Today when I dropped by, there was a circular advertising $1.79/lb for boneless chicken breasts and thighs. I got to the meat aisle, and sure enough there were packages of boneless skinless chicken breasts and packages of boneless skinless chicken thighs marked right on them, with those regular printed sale stickers: regular price, $2.89/lb, sale price $1.79/lb. So I picked up four.
They rang up at the register as $2.89/lb. When I objected, the cashier argued with me. She told me that if I had a problem, I had to take it to the Customer Service desk. Which, it being after 10pm, was closed. I insisted and she called over a more senior employee, who looked that the package, and agreed, yes, the sale price was $1.79. He agreed to refund me the amount charged, and then sell me the chicken at the correct price. After about 20 minutes of farting around and waiting for another cashier's register to become available (?!), he issued the refund and rang them through again.
And this time, they came up various prices from $3.11/lb to $3.97/lb. My bill, which should have been on the order of $15 was $29.98.
At this point, a still more senior employee came over and issued me another refund, and at this point, disgusted, I left without the chicken.
That sale ended today. It was a week-long sale. Now I'm wondering: how many people paid $2.89/lb for that chicken which was advertised and labeled $1.79/lb? $1.79/lb is a pretty good deal on boneless skinless chicken! That's probably why it was on the front of the circular, above the fold. How many people showed up specifically for that chicken at that price and were charged more, and didn't notice? Or didn't notice till they got home and decided they didn't have the time or energy to do anything about it?
So I figured I'd ask here. Did anybody else experience this?
Because this isn't the first time for me at that store, when I've bought meat on sale. And from something one of the staff said, I gather it's not the first time for a lot of people.
ETA: I'm surprised that the usually well-informed denizens of Davis Square are unfamiliar with the enforcement of this law. The above described behavior is actually quite seriously illegal, and there's an entire little branch of the government for dealing with enforcement of it. There's Comm of MA law M.G.L. Chapter 24, Section 184 B, C, D and E which covers this. Enforcement is left up to the individual towns. Each town has "Department of Weights and Measures" to do that.
The Porter Square Star Market is in Cambridge. Here is the web page for the City of Cambridge Weights and Measures Department. Even more pertinently, here's the complaint form. Note that "scanner errors" is on the pulldown list.
(Should this come up for you closer to home, here's Somerville's. They don't have a form, but they have a phone number and email address. Here's Medford's Weights and Measures Dept page. Medford has a form. Why doesn't Somerville have a form? Boston's Weights and Measures Dept. Arlington's "Sealer of Weights and Measures".)
I assure you, I filed a complaint before I posted this, and had a voice mail from the appropriate official before most of you saw and responded to this.
Here's the problem: because the sale ended at midnight, the inspector -- who told me he would be headed over there today -- can't reproduce the error. He might find that the same problem exists with some other item, but he can't prove that, all last week, Star was advertising one price then charging another.
So I turn to you: anybody have a receipt for the $2.89 price and an actual pack of the chicken, still in the packaging, still with the price label on, showing the $1.79 price?
Because it seems to me if we can come up with that, we have adequate legal proof (civil cases are to "preponderance of evidence" NOT "beyond a reasonable doubt"!) for a finding that Star defrauded all customers who bought that chicken.
And the fine is $100 per item.
This isn't merely unfortunate, or frustrating. It's illegal and it's unconscionable. There are people in our community -- frankly, the ones most likely to be drawn in by a sale, and most likely to buy in quantity when offered a sale! -- who can't afford an additional $10, or $20, or $50. That comes right out their food budget.
Or put another way, while I don't suppose it's a huge number, how many, do you think, of the people who were burned by this paid with an EBT card, i.e. food stamps? Were on WIC?
(Before anyone says, "Well, the poor people are all up at Market Basket anyway": Today Market Basket's sale price on boneless skinless chicken breast is $1.99/lb: $0.20 more per pound that Star's advertised sale price. So, actually, the poor people might very well have gone to Star to take advantage of that sale.)
And if this is problem is not specific to Porter Square? If it afflicts all Star Markets? Star is the only grocery store in East Boston, one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the area. I work not far from that Star, and when I drop in to pick something up, a majority of people ahead of me in line are using EBT cards.
Is that Star Market doing this too? Because I personally know people in East Boston who have literally not eaten for a week to feed their kids at the end of the month, waiting for the next check to come in. And the thought that those people are being ripped off this way makes my blood freeze with rage. This is literal taking food from the mouths of children stuff.
It's infuriating to me that the Porter Square Star's little accidentally-on-purpose fraud habit is so well known to the community that a lot of us have stopped shopping there. They are literally getting away with theft, by spreading it out among a large number of people, so no one person is out so much that they're motivated to make much of a stink.
Well I'm planning on making a stink about this. I'd ask you to join me in making as much stink as you can.
Yes, try to get your money back if you can, try to catch the errors before they happen, complain to management, and get your free items if you can.
But even if they DO make it right with you: REPORT THEM. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Because if the scanner is coming up with the wrong price, that means everyone behind you in line is going to get ripped off too, and not all those people will be in a position -- of time, of energy, of liberty, of knowing their rights -- to demand satisfaction before they leave the store, even if they notice. Which Star is banking that they won't.
This has to end.
The Weights and Measures Departments rely on consumer complaints to drive enforcement. So please -- please! -- file complaints every single time you catch Star's scanners doing this.