I don’t wear my glasses as often as I should, but my waning ocular vision in no way hinders my eagle eye at the store checkout. You see, price scanning errors happen every day across Canada and the US of A. The cost to consumers (yeah, us little guys) is that we’re paying the wrong price at checkout 3% of the time, or once for every 30 items scanned (FTC study).
Now I’m not tooooo grumpy about spying inaccurate scans without my specs, even when I’m throwing side-eyes at being overcharged on advertised sales, store specials, and the biggest culprit I’ve seen — end-of-aisle displays. My reason for not grumping on what can total hundreds per year in overcharged merchandise is I’m protected by this thing called the Scanning Code of Practice, or the SCOP.
What’s the SCOP?
The SCOP is kinda sorta an interwebby slang term for something serious called the Retail Council of Canada’s Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code. A quick peep into the code says consumers (yeah, us little guys) are protected from bad checkout scans up to $10.
Here are the rules worth reading, people.
- Rule One: If the correct price of the product is $10 or less, the retailer will give the product to the customer free of charge.
- Rule Two: If the correct price of the product is higher than $10, the retailer will give the customer a discount of $10 off the corrected price.
So, when that thing you want to buy is scanned oh-so-badly at checkout and it costs under ten bucks, you get to take home that thing for free. Kudos.
How does the SCOP really work? (And check out my free kettle!)
Over the years I’ve scored everything from free food to $10 off laundry detergent by using the SCOP at Loblaws, London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Safeway. But perhaps the weirdest item I’ve ever taken home for free is this silly kettle, thanks to a major misscan at a Walmart Supercentre last month.
The advertised in-store sale price for this cheapy Rival Kettle was a frugal $9.99, a $3.78 savings off the regular $13.77 price tag. I was cool with paying under ten bucks for the humble boiling machine. The problem was it scanned for the full price of $13.77 at checkout.
My conversation with the cashier went something like this:
[Beeeeeep. I spy the scanning error. I know I’m going home with a free kettle. The challenge is winning over the cashier without pissing off the people in line behind me.]
Me: Oh, that cute little kettle is on sale for $9.99 and scanned at the regular price of $13.77.
Cashier: I’ll call for a price check.
Me: Sure. The kettle is located in homewares on the top shelf. The price tag says $9.99.
Cashier: You’re correct. I’ll rescan it at $9.99 for you.
[I show the cashier the SCOP pamphlet I always carry with me when grocery shopping. I’m about to spew a mouthful and I find the paperwork in hand helps.]
Me: Actually, since Walmart follows the Retail Council of Canada’s Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code, I do believe this kettle qualifies as free.
Cashier: You want this kettle for free?
Cashier: Like, charge you nothing for it?
[Me rolling my eyes using an advanced stink-eye technique, which is really more of a “bit$h please” eye roll with a side of snark. Teenage girls do this manoeuvre best.]
Cashier: I can’t believe this.
Me: I know. Voluntary scanning codes are awesome. I’m impressed you know about it.
Cashier: We know about it. We’re supposed to wait for the customer to say something.
Me: Good thing I landed in your lineup today.
[Cashier rolls her eyes using an advanced stink-eye technique, which is really more of a “bit$h please” eye roll with a side of snark. Teenage girls still do this manoeuvre best.]
I go home with my free kettle. Everyone in the lineup behind me now knows about the SCOP. I hope they all score with it one day.
How the SCOP doesn’t work.
I was in The Bay yesterday buying something stupid called “pantyhose” when this chick in the checkout line ahead of me demanded a free pair of Spanx from the overwhelmed cashier. Since I’m a nosy bit$h (with an epic side-eye to match) I couldn’t help but stick all my squawky senses into the Spanxy conversation. Also, I had to use my iPhone to Google “Spanx”.
Turns out the Spanx (a far less stupid product than plain old pantyhose) inaccurately scanned at $27 and not the sale price of $18-something-whatever. The customer who wished to be squeezed into discounted Spanx let loose on the cashier about the SCOP voluntary code and why her prospective $18-something-whatever butt smoothers should be “totally free”.
