Wal-Mart could be making millions in profits by overcharging unwary shoppers in the check-out line. State officials in Massachusetts have fined Wal-Marts in 3 locations for charging consumers higher prices at the check out register than the price they were advertising in the store. According to the North Adams Transcript, one of the violations occurred in the North Adams, Massachusetts Wal-Mart store. Officials from the state’s Division of Standards found cash-register price inaccuracies with several toys at the North Adams store. “They had three overcharges at that particular Wal-Mart,” said a spokesman with the state’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. The Wal-Mart store in North Adams was fined $400 for failing to meet the state requirement of 98% overall accuracy, along with fines for each of the three overcharges. Inspectors selected 100 items at random at 65 stores across the state on toys. In North Adams’ Wal-Mart, the overcharged items were a “Boratz Nighty Nite Doll,” listed at $18.04, but which scanned in at $19.97; the “Little Darling Doll,” listed for $4.97, but scanned in for $5.23; and the “Doctor Seuss Leap Pad,” listed for $14.24, but scanned at $14.97. A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the company takes the charges very seriously. She said if a customer is overcharged by less than $3, that item is free. If the overcharge exceeds $3, Wal-Mart will take $3 off of the correct price. State officials warned consumers to check their receipts and bring in sales flyers with them when they shop. “Make sure you know what the price is on the shelf because in retail stores, they don’t have to individually item price anymore,” a state official said. Wal-Mart was fined $2,000 in total across Massachusetts. Kohl’s was fined $700, and a Target store was fined $100.
State officials did not try to estimate how much money such overcharges result in illegal gains for the retailers involved. A few items overcharged can add up to a windfall profit for stores like Wal-Mart, which were unfairly charging customers who did not know the cash register was wrong. If such discrepancies occur nation-wide at more than 3,500 stores, the difference in cost could be in the millions. For example, if 15 customers a day bought the Nighty Nite Doll with a $1.93 overcharge, and that happened for one month at all 3,500 Wal-Mart stores, the company would have made more than $3 million in overcharges just for that one item.