Just about every product available at a supermarket or any other retail store bears a tag with the familiar Universal Product Code (UPC...

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Just about every product available at a supermarket or any other retail store bears a tag with the familiar Universal Product Code (UPC), the small box that contains a series of numbers and a set of black bars. When passed over a checkout counter scanner, the UPC is decoded by a computer, which sends the item’s price back to the register.

Retailers have used this type of scanner technology for decades to help shorten checkout time, lower labor costs and improve sales and inventory records. But electronic scanning is not foolproof.

Human error, pricing difficulties and management problems can lead to inconsistencies between the advertised or posted prices and prices stored in the computer. Inaccurate prices also can travel through a chain of stores because of an error in the central computer.

Consumers should not take for granted that the UPC tag price will always correspond with the advertised price. Here’s how to spot pricing errors at the register:

• Watch the display screen for each item and its corresponding price. If you think you’re being overcharged, say so.

Find out the store’s policy on pricing errors, and whether the cashier will make the adjustment before you pay. Although some stores simply adjust the price, others deduct an additional amount. Still others offer the incorrectly priced item for free.

• Bring a copy of the store’s flier or newspaper ad to the checkout counter. Some advertised specials, such as a two-for-one promotion, may not be in the computer and must be entered manually by the cashier.

• Always double-check your receipt before leaving the register. If you notice an error, ask the cashier to adjust the total. If you’ve already left the cashier’s lane, take the pricing error to a department manager or customer service.

Source: Federal Trade Commission