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It may be hard to believe, but a single mom from Framingham, MA has been banned by the two largest shopping chains in the area. Both Stop n’ Shop and Shaw’s Supermarkets have decided they would rather keep her out of their stores than deal with her ability to catch them violating pricing laws.

This self avowed “consumer advocate” has spent years meticulously checking the accuracy of listed prices versus the actual prices that would ring up upon sale.  When she would find errors, which were almost always in the store’s favor, instead of ignoring them, she would call attention to the store policies for dealing with such situations.

Under MA state law, pricing errors discovered by state and local inspectors can bring fines that start at $100, but the law cuts that in half for stores whose policies provide the customers with an item for free if its scanned price is higher than its marked price. Over the past few years, this advocate collected thousands of dollars in free stuff under supermarket price-accuracy guarantees.

This personal ban may cause more problems for the supermarkets than they ever bargained for. A bill has been filed that would prohibit food stores from taking any “retailiatory action” against customers who complain about violations of pricing laws, and would overturn any existing bans.  If approved, the law would protect people who expose price inaccuracies in the same manner as corporate whistle blowers are protected from retaliation.

Shaw’s no longer gives away items that have been mispriced. Customers will be refunded the overcharged difference if an inaccurate price is detected on a checkout scanner.

Discussion Questions:

1. When you notice your grocery bill seems higher than you thought it would, do you stop and question the cashier? 

2. Do you agree that stores have the right to ban customers that question prices?

 

Mark Arsenault, “Banned Shopper Pushes for New Law,” Boston.com, August 13, 2009.

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