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WASHINGTON -- In its latest attempt to bring negative attention to Wal-Mart, WakeUpWalMart.com, along with the National Consumers League, sent a joint letter yesterday to attorneys general in all 50 states, calling on them to launch a full-scale investigation into Wal-Mart's pricing practices. The groups cited findings of two newly released studies conducted by the University of Illinois-Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development and the University of California-Berkeley.
The two studies examined the pricing accuracy, or the difference between the shelf price and the cash register price, at Wal-Mart stores in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana, and concluded that the pricing errors at Wal-Mart stores in these four states failed to meet the federal standards set by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), according to WakeUpWalMart.com. (Progressive Grocer did not conduct an independent investigation of the studies.) The federal standard, set by the NIST, requires that no more than two out 100 randomly selected items from any one store may be incorrectly priced.
The study found that almost 85 percent of the Wal-Mart stores in the Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana study failed to meet the federal standard for pricing errors, according to WakeUpWalMart.com. In California the results were even worse, with almost 87 percent of Wal-Mart stores failing to meet the federal standard for pricing accuracy.
In the letter to the attorneys general, the National Consumers League and WakeUpWalMart.com suggest ways that Wal-Mart could correct this potential pricing problem, including requiring Wal-Mart to post notices at each register, warning customers that they may be overcharged; requiring Wal-Mart to hire enough employees to accurately price merchandise; requiring each Wal-Mart store to hire an employee solely responsible to ensure accurate pricing; and requiring item pricing in its stores.
In addition to releasing the study, supporters of WakeUpWalMart.com will be mobilizing a grass-roots campaign to inform consumers about Wal-Mart's pricing errors, beginning Nov. 25, the group said.
In other Wal-Mart news, the retailer said yesterday that as part of its promotions for "Black Friday," the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving launch of the holiday shopping season, its stores will match any price featured in a local competitor's print advertisement if Wal-Mart has the same product in stock, according to published reports.
"It's all part of our strategy of ... taking a much more aggressive approach to the holidays on all levels," company spokeswoman Gail Lavielle told Reuters. This is the first time Wal-Mart will be running such a promotion on Black Friday, she said.
The company is also offering special online deals from yesterday through Friday.
This year Wal-Mart has rolled out its holiday advertising on Nov. 1, the earliest it has ever done so.