On September 2, 1999, Colman Herman, a 56 year old freelance writer from Boston, went to his local Home Depot and bought a few items. He noticed that none of the items he was buying had price tags on them. ‘Item pricing’ laws, like the one in Massachusetts, allows shoppers to compare prices and detect errors made at the checkout scanners. Herman decided to make a point about Home Depot’s flaunting of the item pricing law, and he took the company to small claims court. Instead of settling the case in small claims, Home Depot hired a local lawyer, and had the case transferred to district court. Home Depot argued that is has a pricing system in its stores that displays prices near the items on the shelves. But a consumer with 25 items in their cart would need a pretty good memory to verify prices at checkout. “If we were dealing with price tags,” Home Depot complained, “it would take hours or days to keep up with price changes”. But it looks like they’ll have to come up with some new plan, because the Quincy District Court judge ruled in Herman’s favor, and awarded him the sum of $25. As a result, Home Depot says its working on a plan to satisfy the Judge’s order, but the company also may appeal the court ruling.
We have reported earlier on Home Depot’s item pricing woes in states like Michigan, where the Attorney General finally had to impose fines on the company for non-compliance. Item pricing is a basic consumer protection. Check with your state’s attorney general’s office/consumer division to see if you have a unit pricing law. If you do, and your local Home Depot doesn’t have item pricing, print out this story and present it to your local Home Depot manager. Tell him you’d like to see his store get item pricing as soon as possible — or at least sooner than you plan to go to the local newspaper with the story. Home Depot probably spent thousands of dollars in legal bills to beat Mr.Herman. There’s no word when Home Depot will decide to pay Herman his $25. Herman said his appeal was worthwhile. “I think it shows that consumers who care can have an impact,” he told the Associated Press.