WWYD: Slightly Overcharged

One of the shows I like to watch every now and then is “What Would You Do,” a hidden camera program that places people in interesting situations to see how they’ll react. The most recent episode looks at what people would do if they caught someone attempting to cheat to get on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

Every now and then, something will happen to me, and I’ll wonder if I chose the correct path. I’ve decided to start a new series of posts called WWYD to see if people would react differently to a situation (feel free to send me any situations of your own that you’d like to see addressed). Here’s a recent one from me:

I was standing in line at the Starbucks next to our office waiting to buy a cup of coffee, and the man in front of me kept changing his mind, causing the cashier to become flustered. He ordered a latte, and then decided he didn’t want it and walked out. The manager told the cashier to cancel his order.

When it was my turn, I ordered my medium coffee, and handed over my Starbucks Card (which is basically a gift card you reload that gives you free coffee/tea refills if you stay in the shop, and a free drink or food item every 12 purchases). The cashier swiped my card and asked me if I wanted a receipt, and I declined. As I was walking out the door, I checked my card’s balance on my phone and noticed that I had been charged for the man’s cancelled latte instead of my regular coffee. Decision time: Go back to the cashier, explain the mixup, and have a little less than $2 put back on my card? Or decide that it’s the holidays, mistakes happen, and that I should just let it slide?

I let it slide. But I did consider the amount that would have brought me back to the cashier. $5? Possibly. I would have thought about it longer. $10? Yes, for sure. If I was overcharged by $10, I would have gone back. WWYD?

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63 Comments / Post A Comment

sockhopbop (#764)

I love this series idea!

I probably would have let it slide for less than $2 too. But my overcharge cut-off might be lower — $5?

bgprincipessa (#699)

@sockhopbop Seconded on loving the series idea!

pfort (#2,910)

It would have been ok if it is the first time. Unfortunately Starbucks very often charges my debit card double, or when I reload my gold card charges me 2-3 times for the same amount. therefore when something like that happens in store I would ask for my money back. even if it is 1$

ghechr (#596)

For me, probably $10. But it’d really depend on how busy I was and how busy the coffee shop was. I may do it for $5 or even less than that if I didn’t have anywhere to be and the shop had no line.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@ghechr Yeah, that.

I once spent a fair amount of time in the supermarket trying to get $5 I believed they owed me, because I didn’t have anything I was rushing to do after. And they gave me the $5!

thatgirl (#1,965)

$2, probably not. But $5, definitely. I’m not super super broke, but if I didn’t pay attention to that sort of thing I would be.

I think it also has to do with the percent I was overcharged? Like, $4 is a fancy drink, and I go to Starbucks enough that I will spend that $4 there very shortly. I would just feel bad about the $2.

Solution: track down the first guy and demand your $2 from him.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@stuffisthings I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS!

I would’ve let it slide, too. Working in a big city Starbucks has got to be grueling enough already without adding any extra headaches into the mix. At times like these, I just remember all the times I’ve worked retail in the past, and how thankless it was, and that makes me let almost eeeeeeeeverything slide. It also makes me a person who compulsively tidies up shelves and displays at stores that I don’t even work in.

My problem, no matter how much you could have received back, would be deciding whether to “cut” back in line or wait in the line again. If you “cut” then you’re going to tick the people in line off because they have no idea what you are doing. If you wait in the line then it becomes a time value of money question. Either way, I’ll bet a call or email to corporate would fix it, especially if you are a regular customer but then you’re waiting is on phone hold instead of in the line.

@Bill Schoonmaker@facebook It would definitely be an issue of time over money for me too. Like if there was a long line? No way. A two person line? Maaaaybe. But no line at all? Absolutely I’d go back and haggle for my two bucks.

KPeeps (#1,140)

@Bill Schoonmaker@facebook I was a Starbucks barista for years in a mall. No matter how busy, just cut back in line or tell the barista on the bar and they’ll clear the way for you (I’ve done that a lot). It doesn’t mean the baristas will be happy about it, but it was a barista mistake that’s easy to fix and you’ll probably get a coupon for your trouble.

francesfrances (#1,522)

I probably would have asked for a refund if the Starbucks wasn’t busy. Definitely for $4+.

