What started as a tale of overpriced sausage turned into a judgment against Walmart when a Pennsylvania consumer advocate successfully sued the mega-retailer for .02. On August 2nd, Mary Bach walked into a Walmart store in Delmont and picked up a package of Banquet Brown ‘N Serve sausage links labeled at 98 cents. When she went to check out, the cashier’s scanner rang it up for a full dollar. She pointed the discrepancy out to the clerk (no doubt to the delight of those behind her in line) and was promptly refunded the difference as the clerk wrote down information about the error. Almost a week later she returned to the store and purchased the same sausage, only to have the same error. Despite a promise by the store manager to refund her two cents and correct the mistake, she’d had enough.

You see, Bach wasn’t merely a hyper-frugal senior, she’d spend the previous 17-years waging a one-woman war against price discrepancies, winning four previous lawsuits against the same store for price discrepencies. Accepting the manager’s offer wasn’t enough, she wanted to send a message. After all, when Sam Walton opened his original Walton’s Five and Dime (pictured), a few cents really meant something.

In the subsequent trial, the store manager testified that his store carries more than 50,000 items conducts approximately 5,000 to 6,000 price changes a week. The sausages she purchased recently changed packaging and bar codes, so both old and new packages were on the shelves, explaining the differing prices. Bach alleged unfair trade practices, pointing out Walmart abandoned its chainwide practice of offering scanner guarantees and stopped following established store procedures for correcting scanner errors when customers report them (which she noted also occurring at two nearby stores). The judge sided with Bach and awarded her the minimum statutory amount: $100 in damages, plus about $80 in court costs. Bach claims she doesn’t do it for the money, but to make a point (and, dare we might suggest, boredom). Still, she can claim a judgment totaling 9,000% of her actual losses.

(photo: © Bobak Ha’Eri, Creative Commons License)

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