A Doubtless Bay man is taking claims that he has consistently been overcharged at Pak 'n Save Kaitaia to the Commerce Commission.
The customer, who does not wish to be identified, has also enlisted assistance from Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, to establish the scale of the issue.
Mr Davis' office in Kaitaia will accept receipts from any customers who have received a refund, showing the original price, over the next three months.
The customer said he had noticed in March that he had been overcharged more than $20 for wine. He requested and received a refund, and was told 'At least it wasn't just a couple of dollars like most people complain about'.
"I was concerned that the checkout price should be so different from the price advertised on the shelf, and also that staff would make such disparaging comments about customers who are wrongly overcharged," he said.
"In all subsequent visits until the end of May I kept a close eye on the shelf price and what I was charged at the checkout. What I found was quite disturbing."
He claimed that every time he shopped there he was overcharged on at least one item, in some cases by 40 or 50 per cent of the shelf price, amounting to between five and 15 per cent of his total shop. The items on which he was overcharged were always advertised as being on special. On at least one occasion an item overcharged by 40 per cent was promoted on a poster outside the supermarket.
He had never been undercharged.
Upon seeking a refund, staff had made comments along the lines of 'It happens all the time,' and 'Oh, we already know about that'.
At times it had taken up to 40 minutes to complete a formal complaint and receive a refund.
The customer said he had made three formal written complaints over three weeks, detailing the items overcharged and expressing concern that problems with pricing integrity appeared to be systemic.
"On each occasion I was told that someone would call me and discuss what was being done to resolve the issue. No one ever did," he said.
He had then undergone a protracted discussion by email with owner/operator Maurice Te Brake about what was being done to correct "continual overcharging," something he had not experienced at any of the three Pak 'n Save stores he patronised in Auckland.
Mr Te Brake had never acknowledged responsibility for ensuring pricing integrity, the time the customer had wasted time seeking refunds and making formal complaints or that customers might have been overcharged considerable sums every year.
"After all, not all people check their receipts, as most just expect that the pricing will be correct," the customer said.
"Maurice did say that the appointment of a new pricing analyst would resolve the problem, but nothing changed in the slightest as far as I could see. In short, his acknowledgement of the problem amounted to saying he was sorry I wasn't happy with his response."
He had decided to take his complaint to the Commerce Commission, and was keen to establish whether other customers had had a similar experience.
Systemic problems denied
Pak 'n Save Kaitaia owner/operator Maurice Te Brake has rejected the allegation that the supermarket has systemic problems with pricing integrity.
"In fact the opposite is true," he said.
"Pak 'n Save Kaitaia takes pricing and discounting seriously. Pricing is monitored weekly against other Pak 'n Save stores across the North Island, and against competitor supermarkets nationally. It is therefore surprising that (the complainant) apparently only experiences these difficulties in Kaitaia."
Mr Te Brake said an apology for any inconvenience had not been accepted. The customer had also refused to provide specific product and price information regarding each of the disputed prices so they could be investigated.
His complaints could not be investigated and responded to constructively without that information.
"If any customer considers that they have been incorrectly charged at Pak 'n Save Kaitaia they should promptly approach customer services with their receipt, and if their concern is correct any variance will be immediately refunded," Mr Te Brake added.
"Pak 'n Save certainly does not condone disparaging comments being made about customers."