How to protect yourself from being short-changed
PaymentSense have recently conducted some research into what happens when people are short-changed during a purchase. They were interested in finding out whether people would notice and speak up if they were charged too much, and also what they would do if they were under-charged – would they let the business owner know of their mistake?
Usually when you are paying via a card machine, the operator will be the one to type in the amount required to pay, which is where human error can come in. If they put in the wrong amount, whether that be because they just pressed the wrong number or added an extra number, this could result in quite a hefty amount come out of your bank account if you didn’t notice at the time.
During the stunt that PaymentSense put together, which consists of a fake coffee shop popping up in London, they found that when they overcharged for coffee only 2 people noticed that they had been overcharged and returned to the coffee stand to let them know and get the correct money back. If you look at the video, you can quite clearly see that most people do not even check their change or payment method to ensure it is the correct amount.
The next step in their experiment was to undercharge customers (28p instead of what I assume should have been £2.80) and they found that not one person came back to let them know that they had not paid enough.
The concern here is on both sides of the transaction. Firstly, there is the business owner – regardless of whether it is a small coffee stand or a huge business, mistakes in charging the correct fee can have an extremely negative impact on their profit. There are many people starting up small businesses nowadays – and this is something that I definitely actively encourage (I would love for us all to be entrepreneurs!) – but the most important thing to running and maintaining a successful business is having a good turnover and profit. If there are small mistakes like undercharging happening, the company will lose out on their money and could end up making a loss.
Conversely, the customer becoming short-changed could have a negative impact on them as well. Whilst it may seem like it wouldn’t make that much of a difference, there have been instances such as the woman in Redditch who was overcharged by £700 and didn’t notice until she had seen her bank statement and wondered where all of her money had gone!
It’s not just in physical shops where you can get stung – but during online shopping too. Amazon Prime is a good example, because you can sign up for a free trial but if you do not cancel it, it will then run for a whole year worth of membership (£79). Many people use the trial as a good way to save some money and get free shipping, but it can end up being quite costly if you don’t end up using it but continue to pay the fee.
Experian is another website that is used for sorting out your money as they provide credit reports and have a free 30 day trial. Getting a credit report is very important for seeing how well you are doing and if there are any errors on it. However if you want to cancel after the free trial, you are only able to cancel via telephone which makes it much less likely that people will call up and cancel. After the free trial, they will charge you £14.99 per month.
In case you are now panicking that you have been short-changed recently, or will be in the future, there are some really simple things that you can do to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you.
Add up your purchase before ordering
If you are in a shop and you are about to buy a few things, get your phone calculator out (or an actual calculator, whatever floats your boat) and do some quick sums for what you are about to buy. That way, when you have ordered and they tell you how much it will be, you will instantly know if they have made a mistake when entering it on the till. Trust me – I have worked behind a bar before, and it is much easier to do this than you think.
Check the amount on the till or card machine
If you are paying at a till, it is likely that the amount will appear on the machine for you to see – so make sure that you check that before handing over your cash.
Likewise, if you are paying via card on a card machine, the server will have entered the amount and will either ask you to check that is correct, or just ask you to enter your pin. Check that the amount is correct before paying as this will make things much easier to correct at this stage! As you have already worked out the sums for your purchases, this is a really simple step to take – but a recent study found that only one third of people check the amount before paying.
Check your change
Again, this is a really simple step to take, but one that many people do not actually do. I don’t know about you, but I do feel a bit awkward counting out my coins when I have just been handed them, but it is an important thing to do if you want to prevent being short-changed. The cashier wouldn’t have done it on purpose, but everyone makes mistakes.
Always get a receipt
Always, always get a receipt. A receipt is proof of how much you paid, so you can immediately check how much you have been charged, and it’s also proof if you need something amended if you haven’t noticed straight away.
Check your bank statements
Now this is one that I am pretty passionate about. There are so many people that I know that do not check their bank statements – at all. Recently, I had a phone bill come out of my account and I noticed that it was not the correct amount. I spoke to my phone company, and they apologised and said it was an error. If I had not noticed that mistake, then I would have been charged extra for no reason at all.
I believe that you should regularly check your bank statements, and the easiest way to do this is via internet banking. Compare your receipts and your transactions on the account to make sure that everything adds up.
There are many people that have been short-changed, and I would hate for you to be one of them. We work hard for our money, so we need to make sure that we are only charged for the amount that we want to spend, and no more. Likewise, if you have been undercharged for something, speak up. It will affect the business and other lives, so it is important.
Have you ever been short-changed? Let me know in the comments below.
Payment Sense sponsored this post, but all opinions are my own.
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