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Walmart to Pay Millions for Meat Dept. Overcharges – The Back Story

This is the craziest case MrConsumer has ever seen in his 47 years as a consumer advocate. While you may have heard about this case last week, what wasn’t reported was the clever way Walmart pulled off the alleged overcharging scheme.

Walmart was sued by a consumer claiming that for years the company has manipulated the weight and price of packaged meat, poultry, and fish sold by the pound, as well as certain bagged produce, such that shoppers were charged more than the lowest represented price per pound shown on shelf tags and signs.

Most of the overcharges occurred on “rollback” or sale/reduced items. Look at this example from the lawsuit.


Walmart turkey

Turkey was 98 cents a pound according to the Walmart sign, but they were marked $1.48 a pound — 50 cents higher. So this 15-pound turkey the consumer was going to buy should have cost $15.07 and not $22.76 as marked. Instead, at the checkout, while the system was properly programmed to charge the 98 cents per pound price, it deceptively changed the weight to now be over 23 pounds. And magically, the consumer was charged the full $22.76 price on the tag — close to an eight dollar overcharge.

Here’s another example.


Walmart pork chops

The shelf label for these pork chops says they are $4.67 a pound, but the package is marked $5.17 a pound – 50 cents higher. Doing the math, the total price of that package should be $9.25, not $10.24 — which is almost a dollar higher. Yet, when the customer went to buy it, the checkout system somehow manipulated the weight of the item, raising it to 2.19 pounds instead of the actual weight of just under two pounds. The result, while the consumer was charged the price marked on the package, that was based on a higher price per pound than it should have been.

Walmart denies any wrongdoing but has tentatively agreed to settle the case for $45-million. Customers who purchased eligible groceries sold by weight from Walmart between October 19, 2018 and January 19, 2024 qualify for the settlement. If you have receipts, you can get two-percent back on eligible items up to $500. Others can get up to $25 depending on how many items they purchased.

June 5th is the deadline to submit a claim. Be sure to read the FAQs at that link.

Now my question for you, dear readers, is this: What was Walmart trying to do with this crazy practice of manipulating the net weights on the sales receipt? Were they really trying to intentionally defraud shoppers by cleverly making the sales receipt look like shoppers were charged the price on the item and the correct price per pound? If so, every state AG and weights and measures official across the country should go after them. However, I suspect something else was really going on here — some alternate explanation — but I just don’t know what it is.

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49 thoughts on “Walmart to Pay Millions for Meat Dept. Overcharges – The Back Story”

  1. Who saves receipts that long? Shouldn’t Walmart be forced to review detailed purchases where people paid using their debit/charge and refund them accordingly? I don’t have my receipt from last week for groceries..

    • I have saved receipts from the dates listed I have actually saved them in order to prove to my husband the amount of money I have spent on groceries over time and
      I am looking into this Walmart situation I should receive a payment

    • Agreed! The consumer would need the printed label from the package (of meat, cheese or produce) with the weight and price and date still legible along with the cash register receipt. How else would you know you had been overcharged, and be able to prove the discrepancy.

      • Penny… For purposes of the settlement, you do not need to demonstrate an overcharge(s) — just purchases of covered products.

    • If you have a Walmart account it’s a good chance that every purchase you have ever made with a card is in there with a receipt, I found hundreds of transactions

  2. This is absolutley bonkers…..
    I work in a supermarket and have an intricate understanding of how pricing works and most stories about price manipulation and such I can usually chalk up to human error, but this…..is certainly something I’ve never seen before and just don’t understand how this could happen or how nobody caught it and fixed it unless it was intentional

  3. As a guy who runs pricing for my company, coding pricing discounts can be a pain. And not understanding how one database field is linked to another is also a common mistake I make. It looks like the UPC scan is capturing the price on the tag, then the receipt is trying to back-calculate that price. The UPC probably doesn’t have the weight, so it is calculating it based on the total price and the sale per pound price. Meijer here locally, has price tags for meat that clearly show the regular price and the discounted price. Looks like Walmart is too lazy or wants too much flexibility to do this.