I have this experience fairly often with price adjustments. Just a few days ago, I ordered a shirt I’d been eyeing for a long time from ModCloth, and the next morning it was on sale, $14 off. I contacted customer service and asked for a price adjustment, which they graciously gave me, as per their price adjustment policy. I was glad I asked. You never know until you ask. You never know who’s totally willing to give you $14 unless you ask. Hey…can I have $14?

I think as long as you’re pleasant about it, people are happy to accommodate you, within reason. Except at Target. They hate doing price adjustments at Target.

professionalmess (#1,478)

I hate being the only person saying this, but I would have probably gone back, unless I was in a big hurry to get somewhere, then I probably would’ve felt bad about causing a hassle and given the cashier a tip. Mike probably always tips at coffee shops, but I usually don’t.

This comment makes me feel like Scrooge McDuck.

selenana (#673)

@professionalmess I would go back too, unless there was a huge line and I was in a hurry. Especially if it were a Starbucks-type place. They have enough money, they don’t need donations.

shannowhamo (#845)

@professionalmess I agree- if the it isn’t super busy, go back because I know in the past when something went awry at a Starbucks I frequent, I got a coupon for another drink. Which would probably come out to being worth more than the money you were shortchanged.

Keck (#2,466)

Small town, independent coffee shop where-everybody-knows-my-name = I might let it slide. Starbucks = no way!

wearitcounts (#772)

@Keck i like this response a lot. i was gonna say ‘let it slide,’ but now i feel all empowered with down-with-The-Man-ness.

@Keck Starbucks’ stock just dropped by… zero points.

shannowhamo (#845)

@stuffisthings Yeah, I just refuse to hate on Starbucks. They aren’t perfect but they treat their employees better than most chains, the one by my house has a drive through (no independent shops anywhere near where I live have a drive through) and the people working there can be just as nice as any other coffee shop.

null (#1,101)

I had a situation the other day where I was going over old grocery store receipts and noticed that on one particular trip they charged me twice for a $10 bottle wine — I never buy more than one bottle of wine at a time so it stood out. I thought about getting a refund because the grocery store I bought it from has notoriously great customer service, but decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Good reminder to double check receipts.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@klaus But…. why not buy 2 bottles of wine?

kellyography (#250)

@klaus This happened to me a few weeks ago at Target, but I went back to get a refund. I was looking over my receipt while waiting for my cab, and I noticed that the cashier rang up my almonds (around $6) twice. I went inside to the customer service desk and my cab called just as I was finishing up. No time wasted, nobody inconvenienced, and I got my $6 back!

amirite (#2,677)

Maybe this makes me a terrible person, but I like to think that letting it slide when I’m slightly overcharged makes up for when I don’t say anything when I get slightly undercharged. I also use this as an excuse to not bother checking to make sure that the amount on the debit machine matches the actual total or counting my change to make sure it’s correct. It’ll all balance out in the end.

@amirite But do people really get undercharged that often? I honestly can’t remember a time when I was (knowningly to me) undercharged. There have been some times when things were on sale that I didn’t realize, but it’s not like I’ve been charged $3 at Starbucks when I should have been charged $4.

@polka dots vs stripes Not at a Starbucks, but I’ve been undercharged at restaurants a few times where the waitstaff forgets to put all the drinks or appetizers on. I’ve always corrected them on that, though.

@polka dots vs stripes I was buying a CD for a gift a few years back and the infuriatingly hipper-than-thou employee paid so little attention to me (she talked to her co worker the entire length of our transaction, barely looked at me) that she didn’t notice that the debit transaction didn’t go through (the machines had gone down). When the ‘incomplete’ receipt came up, she grabbed it, stuffed it into the bag and shoved it across the counter at me. I was about to bring it to her attention, but when she couldn’t even look at me to hand me my purchase? Free CD it is!

amirite (#2,677)

@polka dots vs stripes I do get undercharged occasionally, either because of the debit total not matching the actual amount or items accidentally being left off. If I think it’s a situation where the cost would come out of the employee’s paycheque, or it’s significant enough to get them in trouble, I’ll say something, but I often just let it slide.

cliuless (#36)

i might’ve gone back, depending on how busy the starbucks was.

i was grocery shopping a couple weeks ago, and the cashier at whole foods charged me for shittake mushrooms instead of cremini mushrooms, which i think would’ve been a $5-6 difference. when i went to get a price adjust, the customer service people just refunded me and didn’t bother charging me for the mushrooms. got a lucky break with that one!

