Study Says Price Tag Law Hurts Consumers

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

Individual price tags have been a thing of the past for more than a year.

When Governor Snyder repealed part of the Item Pricing Law, it meant retailers no longer had to put a price tag on each item on the shelf starting Sept. 1, 2011. The repeal promised to save businesses and consumers money, but a new study by Michigan Citizen Action, a state-wide citizen advocacy group, says the loss of those price tags had some damaging effects.

"The bottom line is that people are suffering more because of this," said Michael Shpunt, a research assistant for Michigan Citizen Action

Over the past year, Michigan Citizen Action used secret shoppers to collect data on grocery stores throughout Michigan since the item pricing mandate was repealed. They found prices went up instead of down, and workers hours are being cut.

"We kind of have a whole wall of stuff that used to be priced, all the lunchables and sandwich meats," said Jordan Ryckman, an employee at a major retailer in Eaton Rapids. "We don't have to price any of that now, so instead of working 8 hour shifts, we now work 4 or 5 hour shifts, and we're still expected to get the same amount of work done."

Plus, without those individual price tags, they say customers are more confused than ever. They ask clerks questions, but they might not have the answers. It's especially difficult for elderly or handicapped shoppers who can't get around as easily or spend the time price checking.

"It almost caused havoc in line because the people behind them didn't want to wait," said Executive Director of Michigan Citizen Action Linda Teeter, who also secret shopped. "All of it caused frustration at some point."

The Michigan Retailers Association and store owners say the reformed Item Pricing Law is working. They said less stickers means more customer service.

"It enabled us to be more effective, to give consumers a better shopping experience," said Vice President of Tom's Food Center, Steve Antaya. "We could focus our energies on things that make a difference. Merchandising, making sure that signage is good so people do know what the price is they're paying for items that they're picking up, because that is the most important thing."

He said customers have questions no matter what the law is, and that's just part of the business.

The Michigan Retailers Association said they haven't had any complaints, and it calls the Michigan Citizen Action study "amateur."

"Their conclusions are certainly suspect," said Senior Vice President of the Michigan Retailers Association Tom Scott. "When we look at the government data on what has happened, prices have been lower in Michigan than they have in the United States. We see a clear picture of item pricing reforms are really working."

Scott said grocery store employment is up compared to last year, and it's the first increase since 2002.

Michigan Citizen Action also claimed the Attorney General's office only spent a little over $6,000 worth of $100,000 appropriated for consumer education of the reform. The Attorney General's office said they actually spent almost $50,000 on several education efforts, including pamphlets for seniors and a wallet-sized consumer bill of rights.

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  • by Sandra Location: Lansing on Oct 3, 2012 at 03:32 PM
    I could be okay with this change if retailers were 100% on shelf tag pricing. So many times since this law went into effect I have been unable to locate a price...anywhere. Produce departments seem to be particularily bad about this. But I have had trouble with other items as well. How can we be expected to purchase something not knowing what the price is? Especially in this economy where every penny counts.
  • by Angie Location: Lansing on Oct 3, 2012 at 12:22 PM
    I can't understand all of the grousing. I haven't had a single issue with reading a shelf label or using a scanner and have not had any "unpleasant surprises". Go figure. Before you all go piling on, no, I do not feel superior. Just sharing my experience like everyone else.
  • by David E. Location: Litchfield, MI on Oct 3, 2012 at 10:26 AM
    I am all for every item being sold having a price sticker. Some problems I have with the current system: the item may not located near its signage, the information on the signage may not match what is tallied at the cash register, and the information on the signage may be written in a confusing manner, or the information on the signage may be so small that one needs a magnifying glass to read it.
  • by Mary Anne Location: Haslett on Oct 3, 2012 at 09:23 AM
    I think that before we make judgements about people suffering because of the item pricing law change, we need to take into account the price rise naturally in food products due to the drought in parts of the US. I don't see how MI Citizen Action can blame it all on the removal of item pricing - plus they are implying that the the average consumer is too stupid to figure out the costs of things themselves. Very insulting on the part of MI Citizen Action. As for people loosing jobs in the grocery sector, people have lost jobs all over. It is a fact of live today that we must be leaner and meaner to save costs for EVERYONE in today's world.
  • by jd Location: lansing on Oct 3, 2012 at 08:08 AM
    it is really funny that the rest of the nation can manage to buy groceries without a problem without item pricing in their states. apparently we are not smart enough or just lazy when it comes to shopping. get over it. no more item pricing. its archaic. its gone.
  • by Ak Location: Fowlerville on Oct 3, 2012 at 07:38 AM
    Really John. You don't think that's rude? Do you realize most cashiers can't leave their registers to put your junk away. There are tons of other employees that you can ask BEFORE you get to the checkout. And usually there are price scanners so you can check yourself. I cannot stand people that bring something to the register and go " I don't want this I forgot to put it back" Yeah sure you did. We deal with enough rude people in a day that we don't need more. Do you realize that most people use us to complain to? And if something's not right we get yelled at and told it's our fault. So if you bring a bunch of stuff to us to check and then you don't want it. You are just making someone do that instead of their job. Like being on register. Or you could just do what most people do when they don't want something. Leave it sitting right in the aisle or shoved into a candy rack. We really like that.
  • by Ak Location: Fowlerville on Oct 3, 2012 at 07:31 AM
    Poor customers. Not. Did they do research on how much retailers save because people can't get the scanning law anymore? Didn't think so. Usually there is a shelf tag right there you just have to look. Plus retailers should be able to use employers to do other things instead of doing stickers. As for customers not wanting to wait behind someone. Too darn bad. Get some patience. People are in such a hurry all the time. Take a chill pill.
  • by Name Location: Location on Oct 3, 2012 at 06:44 AM
    Did that guy actually say "people are suffering more because of this"??? Wow. Can we discuss some real issues? What a joke.
  • by Karen Location: East Lansing, MI on Oct 3, 2012 at 06:03 AM
    I think the law is actually costing Retailers sales. I refuse to chase someone down or go find a price checker for items that have no signage posted. I simply won't buy it from that store. I don't like the no price tag law and would love to see it repealed.
  • by Linda Harvey Location: Litchfield MI on Oct 3, 2012 at 05:20 AM
    Less stickers means more customer service NO it means Less hours the Retailer has to pay an employee, I sometimes get so frustrated trying to find the price for something that isnt alays marked on the shelf, I end up not buying it. Bring Back Item Pricing.
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