    • Dave, Two things about Meijer pricing that I have noticed 1) There will be a “lower price” tag indicating a savings of x$ placed over the shelf tag and if you lift up the “lower price” tag you will see that the “lower price” tag and the shelf tag are the same – no savings. 2) In the meat department items will be priced with a new tag indicating a discount of x% and a new price if you do the math the % saved is less than the % indicated.

  4. As much as I want to say Wal-Mart did this intentionally, this looks much more like an error in the logic that Wal-Mart uses to handle the pricing of per pound products. I’ll give a comparable example:

    I have an app that tracks my fuel efficiency. When I record a fill-up it has three fields: price per gallon, total gallons, and total price. In an attempt to save me a few key presses, the app will automatically fill in the 3rd field when any of two other fields are filled out (ex. if I fill in $30.00 total and $3/gal, the app will automatically fill in the “gal” field with “10”).

    If this is similar, then it’s possible that Wal-Mart’s system is recording price per pound and total price, and then the computer just does the math to assume how much the product actually weighs. I suspect this is the case because this specifically deals with rollbacks. There may be two totals stored in Wal-Mart’s system, the total and the rollback total. The simplest answer here is that the system is referencing the regular total and not the rollback total, and then just filling in the answer for how many pounds were purchased. I suspect if the total purchase price were correct, the weight would be as well.

      • I have noticed the refusal of the majority of, especially cashiers to actually communicate with customers so don’t expect an apology for their over-pricing anytime soon. At least Meijer cashiers will greet a customer and pretend to pay attention to what is being scanned. I avoid Walmart whenever possible now.

  5. Let me bring up somethings in South Florida in respect to Publix Supermarkets. Everything I printed is true. I live in Boca Raton Florida. Lately I do most of my food shopping at Walmart. I am aware that we have inflation, but Publix is really taking advantage of the situation when it comes to their customers. Their prices are much higher than they should be. Here are some examples: Nathans Frozen French Fries. Walmart $4.69 Publix $5.99 * That is 30% higher. Walmart $ Hagen Dazs 15oz Ice Cream Walmart $3.99 Publix $5.99 * That is 67% higher. Breyers 48oz Ice Cream Walmart $4.29 Publix $5.99 *That is 45%higher Two other things. For many years, Publix charges more in Boca Raton and Delray Beach than areas north of here. Publix raises the price on many items when it is a BOGO and then lowers the price after to what it was before. I know other former customers that also do most of their shopping now at Walmart because they are also aware of the pricing practices that have been going on at Walmart.

  6. I worked in the supermarket industry for over 40 years. This MAY not be deliberate, but it IS negligent.

    On random-weight items, the barcode holds the final price in the last 5 digits (excluding the ending check digit). The POS system knows the price per pound. Nowhere does the POS know what the package weight is, so it calculates the weight for the receipt.

    The manipulation is not at the POS. The pricing coordinator IS reducing the price per pound in the POS system. However, the meat department is supposed to reweigh each package using the new price per pound to generate a new barcode. They’re not doing that for packages already on the shelf.

    So, the barcode, in the first example, still has the $22.76 final price based on the regular price at the time the meat was packaged. The POS sees the $22.76 final price on the package, knows the price per pound in the POS system is 98 cents per pound and deduces that the weight must be 22.23 pounds, which it prints on the receipt!

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if most Walmarts lack the standard capabilities to retag meat correctly, they got rid of in-house meat cutters because of union activity and all of it comes in as-is pre-tagged if I recall correctly.

  7. “Were they really trying to intentionally defraud shoppers by cleverly making the sales receipt look like shoppers were charged the price on the item and the correct price per pound?”

    How do you think the Walton family became billionaires? This is just one of the cr***y tricks they pull on the consumer. I have NEVER shopped at a Walmart & NEVER will. They sell cheap goods (made in china) to desperate people who will just have to buy them again in a few months! It’s a vicious circle.

    • “I have NEVER shopped at a Walmart & NEVER will.” If you have NEVER shopped at a Walmart, how do you know WHAT they sell? [edited]

  8. Hmmm… makes me wonder if a programmer is skimming and cooking the books (program). It’s happened before, usually skimming and redirecting a fraction a cent when “rounding” numbers.

