(File photo) A customer receives his change back from a cashier. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Johannesburg - Do you check your supermarket till slip, or just toss it without a glance?

It’s not nearly as engaging a habit as checking Facebook or Twitter, but the practice is more likely to benefit you in a tangible way.

Earlier this month, Davy Ivins wrote to Consumer Talk about two incidents which converted him into a dedicated till slip interrogator.

Within two weeks he had two near identical experiences at two branches of Pick n Pay involving unauthorised cash “withdrawals”.

Many consumers request “cashback” at the till rather than join a separate queue at an ATM. Their chosen amount is added to the till total.

Ivins’s first incident happened at Pick n Pay in Northgate. His groceries amounted to R210. The cashier activated an unrequested cash withdrawal of R1 000, which he noticed immediately.

“I was then given the option of taking the cash or reversing the transaction,” he said. “The cashier, and subsequently a manager at the store, explained that the PnP till system is susceptible to unintentionally capturing such unauthorised withdrawals and that their system developers are aware of the problem.

“He said the unrequested withdrawals happen regularly and are caught at the end of the day when cashiers don’t balance, at which point they apparently know to look for cashbacks and then contact the respective customers.”

A week later, in PnP’s Woodmead store, Ivins had a R50 cash withdrawal added to his grocery total without request. Again, he noticed. “I took it up with the manager on duty and was promised that the issue would be addressed.”

When he hadn’t had any feedback two weeks later, Ivins tweeted about his experience, sparking an immediate response and investigation by the two branches. “I was asked for copies of the till slips, both branches kept me informed about steps they had taken, and I received an apology.”

“My concern is that PnP may have a till system that is prone to defrauding customers, that they are apparently aware of, but that does not appear to be getting fixed very quickly. Or cashiers have found a way to easily steal money from unsuspecting customers via the cash withdrawal system.”

Responding, Pick n Pay’s business intelligence general manager, John Swanepoel, said a thorough investigation of the incidents had revealed that it wasn’t the system which was at fault, but rather “a case of two cashiers making the same mistake”.

“That doesn’t mean we take this lightly, and we will be making some tweaks to our tills to make sure the cashback key is not inadvertently selected by the cashier, which is what happened here.

“We are grateful for the warning, and while we would advise all customers to always check their till slips wherever they shop, there is no system error, but rather a case of human error. We have communicated to our staff that they need to be extra vigilant in this regard.”

A search of the Consumer Talk inbox revealed an earlier complaint about the same issue, from a consumer who asked to remain anonymous. His wife bought R420 worth of groceries at PnP’s Cape Town Waterfront branch in February, using her debit card.

“On checking her till slip, she noticed she’d been debited an amount of R1 170, which included R750 recorded as cashback, which she had neither requested nor been given. On pointing this out, she was given the R750 in cash as it was not possible, she was told, to reverse the transaction.

Moral of the story: take a good look at your till slip and credit card slip while you’re in the store. Once you’ve left, it will be much harder and more time consuming to prove you didn’t get the “cashback” you were charged for.


Never discard receipts

Always, always insist on being given a receipt. Many smaller stores simply don’t produce them unless they are asked to, which is illegal in terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).

When I challenge the store on this, I’m always told the same thing: “Most customers don’t want them.”

Section 26 of the CPA says a supplier “must” supply a written record of each transaction to the consumer, not only if the consumer asks for one. That sales record can’t be vague: by law it must include the store’s name, address, date of purchase, quantity and description of goods and taxes paid.

Street vendors are exempt from this provision.

Apart from revealing any overcharging, you have no recourse without proof of purchase.

The CPA entitles you to return a defective item within six months for your choice of a refund, replacement or repair – provided you can produce proof of purchase.

Always insist on a “till slip”, take a quick look at it in the store to check that all is in order, and then keep it in a safe place – a drawer, a spike, or a shoe box. I am unable to help many people, with valid cases, because they have lost or discarded receipts.

The Star