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Bargain-hunting grocery shoppers know you can often get a good deal in the meat department by looking for clearance-priced packages nearing their expiration dates. But how often do you do the math, to make sure you’re getting as much of a bargain as advertised?

One Florida man who took a close look at the clearance price tags at Walmart concluded he wasn’t getting much of a bargain at all – so now Walmart has agreed to a nationwide settlement that could reimburse him, and shoppers across the country, millions of dollars.

The proposed settlement comes just over a year after shopper Vassilios Kukorinis filed a federal lawsuit, saying that the unit prices and sale prices of meat he purchased at Walmart didn’t match up. From at least February 2015 to the present, he claimed, Walmart “advertised false unit prices for weighted goods placed on sale close to their respective expiration dates.”

Consider the package of chicken tenders that he bought in 2018 (pictured above). It weighed 1.18 pounds and sold at a unit price of $5.78 per pound. That made the original selling price $6.82. When the expiration date approached, Walmart put a yellow sticker on it, reducing the unit price to $3.77 per pound. That should have made the selling price $4.45. Instead, the “sale price” was $5.93.

Kukorinis might have just written it off as an isolated case of bad math. But over a period of several months, he visited a dozen Florida stores and said he found similarly-mispriced packages of chicken, fish, beef, pork and other weighted products. He and his attorneys investigated further, and said they “identified these pricing practices throughout the United States, including multiple stores located in California, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, and other states.”

This “systematic overcharging” is “deceptive, unfair, and unconscionable,” Kukorinis’ lawsuit argued. The Federal Trade Commission, he noted, requires that any retailer offering price comparisons, as Walmart does when comparing a product’s original price and clearance price, “should make certain that the bargain offer is genuine and truthful.” By marking up the clearance price, Walmart ensured that shoppers “did not receive the promised value,” and shoppers “would not have purchased such products or, at the very least, would have demanded the appropriate price upon purchase had they known the prices were false,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit accused Walmart of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and unjust enrichment to the tune of “millions of dollars in unlawful gains.” It sought class action status on behalf of Kukorinis and all other Walmart shoppers across the country who may have purchased overpriced, mislabeled weighted products.

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Walmart sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that Kukorinis was not deceived by its pricing practices because, even after he claimed to have noticed the pricing discrepancies, he “continued purchasing weighted goods with incorrect unit prices,” and willingly paid the price displayed on the packages.

A judge earlier this month rejected Walmart’s argument. “Contrary to Walmart’s assertion,” he ruled, “the fact that Plaintiff continued to purchase weighted goods does not negate his injury but may in fact highlight the pervasive effect of the alleged misconduct.”

Walmart also questioned whether Kukorinis really considered the unit prices when deciding whether to purchase the items, and it argued that Kukorinis failed to establish that the prices were not “isolated errors or that the mistakes did not result from a faulty labeling machine, computer glitch, or human error.” The judge dismissed those assertions as irrelevant, saying “the fact remains that, as alleged, Walmart represented weighted goods as costing one price per unit but charged a different price.”

Once the judge ruled that the case could proceed – Walmart quickly decided to settle. Both sides have informed the judge that “they have reached a confidential settlement in principle on a nationwide class settlement of this case,” indicating that Kukorinis and other Walmart shoppers similarly affected by mispriced weighted items will be compensated, likely receiving a set portion of a settlement fund.

Detailed plans for the class-action settlement are expected to be filed with the judge for approval by mid-July. Watch this space for details on how to find out whether you qualify and how you can submit for your share of the settlement when that time comes.

If you’ve ever participated in a class-action settlement like this, you know that it can take years before the details are finalized and you get your share. By the time you receive a check, you may forget that you even qualified to receive one in the first place.

So don’t get your hopes up for a quick payout. In the meantime, if you go shopping for bargain-priced meat at Walmart, better keep a close eye on the price tag – and keep a calculator handy, just in case.

Image source: Vassilios Kukorinis

7 Comments

  1. All these years, I have shopped there for them to do this is so sad. It’s not right to be overpaying for meat very disappointed in them Alot of people are on fix income this is bad.

  2. I have found that when buying ground beef 93% lean I am always getting 2 oz . short of what the package net weight says. I have brought this to the attention of two managers and saw that one time it was corrected but now they’re back to the same old thing. 2 oz * X hundreds of packages, saves a lot of money for Walmart and cheats the customer.

  3. I’m scared of their fresh meats. I have watched customer service take back food and remove the yellow sticker and throw it in a cart to be restocked which is not immediately.

  4. Annette Dodson says:

    The worst way to treat your customers. No longer!

  5. Annette Dodson says:

    Just one more reason to stop shopping there for good. They have ripped me off too many times!

  6. Lisa Reedinger says:

    That’s Walmart!!!

  7. Disappointed in Walmart for doing this and how they handled it.

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