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.

scanning code of practice

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.

rival kettle

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.

walmart receipt

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.

[minutes later]

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?

Me: Yes.

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.]

Me: Yes.

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

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.