The Scanning Code of Practice

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Get $10 off & some items free with the Scanning Code of Practice!

These days, most retail chains display prices on shelf tags, without price stickers on each item.

This saves the retailer a lot of hours pricing and re-pricing product.

It also can lead to errors when a price change occurs, and they forget to change the shelf tag or remove sale signage.

I’m sure all of us have put an item in our shopping basket after seeing the shelf tag price, only to have it scan at a different price at the register.

Even if you’ve never noticed it, I guarantee it’s happened to you!

It’s always nice when it rings in a lower price. But what if it comes up at a higher price?

Depending on where you’re shopping, you may be entitled to that item for free!

It all depends on whether or not that retailer adheres to the Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP).

While it’s commonly referred to as SCOP, it’s also known as The Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code, and The Scanner Price Accuracy Code.

SCOP is a Code of Conduct that many Canadian retailers adhere to.

My days of working in stores made it clear that a lot of customers know it exists, but don’t fully understand how it works.

I can’t tell you how many customers told me things like:

  • It applies to all retailers (it doesn’t…)
  • It’s the law (it’s not…)
  • It applies to items with price stickers (nope…)
  • It applies to multiples of the same item (mmm, kind of…)
  • It’s free even when the price scans at a lower price than the shelf tag (nein…)
  • It even applies when an item is just in the wrong spot like a $20 DVD in the $5 dumpbin (non…)

The retailer I worked in didn’t even participate in the SCOP, and also had price stickers on almost all their product.

It made for some funny conversations when explaining to the customer that in this case, the customer is NOT always right.

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

So you don’t end up being that customer, let’s cover what the code is all about.

According to the Retail Council of Canada, SCOP “applies to all scanned merchandise sold in all participating stores with a UPC and Price Look-Up (PLU). It does not include price-ticketed items…”1

The idea behind it is to give customers a decent degree of faith that the price will scan at the same price as they saw on the shelf tag.

Customers don’t want to have to remember the price of everything they put in their cart to then try to  verify it’s the same price at the register – that’s a lot of work!

But, if you do remember prices, and it scans at a different price, calling it to the attention of the cashier can help you save some money!

To recap, if, at a participating retailer, the item:

  • Has a UPC (what doesn’t these days)
  • Does NOT have a price sticker on it
  • Has a price displayed on shelf tag or other signage
  • And the price comes up automatically when scanned at the register,

then SCOP is applicable.

If you are buying an item “where the scanned price…at checkout is higher than the price displayed in the store or than advertised by the store, the lower price will be honoured; and

  • if the [displayed] price of the product is $10 or less, the retailer will give the product to the customer free of charge; or
  • if the [displayed] price of the product is higher than $10, the retailer will give the customer a discount of $10 off the [displayed] price.”1

Let’s use an example.

If an item has a shelf tag price of $10, but then scans at $10.01 (or more), you get it for free.

If an item’s shelf tag shows a price of $15.00, but it scan’s at $15.01 (or more), you get it for $5.00.

Often the cashier won’t automatically apply the SCOP after you call out the pricing discrepancy.

Make sure to be friendly but firm in your request for the discount in participating retailers.

Things to Consider:

  • Quebec – SCOP doesn’t apply in Quebec. There is actually a law in this province requiring all retailers to compensate customers for pricing errors in a similar fashion. Details can be found here
  • Multiple Items – The $10 discount (or free) only applies to the first item, if buying more than one of the same thing. All others are to be priced at the lower displayed price
  • Advertised Price – It’s not just the price on the shelf tag, but also if it’s advertised by the retailer as being at a lower price than it scans at
  • Expiry date – Unfortunately you don’t get the discount if the shelf tag or signage with the lower price clearly shows an expiry date that has passed
  • No Displayed Price – Also does not qualify you for the discount or free item
  • Other Details – There are some other minor details you can find here with FAQ’s here although this post covers most of what you need to know

Why do retailers participate in SCOP?

  • Show their customers that they are dedicated to ensuring prices scan correctly
  • Provide consistency across (many) retailers and (most of) the country for how pricing issues are addressed
  • Provide third-party management of the practice if a customer feels the retailer has not adhered to the rules

Which stores participate?

There are many stores that participate in SCOP, including big retailers like Walmart, Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, Canadian Tire, Costco, Home Depot, Metro, and Rona.1

A full list can be viewed here.

Stores typically post signage at the door or near the cash registers indicating they participate in SCOP.

Example of store signage –

But what if you feel weird about asking for the item for free (if $10 or under), or the discount (if over $10) as a lot of people do?

Don’t. If the retailer didn’t want to give the discount, they wouldn’t participate in SCOP, or they’d at least make sure to change their prices properly!

Think of it like a ‘thank you’ tip for helping them keep their prices accurate!

I bet we’d all ask for the discount if it was delivered by this cutie! Photo by Howie R on Unsplash

Think back to one of Doing More with Our Money’s earlier posts – Just Ask.  Whether it’s with the SCOP, or in many other ways we can save money, being comfortable enough to ‘just ask’ is crucial.

Paying attention to prices and using SCOP is another great way for us to be Doing More with Our Money!

Thanks for reading!


4 Replies to “The Scanning Code of Practice”

  1. Great post! I’m often in such a hurry to leave that I don’t ask. But from now on I will!

    1. Yes I get that. As with all of the suggestions in my post, you need to weigh out the potential savings against your personal preferences, time and effort spent, etc. If the cashier isn’t offering it, and it’s going to require a manager to come and do it, and you’re in a hurry, it might not be worth it, but whenever you can, do it! Thanks for the comment, Louisa!

  2. Very interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much attention before. Thanks for this!!

Comments are closed.