It was obvious the customer needed the hug offered by the body hugging qualities of the Spanx, ’cause she was just plain mean and very wrong.
So I butted my non-Spanxed butt into the conversation.
Since I always carry the SCOP pamphlet and the list of stores that follow the VOLUNTARY code, I was able to settle the dispute.
The Bay, although an exceptional retailer of both pantyhose and Spanx, does not in fact participate in the VOLUNTARY scanning code of accuracy. The customer therefore did not qualify for a $10 discount, and was pretty much a big a$$ for treating the cashier so harshly.
I made friends with the cashier. The customer went home still in need of discounted Spanx.
Tactics for getting SCOPed.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to score with the SCOP. Because I sometimes get recognized in long checkout lineups by bored people looking for coupons or free blogging advice (I often have both, BTW) I tend to choose to conduct my SCOPing ways the right way. Here are the steps:
How to score with the SCOP:
STEP ONE: Price check. Know both the sale and regular prices of the items you wish to buy. You can’t use the SCOP unless you can cite the difference between the two at checkout.
STEP TWO: Watch the scanner. You can’t spot an inaccurate price scan unless you’re paying attention. Wearing glasses (if you need them) helps a lot.
STEP THREE: Don’t be a Spanx. Carry the SCOP pamphlet and the list of stores that follow the code. There’s no sense in being an a$$ and asking for the $10 discount if the store isn’t participating — it’s a voluntary code, after all.
STEP FOUR: You’ve gotta ask for it. No cashier has ever offered up the SCOP discount unless I’ve asked for it. Be nice. Don’t be rude. Use the SCOP pamphlet to bolster your case.
STEP FIVE: Don’t act victorious. Getting $10 off a jug of laundry soap is pretty awesome, but you don’t need to dance the jig for the jug in public. It’s a little weird, and kinda rude too.
I’m a little sorry (mostly cause I’m Canadian) that this post has been brought to you by a very cool Canadian consumer code which leaves out the Americans (in the United States) who read my blog and like free stuff too. The good news is Americans who shop in Canuckland can use the SCOP while in Canada. Just be sure to spy the scanning errors and ask nicely for the deal. If you spot me wearing glasses in the checkout line, be sure to ask for coupons and free blogging advice too, ’cause I often have both.
This happened to me at Loblaws where I was charged $3 more for a watermelon. Unfortunately I didn’t see it happen as I had a squirming 2 year old with me. When I was home and checked the receipt I saw it. Went back to the store later and was given only my $3 back as she said that SCOP didn’t count as the cashier had manually keyed in the code. Wonder how many other people got ripped off that day.
@Joan In this story: Target vs. Walmart: Where’s the best deal?, I mention that Target does not follow the SCOP.
Not sure how up-to-date your list is, but just an FYI that Target does not participate in the SCOP.
GREAT post! I always check the scanner to make sure I catch anything that’s SCOP-able. One thing I do differently though is I let the cashier charge me regular price, and then I take my receipt and go to Customer Service to get the money back. That way I don’t feel pressure to go super quickly because I’m holding up the line.
You are awesome 🙂 Hope the transition here to Toronto has been smooth!
Thanks for this info. Very helpful!
I usually claim SCOP at the customer service/returns counter and not at the Cahsier (unless there is no one behind me). That way I don’t piss off the folks behind me coz the cashier decided to do the price check themselves 🙂
At the Superstore where I used to work as a cashier, we regularly enacted SCOP without being asked, and had the sign at all our tills. People still needed to be aware of their sale prices, because we couldn’t enact it if we didn’t know there was a problem.
This happened to me at Future Shop and I was pumped! There wasn’t any hassle at all. I just pointed to their SCOP sign at the till and the guy just nodded, and took $10 off. Great post.
Target is part of SCOP in Quebec as it is a law in Quebec. Target made an official statement of this earlier this year.
I looked at the pamphlet on line using the link provided and it did not have the list of retailers that signed on to SCOP.
