Sunday, November 08, 2009

The unit prices of food v. the actual retail price at Copps: a tale of deception, anger, and love of one's family

Says Wisconsin Legislature:
(1) No person, firm, corporation or association shall, with intent to sell, or increase the consumption thereof, or create an interest therein, make, publish, disseminate, circulate, or place before the public in this state, or cause, directly or indirectly to be made, published, disseminated, or placed before the public in this state, in a newspaper or other publication, or in the form of a book notice, handbill, poster, bill, circular or pamphlet, or in any other manner, an advertisement of any sort regarding articles of food, which advertisement contains any assertion, representation or statement which is untrue, deceptive or misleading.

I try to be a smart shopper and I always look at unit prices when comparing products to see which is the best deal. It helps you compare a 1lb bag of corn chips with a 10 oz bag of corn chips without having to do math, because the unit price tells you that one brand is 18 cents per ounce and the other bag is 27 cents per ounce (or even 60 cents per ounce in some cases...) when they all look sort of the same.

Yesterday while I was shopping at Copps I was considering buying some sort of fruit cup/apple sauce cup kind of thing for the girls' school lunches. They all seemed like a rip off but I decided to look at unit prices anyway. I looked at some Dole fruit cups that were on sale. 12.8 cents per pk? Maybe not such a rip off! How many do you get? Four? So let me get this straight. This should cost $0.51? Seems like a better deal than most! But hold on a second. Do you see it? It's $2.05. The PER PK price for a 4 PK of this should be $0.51. But if you were just glancing at unit prices you would be tricked into thinking this one is a better deal than that one. I took a look at some of the other fruit cups and found similar mistakes, and I started to wonder about the whole store.

As I went on with my shopping trip I started getting upset about this. By the time I was finished and the Customer Service Rep who was helping out asked if I was ready to check out, I was ready to take on all of the wicked injustices of the world.

"I have to show you something..." I said, and brought her over to the fruit cups.

I told her that I rely on unit prices to tell me how to get the most food for the least amount of money and I noticed that their unit prices were incorrect. "I want to pay THIS PRICE," I said, pointing to the misleadingly low unit prices.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, this is the actual price of the product. The unit prices are wrong. I don't know how that happened."

I wondered aloud about the REST of the store. I told her those labels needed to be fixed immediately so other customers don't compare unit prices and think they're getting a deal.

SHE said she didn't think other customers were looking at unit prices.

"I guarantee I am not the only one looking at unit prices. People are broke! They have families to feed! They are trying to be smart shoppers!"

She told me that the labels come from "Corporate" and it could take a while to get the right labels out.

"What are you going to do RIGHT NOW?"

"Ma'am, I... Don't know what to tell you... We can't do anything right now... We can't go through every single product to check the unit price right now. Like I said, we can't change the price tags right now."

"REALLY? What would make it worth your while to DO SOMETHING about this? Should we stand here together taking all the prices down? I spend $12,000 a year at this store feeding my family of five! Price comparison helps us pay the bills and there are lots of people out there who are worse off than us. This is important! Do I need to call Channel 15? What needs to be done?"

"I don't think you need to do that. Like I said it's going to take time--"

"You need to inform your customers of this NOW."

"I understand that, ma'am--"

"I don't want to come back tomorrow and see that nothing has changed."

"I can't guarantee--"

"I don't want to come back in an HOUR to see that nothing has changed."

"I don't know what to tell you..."

I sighed, "Just make a sign to tell customers that the unit price is incorrect and attach it to these shelves, please."


"You're going to do that?"



I got out my iphone and snapped the above pictures, then went on to check out.

I realize that I may have gotten more steamed than I needed to about this, but as a "mama bear" I feel that when I'm getting deceived on unit prices, these people are taking food out of the mouths of my children, and boy do those instincts kick in.

Please, smart shoppers, pay attention to this stuff. They need to know that you're paying attention, and that these mistakes aren't okay.

And if anyone is shopping at Copps, do me a favor and check the unit prices on the fruit cups. ;)


amy said...

that's awesome hilary. i never look at unit prices but i will from now on for sure! I recently had a very frustrating customer service experience myself, one that has yet to be resolved and I have to admit it makes me feel better to know that other people aren't afraid to point out things that are wrong and try to amend them.

Susannah said...

You should send this in to Consumerist! I look at the unit prices, and it makes me feel all smart because I have a shortcut to paying less, but a shortcut's no good if it's wrong. Good for you for saying something!

Have you shopped at Hy-Vee yet? It's pretty nice, and I think the prices are competitive. I can't wait for it to open on the west side. (I don't know why I like it so much, but I think it makes me feel closer to my Iowan boyfriend *giggle*)

yermomma said...

Is it Copps that will give you twice the amount of money back if they charge you the wrong price? That happened to me a few times.

Stanley Pierce (Steve) said...

It looks like the mistake in that unit price is the label. It should have said /ounce rather than /pack.

I've found that this is the most common error in unit price labels.

Anonymous said...

She said NO ONE else looks at unit prices??? REALLY? If they weren't used, they wouldn't be listed in EVERY grocery store in the US!!! I think a call needs to be made to the corporate office- on principle alone! The price should have been honored, bad customer service really burns me up!

michael d said...

The fact that they made a mistake isn't, in and of itself, a big deal. The fact that she didn't want to fix it then is understandable (I'm sure they're busy) but not okay. The fact that she tried to make the argument that you're the only one who cares about unit prices shows a basic disconnect with the needs of the people who shop there and is a big problem.

Really, it's not like it'd be that hard for her to fix. Write in a correct price with a marker. Use masking tape if the label is too shiny to write on. Contact corporate for a new one.

If it happens again, I'd contact ATCP about it.

justcurious said...

This cracks me up! I bet she didn't know what hit her!