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WCCO Discovers Pricing Problems At Walgreens

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Pricing problems WCCO-TV uncovered at Minnesota's largest drugstore chain will likely have you looking a lot closer at your receipts.

Walgreens is accused of overcharging customers all across the country. One state is already suing over the same problem. So we went shopping there.

Walk into any Walgreens store and you'll see aisles lined with tags advertising a lower price on a product if you use your balance reward program, but look closely and only for so long.

The law says stores are only allowed to charge the posted price, even if it's already expired. What you see is what you pay.

We went shopping at five different Walgreens across the Twin Cities from Fridley to Woodbury and at four locations found problems.

Sales tags had been left up too long. So when we went to pay, we were charged full price. In some cases, the sales had just ended, but in others, tags were more than two weeks old.

The expired clearance items were things such as household cleaners, hair color, school supplies and even snacks. In one store, there wasn't one aisle where all of the sales tags were current.

In all, we bought 28 items that had the wrong tags and were overcharged for everything except one item.

We were charged $10 more for protein powder, $23 more for joint care, and for 14 items where you had to buy two to get the deal, we were charged full price for all of them.

All together the mistakes had us paying $95.64 more than we should have been charged.

One Walgreens clerk admitted they don't always get the deals down in time.

"If you've got a tag and it was expired and you didn't get the sale price, I would have adjusted it for you," she said.

Dave Brennan is a marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas.

"I think that if the clerks and other people in the store are aware of the problem, they should go ahead and correct it," Brennan said.

He calls what's happening with Walgreens a systematic problem that needs to be fixed, fast.

This spring, the Missouri attorney general filed a lawsuit against Walgreens for failing to ensure a customer pays the advertised price. A California court fined the chain more than a $1 million but in three other states shopping tests like ours found the problem is still going on.

"I don't think that Walgreens has handled this thing well at all," Brennan said.

He believes customers could start shopping elsewhere.

"We do have to keep a close eye on things but in truth people don't always have the time," one customer said.

Until things change, double-checking the prices may be the only way to tell.

"It's my money. I better watch it," another customer said.

In a statement Walgreens said:

"We have a 112-year history of acting in our customers' best interests and earning their trust. That will continue to be our focus in all areas. We always seek to continuously improve, and we welcome feedback on areas where we are not meeting customer expectations. If a customer believes they were charged incorrectly, we are happy to resolve it. Our policy is to honor the lowest advertised or displayed price. If a customer informs our team member of a lower displayed price, we honor the lower price, even in instances when the sale has expired."

The Minnesota attorney general is aware of the pricing problems. The office wants to hear from you if you've been overcharged.

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