‘Serious problem’: Ohio probes failed price inspections at 20 Dollar General stores in Butler County

All 20 of the Dollar General stores in Butler County failed pricing inspections conducted this...
All 20 of the Dollar General stores in Butler County failed pricing inspections conducted this month by the county’s auditor’s office with “double figure error rates up to 88%,” an auditor's news release states. Now, the Ohio Department of Agriculture is looking into it.(Provided by the Butler County Auditor's Office)
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 7:56 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2022 at 9:25 AM EDT
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HAMILTON, Ohio (WXIX) - Are Dollar General stores in at least one Ohio county committing consumer fraud by charging customers higher costs at the cash register over lower prices advertised on shelves?

All 20 of the Dollar General stores in Butler County failed pricing inspections this month that was conducted by the county’s auditor’s office with “double figure error rates up to 88%,” according to a news release sent out by the county’s auditor’s office Thursday.

A store is allowed only a plus or minus 2% error rate.

“This is a serious problem,” Auditor Roger Reynolds said in the news release. “A customer could be charged substantially more than the listed shelf price and that amounts to a form of consumer fraud. During these inflationary times, people turn to stores like these to get some bargains. Instead, in too many instances they are being overcharged.”

Most of the 20 stores were selling products advertised at a lower price if two or more products were purchased but the reduced price was not reflected at the cash register, the news release states.

“In some instances, managers said they would enter the correct advertised price if a customer complained,” it reads.

“The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), which oversees weights and measures in the state, has been notified of the pricing problems at Dollar General and are looking into the matter.”

An ODA spokeswoman confirmed Thursday they are looking into it after the auditor’s office contacted them Wednesday.

“We have just begun to look into the matter,” she said.

FOX19 NOW also reached out to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which has a consumer protection section with eight units including ones that investigate and prosecute violations of the Consumer Sales Practices Act.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said they “do not confirm the existence of, or potential for, investigations.”

Butler County Auditor’s Office Weights and Measures Department ensures that the labeled shelf price or the advertised price matches the price displayed at the checkout.

If the product scans differently than what is marked on the item or shelf, the item is failed.

A store is allowed a plus or minus two percent error rate. The two percent is calculated on the total number of items tested. If 50 items are scanned, the store can only have one item scanned incorrectly.

The Dollar General store on Hamilton Eaton Road store in Hamilton had the highest number of pricing errors: 15 out of 17 items checked ringing up different prices for an 88.2% fail rate, according to the auditor’s office.

They provided examples of pricing errors at Dollar General including:

2614 Millville Oxford Road in Oxford

  • A six-pack of Diet Coke had a shelf price of $4.00 but scanned at $5.25
  • Tombstone Frozen Cheese Pizza had a shelf price of $4.50 but scanned at $5.75
  • Snapple Apple had a shelf price of $1.00 but scanned at $1.50

1425 Millville Road store

  • Nestle Coffee Mate creamer had a shelf price of $2.00 but scanned at $4.35
  • Hefty solo cups had a shelf price of $4.25 but scanned at $5.95
  • Purdue Chicken Strips had a shelf price of $7.95 but scanned at $10.75
  • Pillsbury Grands biscuits had a shelf price of $3.00 but scanned at $3.75

All of the pricing errors were in the customers’ favor at one of the stores: College Corner Pike in Oxford, according to the auditor’s office.

On Thursday, employees at Dollar General stores around the county repeatedly referred FOX19 NOW to Dollar General’s corporate offices.

We emailed and called the company’s media representative but did not get a response.

Dollar General reached a $1.75 million settlement in 2019 with the state of Vermont for violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act, according to a release from Vermont’s Attorney General’s Office.

Under the settlement, Dollar General resolved claims that it sold products that were advertised on the shelf at a lower price than the price at the register, even after being told at least 50 times by state inspectors from the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets to correct the pricing inaccuracies.

Butler County’s auditor’s office performed store inspections at the stores here after receiving a complaint letter from St. Clair Township resident William Anderson, according to the news release.

The 73-year-old man reported the Dollar General store at 950 S. Main Street in Hamilton had a sign posted by the management: “Prices cannot be changed at the register. All prices are final,” the news release states.

“That is dishonest – as the shelf price may say two boxes of cereal for $6.00, but when I get to the register it’s $7.00 or higher! Can’t they use the price on the shelf – or at least change them every week?” the news release quotes Anderson saying.

The sign was still posted at the store when the auditor’s weights and measures manager visited, the auditor’s office says: “That type of signage is problematic because the price on the shelf is the advertised price and should be honored.”

FOX19 NOW emailed a public records request for the letter Thursday morning to three officials at the auditor’s office including Reynolds. We will update this story with a copy of it once we receive it.

We contacted Anderson at the phone number provided by the auditor’s office in the news release. He said he didn’t keep a copy of his letter.

He told us the price of Halloween candy wasn’t even marked at one of the Dollar General stores when he shopped recently. He said he was told to just get the price at the register when he paid.

“It was unethical because to me when you see a price marked $6 for two boxes of cereal and you get to the counter and it’s $7 and it’s a higher price,” Anderson tells FOX19 NOW.

He said he wrote the letter to the auditor’s office because “I got fed up and ticked off by (store employees’) laziness and, in some cases, I don’t know whether it be greed or what. They didn’t give a hoot. They are understaffed. Nobody wants to change signs. It only takes two seconds to change signs.”

Anderson said he chose to contact the auditor’s office because he is familiar with it. He said he goes there “once a year to pay my taxes” and sees their inspection stickers on gas pumps.

Reynolds, Butler County’s longtime auditor, is running for re-election on the Nov. 8 ballot. He faces Democrat Mike Dalesandro of Oxford Township.

Reynolds was endorsed earlier this year by the Butler County Republican Party despite facing a criminal case. He ran unopposed in the May Republican primary and won.

A special prosecutor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office was assigned earlier this year to oversee a public corruption investigation into Reynolds, 53, of Liberty Township.

He is scheduled to go on trial Dec. 12 following an indictment on six charges related to his elected position.

There are four felonies: bribery and three counts of unlawful interest in a public contract; and two misdemeanors: unlawful use of authority and conflict of interest, according to the Bill of Particulars.

Reynolds could face up to seven years and six months in prison if convicted on all charges, Butler County’s sheriff has said.

Reynolds had pleaded not guilty. He and his attorney have repeatedly called the charges false and politically motivated.

A special commission appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court’s chief justice declined to suspend him from his elected office earlier this year, concluding the allegations “are not sufficiently related to the performance and duties of his office” to warrant it.

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