  9. As someone who checks receipts closely everytime I shop, it’s hard for me to understand how a person could miss the glaring error on a turkey receipt similar to the one above. Prices are all programmed into the systems from outside the store. But, many customers are careless today. They assume everything is correct. I see many people ahead of me in line that don’t even take their receipts. Especially at self-checkouts. With the prices today, people must be dilligent.

  10. This almost looks fairly correct.

    The ‘bare meat’ weighted 1.98 pounds and was priced bare at retail price of $5.17/pound.

    Packaged and wrapped and in the styrofoam and the absorbent pad adds .21 pounds to the weight (which brings us the 2.19 pounds at the register).

    They may be adjusting the pricing to compensate for the packaging, because the math still mostly adds up:

    5.17*1.98 = $10.236
    2.190*4.67 = $10.227

    • The tare is always subtracted from the packaged total weight FIRST and never added to the net weight. It is hard to read, but the tare is accounted for just above the weight per pound on the label.

  11. I can remember, many years ago, I bought an on-sale clothing item from Wal-Mart. My mother taught me to take off the sale price and see what the selling price was, so we could see how much we saved. Well, the sale price was HIGHER than the selling price underneath it. I never forgot that. How could *that* be an accident?

  12. I get my groceries delivered now that I can’t get out to shop any more.. I really appreciate it. I hate going into the store and have to use self check out. Just to be stopped at the door to show my receipt. Well I look at it this way put more people at the register.

  13. For the average consumer especially in a metro area with multiple markets to choose from, why bother looking for purchase evidence. You are going to get 2% back on for that meat purchase so if you’re a huge walmart purchaser on meat/produce items, $3,000 in purchases will amount to a potencial $60 claim….not worth the effort. It’s not like a Facebook or a Great America Amusement park claim.

  14. I believe that Walmart being in the low income area,did this because they could. I have down south for 16 years and always shopped @Walmart and do to receipts being thrown away I hope to get more that $20 and that is Sad. I filled out the paperwork to get a refund on my Walmart card. Can’t wait to see how much if any.

  15. It’s disgusting that Walmart rips people off for meats & fruits for years now & tried to make claim, but can’t find codes or verification and I’ve shopped there & only there since they opened years ago in Elyria Ohio for family of 4 ! I’m disgusted by what they’ve done to customers! [edited] They don’t make enough money & still rip off the paying customers?!?

  16. I was a victim of their price gauging. I told a Manager on 3 different occasions of prices on package differ when scanned on my phone They apologized, corrected my items but not the ones on the shelves. I use their “Scan and Go” and if you scan an item it sometimes adds it to your list and charges you 6x. I told a CSR but he couldn’t understand.

  17. Interesting, I’ve been buying groceries for curbside pickup, using their app, since 2020, starting at the beginning of the pandemic, so I clicked the link up there to check it out.
    Claim form states ‘in-person’ – does that mean online orders weren’t manipulated – was this just a cash register issue?

    “Bagged Citrus and/or Weighted Goods Purchased

    Select from one of the following two options:* The dollar amounts shown below are not guaranteed; they are subject to a potential pro rata increase or decrease depending on the number of people who submit valid Claim Forms.
    OPTION 1: I do not have receipts, proof of purchase, or other documentation but attest to having Purchased the following number of Weighted Goods and/or Bagged Citrus, listed below, in-person in a Walmart Store from October 19, 2018 through January 19, 2024.
    OPTION 2: I have receipts, proof of purchase, or other documentation that documents (a) each Weighted Good and/or Bagged Citrus product I Purchased in-person in a Walmart Store from October 19, 2018 through January 19, 2024, and (b) the amount I paid for each Weighted Good and/or Bagged Citrus Purchased. “

  18. It doesn’t surprise me I’m sure I’m owed. Make sure to save milk receipts too we by 2 percent great value and it’s always sour. Have to have receipts to exchange really ??

  19. I stopped buying meat and poultry from Walmart because the weight marked on the package is not what it actually was. A family pack of chicken showing 11 pounds, when I put the unopened pack on a scale, I had only 9 pounds, over a 2 pound diffrence.

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