A Back to School Quiz to Save You Money: Check Receipts!

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The back-to-school shopping season is back — and that makes it the perfect time for your first pop quiz of the new school year!

But don’t worry. This quiz can save you money, by reminding you that everyone needs to check their receipts when shopping so they’re not overcharged by faulty price scanners.

Overcharging errors happen more often than you think. Every year, the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures inspects thousands of local businesses to make sure all the equipment they use to charge consumers for the things they buy is accurate.

And every year, inspectors find overcharging errors. And let’s face it, when you’re doing a lot of shopping, like during the back-to-school season, even tiny overcharges can add up to big dents in your wallet or pocketbook.

So take the quiz to learn more about how to protect yourself this shopping season. And remember to check your receipts!

How many businesses inspected in San Diego County last year had overcharging errors?

A.    One out of every eight

B.    One out of every six

C.    One out of every nine

Answer: C. Roughly one out of every nine businesses inspected last year — 11.4 percent — had overcharging errors in fiscal year 2017-18, which ended June 30. This actually is a marked improvement. In recent years that figure has been as high as one out of every five. Overcharging errors can happen for lots of different reasons. For example, new sales prices may not have been programmed into store computers.

How much was the average overcharge?

A.    $2.95

B.    $1.85

C.    $5.05

Answer: B. The average overcharge last year was $1.85. That was also an improvement over the $2.28 average overcharge in the previous year.

On average, how much money are American families expected to spend this year on back-to-school shopping?

A.    $979.60

B.    $684.79

C.    $942.17

D.    $605.20

Answer: This one is sort of a trick question. If you guessed either B or C, you were right! According to the National Retail Federation’s annual back-to-school survey, families with children in elementary through high school are expected to spend an average of $684.79 — with the most popular items being clothing; electronic items including computers, phones and calculators; shoes; and traditional school supplies including notebooks, backpacks, pencils and lunchboxes.
Families with college and graduate school students expect to spend an average of $942.17. They’ll spend most of that on electronics, but also on clothing, furnishings for dorm rooms or apartments, food, personal care items and school supplies.

What’s the best way to protect against being overcharged?

A.    Always verify receipts and immediately notify store management of any price discrepancies

B.    Watch the cash register display screen as your items are being scanned. Stores are required to display the price of the item as you are buying it.

C.    Take sales advertisements with you to stores when you’re shopping to verify prices. Stores cannot legally charge you more than their lowest advertised, posted or quoted price.

D.    All of the above

Answer: D, all of the above. Above all, remember to check your receipts. But you should also watch as to make sure prices are coming up accurately as your items are scanned. And if you’ve seen a sale that you plan to take advantage of, bring the advertisement with you.

How do you shop smart?

A.    Plan ahead. Start watching for store sale fliers, flea markets, garage sales, clearance sales, etc.

B.    Make lists of what you need. Stick to your list.

C.    Comparison shop. Try to use at least five different sources to compare to get the best value.

D.    Don’t buy everything at once. Establish a spending plan and timetable to buy what you need over several weeks or months to take full advantage of future sales and bargains.

E.     All of the above.

Answer: E. Again, all of the above.

Finally, what should you do if you are overcharged?

Answer: There’s really only one answer. If you’re overcharged and can’t resolve the issue with store managers, contact the County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures. You can call at 1-888-TRUE SCAN (1-888-878-3722), or email them at And now you can also report issues on the County’s free “Tell Us Now!” app.

For more information, go to AWM’s Price Accuracy web page and check out our “Getting the Price Right” video about the County’s scanner inspection program.


Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact