Adventures in mislabeled pricing, and a question.

Today I went to a pawnshop. In the clearance corner, behind a glass case, next to old CD players and alarm clocks, was two MP3 players. One was $20, and the other was eight. This was the eight dollar model. It had no earphones, belt-clips, or usb cable, so I asked them to hold it for me, and went to a nearby radio shack to see if the cable was easily available, or propriety. Turns out it is freely available. (usb mini-a) Good. I then went and looked up a review of it. It can change out it’s memory, which is good, but it uses propriety software, which is bad. Ah well, it would be worth it at $8 bucks. (btw, the $20 model wasn’t worth it)

So, when I went to buy the item, the manager refused to sell it to me at that price. He explained that someone screwed up by labeling it at that price, and “generously” offered to sell it to me at $70.

Ha. For $50, I could buy the newer model. I pointed out that when some item is priced by an employee, the store is honor bound to sell it at that price. (or so I have been told. Also, I know that is not the case when the price tag form one item is one a diffrent item. This was not applicable of this case.) No go. My triumph turned to ashes in my mouth. I left, determined to look up the relevant law, and look how much it would cost to buy a simular model. (I have dione so, mostly.)

Anyway, I was wondering two different things. One: What is the law about this in MD, when an item has a sticker that the manager does not think reflects reality. Isn’t he duty bound, or am I misremembering? This and This older thread partially answers my question, but not completely.

Also, what are some posters experience in the wild, wacky world of mislabel prices. Any major triumphs? Defeats?

P.S. I have heard about, ‘invitation to treat’, but that seems to be an Australian law.

IANAL, but the owner isn’t required to sell you anything if he doesn’t want to, wrong price tag or not.

“Invitation to treat” is English law too.

It is unlikely that the store manager would be duty bound to sell it to you. For the simple reason that he’s not duty bound to sell to anyone at any time. This comes from the doctrine of Freedom of Contract - simply that private individuals can choose who they do and do not do business with.

(We can get into arguments as to when exactly a contract is concluded and therefore at what point each party is bound, but generally saying to a shop owner “I would like to buy that” does not conclude a contract)

A merchant can pretty much pick and choose who he does and doesn’t sell to. Obviously there are exceptions, for example, refusing to sell to women, or gays, or blacks, or Jews, or anything else discriminatory is going to get you in trouble. However in the case of the wrong price being on an item a merhcant is usually perfectly within his rights to refuse to sell the item.

This doesn’t mean that there’s no protection for a consumer in this situation. I don’t know anything about the US, but in the UK there is a strict liability (no intention is needed) offence of giving a misleading price indication (Consumer Protection Act 1987, s.20) which carries a fine of up to £5000.

So, to avoid this, in cases where you do find an incorrect price in the UK the retailer will usually sell you the item for the indicated price. This was certainly the policy we used when I worked retail.

(On the subject of Invitations to Treat, according to wikipedia, they’re usually referred to as Invitations to Bargain in the US)

I was in Milawaukee this past weekend, and I thought I saw a sign on the register there that said (paraphrased): “By law, if there is a discrepancy between the price on an item and the price on the register, we will refund you the difference.” Am I misremembering?

I don’t know the law, I don’t know the exact sign you saw, but might it have started out "By store policy, " instead of ‘by law’?? I’ve seen those signs up here… even if it was required by law, to me it makes sense that the store would want to suggest that they’re doing it as a part of customer policy (and therefore not treatment you can reasonably expect to get with a competitor,) rather than a law that all stores are bound to.

That wasn’t even two cents’ worth. more like 1. :wink:

I was shopping at Sears for my dad’s birthday and I picked out a cheap, nice looking jigsaw for him. I took it to the register, where they told me it was $120. I said “uh… but the tag under it said $65”. He asked me to show him, which I gladly did. He had to get a manager over to replace the tag ASAP, but I ended up getting it at the $65. I even offered to put it back and get one more in my budget, not wanting to profit off a store’s loss. I was assured it was store policy to honor price tags, even if they’re wrong.

After that, I was tempted to buy some more before they got the tag fixed.

I’d be surprised if it was a law. Often, a store will cite a nonexistant law in order to avoid doing something it doesn’t want to do. For instance, there is no law requiring that you wear a shirt and shoes in a restaurant, and no state prohibits the return of bathing suits or underwear. These are all store policy (and enforceable as such), but the store refers to the “law” to avoid being blamed. When I was at Spencer Gifts, their manager’s manual said that, despite the signs on the jewelry display, there was no law against returning pierced earrings, and that if anyone insisted on a return, we were to grant it.

In the case given, you probably are misremembering. More likely, the rule was set up by the store to prevent employees from runging up a cheaper price and pocketing the difference (e.g., the price is $10; the sale is rung up as $5 and the cashier keeps the extra cash). It removes any incentive to do that.

Back to the OP, there are laws against “bait and switch,” but that wouldn’t seem to apply in this case. There is nothing that compels a merchant to sell at the price on the price tag. Consider the case if you deliberately switched the price tag to one of a lower-priced item. If the storekeeper catches it, it’s certainly within his rights to sell at the actual retail price. It’s no different if an error is made: the storekeeper has to set his prices to cover his costs, and can’t be forced to take a loss due to a clerical error.

Many states enacted pricing accuracy laws when UPC scanning became common. I remember seeing signs similar to the one you remember - basically it said that if the scanned price didn’t match the price on the shelf, you were entitled to something.

An example of a state pricing accuracy law is here.

In Wisconsin we have a law that was out there before scanning came into practice. The stores must charge the lesser of the price on the product or the sign on the shelf. It does not mean if another customer changes the price tag or signs around you get the rediculously low price. It applies to what an employee of the retailer does. I had the statute in my wallet, but removed it or I’d give it. The pricing laws of that nature are state laws not federal.

In Illinois, the law is (or was) that if an item for sale is marked with a price, it must be sold for that price. I found this out when I tried to purchase a some software that had been mislabeled with a much lower price than the store intended. The manager griped at me, asked if it had been marked like that when I picked it up, and told me he was obligated to sell it to me for that price.

If it’s a law, it must be a state law. About three years ago on Black Friday, I was driving home when a news story came up on the radio. Some store had misprinted the price of some fancy mixer, labeling it $19 in their ad instead of $119. People put up a stink because they waited for hours for the things, and were not given them for that price, which according to the news caster was within the store’s legal rights. It was in either Boston or NYC, I forget which.

Well, I still haven’t found my the answer to my original question, but I now know what to do if this even happens to me in llinois, and a few other states, plus an amusing story or two. Thanks, guys. Very :cool: .

I’m in Maryland and I was a retail (Radio Shack) manager in the 80’s. So far as I know there was no law like that then (and I refused a few sales of erroneously marked items over customers objections), so unless the law is relatively recent, you are probably SOL re a law compelling him to sell it to you at an (erroneously) marked price.

If there’s funky (low) price on something in a thrift shop I never bring it to the manager’s register if I can help it. I made the mistake once of telling her I flip some of the stuff I buy on eBay, and now she’s convinced she’s priced it too low if I’m buying something.

Can’t be bothered to look up the current version, but (ten years ago in an East Coast state), the item pricing law had an explicit exemption for ‘really big’ pricing mistakes (I can’t remember how ‘really big’ was defined). So a merchant would not have to sell a $119.00 item for $1.19 because of a price-gun error.