Shaw's Bans Shopper Who Questions Price Accuracy

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- Apparently, sometimes the customer can be wrong. Alana Lipkin, who has amassed thousands of dollars worth of merchandise by taking advantage of retailers' price accuracy guarantees, is now no longer welcome at Shaw's Supermarket locations, according to a published report in the Boston Globe.

On Aug. 10, Lipkin received a letter from Shaw's warning her that she would be arrested for trespassing if she visited any of its stores. Three years earlier, Stop & Shop banned her under similar circumstances.

Both companies contended that Lipkin was disrupting the smooth running of their stores, while she said she was the scapegoat for the chains' inability to price their products correctly.

"We do that with any customer who becomes disruptive in our stores," said Shaw's spokeswoman Judy Chong of the ban. Lipkin denied the retailer's charge.

Lipkin has apparently been spotting inaccurate prices for close to a decade, taking advantage of guarantees that grant shoppers an item at no charge if it scans at a higher price at checkout than advertised. Lipkin said she has been teaching friends to do likewise. "This is a way, in an ideal world, that I would get the stores to comply with the law," she told the Boston Globe. "If more people did it, there would be fewer problems at stores."

Stop & Shop spokeswoman Faith Weiner said, "We felt that [Lipkin] took unfair advantage of our price accuracy policy and tried to manipulate it to her advantage." Weiner said she thinks that Lipkin is the only shopper that the store has banned.

State and local officials referred to Lipkin as a seasoned and thorough professional shopper, although she claimed her activity is just a hobby. The town of Framingham's director of weights and measures, Jack Walsh, says that supermarkets maintain that Lipkin switches labels on products, although he doesn't think so.

Stop & Shop and Shaw's say they perform internal audits to make sure that their prices are correct.

According to Charles Carroll, assistant deputy director of the Massachusetts' Division of Standards, pricing surveys by his department show that most food stores in the state are 99 percent accurate when it comes to pricing.
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