As recording artist Wilson Pickett used to sing: “99 and a half just won’t do.” An Associated Press story out of Quincy, Massachusetts this week, which has appeared in other variations for several years on this ‘newsflash’ page, involves Home Depot’s lack of price tags on its products. The ‘home improvement’ company has been tagged by officials in Massachusetts and Michigan, among others, for not following those states’ item pricing laws. In this latest case, a district court judge fined Home Depot $13,625 after a court monitor reported to the Judge that 1 perceat of the 500,000 items in the Home Depot Quincy store had no price tags. Home Depot is under a court order to price each item, after a customer filed a lawsuit saying the store was in violation of the state’s item pricing law. Home Depot officials, backed by retail industry representatives, complained that the requirement to put a price tag on every item was too labor-intensive. “If the standard for this is going to be 100 percent, we can never achieve that,” Home Depot’s lawyer told Judge Mark S. Coven. The Judge wrote in a decision dated July 26th. that “if this court were to adopt a percentage scale of 98 percent … the pure mathematical result would produce 10,000 instances where consumers were harmed. This court has not been willing nor will it now accept a position that will place the court in accepting continuous indifference to the rights of so many.” Last June, the Judge warned Home Depot that it would be fined $25 per unmarked item if it continued to display items without tags. The court monitor visited the Quincy Home Depot and found 80 product displays, with a total of 545 products, that had not been priced accurately.
Consumers have long complained that when an item is not marked, they cannot verify when they get to the scanner that the price at the register is indeed the same price they saw marked on the shelf. Home Depot will put a price on the shelf, but not always on the item, so the consumer is without a price tag on the product to compare. Home Depot tried to argue that scanners only have to be 98% accurate, but the Judge clearly was concerned about the volume of unmarked items, not the percentage. More importantly, the law applies to all retailers, including much smaller home improvement stores. If these other hardware and home improvement stores are expected to live within the item pricing law, Home Depot should be expected to do the same. The little guys are item pricing, so can the big guy. For a company that is so fixated on price, it’s time for Home Depot to fix a price on the items it sells.