I have gotten so many free things at my local Shoppers over the years that is is a standing joke with one cashier. I do not look for mistakes but bring them to the attention of the cashier when it happens. I always remind them of the SCOP because many play dumb.
I have been in line behind people who are unaware and tell them they should get the item free(up to $10). Cashiers DO NOT like yhis one bit but oh well.
I love me some SCOP!
Your post is timely! I saved over $25 last week by enacting SCOP. I ended up with a free bottle of extra virgin olive oil and bag of oranges from the Superstore. I also got $10 off my favorite Omega 3 supplements (over $10) from Shoppers Drug Mart.
Thanks for your website!
Without too much research, it seems that here in the US- only Michigan participates in this. Bummer. I was going to be like you and carry that dang pamphlet in my purse. You rock girl!
A few Chicago-area stores have individual policies like SCOP, but they aren’t well documented (no surprise). You pretty much have to ask before shopping there to know if they have a policy, and exactly what that policy says. Then you’d better be prepared to wait for the manager, since the clerk probably doesn’t know what the store policy is.
WalMart in Lake Geneva, Wi. simple told me the item was in the wrong place! OK, I can understand that but most of the shelf was stocked with about 15 of the item. There was only one label.
Thanks for the article!! I cannot seem to access the SCOP pamphlet Any suggestions?
Michigan does have the “scanner law” aka the Shopping Reform and Modernization Act, but it is different than SCOP on a few key points: 1. The transaction actually has to be completed and you have a receipt showing what you paid. 2. You are refunded the difference between the two prices, plus, on the first item only, a bonus of 10x the difference up to $5. If you bought more than one of the item, they get the price correction, but not the bonus. This SCOP thing sounds pretty great in comparison!
PS. For my Michigan peeps, here is the current law: http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-17337_58527-134114–,00.html. So many people have a wrong understanding of this law and what they may be entitled to–it is the bane of the retail worker’s existence!
Wow I use this all the time but I was not aware that not all major retailers participate. The Bay surprised me but I can’t say I blame them. Their prices are ALWAYS wrong. I hate shopping there. I am surprised that target isn’t participating.
It would seem the competition board of Canada has shut down. Searches for the pamphlet show dead links. Very curious.
I try to follow SCOP all the time time but some stores create there own rules about it.Had this happen at a No Frills and the cashier( who was the head cashier BTW) refuse to give me the item for free, it was under $10, she just corrected the price. She said that if the sales transaction was not completed she could do that. Is that correct?
Here in Topeka, KS, Hy Vee is a grocery store that does give your the item free if it scans at the incorrect price–no pamphlet needed! I have scored free potatoes and GLAD freezer dishes. You do have to be watching carefully to make sure you are getting your items scanned correctly in any store you shop in these days, but at least Hy Vee is very good about giving you the item(s) free and they don’t do the eye-rolling thing either!
Thanks for this article and the links to the SCOP information Kerry! I knew a bit about this policy and once managed to score a free bra at Wal-Mart (was already marked down to 3 bucks but hey, that’s a couple of coffees at Tim’s right?!)
I wish I had known all of the specifics of the policy recently, however. Hubby and I were shopping at London Drugs and our OTC allergy medication scanned incorrectly. When the manager came to the till to override the price for the cashier I casually mentioned the Scanning Code of Conduct and said that I thought perhaps I should receive the item at no charge (it was over $30 so i guess I was a little off base). The manager was extremely quick to say No. There was a lineup and my husband doesn’t have too much patience when I whine so I let it go. Of course the manager did not offer me the $10.00 that I now realize I could have requested. I will know for next time though! Great idea to print out the pamphlet to carry with you.
The SCOP pamphlet is DOWN. Maybe we all killed it with traffic today? 😀 I’ll keep the links there in case it reappears. Until then, just print the SCOP Policy and Advocacy page and you should be good.
Is there a list of stores that honour this practice?
@Heather – the SCOP Policy and Advocacy page provides a list of participating retailers.
