Back to School Shopping Lesson Plan: Check Your Receipts!

Yes, it’s back to school time again. Time for moms, dads, college students — even kids — to shop for everything from binders to backpacks, clothes, e-readers, laptops, tablets and other stuff.

Which means it’s also the perfect time to remind everyone to remember to double-check all their receipts to make sure they’re not being overcharged by faulty cash register price scanners.

It happens more than you’d think.

Every year, San Diego County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures inspects thousands of businesses to make sure that all the devices that scan, weigh or measure the things consumers buy are charging people accurately. Last year, nearly one out of every five businesses inspected had overcharging errors. And even small overcharging errors can add up when you take into account the average family will spend roughly $630 on back-to-school items this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

But consumers can help protect themselves, Agriculture, Weights and Measures officials said, by taking some simple steps:

Protect Against Overcharging:

  • Always verify receipts and immediately notify store management of any price discrepancies.
  • Take sales advertisements with you when shopping to verify prices.
  • Know that stores cannot legally charge more than their lowest advertised, posted or quoted price.

Shop Smart:

  • Plan ahead. Start watching for store sale fliers, flea markets, garage sales, clearance sales, etc.
  • Make a list of what you need.
  • Comparison shop with at least five different sources for the best values.
  • 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 true bargains.
  • Call Agriculture, Weights and Measures at 1-888-TRUE SCAN (1-888-878-3722) or email to to report overcharges you can’t resolve with store.

For more information, go to Agriculture, Weights and Measure’s Consumer Protection Web page and check out this video about the scanner inspection program!



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