The Smart Shopper Syndrome

If you are at all like me, you probably visit your local supermarket at least once a day. If each member of every South African family did the same, imagine how open we all would be to errors at the till when checking out.

Supermarket shopping carts

"Surely not", I hear you say, what with all these modern Point of Sales systems in place, but alas, it is the truth. The problem – we are going to examine it now – is probably compounded if you shop in bulk on a less regular basis than I do, and this is because you have so many items in your trolley that there is an even bigger margin for error.

Shopping is a relatively simple matter for most people. You make up a list and drive, walk or bus/taxi to your local shops. Once in the store, you systematically walk the aisles, helping yourself to whatever you need, and loading the goods into your trolley.

Some of us are easily distracted, and in next to no time we have made purchases that we never really intended to buy, but felt we had better stock up with any way. Good time to ask this vital question – did you register the price displayed on the barcoded tag on the shelf? If you did not, you are effectively shopping blind and trusting the stores automated sales system entirely. Bad move!

Note the Price

I make a habit of noting the price, having first determined if it is a fair figure in the first place. If the price seems high to me, I simply move on either doing without, or sourcing the item elsewhere. I am conscious of the prices charged by the competition, as well as the specials running at any particular point in time.

Advertising of specials is normally through the media, rewards programme email campaigns, and of course, in the store itself. It just requires the shopper to be alert to offers like these when they go shopping. How alert are you?

Digital Displays

Let's talk about the potential scam zone common in a number of retailing outlets. In a typical chain store, we have become quite used to the digital display screen at the Point of Sale. As scanning or stock code entry takes place, the contented shopper gets to seeing the running total and the total amount owing.

All good so far, as the happy shopper sees a running tab that hopefully tallies with what they had in mind to spend in the first place. Take the customer display screen away as many chains stores are now doing, and you have the potential for double charging caused by careless cashiers.

CNA is one of the culprits. You, the shopper are left at the mercy of the cashier and have to rely on them to tell you what you owe, or contort your neck to get a glimpse of what's happening on the other side of the sales counter. A number of disgruntled shoppers have complained to Consumer Watch about this new trend. Sure, you still receive a printed transaction slip, but imagine trying to argue a double-ring up after leaving the shop.

This practice also tends to foster dishonesty on the part of the sales person. After all, what's to stop them walking off with goods they have double-charged you for. They only need wait a decent period – just in case you return to the store having noticed the problem – and then it's winner-takes-all and you are left to pay for the "error".

Till Slips

This brings me to another gripe about events long after the shopping experience. Have you ever noticed how the thermal till slip reads after a few months? Bearing in mind that this slip is your all-important guarantee, what happens if you can't read it when it comes to crunch time and have to make a claim against faulty goods?

Box of receipts

I'm one of those odd-balls who keeps every bit of paper from the shopping experience. I file them religiously so that should I encounter a problem later, I have the back-up evidence right there in my filing cabinet. I even staple the sales slip in the instruction manual so that I know where I purchased the goods, the date and the proof of payment. Imagine the shock of finding just a blank piece of paper with absolutely no trace of any details - goodbye guarantee. This has happened to me more than a couple of times

The thermally printed receipt is one of my pet hates as you will have gathered. I do sometimes wonder if chain stores didn't invent the thermal printer to favour themselves when it comes to guarantee claims. How many times have you seen "No slip; No claim" displayed somewhere in the small print on the shops terms and conditions of trade?

I have some good news for the fastidious minded; photocopy all the sales dockets the same day you buy the goods. Better still, ask the shop from whom you are about to make the purchase do it for you.

Happy shopping South Africa, and remember to keep your brain on while doing so!

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