How closely do you review your store receipts?

We have become subjected to automated check-outs, bar code scanning and electronic payments for most purchases. Given our busy schedules, how close do you monitor your store receipts?

Tonight was a tight schedule night. Pick up my kids, visit our local fast food for supper on the run, and then over to a basketball game. Just enough time if someone with a large or complicated order doesn’t end up in the car in front of us in the drive up window.

Luck was on our side. Ordered, paid and off to basketball, the kids eating in the back as we drove. Efficient, yes. Nutritious – another story. I will note I was not the only car in line with kids in tow.

It wasn’t until we arrived at basketball that my son identified an error on our receipt. Not enough to go back for, but still an error. Then I got to thinking. If a small error was made on every drive-up receipt and only a small fraction of customers identified the error, how much could the restaurant make in a night, a week, a year.

Stores that scan their items at check out, which these days is nearly every store around, often have a policy that if you identify an item that scanned at the wrong price, they will give you the item for free (or at least the better stores do this). Other stores simply give you the difference and apologize. But what about all the customers who never noticed, who never bothered to review their receipt?

When I have time and the lines are not too long, I can pay attention to the ringing and identify something that rang at the wrong price. For a while when our local grocery store implemented a new scan system I found a free item pretty much every time I shopped there (they don’t let me shop there anymore – problem solved).

But most days when I am in a hurry, the lines are longer, and I have my kids with me, getting through the lines and back on schedule for the next item on our to-do list is most important. By the time my order is rung I am already one foot out the door. Often it isn’t until later that night or the next day that my wife will scrutinize the slip and identify things priced wrong. She is a hawk for these things and the sales circulars. Enough to go back, sometimes. Often though even when I put the slip in the car to go back in my travels, I forget or loose the slip.

Just last week I was behind a customer who asked the cashier to have a few items taken out of her order and returned to the shelves. The clerk set the items aside for restocking, and finished the order. The woman scanned her credit card and paid for the order. Then the cashier handed her the receipt. She looked through the receipt and pointed out to the cashier that the items set aside were included in her receipt. Confusion ensued. The order had to be voided, the items returned, and her card had to be re-processed again (course when I was in a hurry and behind schedule). My point here is that if the woman didn’t review her receipt and simply put it into her pocket as I always do, she would have left the store without knowing she paid for the items she had removed from her order.

So just how much money can a store make through these errors on checkout that go undetected by customers?

Given the reliance on automated systems, it is incumbent to your personal financial health and well being to watch your register receipts, and pay attention to the details. A small amount missed on many receipts could really add up.

Closely review your store receipts for errors, added items, wrong prices, and any other discrepancies. You may end up with as much free stuff as I have over the years by simply pointing out the store’s errors.