Don’t hate the payer, hate the game.

Want to save 50% at the supermarket? Here's help.I’m the grocery store customer who challenges the scanner. Yes, it slows things up a little. But I’m not going to pay $2.89 a pound just because someone forgot to tell the computer that hams are on sale this week.

That’s me. And you? You might be the person behind me, grinding her teeth in frustration because I won’t accept anything other than the advertised price.

My apologies if your checkout is delayed by 60 seconds. But that $1.90-per-pound savings times eight pounds represents almost $16. My budget won’t let me back down.

Nor will my sense of fair play. If the store advertises a special, it’s up to us as consumers to demand those prices be honored. Don’t get mad at me. Get mad at whoever neglected to program that week’s sales into the system.

If stores make printed promises, then they ought to keep them. Consumers need to insist, politely, that stores honor their agreements.


I’ve got coins that go jingle, jangle, jingle

Holding out for an advertised special isn’t the only behavior that irritates the piss out of some shoppers.

For example, I sometimes use a fistful of change to buy a small item. Understand: I’m not paying for a washing machine with unrolled pennies. I’m simply trying to use up a couple of bucks’ worth of specie.

And no, I won’t take it to Coinstar because those machines take about a 9% cut. That’s like me paying a convenience tax for someone else’s convenience.

Again, we’re talking about an extra 60 seconds, max, which is how long it takes for some credit or debit transactions to be completed. If it takes any longer the reason is that the cashier can’t handle the counting.

And if an adult can’t add quarters and dimes? Focus your pique on him, or on the school system. Not on me.


Cents-off and sensibility

Some frugalists love coupons. Some retailers hate them. Can’t we all just get along?

Before I go any further, let’s get something straight: “Frugal” does not necessarily equal “coupon.” Some frugalists hate coupons. Some couponers are not frugal.

(And for extra credit: Not all frugalists wash and re-use plastic bags.)

As noted in “I glean ketchup packets,” some people low like cattle when you pull out a coupon or two. Or 10. Honest, folks, we’re not trying to ruin your lives. We’re simply trying to stay within our budgets. Until coupons go totally electronic, we’re going to be handing over those little bits of paper.

And if they don’t scan correctly I’ll challenge them, too. Again, my apologies.

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  1. I never worked at a grocery store, but I did work in a department store (Canadian Tire). We were always good about honouring the advertised price. Sometimes the customer would try to scam us though. It didn’t happen often, but we did have to watch out. It was pretty easy to override the price if it didn’t ring in correctly though.

  2. I’m the person behind you who says, “No, problem. I’ve got more time than money,” when the cashier apologizes for the time it took on your order.

  3. One of the grocery stores that we shop at will give you the item for free if it doesn’t scan at the advertised and signed price. I always try to watch the scanner carefully, because inevitably there is an error and I get the item for free. It has happened with my toddler’s non-flouride toothpaste, tortilla chips, salad dressing to name a few. I have no problem standing behind someone who is getting what they are rightfully due.

  4. Deedee

    You are right, that it is not the shopper’s fault. If I am behind someone having problems with item pricing or coupons I don’t blame the shopper and have actually been that shopper before. And really, it’s ridiculous to expect the shopper to just accept the mistake and pay more money for their groceries in order to not inconvenience the total strangers in line behind them.

    So I am sympathetic and patient if I am behind that shopper. The shopper that DOES annoy me is the one that stands there doing nothing until the cashier announces the total, then begins digging around in their purse looking for their checkbook, then slowly writes the check, enters it in their register, etc. Plan ahead people! You know you are going to have to pay, have that check ready to go! Or use a debit card. And don’t even get me started (oops-too late!) on the guy in front of me last week who was short a couple of dollars (cash) for his purchases, then went out to his car to get his debit card, then came back and that didn’t work so they played the “what are we going to put back” game. Yeah, I wasn’t really in a hurry but that was annoying!

  5. I spent almost $200 at a local hardwares store the other day (renovations, oh my!), and received a coupon for 20% at their sister clothing store (it’s Canada. We buy axes, petunias, shoes and dresses from the same company. It works for us). So, I hie myself down the street, where I receive a $10 off coupon for the same hardware store I just left.

    So of course, I go back, explaining that I now have a $10 off coupon, and want to apply it to the stuff I just bought, but would rather do it without actually physically returning everything, then re-buying it (which I’m willing to do). The clerk admits it’s allowed, while rolling her eyes.

    She then proceeds to do the paperwork involved.

    And screws it up.

    Not once.

    Not twice.

    But THREE times.

    Then looks at the guy behind me and apologizes to HIM about how long it’s taking.


  6. @Deedee Stores still accept checks as payment? I can’t think of any store up here that does that. Cash, credit, or debit.

  7. Good for you. I do the same (though I admit that I’m not very efficient about looking at store ads, I do pay CLOSE attention to the sales tags on the shelves and how they ring up). I’m lucky enough to shop at one of those stores that gives you the item free if it doesn’t ring up correctly.

    And I completly ignore any rude people who are behind me in line. I don’t know them and chances are will never encounter them again, so I don’t let them bother me.

    In return, I try to be patient when people ahead of me are having transaction “issues.”

  8. I’m the person pissing everyone off too! And I hate getting attitude from the workers when you have a ton of coupons. I try not to go back to the store if it happens too often. They won’t get my coupons or my money!

