Throwback Thursday: “It’s The Principal of The Matter…”

My wife had a good idea yesterday, and that was to pull out an older-but-goody article from this blog every now and then and re-post it. A) Because only like 5 people probably saw it back then, haha… and b) to give me a break from thinking all the time ;) I told her it was so good that I was going to start today! (At which point she threw on the shocked face knowing that I usually just smile and nod at her ideas and then carry on ;))

Sooooo… I present to you today, a post I first wrote back on June 27, 2008! Albeit a much cleaner, more punctuated, version, haha… I wasn’t much of a grammar care’er back in the day, nor apparently altogether now either ;) The interesting part, though, is that this post still applies today as much as it did back then. Hope you enjoy it! And that it sparks some discussion!


One of my all time greatest annoyances (I refuse to use the saying “pet peeves”), is getting cheated by cashiers. It’s one thing to have it done to you every once in a while, but it happens allllll the freakin’ time for me! I could just be super unlucky, but I seriously have to question a receipt at LEAST once a week.

Just the other day I was picking up a bbq sandwich with mashed potatoes, and it rang up as $13.00. Being in DC I didn’t think much of it at first, but then a co-worker’s meal rang up at $11.00, and he got MORE than I did. WTF?

So I asked the cashier why mine was so much more, and I got in return a very annoyed “well I’m sorrrrr-y! I thought you got something else!” Wow. Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m a pretty non-confrontational guy (you know, those who curse people out in their head, but never to their face?), so why this girl had to get all uppity with me was beyond my understanding. It wasn’t like I was calling her out or anything, I was just confused.

At any rate (a saying that I do like), she had the manager correct the bill and I gladly accepted my $3.50 back. That’s a HUGE difference!

So, what do YOU do when this happens? Do you go back, cut in line, and begin your questioning (others call this “bitching”), or do you simply let it slide and go about your business? I don’t think there’s a solid answer here either way, but I DO know there’s a way to avoid it altogether:

*Review your total BEFORE you pay*

That’s all there is to it. No one else is gonna look out for your wallet, so making it a habit to pay attention can go a long way. And if you slip, don’t worry about it – you’re only human. That being said, it’s not always easy. A whole bunch of variables can play a part in speaking up:

#1) The point at which you notice this discrepancy.

For me, this is the determining factor. If I’ve made my purchase and am now sitting on my couch back at home realizing that an error has occurred, there’s no way in hell I’m going back to raise a stink about it. I usually blame myself for not catching it earlier, and try to take home a nice little lesson from it ;) (Which I will no-doubt repeat again at another time anyways, haha…).

If I notice it while mid-swipe of my credit card, however, you better believe I’ll bring it up! These occurrences are the best because I don’t even have to think about it – I just react naturally.

#2) The actual amount in question.

I’m willing to guess this is the biggest one for people. If you got cheated a couple of pennies, I doubt you’d bring it up no matter where you notice it as it’s just not worth your time. As the amounts go up though, I say from about 50¢ and more, the odds you’ll speak up go along with it.

For me, this amount is usually around 75¢ – once it hits that mark, I’ll start asking questions right away. Now if I’m at home realizing this as I alluded to above, then forget about it. I’m not gonna waste my time going back. BUT, if that amount was a good $4.00+, then heck yeah I’d be tempted to turn around! Or at the very least call the store and see if they can do something about it over the phone.

#3) The strictness of your budget.

A couple of dollars to one person can mean a whole lot more to another, especially if you have a family to look out for. At least that’s what they say ;) [Editor’s note: it’s crazy to think I now have my own little family these days!] I think your age also plays a big part in this. My grandma would hold up a line for 10¢, bless her heart, while I was too lazy to pick up a dime off the street yesterday (sorry to hurt your ears, Mr. Change Race!).

#4) The Confidence you have, or don’t have, in yourself.

It takes balls to speak up when this stuff happens, no doubt about it. It’s one thing if you’re the only one in the store on a weeknight, but you drop that person downtown in DC/NYC during rush hour to complain about 25¢ and you better know how to take it! Every once in a while I can pull this off, but I wouldn’t stake any money it. (No pun intended)

In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to worry about this, but unfortunately employees have been known to smoke crack every now and then.

This time around I happened to stand my ground, but I’ve been known to let more than a few dollars slip out of my pockets in the past… And the only thing I can do to cope is to hit myself upside the head and tell my self I shoulda had a V-8! :)

How do you guys handle these situations?

