Back to School’s First Assignment: Check Those Receipts!

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So much to buy and so little time. Yup, it’s back-to-school time again around San Diego County.

That means lots of shopping, from binders to backpacks, clothes, laptops, tablets and everything in between.

It also means this first homework assignment — remember to double-check all your receipts so you don’t get overcharged by faulty cash-register price scanners.

It can happen. Every year inspectors from the County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures check thousands of local businesses to make sure all the devices that scan, weigh or measure the things people buy are charging people accurately. Last year, one out of every six businesses inspected had overcharging errors.

And even small overcharges can add up. This year, the National Retail Federation estimates that kindergarten through high school families will spend an average of $673 as they head back to school. College students and families are expected to spend an average of $888.

So here are some tips to help you shop smartly and safely:

Protect Against Overcharging:

  • Always verify receipts and immediately notify store management of any price discrepancies.
  • Stores are required to display the price of an item (as you are buying it) before the transaction is complete. Watch the display screen as your items are scanned.
  • 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