I get a receipt for everything, mostly to double check against my bank statements, but ideally I would have seen it before I left the cashier and could have said something without cutting the line, etc etc.

But since that’s not what happened, I would have gone back for $3 and over. Less than that, especially if it’s busy, I wouldn’t bother.

EM (#1,012)

I would probably go back if there was no line and it wouldn’t take long to correct the mistake. Also in this particular case, Starbucks (at least around me) are really nice about giving out free drink coupons if they make a mistake with your order- the $2 back + the free coupon would be a nice incentive.

helloimgreen (#998)

@Michelle this.

i’m a supervisor at starbucks and it’s really quite easy to refund money back onto a starbucks card immediately after a mistake has been made. i would have refunded the $4 or $5, given mike his coffee for free, with an additional free drink coupon. but maybe that’s just me? i feel bad when a customer is inconvenienced.

had mike gone back later in the day, with no receipt, i would have reluctantly done the refund and then later wonder if i was bamboozled into giving someone free money.

Megano! (#124)

I am broke, so I would go back even for $2, although I might not do it right away if the shop was really busy.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Megano! Do truly broke people go to Starbucks? I don’t drink coffee so I have no idea.

Megano! (#124)

@josefinastrummer I actually don’t, but I don’t drink coffee anyway. I maybe get a latte or a tea every once in a while if it’s the only place to go.

melis (#42)

@josefinastrummer No. Truly broke people huddle together in their gutter palaces made of old Crystal Pepsi bottles and set fire to oil-soaked rags in order to propitiate the gods of the harvest. Also they drink Mountain Dew.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@melis Wait, are the Crystal Clear Pepsi bottles still full of Crystal Clear Pepsi? Or Crystal Clear Gravy?
Sorry but if you are really broke, make your coffee at home.

Faintly Macabre (#1,043)

@melis Yes, they go to Starbucks! To dig through in the trash for a nice Starbucks cup to beg with. But then they Sharpie out the label on the cup, lest anyone think they’d been wasting their precious pennies on coffee.

@melis this is my favourite thing ever. i just laughed for so long that my boyfriend came downstairs to ask what was up.

probs (#296)

I’m totally submitting an idea for this thing when I get home.

OhMarie (#299)

In this case, I probably wouldn’t, but my mom taught me to always, always go back if you think it might be systemic.

I once watched her argue over 2 cents at the grocery store because she was pretty sure it was a systemic error and “if they take 2 cents from everyone who buys groceries, that is a lot.”

Fig. 1 (#632)

@OhMarie Yes, I’ve haggled over things where the bulk bin price did not match the till price, on the principle that I wasn’t the only one getting charged the wrong amount. (Also the cashier was being a huuuge bag about it which only increased my determination.)

@OhMarie I was using the self-checkout lines at the grocery store recently, and the change machine didn’t spit out the 1 cent I was owed. I mentioned it to them ONLY because what if I was supposed to get 99 cents? And if it wasn’t working for me, who else wasn’t it working for?

kinbari (#2,811)

@OhMarie: Your mom has a point about the systemic overcharging – in Canada, there was even an exposé on one of our TV shows. Big chain stores make a surprising amount of money from overcharging; I’ve been overcharged many times by The Real Canadian Superstore. I check my receipt every time I shop there, partly because I’m paranoid, but also because if I have been overcharged, I can go to the customer service counter and invoke the Scanner Price Accuracy Volunteer Code. If I have been overcharged at the till, and can prove that the listed price is cheaper, I get the item for free, if its listed price is under ten dollars. If it’s more than ten dollars, I get the price adjustment, plus ten dollars cash.
I don’t know if there’s something like it in the States, but for Canadians, it’s worth the time and trouble to point out price discrepancies, even if it’s only for a few cents’ difference. (because you get the item free, or ten dollars back)

maebyfunke (#292)

The other day at the grocery store I noticed they rung up my tomatoes as vine instead of the (cheaper) plum. I did say something, but when I saw the difference was 40 cents (I really don’t know what I was expecting, considering the vine only cost $2), I kind of wished I hadn’t? And also realized that I was officially my mother.