(Photo by _rockinfree)

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  1. Cam @ July 25, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    Great post J $! I have to say I’m a relatively shy person, but I check all my receipts and regularly question them (If I have to) But normally I know before I go into the shop (by researching online) How much something should cost, and how much change I will get back, research pays baby!

    1. J. Money July 25, 2013 at 9:13 AM

      You’re a better man than I ;) I only do that on big purchases, or if I’m going out to look for something specific… Do you do that when you go out to lunch too?

  2. Simon July 25, 2013 at 6:31 AM

    Unlike you, I can be a tad confronational, I don’t think I will let it pass since I consider it a matter of principle. If you are shorting me on this dollar or a couple of pennies, you might be doing the same to other people for a whole lot more. Needless to say, confrontation doesn’t always yield the desired results, it can backfire…you can get thrown out from certain places, or banned :)
    Nice touch on the throwbacks!

    1. J. Money July 25, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      HAH! Do you speak from experience there? Tell me you got thrown out of a Goodwill :)

  3. Free Money Minute July 25, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    I keep a pretty close eye on it when the actual purchase is made. Many times I am using the self checkout lane so I can simply stop ringing up my order and check with the person managing the area. It is so much easier to take care of it mid order than after the order is complete. When I shop at Meijer (a local supermarket) I am sent to another line to have it corrected if the order is already complete. When that happens, it is really annoying.

    1. J. Money July 25, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      Wouldn’t that mean if was your fault if the order was wrong? Since YOU rang them up? Haha…

      1. Free Money Minute July 25, 2013 at 5:42 PM

        Good point, but I don’t think so! It might still be wrong in the stores computer systems and I just don’t catch the pricing error until after I make payment. I guess it is king of my fault. :-)

  4. Slackerjo July 25, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    Have you ever been undercharged and pointed out the error to the cashier?

    1. Debt Blag July 25, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      I do. Goes both ways…

      Of course, there was one time where I mistakenly did this and had to very awkwardly return later and say ask for my money back (As a 14-year-old)

    2. J. Money July 25, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      Yup! That actually happens to me more these days than being overcharged (a problem I enjoy dealing with a lot more, of course;)), and I’ll speak up every single time if I catch it there on the spot. No matter the amount. The last time they gave me an extra $10.00 which I quickly gave back cuz I know they can get in trouble for it!

      That being said though, those other variables still play a part with me. If I don’t catch it until I’m miles away, or it’s hours later (unless it’s a huge dollar amount) I won’t go back and will just end up forgetting about it. I guess I’m more of a “on the spot” type of guy unless it’s significant.

  5. Debt Blag July 25, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Yeah, I’ll do this for pennies. You’re very right that it’s the principal.

    Not infrequently, I’ll find out that the problem was that I misread the deal… but even that’s a good reason to watch the cashier :)

  6. Dawn July 25, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    My question: Now that you are older and wiser (and more careful about grammar) does this STILL happen to you all the time? (When you say the post still applies… I don’t know if you mean the tips, or your personal situation!)

    Also… you notice these things because you DO pay attention. Imagine how much money people are just giving away by not checking their receipts at all, ever?

    I don’t get short-changed often, but I’m practically famous for forgetting bags at the checkout… you’ll see why when the little one gets a bit older. ;) LOL

    1. J. Money July 25, 2013 at 9:40 AM

      Haha I can see that! :)

      RE: Happening all the time — It still does, but lately I’ve been getting undercharged more than overcharged, which is a much better problem to have :) You can see my comment I just left for SlackerJo up there, but the rules/variables still apply for that too – I’ll always speak up there on the spot even if they gave me too much money or didn’t charge me enough, but I won’t go back hours/miles later to correct the problem. I value my time even more today than I did back then :)

      RE: Non-receipt checkers – I know!! And even more so if you don’t check your BANK STATEMENTS/Credit Card statements. You may not have a problem that frequently there, but when you do it’s usually a whopper! And the nice thing about checking receipts up front is that it should help with the process of checking the statements later too.

  7. Leslie Beslie July 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    This recently happened to me at the grocery store. I bought bread specifically because it was $2.50 but it rang up $4. I told the cashier I thought it was wrong, they had to do a price check, the people waiting in line behind me were annoyed, but it turns out I was right and it saved me $1.50.

    Now, does a buck fifty matter to me? Nah. Does it matter to the store? Nah. But I took the time to see it through because PRINCIPLE! Plus, if the store’s pos system is incorrect, they should be notified so it can be changed — or if I go back in a few days and it’s not fixed, I can take my business elsewhere.

