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COPY-Checkout crackdown: Are you paying the posted price?

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Couponing and bargain shopping is a trend that has swept the nation by storm. Customers are looking for ways to save money and keeping a watchful eye as your items are scanned could help keep your total to a minimum.

According to state records, 10-15 percent of all stores in southeastern North Carolina fail the state price scan inspection. This means stores may put a price on an item on the shelf, but the price shows up differently on the register when the item is scanned.

Many people will shop at a specific store because they have the best deals and the lowest prices. It's up to the customer's watchful eye to make sure they get those deals.

NC State Agricultural Inspector Bill Tedder goes to stores in the area to make sure the price they're listing on the shelf is the same price customers pay at the register.

Four days a week, for ten hours a day, Tedder checks and rechecks prices at stores in southeastern North Carolina. If more than two percent of the items he scans ring up differently at the register than they do on the shelf, the store fails its inspection.

"I've seen errors as much as much as $19 or $20 on a single item," said Tedder. "Man hours are cut and you're trying to get a job done with less man hours, and that effects the operation of the store."

Errors as big as $20 are usually easy for customers to spot. It's the five cents here and ten cents there that make it tough for consumers to catch.

WECT's Colin Hackman joined Tedder for a surprise visit to three retailers in Leland: Piggly Wiggly, Family Dollar and Dollar General.

Family Dollar passed with a perfect score, while Piggly Wiggly only missed one item, still passing the test.

Dollar General, however, didn't make a passing grade. Tedder said ten percent of the items tested rang up incorrectly at the register, five times over the acceptable level.

While Dollar General's corporate offices never returned our calls – customers had no problem telling us how they felt.

"That is just highway robbery is what that is," exclaimed a man who just bought a greeting card. "Knowing about this now actually is going to get my blood boiling a little bit and I'm going to look into it a little more."

According to the law - retailers can fail the initial scan, but the state inspector will be back for a more intensive scan in 60 days. During the second visit, fines are placed for each incorrectly priced item – up to $5,000.

"If they fail again…we keep coming back every 60 days until they get it right," explained Tedder.

[Check out some stores in the area that have discrepancies (PDF)]

Even though the business should be putting the right prices on display, Tedder said the customer should still take some responsibility.

"You should be checking your receipt, you should be watching the monitor, you should have some ideas of what the items are costing you," said Tedder.

Tedder said he's done his job for the day when he can find a retailer overcharging its customers.

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