@maebyfunke No it’s a good thing you did! When I was a grocery store cashier, people would just memorize the produce number for the most expensive version of tomatoes or what have you, in hopes the customer doesn’t notice. Whenever I buy peaches, pears, apples, tomatoes – basically anything that has a cheap and an expensive variant, I look to see what the cashiers enter.

Also, 40 cents may not numerically be a lot, but they overcharged you by nearly 25%! Worth bringing up to them, I think.

ThatJenn (#916)

@maebyfunke I actually went back in from the parking lot and did this once over a 50-cent difference in type of tomatoes. They actually were really huffy about it and gave me the stink-eye, but I’d honestly picked the cheaper, less-awesome tomatoes to save that 50 cents, and it kind of pissed me off that they were jerks about it even though I came in with an open, reasonable attitude about it (“Hey, I noticed I got charged for the wrong type of tomato just now – can I get this corrected?” and as far as I know I was perfectly pleasant in my demeanor too – I can’t imagine I would have looked anything other than calm since I wasn’t pissed at all until they started giving me a bad attitude about it to shame me into going away, as in, they said to me “You seriously want me to fix a fifty-cent error?”)

When I got home, my then-husband – who was awful with money and was the reason I had to do all the grocery shopping by myself and why fifty cents was a big deal in our family economy – also told me I was a jerk for asking for a refund. But seriously? It didn’t hurt anyone, it wasn’t a busy time, and the cashier should probably be aware that this can happen, right? Right?

At this point in my life, fifty cents wouldn’t make enough of a difference to me to go back (though I’d point it out if I caught it while they were ringing it up, for sure), and also by now I know which stores would be reasonable about it and which wouldn’t. Spoiler: my locally owned grocery store and Publix would be fine with it; Albertsons, which I have always hated and where the above occurred, will always be a jerk about it. I was so happy when the one in my town closed and I knew I would never be tempted to shop there again (horrible customer service, bag guy who sexually harassed half the customers and teased me about my weight, but their prices on a few things were really good and they were the closest store to my house).

Fig. 1 (#632)

Isn’t every day on the Billfold WWYD day? [ducks]

I never used to care, but I have been overcharged repeatedly recently at various grocery stores. Whole Foods charged me three times for a single item (the cashier, instead of voiding the initial double charge, charged me again), and when I went back, instead of refunding me the money for the double overcharge, charged me again! I was pissed. I contacted customer service, eventually got my money, but it was a huge hassle, because I was really busy at the time and going to this store was very out of my way. I will admit that I kind of expected some sort of coupon something for the huge inconvenience. Now, when I do go to this store, I am the person holding up the line, going over my receipt before I leave the register.

Also, Trader Joe’s overcharged me 49 cents for a bottle of water– the cashier didn’t put it in the bag. I only bought the bottle of water because I was thirsty at the moment and planned to drink it immediately. I noticed on the subway home the sweet, refreshing elixir I so desperately wanted wasn’t there. I didn’t bother going back, but I did send an angry email to the store.

I have not, knowingly, ever been undercharged by either of these two stores.

Jimmy Kibble (#1,603)

As a person who works in a coffee shop, I just want to say that people get undercharged for things all the time. And it’s totally okay. We even do it on purpose sometimes because its just not a big deal. So be nice to your barista and have faith that the universe will balance out.

Remember, though, that we don’t make a lot of money either, and so we understand that it sucks to get overcharged. If I overcharge you, I’ll gladly fix it. If you let it slide and are a regular, I’ll probably secretly reward you for it later. Really, it makes zero difference to me. It only really inconveniences other people who might be waiting. Either way, my time is spoken for already.

