For many Milwaukeeans, Dollar General is a matter of convenience.
“I go to Dollar General almost every day since it’s right next door to the building. It’s real convenient,” frequent Dollar General shopper, Felicia Shoates, said.
It’s a cheaper option, typically in low-income areas across Wisconsin, but recently, several customers said they noticed changes at some Dollar General stores.
“I’m kind of frugal in a way. I make my dollar holler, and their prices are always different,” customer Vanessa Dodd said.
“The price on the shelf is not the same price that you’re being charged at the register. Isn’t that illegal?” Shoates asked.
It is. Court documents show that between Jan. 30 and Feb. 10 of this year, investigators found that more than 600 items in Dollar Generals across the state cost more at checkout than what was posted on shelves.
“On average, these products scanned at a 17% higher cost than the stated price,” Michelle Reinen with Wisconsin’s DATCP said.
Scripps News Milwaukee discovered inspectors found violations at Dollar General stores in Appleton, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Menasha, Milwaukee, Reedsburg and South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Early Monday, Scripps News Milwaukee asked for specific locations. Monday afternoon, DATCP said the station needed to file an open records request for this information, despite the department putting out the press release.
“I think it’s wrong, but a lot of people aren’t paying attention,” Dodd admitted.
“It don’t make me feel good at all ’cause I’ve been spending my money in here every day,” Shoates said.
On top of overcharging customers, state investigators also found 45 stores failed to display a sign explaining a purchaser’s right to receive a refund — meaning, if you paid a higher price than what was posted on the shelf, you can be refunded.
“Merchants are legally required to inform consumers of this law and they do that by posting a sign in a conspicuous manner. However, when DATCP and the inspectors went out to do these inspections, Dollar General stores were missing this required sign,” Reinen explained.
DATCP and Dollar General agreed to a settlement in which the discount retailer will pay $850,006.11 in civil forfeitures, surcharges and fees. As part of the agreement, Dollar General does not admit to any violation of Wisconsin law.
This is similar to another settlement reached with Dollar General in 2018 when the company agreed to pay $10,586.50 for the same type of alleged violations.
A statement sent to Scripps News Milwaukee from Dollar General said:
“Dollar General is committed to providing customers with accurate prices on items purchased in our stores, and we are disappointed any time we fail to deliver on this commitment. When a pricing discrepancy is identified, our store teams are empowered to correct the matter on the spot for our customers. We have appreciated the constructive approach to resolving this matter with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.”
None of the money Dollar General is paying back to the state will go to customers.
This story was originally published by Jenna Rae at Scripps News Milwaukee.