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Supermarket Check Out Errors Travel Tip

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Watch for supermarket cash register errors travel tip

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- It was only a matter of a single peso, but the principle was worth far more than this. I picked up some items at a modern style supermarket in San Cristobal, one of which was on sale. I watched as my purchases were swiped through the infrared sensor and beeped into the cash register’s computer.

The discounted item did not ring up at the advertised price. Again.

I have observed this happening hundreds of times before in supermarkets around the world.

“That is suppose to be on sale,” I said to the cashier in Spanish. She looked at me like I was a complete moron. I must record here that the look was provisioned with a set droopy tired eyes and a scowl — the standard look that cashiers tend to give customers all over the world when they question the price they are being charged. “That is suppose to be eleven pesos, it is on sale.”

She sent a stock boy to check.

He returned, admitting my victory.

Watch check out with vigilance when buying sale items

It is incredible to me how often the automated cash registers in supermarkets all over the world charge higher prices than what they should. An item is marked on the shelf as costing one price and the cash register adds it up as costing another. This is a micro-hassle that I face continuously as I travel.

I would estimate that 25% of the times I make a larger size purchase at a supermarket there is some sort of discrepancy between the price that the cash register rings an item or two up at and the price that is advertised on the shelf. I realized long ago that I must know the exact price of the items I purchase from supermarkets and carefully watch as these items are scanned through the check out computer. All too often, there is an error — I have to stop the presses, bicker with the cashier, have them run a price check.

This is especially true of sale items, as promotions often have the funny tendency of being advertised on the shelves before they are registered into the checkout computers.

This is a travel tip that I learned from my mother. When I would go to the supermarket with her as a child I would watch as she added up the price of each item as she removed it from the cart and placed it upon the check out turnstile. As she would do this she would watch the price of each item being scanned into the cash register.

All too often — it was almost a giving, in fact — she would halt the cashier mid stride and inform her that she was being overcharged for something. The cashier would then roll her eyes, flip on and off that little light that sits upon the pole that shoots up above her head, huff, puff, and wait for a manager to come to her aid. The manager would talk to my mother, have a stock boy run off to check the price, and, upon his return, more often than not, my mother would be proved correct.

I took my mother’s suspicion of supermarket check out systems with me as I began traveling, and, like my mother, I’ve found their margin of error to be disproportionally high. I have probably saved myself hundreds of dollars just from following this simple standard operating procedure:

When checking out in supermarkets, add up the cost of each item as you place it on the turnstile then watch as the cashier scans each item through the check out computer. Report any errors, fight it out, pay the price you are suppose to pay.

This travel tip will save you hundreds of dollars.

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Filed under: Budget Travel, Money, Travel Tips

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3131 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Zhushan Village, Kinmen, TaiwanMap