Snyder Urges Reform Of Controversial Item-Pricing Law

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EAST LANSING -- Every day, the grocers at Goodrich's Shop-Rite in East Lansing roam the store, tagging new prices on countless items.

Michigan is one of just two states in the country that require retailers to place the tag physically on both food and non-food items (the other is Massachusetts, and most other states require those tags only on food products).

And it is a costly venture.

"In some cases, Michigan consumers don't get the benefit of some sales, because it's such a costly and timely procedure to physically change the tags on every item," says Tom Scott with the Michigan Retailers Association.

He estimates that requiring those stickers to be placed directly on the items instead of simple shelf pricing costs the state's economy some $2 billion a year.

It's why Gov. Rick Snyder was met with such applause Wednesday night at his State of the State address when he pushed lawmakers to reform the item-pricing law, put in place in the 1970s when scanners first appeared in grocery stores -- leaving customers at the time worried they might be overcharged for their purchases.

"Let's embrace technology that saves consumers time and money while still protecting them," Snyder said, suggesting better scanner technology safeguards consumers from those concerns. "Let's make item pricing one law that's out of stock."

That is not to say that everyone is thrilled with the idea of removing the law. Thousands of Michiganders, in fact, rely on retagging items at the grocery store for their jobs.

"The beautiful thing about the current item-pricing law is that it protects jobs by protecting consumers," says Chris Michalakis with the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

Protecting consumers, he says, by assuring them that the price on their item is correct. Michalakis estimates the state will lose between one and three jobs at every grocery store across the state if lawmakers were to completely remove item pricing.

The other option would be to restrict the required tagging to food, as is the case in most other states.

Both Michalakis and Scott say they expect the legislature to take up the issue within the next few months, and they say there's a very good chance the law will be either eliminated or reformed.

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