Not Checking Your Receipts? You Could Be Throwing Money Away!

shopping, checking your receipts, receipt


Under normal circumstances it probably would have just slipped through the cracks.

For the last few years I have been a participant for the National Consumer Panel. I enter purchases into a handheld UPC scanner that then transmits the information back to them every Saturday evening at midnight via the internet.*

Each time my wife and I return home from grocery shopping we break into a routine. All the groceries are put on the counter, then my wife sits on a bar stool reading the information from the receipt, while I scan the UPC symbol and enter the prices into the scanner. We were doing just this on Saturday morning when she noticed that we had been charged twice for a package of boneless chicken breasts.

Within seconds of noticing, she was dialing the grocery store and asking to talk to a manager. I was skeptical as to whether the manager would believe her, as it would be easy to buy two of the same thing, and then claim to have been overcharged. But my wife’s calm but forceful demeanor resulted in the manager agreeing to refund us the overage. She smartly asked for the manager’s name just in case we encountered any problems. Receipt in hand, we returned a few hours later as we drove by the store on our way to the gym and successfully received our $6.26.

This isn’t the first time this had happened.

It made me wonder how often we’re overcharged on purchases and don’t notice simply because we don’t double check our receipt (we don’t scan every time we go shopping). For purchases of just a few items it’s relatively easy to realize something isn’t right, but for large weekly grocery shopping trips that include dozens of items, a double charge of an item can easily go undetected. While the money returned to us wasn’t large, it’s still MY money and I don’t want to just give it away!

It still boggles my mind how the cashier can scan something twice.

Think about how many bills and receipts you get each month where there is the possibility of an error. Do you check them all for accuracy, or do you just trust that they are correct? Have you ever found an error on a grocery bill or any other bill that you had to have corrected? How did it work out for you?

*Note: As per an earlier post, I had originally intended to cease being a panelist. However, they offered me an incentive that changed my mind and I decided to continue.

Brought to you courtesy of Brock



About the author

Brock Kernin


  • I definitely understand the mix up. When I was a checker at a grocery store, I accidentally put in a wrong code and charged like $77 for a thing of peppers. Completely honest mistake, but glad the customer caught it.

    I do have a limit of how much hassle I am willing to put up with in order to correct something. If something is under $10 to correct and will take more than 10 minutes to correct, I skip it. Not worth my time.

    The Warrior

  • I don’t always check my receipts. And I always threw them in the trash. But I always check everytime the accountant swipe my item on the barcode scanner. Though, I never realized that my receipts are important to check my budget for a month and a year. It’s unfortunate to spend my money in unexpected situation.

  • @The Warrior – I can understand punching in something wrong, but I’m not sure how one can scan the same thing twice if they’re bagging the stuff at the same time. It was “item” then 5 more items, then the same “item” again. Unless he left the package too close to the scanner waiting to bag it with some additional items and it tripped the scanner again.

    I agree with the analysis of whether it’s worth it….the good news for us is that our grocery store is right on our way to the gym, so it wasn’t out of our way at all. Thanks for your comment!

  • When I was extreme couponing, receipts were like gold and I would analyze every single one… before I left the grocery store. I was constantly amazed at how many mistakes are made during checkout. I learned to listen for the “beeps”, trying to make sure that each beep only correlates to one item and then watch the little screen (if there is one) to double check prices. Sometimes the difference is only a couple cents, but I had some $20 differences several times!
    Now I can keep an eye on it and correct the problem at the register – but it takes some focus. It helps not having to watch stacks of coupons be scanned also!

  • Mistakes are bound to be made on receipts. And, as part of being a smart and educated consumer, you need to check them, especially if you are making a large purchase. People get double charged all the time and it happens because you don’t take a second to double check your receipt.

  • @TheRecoveringCouponQueen – Watching the register for mistakes, I’ll bet that takes a little bit of practice! But let me get this straight….you stopped using coupons? Wasn’t the savings worth it?

  • @Brock รขโ‚ฌโ€œ Consider this. You would spend 3-4 hours a week cutting coupons and crawling flyers/Internet pages for coupons. Then you have to look at the stores to match the coupons with the sales. Then you have to stand in line while they scan each coupon individually and hope you don’t have a conflict that needs a manager. Even if it doesn’t need a manager, what if they mess up and you have to rescan everything to get that $1.24 off that jug of milk.

    It holds up the line and you are putting in 4 hours or probably more that could be spent as a freelancer making more money than you’re wasting doing the coupon thing.

    In the end it’s just not worth it.

  • @Kretek – I think what you’re describing is extreme couponing and I would agree. I watched that show maybe twice, but my reaction was the same as your description – for the time and effort put into it they could have just as well gotten a job and earned the same or more money. But that being said, I think there’s a happy medium where you can spend a few moments clipping coupons from the ads of stores that are visited each week for shopping to save a few bucks. What do you think?

  • I try to watch the screen as my order is being scanned. It’s much easier to get mistakes fixed before I’ve paid, or at the very least, before I leave the store. It would have to be a pretty big mistake for me to go out of my way to go back to the store and get it corrected.

    I’ve found a lot of mistakes at the small IGA store where I often shop — usually when items that are supposed to be on sale ring up at the regular price. They’re always nice about fixing the mistakes, but I can only imagine how many people get cheated because they don’t watch as carefully as I do. I’ve also had some problems at CVS where ExtraCare bucks are supposed to print out but don’t, so at CVS, I have to be careful about looking at my receipt after I pay, too.

    This is one of the reasons I prefer to use self-checkout lanes if they’re available. It’s much easier to watch the prices on those as I’m scanning (most of them actually speak the price aloud, so it doesn’t really slow me down). The downside is that if I find a mistake on a self-checkout, I have to flag down an employee to help.

  • @sara, ah, the beauty of the self-check out lines! If I’m by myself I usually use them as well. I bag things such that “like items” are together in regards to how we store things in our cupboards. The baggers tend to try to pack things to use as few bags as possible. More than once I’ve gotten some dirty looks from other customers who don’t like the fact that I wheel into the self checkout isle with a full cart of groceries, but it makes things more convenient for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sara!

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