Price Discrepancies at Supermarkets in Brazil

A recent study found significant discrepancies between shelf and checkout prices in Brazilian supermarkets.

By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) found differing shelf and checkout prices in five supermarkets in Brazil during a recent study. One item studied showed a 31 percent increase in price at the register compared to its stated shelf price.

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If possible, consumers should make notes of shelf prices and verify them during checkout, photo by Tânia Rêgo/ABr.

To conduct the study the IDEC visited five supermarket chains: Extra, Pão de Açúcar, Sonda, Carrefour and Walmart. Two separate stores from each chain were visited in São Paulo.

At each of the ten stores, 45 to 46 products were selected and their shelf prices were recorded at the time of placing them in the shopping carts. Once at the checkout, the optical reader prices were then also recorded.

In their research IDEC found numerous issues including: items without labels, items with no stated shelf price, problems with registers’ optical readers and numerous price discrepancies in the labeled and checkout prices.

The discrepancies included negatively divergent values, or to put it more simply, the IDEC shoppers were charged more at checkout for some items then what they were lead to believe by the items’ labels on the shelves.

The results from the Pão de Açúcar supermarket chain showed the most noticeable differences. At one Pão de Açúcar store, eleven of the 46 items purchased had divergent prices. The discrepancies ranged from checkout price increases of R$0.09 to R$5.25. One can of powered milk priced at R$16.90 on the shelf, rang up at R$22.15 at the register. That R$5.25 difference represents a 31 percent increase in price.

The research also found that four products in Carrefour had divergent prices at the time of the study. Results from Extra and Walmart each showed three products with divergent prices while Sonda was culpable for having two items that were labelled differently on the shelves compared to their checkout prices.

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Consumer groups also advise that when shopping it is best to carefully read the information printed next to the price as the nearest label is not always for the same product, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

According to the Consumer Protection Code (CDC), stores are in agreement to refund the overcharges in cases of shelf and checkout price discrepancies.

“When [divergent prices] happen, the store is required to reimburse the consumer. Otherwise, the consumer should contact the Procon [Office of Consumer Protection] and make a complaint,” Carlos Thadeu de Oliveira, technical manager of IDEC, told O Globo.

During the IBEC study all stores were compliant and reimbursed the shoppers for the overcharges with the exception of Carrefour, which reportedly only reversed the charges partially, returning the difference of only two of the four overcharged items.

Although the research was conducted solely in São Paulo, the same issues appear in Rio de Janeiro supermarkets. The president of the Supermarkets Association of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Asserj), Aylton Fornari, spoke with O Globo in acknowledgement of the issues.

When accounting for the reasons behind the price differences Fornari said, “It turns out that the core system updates the prices of supermarkets and then they are printed. However, the employees who label them on the shelves sometimes forget or take a few hours to do it.”

Fornari went on to speak of possible future solutions for supermarkets in Rio, saying, “Therefore, we are considering the adoption of a pricing system with digital panels instead of printed, so there is less human interference. Considering that that process is expensive, it might take at least another year for it to be deployed in Rio. In São Paulo there are already two or three shops testing the system.”

7 Responses to "Price Discrepancies at Supermarkets in Brazil"

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  3. Mike in São Paulo  March 27, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I’ve had this happen a few times, but due to my extremely poor Portuguese I wasn’t able to get the cashier to change the price at checkout and I’m still afraid of making waves.

  4. LatAm  March 29, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    This is disgusting and a huge problem in Pao de Acucar stores in Rio as well. I have particularly noticed it when there are special offers on hand printed signs- at least 50% of the time in my experience that lower price is not reflected in the system of Pao de Acucar.

    Of course consumers should be reimbursed. But what about all the hassle you go through if you notice the price after you go home? Returning to the store, bringing back perishable items, etc. It is a huge inconvenience and consumer should be compensated for it. How about requiring the store to reimbursing the product or given store credit, etc. That will give the market the proper incentive to get their acts together!

  5. RiverMikeRat  March 30, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    But how would it be enforced?
    I could see some sort of law that says that if a store receives enough complaints to a certain agency regarding pricing discrepancies, they have to pay some sort of fine.

  6. Serge Delisle  April 2, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    This happens every time that I go to the Pāo de Açucar in Copacabana,I confront them every time…… You should see their face and attitude if I could I would hit them.um nonchalance indescriptivable,very often rude.I insist at paying what is supposed to be.Also the lines in that store are absolutely ridiculous ,the speed at the counter is a joke a total frustration for everybody except preferentials that laugh at you because they can pass in front of you.Also a lot of people here knows that the owner of Pāo de Açucar here is a billionaire,I think this is scandalous when you pay your employees such small salaries and you do not make any efforts to get yours mercerarias more efficient to give a better service to your customers ,with outrageous prices you are charging ,we all know this why you are a billionaire ,hope this note will get to you mister……

  7. LatAm  April 4, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    How about when the price that is ringed up at the register is much higher than the price actually printed on the item? It happens every time I shop at Pao de Acucar. In one ridiculous case I bought some beef which had a price printed on it of about R$30 and when the cashier rung it up the price came to R$150!! How is it possible that their system allows this sort of discrepancy? Where are the controls? Evidently they make a practice of increasing the price in the system and then totally neglecting to update the price printed on the item. I would guess that the vast majority of people don’t notice or notice only when they get home at which point it becomes a major hassle to get a refund.

    The most honest and best managed supermarket chain in Rio in my experience is Horti Frutti. The Prezunic (owned by Cencosud of Chile) at the beginning of Recreio is also a well run store.

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