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Consider this – you buy something at Walmart, then decide you want to return it. So you go to a different Walmart, in a different county, with a lower sales tax rate. And the store shortchanges you by refunding your money at the lower tax rate, instead of refunding the higher tax that you actually paid.

How many times has this happened to you?

Probably never.

But it happened to Ohio residents Shaun Brandewie and John Newbrough. And now they’ve reached a preliminary $5 million settlement with Walmart, on behalf of all other shoppers who may have been similarly overcharged.

Back in 2012, Brandewie said he bought a computer router and a light bulb from a Walmart in Cuyahoga County, and was charged 7.75% in sales tax. When he decided to return them, he went to a different Walmart in nearby Summit County, where the sales tax rate was 6.5%.

That Walmart refunded him the 6.5%. And Brandewie was out 64 cents.

He said the same thing happened to him two years later at Walmart-owned Sam’s Club. And Newbrough said he was shortchanged at a different Walmart, too.

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So the two of them sued last year, over their combined $1.83 in overcharges. And now, all parties have reached a preliminary class action settlement.

Walmart has agreed to implement new systems, so any differences in tax rates will be automatically calculated. And it will set aside $5 million to create a fund, from which potential class members will be compensated.

If you think you qualify, you can visit walmartsalestaxsettlement.com to submit a claim. No matter how much tax you were charged, or refunded, you’re eligible for a grand total of 3 bucks, in the form of a Walmart gift card. If there’s money left over in the settlement fund after all claims have been submitted, that amount could increase to a maximum of $15.

Oh, and Brandewie, Newbrough and their attorneys will be receiving $1.75 million.

That hefty chunk of change will help cover “their substantial expenses,” and compensate them for “their efforts in achieving this settlement, and for their risk in undertaking this representation.”

It’s essentially a “coupon settlement,” then, a controversial agreement in which consumers get a token amount in the form of a coupon or gift card, and the lawyers get a windfall. And they get that windfall regardless of whether the litigated issue is so obscure, that few people will even qualify for, let alone bother to claim their portion of, the settlement.

But at least Walmart has agreed to correct the issue. So if you don’t qualify for the settlement, you can rest assured that, should you ever return items to Walmart in the future, Walmart won’t shortchange you on the sales tax.

Because Walmart now has five million reasons to ensure that it won’t.

Photo by JeepersMedia

5 Comments

  1. Larry Weimer says:

    We had our oil changed at walmart mart in Great Bend Ks my grandson drove the car 120 miles to see his mom when the oil filter fell off Walmart in Garden City Ks came out replaced the filter and filled it up with oil they had my grandson drive the car back to walmart where they changed the oil and filter again at no charge. By the time he drove the car back home 120 miles the car was knocking so badly that the engine was blowed walmart refused to fix it and said to prove it was there fault

  2. First, it is NOT Walmart’s fault that the tax rate varies from county to county and state to state. Once the customers realize there was a discrepancy, why did they not go back to the store in the correct county? This was their, the customer’s, fault. The fault is with state legislators for each state…they decide on tax rates not the stores.

    Second, the article regarding the customer who sued over an overcharge of less than a dollar, would they have taken the money back if Walmart or any other store, had undercharged them..did not charge them the full price by accident? Their conscious should “drive them crazy”, but I bet it won’t. It will cost more to file a lawsuit than what they feel they are owed. How silly!

    Third, too many consumers want to always SUE…. Why? That’s the first thing some folks think of just like “pulling out guns” when they are confronted. This is laziness, refusing to work and not take from others.

    Walmart should have NEVER consented to pay anything on these cases because they NEVER had control over these issues. These are people wanting to take advantage of a large corporation. As a former cashier, it is possible to over and/or undercharge someone because the keys on the computer style cash registers are EXTREMELY sensitive. I have been overcharged and undercharged. Both times I approached the customer service desk and the issues were resolved. Also, at the local bank one time gave me too much cash back. Again, went back in and gave back the money. I know that in both cases the cashier’s cash register drawers would NOT have correctly totalled. In most cases, the cashier is responsible for any shortages in their drawer if not explained enough.

    What would you have done in these cases? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes before pointing the fingers. Also, when you point your finger the thumb points back at you. Always treat others on any level the same way you want to be treated. Before throwing the first stone, check your own home first. That is a paraphrase of the message in the Holy Bible.

    I hope the judges would do the right thing and throw out these lawsuits. Stop holding hands out!

    • No, it *is* the store’s fault. Many stores have their registers programmed so they automatically refund the tax at the same rate as the purchase. Staples, Target, Macy’s, and others. Costco also doesn’t automatically refund the correct tax rate. Invariably I find that employees notice if the tax would be in my favor but not if it’s in the store’s favor, and I have to point it out. In that case they need to figure out the tax on a calculator and enter it manually on the register.

      The customer should not have to go back to the same store to get back what they paid. And in my case, I shop in different states because the nearest Costco is in a different state but I shop at one that’s in my state. I do agree that filing a lawsuit was ridiculous.

  3. Pingback: Does Walmart Owe You Money? It Might! | Grocery Shop For FREE at The Mart!!

  4. this happens in our area stores in the chicago burbs… walmart needs to get on board with their return policy and make it easy like target does. everything goes back to original transaction.. why is walmart so outdated? they scan an item for return, have to adjust price based on receipt. and those damn CS ladies take forever to return something!

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