When you put it like that, $5 would probably be my threshold. That said, I have noticed myself be overcharged by $5 before and let it go… I’m terrible at standing up for myself.

$10, definitely.

@eemusings@twitter I’m the same, I always feel like it would be such an inconvenience to the employee (even though I have worked retail, and would never have thought that if a customer did it!)

ThatJenn (#916)

If the coffeeshop weren’t very busy, I’d go back even for the $2 (I’d stand in line rather than butting to the front, though). It’s not about the $2, it’s about making sure it’s me – a nice, patient, and understanding person – who points out this kind of mistake to the person ringing up the order rather than someone else in the future who is a total dick about it. I do this because I have always really, really appreciated it when my professional mistakes are pointed out by kind people rather than having them accidentally slide forward and be bashed by someone not so nice.

ThatJenn (#916)

@ThatJenn I should say, I’m more likely to go back in a store where I know the workers are probably treated relatively fairly. I’m less likely if I think they’re likely to get docked (or fired!) for the mistake. Obviously I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what the management is like at most places, but you kind of get a feel for it. Unfortunately, places where these mistakes are most likely to happen are probably places where morale and investment in the job is low… which is likely where employees are treated like crap.

thenotestaken (#542)

I would probably go back. But also I now have that City High song stuck in my head. What would you do if your son was at home, crying all alone on the bedroom floor..

One time I was unloading groceries into my car and saw a toothbrush lying in the bottom of the cart. I’d forgot to put it on the belt, and thus had not paid for it. I went back inside and paid for it.
<–huge dork

Fig. 1 (#632)

@jen325 GOB would not have paid for that toothbrush. Change your avatar at once! :)

@Fig. 1 I was just trying to figure out how but couldn’t find the link! Turns out it’s under the reply box and not on top of the page like the other Awl family sites.

LHOOQ (#1,634)

If I had the time I would consider going back, but I don’t know if I would actually do it.

I did go back on the occasion that a self-checkout machine gave me £5 less change than I should have had. The receipt showed the correct change, but the machine hadn’t actually dispensed the note. Thankfully I wasn’t the only person it had happened to that day, but I still felt weird. Worth it, though.

Ellie (#62)

Of course I would go back – I can’t believe how many people say they wouldn’t! Seriously?! If I had been the coffee shop employee (and I did work in a coffee shop once) I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at someone requesting correction of a $2 mistake. It wouldn’t even occur to me to think of a person who did that as wasting my time or that he should just eat the difference instead of “inconveniencing” me by asking me to make a cash register transaction, which is, guess what, what I’m getting paid to stand there and do. Also I honestly think that $2 is a decent amount of money and I wouldn’t describe myself as totally broke. It’s half a beer or two hours of parking or 1 1/3 loads of laundry or 2/3 of a hot chocolate – it’s worth it!

KPeeps (#1,140)

@Ellie Exactly. Best to do it there on the spot. I hated it when people would come back the NEXT DAY and claim they had been over charged. Just do it there. It takes one minute to fix.

The Wub (#2,739)

I went to a restaurant/bar and ordered a drink. There were no prices for ANY beers or drinks on the menu, and when I got my check, it was more than I had anticipated and I was kind of appalled that my drink had cost that much. I pay it and silently fume that I have such expensive taste.

Then I go back to this same restaurant. Knowing how mad I was at myself for ordering such an expensive drink last time, this time I ask our server how much my drink will cost before I order it, since there are still no prices at all on the menu. I get the check and it was $2 more than she quoted me. I was EVEN MORE ANGRY and nicely explained the situation to the manager, who gave me the cheaper price I was quoted. I mean, the more expensive price was totally a price I would not have been mad to pay for the drink, except for the fact that it was not the price I had been told!

What I’m saying is I can’t believe you didn’t go back.

allyscully (#2,815)

I read this article this morning, and then this afternoon the local starbucks ran out of small and medium cups, and so was making everyone’s drink venti-sized but charging them the small-sized price. So, I karmically received your $2, and thank you.

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