  9. FranticWoman

    If the scanner is incorrect (and this is in the food store), I have found it pointless to argue with the checker – they don’t care. They wont check or correct it, plus I get the item for free. I also know I might be incorrect. I just let them finish, then verify, then go to the courtesy desk. I’ve just found it works AND it doesnt annoy ppl – the bonus.

  10. I do those same things (except the change part).

    I have learned to ignore the sighing masses behind me in line. Just kidding, people are usually impressed with how much we save.

  11. Sarah

    I recently specifically went to my local whole foods to get 4 of our favorite yogurt that was on sale for 3.49 instead of the normal 3.99 price. My fault I was busy chatting with the checker and didn’t notice it did not ring up the sale price until that night. I was mad at myself as I had made a special trip to get the sale price so I emailed to inquire and the store emailed me back that they checked and indeed they had mistakenly taken the sale price out of the computer. They thanked me for calling it to their attention and mailed me a $20 whole foods gift card!!

  12. You really have to use up those pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Otherwise, the money is just wasted…and over time, it adds up. With Coinstar showing that consumers will pay to get the change out of their pockets, many banks now demand a cut for turning your coins back into paper.

    The only things that truly annoy me in the checkout line (besides the morons yakking on their cell phones) are time-gobbling price checks on products that should have been marked and people arguing with some hapless check-out clerk when the customer is wrong and the clerk is right. It’s one thing to say “can I have…?” but altogether another to engage the clerk in an endless argument over something she can’t do anything about.

  13. Rochelle

    I was so feed up with the mis-marked items at my local Albertson’s I complained. Usually, I wouldn’t find the mistake until I got home. Now I am looking at my cash register receipt in the store to make sure I haven’t been overcharged.

    Albertson’s corporate refunded the sales price of my entire purchase the day I complained. Now, let’s see if they continue to overcharge me.

    I am with the rest of you – it’s my money, I’m not going to let the store overcharge me, and I too ignore the people in line behind me. If the store didn’t want the line to back up, they wouldn’t try to overcharge me time after time.

    It’s annoying that we even have to write about this stuff. I think the stores make their money hoping we won’t notice the nickle and dime over charges. It’s my money, and I’ll stand my ground to keep it.

  14. I do the same thing if I’m overcharged. The customers who cheese me off by making me wait aren’t the ones who are alert and catching cashier errors, they’re the ones who gaze off into space or chat it up with the cashier and when given their total only then do they dig around their purse, locate their checkbook and slowly begin to fill in the info. Seriously, have your checkbook out and everything but the total filled out before the cashier is done ringing you up! Aaaarrrggggh!

  15. I generally do the same thing – check prices. However, sometimes I find myself shopping with my child, and then I’m not as good at it. Then I get mad at myself for not checking. It’s gotten so bad that I will NOT shop at Ralph’s anymore. EVERY TIME I buy plain brown onions there, they charge me for Vidalias (which are 4x the price).

    The local Ralph’s however, has a self checkout that takes change, so for a month I paid for my groceries with cash…pennies, nickels, and dimes!

  16. Suzanne

    I have gotten angry with a cashier and complained to his manager about coupons. He scanned it and I heard the warning beep of “that exact product was not purchased” and watched as he put it into the drawer. No second attempt, no handing it back to me and saying “that didn’t work.”
    It pissed me off. I don’t spend an hour a week clipping out the week’s coupons, organizing them, etc. (having fun while doing so, believe it or not) so that some 18-year-old can put it into his stupid drawer without it taking valuable dollars off my bill.
    So I told him to pull it out of his drawer, which he did, and asked if there were others that he missed. No. The customer service girl didn’t apologize for his not scanning through the coupon properly despite my obvious anger, but at least she gave me my hard-earned money back.

  17. I catch many grocery computer errors–the mistakes are NEVER in my favor! That tells you something.

    I try to use up change also–but I don’t do it if many people are behind me.

    Coinstar has no charge if you get an Amazon–or other–gift card. Also, around Xmas, there’s usually a bonus. Watch for it.

  18. I once had a woman behind my in line that was very annoyed at the stack of coupons I handed the cashier. She started out sighing very audibly..which then turned into complaints about how long it was taking/ she picked the wrong line and person to get behind/ to disbelief that I had the “nerve” to use too many coupons. I just turned to her and smiled and then said in a very gentle voice that I would be saving about $60 off of my bill thanks to the coupons. I then let her know that I would be happy to take the coupons back if SHE was willing to pay the difference. For some reason she did not take me up on that! (and was also silent for the rest of my checkout, I wonder why?)


  19. This is why I use the self check.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Mel: But sometimes that happens to me in self-check, too — a price rings up wrong and I have to get an attendant. Besides in the stores where I shop (Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC) you don’t get to scan your own coupons — you have to let the attendant do it. Sigh.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  20. We are lucky to have two banks that have free coin-counting machines. I can transform my coins to paper at no extra fee.

    Melissa – all of our grocery stores take checks. You have to have a loyalty card and be approved though.

  21. At my store (shoprite, a northeastern chain), if you notice an incorrect price and correct the cashier, the cashier needs to get a manager, and fixes it so you pay the correct price. If you let the order ring up, pay, then go to the service counter, they will give you the item free. So, I always will wait.


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