From Michael McPhee, White Lake Township:
Store merchandise with prices clearly marked on each item helps us in making our buying decisions. Later, at home, we compare prices with other similar products already on hand and we notice price increases from out last purchase, and perhaps the savings from one store to another. Now, our Governor (Rick Snyder) wants to repeal the item pricing law because he says it’s outdated. He says it’s redundant due to computerized check outs and that item pricing is just a needless burden on retailers.
While it’s true that item pricing has been around for many years, I still find it useful. And no doubt, retailers can hardly wait to trim their payroll once the law is repealed. However, without item pricing, the shopping experience loses a layer of transparency. Shoppers will have to rely on shelf tags and check out scanners. It will be a test of our memory as we watch the items being scanned at the checkout line, wondering to ourselves: Is that right? How does the shopper verify that the prices charged at the checkout line matches the shelf tag? Without being marked, we can only run back to the grocery aisle to check and who’s going to do that? Not many of us would buy something “sight unseen” but soon it seems, we’ll be asked to buy it not knowing if “the price is right.”
The computer process is only as accurate as the human programmer, hence the adage “garbage in, garbage out.” Just look at your receipt the next trip to the store; the entries are jumbled or indecipherable. The check out scanning devices aren’t always reliable either. Cashiers sometimes have to pass an item over the scanner more than once before the machine registers a single “beep.” Nevertheless, the customer is often charged twice for an item when it happens. To make matters worse, some stores like Meijer “time” their cashiers for swiftness and discipline those who fail to meet the guidelines. A worried cashier can’t afford to “wait for the beep” and shoppers can’t afford a rush job at the register either.
Gas stations already utilized computerized pricing for fuel and they may change their prices several times a day. Who wants that kind of price volatility in grocery staples? With just a key stroke, store-wide prices could change with the forecast of severe weather.
A computerized check out system already provides the retail industry with a lot of useful data to make them more efficient, in spite of the current law and their historic obligation to price items. A repeal of the law is just icing on the cake for them. Rick Snyder may have made millions in computers but I doubt that he does enough grocery shopping to know his way around the supermarket. The change that he proposes will leave shoppers worse off unless he plans to introduce other safeguards. I know he wants to hit the ground running in his new job and rack up a few quick victories, but the repeal of item pricing will only cost some stock clerks their jobs and give shoppers more anxiety. Then we’ll yearn for the “good old days” when we only had to remember our coupons and where we parked the car.