@Kerry – good info (had no idea) BUT, the best part of the article is just reading it 🙂
I once ended up with a free package of gingerbread cookies at Zehrs, but it was about 2 years ago and I no longer remember whether I pointed out that I should get it free or they gave it to me free voluntarily.
I completely forgot about it, I would have ended up with a free hair colour at Walmart about 3 weeks ago. It was a funny story and the cashier (a teenager) was so confused that she did not say anything when the item, which should have been $5.99, finally scanned (after she deleted the previous transaction) at $4.53, tax included.
However, the SCOP pamphlet does not include the list of customers who follow it. Is there a separate list of vendors somewhere?
I love this! The other day I noticed that I was being charged $6 for a glass jug that was on sale for $3. And so Fortinos (Loblaws) gave me the jug for free!! How happy is that? It makes me want to shop more at the stores that use this voluntary code.
Kerry, is there a similar SCOP pamphlet (and list of stores) for us folks south of the border? Also, your link opens a pamphlet that is 11 years old… is there a more recent version?
Thanks for all you do for us little guys!! Love your articles, I pass them (and many more) on to my coworkers… I’m sort of the consumer ombudsman here… =)
@John The SCOP pamphlet link is the most recent version. 🙂 And thank you so much for sharing my bloggy blog — this means everything to me.
To everyone looking for an updated list of SCOP stores — Here’s The Retail Council of Canada List of Scanner Accuracy Supporting Stores. It’s on the right side.
Aww we really need something like this in the US. All we get if we catch a wrong price is a wait while someone goes and checks the price, and then we get to pay the correct price if we are write. They make it a pain on purpose.
In Québec, it’s LAW, not mandatory like ROC (Rest of Canada)
WHAT IS THE ****DATE**** OF THIS ARTICLE?????
@MIKE Date is in the link: 2013/08/06/
Hi, here is a link to the Canadian Retail Council.It contains a list of retails who participate in SCOP! https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCkQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.retailcouncil.org%2Fmemberservices%2Fconsumerprograms%2Fscanner-price-accuracy&ei=ga96VJ3aGPSAsQTy_4CQDg&usg=AFQjCNE895CqjoI9Lfo9WGYGUhc-NejU-g&sig2=Iczayh7_PDNjjRNX9vn1Wg
I had no clue about this when I bought lightbulbs that were on sale at Zehrs. They scanned $15.99 and were on sale for $9.99. I was at the self checkout and alerted the employee that looks over the self checkouts. She checked and informed me they would give me them for free. So, there are some stores that will offer it without you mentioning it. I imagine not very many.
Does this work when purchasing alcohol? I was told it was a state law in Iowa that they could not give free alcohol I looked it up and I couldn’t find that state law?
What should happen if I am buying more than 2 or more of an item?
I know the first items is either free or $10 off but what about the other 2 or 3 or 4 or more of the same item?
Is the cashier/store supposed to give it to me for the lower price that was displayed on the shelf and NOT the higher price that was scanned at checkout?
Or do they just charge the higher price, that is scanned at checkout, for each of the other identical items?
And have you ever disputed an incident with SCOP?
Because I have called them but it’s only a voicemail and I haven’t heard back from them yet.
1. Only the first item is free if $10 or under and scans incorrectly. Other items are not free and should be charged the correct price.
2. Either the cashier or customer service agent (right after purchase) should give you the free item. This is why it’s important to watch items AS THEY SCAN. It’s much harder to deal with a paid item once you’re home.
3. I have asked for the item for free. You must ask for it. Checkout areas post the SCOP, so it’s easy to talk about it with the cashier. The cashier may need to get it approved by a supervisor-type.
4.If your item was incorrectly scanned it’s very difficult to prove this once home. It really should be done at the store so a supervisor can check the price listed on the shelf to verify the item was priced incorrectly or the scan was incorrect.
For anyone and everyone using the Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP): Let’s always be polite and kind to the cashiers. It’s not their fault the store posted an incorrect price on the shelves. It’s also not their fault the price scanned incorrectly. Being a cashier is a very tough job, and even more now with food prices on the rise and COVID.