    1. J. Money July 25, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      Yeah that’s the kind of thing that should be checked too so it doesn’t screw up everyone else’s purchases of the same bread too. Though you do have balls for sticking it out as everyone behind you is glaring, haha… If I think it’ll be a quick one, I’d do it too, but if I can tell it’s going to be a problem I’ll just tell them to forget it and move on my way. I hate feeling uncomfortable.

  8. No Waste July 25, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Luckily my wife doesn’t mind cracking skulls when it comes to the checkout counter.

    I just stand there awkwardly shuffling my feet praying for the ordeal to be over.

    Kidding aside, she’s direct and firm, but always polite. 60% of the time it works every time!

    1. J. Money July 28, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      haha…. “awkwardly shuffling my feet”

  9. Done by Forty July 25, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    I try to just watch the little screen as the cashier is running through the items and I’ll correct him or her if something rings up with the incorrect price. This often leads to some less-than-friendly discussions as they’ll often quip, “The discount will be taken at the end, sir.” But I’ve learned to get over it. They’re not used to someone questioning their work mid-stream, just like I’m not used to someone in customer service getting snippy with a customer. :)

    1. J. Money July 28, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      I tend to do the same too and forget it rings up at the end :)

  10. Alexa @ travelmiamor July 25, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    This use to happen all the time to my mom when we were growing up. We grew up in rural Texas and we just got a new Sonic!! Sweet for us kids. When the 3 of us would go we would ALWAYS get the same thing but every time the amount due was different. And since it’s a drive up this made it all more complicated to get our change back. My mom didn’t care if it was just one cent, it was the principle! It got to the point that when she would push the call button and say she had an issue with her receipt they would say, “Are you the lady with the yellow SUV?” haha. And yes, my mom had a yellow SUV.

    1. J. Money July 28, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      hahahhahaaa.. nice.

  11. Nick @ July 25, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Just yesterday we took my daughter to lunch for her 2nd birthday. They charged us for 3 meals when we only ordered 2. I did what I always do in those situations and sicked my wife on the waiter, she is feisty.;)

    1. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen July 25, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      That’s what my husband does! He hates doing stuff like this. I try to be nice about it, but if they give me issues or are rude that’s when it amps up.

    2. J. Money July 28, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      I’d like to borrow your wife if I could!

  12. Tara July 25, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Yes, I definitely do this, but usually for $1 or more. Some people don’t realize this that in some cities, grocery stores that don’t update their pricing to reflect a sale price are breaking the law so you have every right to demand your money. In NYC grocery stores get serious fines for incorrect pricing:

    I am never rude though when I ask. I stay polite and smile because I know, at least in a grocery store, it’s generally the fault of whoever entered pricing in the computer system and not the fault of the cashier.

    1. J. Money July 28, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      Yeah, that’s good. Being nice always gives you a better chance of resolving the issue to your advantage too – even though it’s hard to bite your tongue sometimes.

  13. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) July 25, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    This is tough one in Grenada. The customer service is so completely awful that to go and contest a receipt will take about an hour, so most of the time I just let it go here. Crazy I know, but it kind of ruins a nice dinner out when you are waiting for someone to change a receipt and it’s taking forever!

    1. J. Money July 28, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Oh man, well that sucks. At least you know what you’re getting into earlier on than being surprised later though. Tends to make the situations a lot easier to deal with :)

  14. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth July 25, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    I have no problem going back to correct the problem. I may feel bad about it, but it would bug me if I didn’t have it fixed. I’m too cheap to spend money that wasn’t necessary.

  15. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen July 25, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    I stand there and check as I’m being checked out, double-check the receipt a few steps away, and then I go home and make sure the credit card was charged the correct amount! At restaurant I check over the bill every single time too. There are some that slip through the crack, but I definitely watch out because I work hard for my money. Everyone does so they should know where it’s going.

    If I’m overcharged I’ll say something, undercharged I’ll say something too. I used to work as a cashier at different stores and there are a lot of items that are priced wrong. Grocery stores especially since they change their prices so often.

    1. J. Money July 31, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      totally, makes sense.

  16. Pauline @ Make Money Your Way July 28, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    I do protest, and for any amount. BF still complains I’d rather lose 20 minutes than 20 cents since I asked a rectification of an overcharged burger at Wendy’s that was supposed to be on the dollar menu. It is the principle, and because no one complains they keep on charging too much. Like you now, I have the approx amount in my head to rectify on the spot, but they usually have to call the manager and it takes times. Some items at the supermarket have been priced wrong for months so I don’t buy them anymore, to save time at the check out.

    1. J. Money July 31, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      haha… well looks like you’re in good company with all the commenters here too ;)


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