showed her the pictures on my phone of both sides.  Joyce asked if the price applied to different colours and perhaps the grey bins were on for $5?  I  replied that there was no indication the blue or the grey were different prices and both were at the front entrance.  I also explained I took the two photos as previously when there was a similar price discrepancy on an item and we attended customer service it took repeated paging to double check the shelf price before moving forward.

Fortunately, the coworker looked over and said we were right.  The bins were listed as $5.  We had a feeling the coworker would know as she has worked in the front either on the cash area, next section over from the front entrance or scheduled cashiers for shifts.

Joyce scanned one of the bins and brought up the price paid and refunded the amount on the register. She then put through a $5.20 amount for the bins.  She realized her error but had to call a Customer Service Manager (CSM) for an override to correct it.

Next Joyce put through the refund on both bins again and rang in $5.00 price two times to charge us $10 plus tax for the bins.  She brought up the $1.99 refund.

I looked at her incredulously and inquired if this was not a "Scanning Code of Practice" issue as the price was clearly marked at least two times on the display at $5.00 and the store wanted to charge us $5.88 for the product.

Joyce replied that the store only offers the "Scanning Code of Practice" when the customer requests it.  If the customer does not request it the store charges the lower corrected price.  She said she would allows us to put this transaction under the Scanning Code of Practice this time.  Further, She said she had to contact the Customer Service Manager again to override the price.

When the Customer Service Manager came by to override the price for Joyce, I inquired about what Joyce said. The Customer Service Manager confirmed that Joyce was correct that the customer has to ask about the "Scanning Code of Conduct" otherwise the price posted would be given instead of the price scanned.

We gathered our refund and returned home.

I dug around later that day on the Internet and came up with full regulations as per the Government of Canada's Competition Bureau. 

The regulation states that if an item is priced on the shelf for less than $10 and scans in at a higher price at the cash register, the customer should get the first item for free and any others at the shelf price.

After digging around and more shopping to do in the same Train Yards plaza as the Wal-mart, my wife and I revisited the Wal-Mart store.

First and second stops were the two entrances from the main parking lot customers use to access the store.  I was looking for adherence to this stipulation in the Scanning Code of Practice in the section "Retailer Responsibilities":

Retailers will display the sign... at all store entrances or in a conspicuous location near the store entrances. 

No sign of these signs at either entrance even though I was blatantly looking for them.

I investigated the cash registers and found these that adhere to the code under "Retailer Responsibilities":

Scanning Code of Practice notice at Wal-Mart Trainyards Cash Register

I did a quick scan of all the cash registers to find everyone I checked had it under a piece of plexi glass just to right of the debit machines, where customers normally use to sign receipts for purchases or rest their purses in search of money to hand to the cashier.

Further, on in the Scanning Code of Practice are some interesting clauses that need to be reviewed by both Joyce, the Customer Service Manager and the Wal-mart Trainyards Team:

Under Section 2 of the Scanning Code of Practice it reads:

Once a scanner pricing error is brought to the attention of the retailer, appropriate steps should be taken as quickly as possible to correct the source of the error.

In our case, Joyce, the Customer Service Manager and the store manager didn't want to work as "quickly as possible to correct the source of the error" which was the posted price on the large red and yellow signs above the product at one of the main entrances.  In fact, 24 hours later I stopped by the same Wal-Mart store to find the bins still posted at the same price, $5.00

Under Seciton 3 of the Scanning Code of Practice it reads:

 Retailers will apply the Code, both in letter and in spirit.

If this is the case, why did Joyce and the Customer Service Manager believe that giving the ticketed price instead of the scanned price be satisfactory? The Scanning Code of Practice in section 1 clearly states that if an item, like the $5 posted price for the Rubbermaid bin, scans at a price higher the customer is to get it for free. Thus, Joyce and the Customer Service Manager acting on behalf of the retailer (i.e. Wal-Mart) failed to apply the Code in both letter and in spirit.

Also Under Section 3 it reads: 

Retailers will establish appropriate internal policies and procedures for maintaining a high level of scanner price accuracy.

In this past year, my wife and I have scanned our receipts repeatedly to find issues with pricing accuracy where the scanned price is not the same as the shelf price.  We have been given items correctly for free under the Scanning Code of Practice at the same customer service counter where Joyce was.  Everything from potato chips, bread to grapes.  This store obviously needs to either establish or rework the appropriate internal policies and procedures to maintenance of a high level of scanner price accuracy.

With the above noted, the following is laughable at the Wal-Mart at the Trainyards plaza:

When a scanner price error occurs, the cashier will be authorized to implement the Item Free Scanner Policy.

A customer dissatisfied with the cashier's decision will be directed to the store manager or supervisor.

We have tried to point out issues to cashiers previously at this Wal-Mart location only to be asked to speak to customer service.  Apparently, in contravention to the Scanning Code of Practice clause above, Cashiers do not have the authority to implement the "Item Free Scanner Policy" despite it being clearly posted at all the stores cash registers.  

The second clause above is even more hilarious considering the Customer Service Manager would not agree that the customer should be given the provisions under the "Scanning Code of Practice" when their cashier or customer service associate has been notified thus violating the idea of  applying "the Code, both in letter and in spirit."

With the above noted, I attempted to contact Wal-Mart Head Office Customer Service while leaving the store's customer service counter at the posted phone number of 1-800-328-0402. Disturbingly after working through all the prompts of the automated phone system I was dumped into a voicemail box that didn't have any room on it.  At least I can not say I didn't try to alert head office that something illegal was going on in one of their stores.

In the end, the Wal-Mart at the Ottawa Train Yards needs to review the Scanning Code of Practice with all store staff and management from top down.  They need to better review after stocking the shelves or setting up new displays that items are scanning correctly in the system.  As well, the store needs to implement a price auditing system where departments are scanning to ensure products within their purview are scanning correctly.  This is my only request right now on this issue and, sadly, hopefully Wal-Mart will only do this voluntarily after I ask. 


  1. Walmart is the worst when it comes to this. I watch each item as it scans to be sure the correct price comes up. If it scans higher I keep quiet and then go to the customer service desk. They will start to process it as a return of the difference in price until I point out that the items should be free. At one Walmart I purchased two items scanned incorrectly. I went to the customer service desk and got those two items for free. Just as a test I went back and tried to buy the same two items, and once again they scanned incorrectly. Again I went to the customer service desk and got my money back and the items for free. Guess what? On my next visit the same thing happened. I inquired why they had not made the correction yet. I guess it is cheaper for them to give me two items free a day, since the customers who pay the higher price and don't notice it makes them more money than they are losing on me.

  2. To bad this law doesn't apply in the US. Incorrect pricing is more the rule then the exception. US Walmarts used to give $3 off for incorrect prices IF you said something. Even then many times they'd act like they didn't know what you were were talking about. Some of them probably really had no clue.


Popular Posts