Warehouse Clubs’ “Guess the Price” Bill on Governor’s Desk

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Shoppers to Lose Protections Against Scanner Overcharges


Tucked away as inconspicuous amendments to the economic development bill now on the Governor’s desk are several provisions that will strip warehouse club shoppers of their basic rights to price disclosure and protection from scanner overcharges, according to consumer groups.

The provisions, thought to be pushed by lobbyists for BJ’s Wholesale Club, would completely exempt warehouse clubs from state and local oversight of the item pricing law which requires accurate price signs and price stickers on food and grocery items.

“We should be enhancing price disclosure, not eliminating it,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG legislative director. “Now more than ever, consumers need accurate, meaningful and easy-to-compare price information to make informed choices and to prevent being overcharged at the check- out”.

“With no prices on items, and no penalty for missing or inaccurate price signs, warehouse club shoppers are going to be forced to play a game of “guess the price” every time they shop,” commented Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World and author of the original pricing law.

By making warehouse clubs the only grocery sellers not subject to the food store item pricing law, warehouse grocery shoppers will no longer be guaranteed  protections and benefits previously mandated by that law:

  • Accurate prices marked on goods;
  • Accurate price signs with at least one-inch numerals;
  • Regular inspections by weights and measures officials;
  • Itemized sales receipts;
  • The ability to easily catch overcharges at the checkout or at home by merely comparing the marked price on goods with the price charged;
  • In cases of overcharges, no longer receiving the item free under a price guarantee;
  • Fines up to $2500 for pricing violations, including those for missing or inaccurate prices on items or signs, or overcharging.

According to inspection records of the state Division of Standards, some warehouse clubs have been chronic violators of the pricing law since its inception in 1987.  In just one roughly two year period ending in 2007, BJ’s racked up just over 2800 violations and was fined nearly $150,000.

“Warehouse clubs are the last stores that should be exempted from the law given their track record,” said Dworsky.  “Using their political influence to slip an amendment like this into an unrelated bill not only harms consumers, but gives warehouse clubs an unfair competitive advantage over supermarkets.”

Consumer groups are urging Governor Patrick to veto these anti-consumer provisions.