Murrysville woman refuses to give Wal-Mart her 2 cents
The world's largest retailer found itself in court in Westmoreland County on Thursday to defend itself over 2 cents.
Wal-Mart claims new packaging caused a mix-up on the price of a pack of Banquet "Brown 'N Serve" sausage at its store near Delmont.
But Murrysville consumer activist Mary Bach claims the overcharge was intentional.
Murrysville District Judge Charles Conway sided with Bach in her civil lawsuit alleging unfair trade practices. He awarded Bach $100 in damages, plus about $80 in court costs.
Bach and her husband, Leonard, said the fight isn't over the money. They said the retail giant should be more diligent in ensuring that prices listed on store shelves match what prices scan at the register.
"This is the fifth lawsuit we've had against this store for the same problem," Mary Bach said. "This isn't an isolated incident."
Bach testified that on Aug. 20 she purchased the sausages, which had a posted price of 98 cents. But the scanners erred, charging her $1 when she checked out.
"The clerk did everything right when I pointed out the error and refunded me the difference and noted the error," Bach said.
However, six days later, she went back to the store to purchase more of the same sausage. The shelf price was still 98 cents, but she was again charged $1, she testified.
After the second error, Bach telephoned store manager Jason Porter. Porter testified he offered Bach another 2-cent refund, and he vowed to correct the mistake.
He said there was no intent to defraud, but Bach wasn't interested in a refund.
Wal-Mart attorney Timothy J. Nieman of Harrisburg argued that Bach, who has a 17-year history of legal haranguing over price discrepancies, wasn't really shopping for groceries, but was shopping for her next lawsuit.
"Never once have I been questioned by a cashier whether an item I'm purchasing is for my personal use or not," Bach said. "Everything I buy is for my personal use."
Bach told Conway her husband and grandchildren enjoy the sausages on a regular basis.
Under cross-examination by Nieman, she said she refused Porter's offer of a refund to "weigh my options." She said she takes merchants to court "as a last resort."
Porter testified the Delmont area store carries more than 50,000 items for about 29,000 customers who shop there each week. He estimated the store conducts about 5,000 to 6,000 price changes a week.
Porter said Banquet had just changed its packaging and its Universal Product Code. Both old and new packages were on the shelves. The old cost 98 cents. The new, $1, according to testimony.
He said store employees regularly check prices.
"Wal-Mart abandoned an earlier chainwide practice of offering scanner guarantees -- for no explainable reason -- and they also appear not to be following established store procedures for correcting scanner errors when customers report them. This also was occurring at two other stores, in Greensburg and North Versailles," Mary Bach said.
Wal-Mart has 30 days to appeal to Common Pleas Court. Nieman declined comment on its plans.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.