How The Michigan Scanner Law Makes Grocery Shopping Different

On March 15, one redditor discovered a rather pleasant surprise. As explained in the "today I learned" subreddit, they had gone to a store in Michigan because they had been overcharged on two items during a previous visit. Instead of only receiving the $1.50 refund that they expected, they walked away with an additional $10.

What they had profited from and learned about was Michigan's Scanner Law, which has the official title of The Shopping Reform and Modernization Act (via Simply put, if an automatic checkout charges more for a product than the price displayed, the customer can ask the seller to refund the difference within the next month. In addition, however, the refund comes with a bonus of 10 times the difference. The minimum bonus per item is $1 and the maximum is $5. If the seller doesn't pay up, consumers can sue for $250 plus $300 for attorney charges.

The law has some complications

However, it's not as easy as earning $10 for being overcharged. The straightforward-sounding Shopping Reform and Modernization Act is very specific. In fact, it only applies to a niche of overcharging situations.

Bargains to Bounty gives examples in which the bonus will not occur. The law is specifically about automated checkout mistakes, not human error. So if the cashier at Meijer manually rings up the wrong item, causing the overcharge, the bonus doesn't apply. Similarly, if an overcharge is the result of a Walmart sale sign being up past its promotion period, the store has violated advertising laws. In that case, customers aren't being automatically overcharged but falling victim to a different violation. Consumers in that situation would receive a refund, but no bonus, for being charged the wrong price. 

In short, the law seems to be aimed at faulty scanning equipment. Still, a possible bonus cash infusion could be a nice pick-me-up.