Monday, November 12, 2007

Scanner Errors: Another reason not to loose your short-term memory

A month ago I declared customer service dead, and now I am starting to see examples at every retailer in Canada in the form of scanner errors! We used to take for granted that the posted price will match the scanner read at the cash - but no more!

This holiday season disgruntled service reps will use scanners to ring you through or I guess you could avoid the 'service part' and use self checkout scanners. For the retailers, scanners are a miracle worker (they never call in sick and they count inventory when they ring through products). But for us customers, it means that when you grab that Christmas gift off the shelf, you need to remember the price until you get to the cash. Yes, scanners can lie. More often then you think. Now, I don't have empirical evidence, but over the last few years, I have found my fair share of scanner errors.

What prompted this rant: Today, I was overcharged at Home Depot. I was rather tired and I made it all the way to the car before I realized. I was pressed for time and I really did not what to go back in the store, re-check the price, stand in line at the customer service desk and explain the story. However, it was the principle (and I was kind of angry).

Although the efficient market theory may keep retailers from trying to tick consumers by posting one price and scanning another, mistakes do happen. And I think there is a link between retailers' search for the most marginal labour market participants to fill part-time holiday jobs and the accuracy of the retail miracle scanner. So, get your memory going and protect yourself with a notepad if needed. At least give it a try, it could be rewarding - Home Depot and most retailers kick you back $10 for spotting the error.

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