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Old 08-29-2005, 07:06 PM
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Default Common Billing Errors That Can Cost You Money

No matter how well you negotiate and plan to get the best price on the products and services your purchase, when the final bill comes you need to take a good, hard look at it to make sure that it's correct. With the computer age, many people assume the bill is automatically correct and don't review what the actual charges are. While computers can make errors in calculations less likely, they are far from foolproof. The result is that consumers lose billions of dollars by making unnecessary overpayments each year.

There are a number of different ways that a bill can be incorrect and it's important to know what these are and what to look for when reviewing each bill your receive. Here are some of the more common billing errors that you should be on the lookout for:

Incorrect Charge: When you purchase a product or service, always make sure to make sure they price that you have been charged is the correct price. There can be any number of reasons that the price charged to you is incorrect from an honest mistake to not so honest bill inflation.

This requires that you know the price of the items you're buying. While this may seem obvious, many people don't look at an item's or service's price when purchasing. By always knowing the exact price you are supposed to be charged, you can immediately challenge any bill where the price is higher than you know it should be.

An example of where this might happen is when an item is marked at a sale price on the store floor, but the sale price was not placed into the computer scanner system so when the bar code is scanned, the retail price is charged instead of the sale price.

Charged For Incorrect Product or Service: Mix-ups happen and sometimes you will find a charge on your bill for something other than you bought or had done. It is especially important to closely check bills where you have changed an order. If you originally ordered one thing and then changed it to another at a later date, there is a chance that due to the switching you accidentally get charged for the incorrect product or service.

Duplicate Billing: Always check to make sure you haven't been accidentally billed twice for the same product or service. This is especially important when purchase a large number of the same item where the number may easily be miscounted.

Services Not Rendered / Products Not received: It's important to check all your bills to make sure that a service or product you never used hasn't been added to your bill. I was once at a hotel where I became thirsty and thought about getting a bottle of water from the mini-fridge. I got as far as taking the bottle out of the mini-fridge when I discovered the hotel was charging $5 a bottle. I put the bottle back and never drank it, but when I looked at my hotel bill, the bottle of water I had never drank had been charged to me. it turned out that the hotel had an automated system that once something was taken out of its place in the mini-fridge, it was automatically charged to the room even if it was never used by the guest.

There are two type of bills that you will want to take special care check extra thoroughly:

Consolidated Bills: While consolidated bills are supposed to be a service so you so that you have one simple number to pay instead of having to look at many detailed charges, they are also an easy place for mistakes to happen and be hidden. If you receive a consolidated bill, it's always worthwhile to ask to see the detailed bill and review it for any of the above possible errors.

Complicated Bills: if you can't understand what you are being billed for, it's difficult to know if the amount is correct or not. Some bills come with many government and/or miscellaneous charges added to them. Many times these look so complicated that people simply pay what is written instead of taking the time to understand exactly what these charges are and how they are calculated. If you don't understand a fee on your bill, contact the company that issued it and ask for a detailed explanation.

Getting into the habit of taking the time to review each bill your receive for accuracy can end up saving you hundreds of dollars a year and you'll know for sure that you got the deal that you thought you were getting.
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Old 10-10-2005, 08:21 AM
$ Saving College Junior
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Location: Central Illinois
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Default Re: Common Billing Errors That Can Cost You Money

Checking the cashier's screen at the grocery store is very important to making sure you don't get overcharged because often the price of an item is different in the computer than what is on the shelf. And if you use coupons, some places aren't good about crediting them to your bill. I stood there and watched while the coupons were run through a major retailer and I knew I had over $6 in coupons and none of it was taken off. The cashier didn't seem to notice since the computer beeped and was dismayed when I pointed that the total was the same as before the coupons were scanned. Once I was charged for something I hadn't put on the conveyor belt -- it must have been left from the previous customer -- and had to take the product and the receipt to customer service to get a refund. It wasn't even an item I would buy.
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Old 10-10-2005, 01:55 PM
Hopeless Optimist
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Default Re: Common Billing Errors That Can Cost You Money

Good call, Rob. My wife and I work as a team at the grocery store. I unload and reload the cart. She keeps her eye on the screen and calls out any discrepancies.

Plus some stores offer you a partial refund or the item free if you point out a pricing error. A little extra incentive for the effort.
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Old 10-10-2005, 07:40 PM
$ Saving Fourth Grader
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Location: Illinois
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Default Re: Common Billing Errors That Can Cost You Money

Must be something in the air - I just stopped by the grocery on the way home from work to point out a double scan; $3.02, about 6% of my grocery bill for that trip. I generally take a sharpie marker with me and write the prices on items as I put them in the cart - helps with my price book later as well as helping to catch errors - but I hadn't this time as I was on my way home from work and had forgotten to tuck one in my work bag; and for some reason there were no baggers in the store (I don't use bags, just put things back into the cart) so I was having to load my own groceries while the girl was checking them out. I'll just let them pile up, next time.
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Old 10-10-2005, 08:08 PM
$ Saving College Senior
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Location: Northwestern Pennsylvania
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Default Re: Common Billing Errors That Can Cost You Money

Especially beware of incorrect prices at stores with higher priced items. When shopping at a home improvement store one day, we saw toilets with a display price that we knew was an excellent price, so we loaded up the toilets and went to the checkout. when the cashier scanned the toilets, the price came up $50-60 more each than the price listed at the display. We brought it to their attention and after almost 1/2 hour of finangeling, they finally gave in and gave us the display price. At that point I had to go potty, so went to the back of the store and noticed that the display price had been ripped off of the toilet display, but not the accompaning sink display. We went out to eat and wouldn't you know the guy who had been helping us at the store ended up at the same KFC so I had a chance to mention to him that he still had an incorrect price listed on his display. Anyhow we ended up with two toilets for about 1/2 the going price for that style.
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Old 10-11-2005, 04:30 PM
$ Saving College Junior
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Location: Central Illinois
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Default Re: Common Billing Errors That Can Cost You Money

Working as a team is a great idea!
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Old 10-12-2005, 04:19 PM
$ Saving Fourth Grader
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Venice, FL
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Re: Common Billing Errors That Can Cost You Money

Yes, it is good to keep your eye on the display as the items are scanned at checkout. I work for a large southeast supermarket chain that offers the item free if the scanned price is wrong. If you've purchased one, it would be free. If more than one, the first is free and the others are charged the correct price.

It's probably against the rules to mention the name of the store, since that's advertising, but I'll give you a clue: we offer carryout service to all of our customers (no tipping allowed).
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