Back-to-School Shopping Quiz and Reminder — Check Receipts!

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It’s back-to-school time again, which means that soon wallets will be stretched, credit and debit cards will be scanned and lots of money will be spent.

The last thing anybody wants during shopping season is to be overcharged by faulty cash register price scanners.

But it can happen. Every year, the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures inspects thousands of local businesses to make sure the equipment that scans, weighs and measures the things consumers buy are charging people accurately. And every year they find overcharging errors.

To help, we have an important reminder and a handy quiz, the first of the new school year!

First, the reminder: Remember to check your receipts! If you don’t pay attention, you could pay more.

Now, here’s the quiz — see how you do!

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

a.     One out of every four

b.     One out of every eight

c.     One out of every five

Answer: B. One out of every eight businesses inspected last year — 12.5 percent — had overcharging errors in fiscal year 2016-17, which ended June 30, 2017. In past years, the number has been as high as one out of five. Overcharging errors can happen for many reasons. For example, new sale prices and changes may not have been programmed into store computers.

2.  How much was the average overcharge?

a.     $5.10

b.     $1.56

c.     $2.28

Answer: C. The average overcharge last year was $2.28. Those add up and can cost you a lot. How much? Check out the next question.

3.  On average, How much money are American families expected to spend this back-to-school season?

a.     $687

b.     $969

c.     $540

d.     $810

Answer: This is sort of a trick question. If you guessed either A or B you’re right! According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, families with children in elementary through high school grades will spend an average of $687 this year, with the most popular items being clothing, electronics like computers, shoes and school supplies including notebooks, folders, etc. Families of college students are expected to spend an average of $969 this season, mostly on electronics, clothes, snacks and food and furnishings for dorm rooms and apartments.

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

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

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

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 double-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.

5.   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.

6.    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 contact the department 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