The bigger the chain, the better the target, as Walmart (NYSE:WMT) knows only too well. Just last month, another judge in this same California county hit grocery chain Fresh & Easy with a bill for $833,136 for similar price-tag problems. How about drawing legal distinctions between intent to defraud and unintentional human error or computer glitch? Frustratingly, these weights-and-measures cases are usually painful enough to sting but not financially worth fighting. That cost-of-doing-business reality is something cash-strapped agencies rely on.
In the Best Buy case, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia also ordered the chain to pay California consumers $3 if a shopper in that state proves an overcharge. Some of the overcharges in the case dated back to 2008.
Best Buy issued a statement that said: "During this period of time more than 99.8 percent of prices on the specific products reviewed were accurate. Unfortunately there were also a small number of mistakes among the hundreds of price changes that occur in stores on a weekly basis." Best Buy makes a fair point. On the other hand, 99.8 percent suggests that one out of every 500 SKUs is priced incorrectly. For a chain with as many products as Best Buy, that's a lot of skewed SKUs.