I just noticed on my Wells Fargo account that I got charged $250 through my debit card for a recent transaction at a Publix in the U.S., and the amount charged is 10 times as high as the usual amount, even though the goods I purchased are the same as before, not to mention that the purchased quantity is also similar. At the time of the purchase, I didn't find anything unusual in the screen at the cashier showing the sum of prices. Unfortunately, I haven't kept a receipt for this reason. What should I do? How can I prevent this kind of incident?


I went to the store today and got a full refund. They somehow mistakenly added the subsequent customers' purchase into mine. I'm curious why this is even possible, but I'm glad things went so smoothly.

  • Did you sign the receipt; or, enter your pin? If so you purchased $250 worth of goods. Prevent this by not purchasing that much stuff. Are you insinuating that Publix cheated you? That would be very odd as they are a very well regarded company. – Pete B. Aug 24 '18 at 18:59
  • How recent was the transaction? A lot of debit and credit transactions will charge an 'authorization' amount (Standard amount like $75, 100, 200, 250) to check whether your card actually has funds. This is usually amended to the actual transaction amount after the transaction posts to your account, though for debit transactions it's usually instant. If they ran your debit card as credit, it would explain why instead of an immediately accurate balance appearing in your account, you instead see an authorization amount of $250. See if it changes after a little while, and call just in case. – schizoid04 Aug 24 '18 at 19:04
  • I entered my PIN. I find this incident very odd, as I didn't purchase much stuff. As I had to buy small number of goods each time I visited Publix in the last week, I had to visit the store every two days. On 8/16 and 8/20, I got charged about $20 or $30. On 8/18, I got charged $256.04. Any transaction more recent than this one shows a right amount. Who do you think I should call in this case? – Math.StackExchange Aug 24 '18 at 19:06
  • Never mind. I think I know who I should call. By the way, I believe I found a related case here, which is relevant to my question. ask.metafilter.com/105465/… – Math.StackExchange Aug 24 '18 at 19:20
  • Although you have an answer, it might be helpful you edit the title and question to things like "around 10 times" and to specify the exact amount ($256.04). As it is – 10 times and $250 – the most obvious cause to me would have been the assistant keying one to many zeros and no one noticing. (It could be the correct amount was $25.60, and they accidentally caught the "4" key, but that is probably less likely than accidentally keying one to many zeros). – TripeHound Aug 28 '18 at 7:21

Go to Publix and explain the situation to the manager that's on duty. Chances are better in the middle of a weekday when a more experienced/senior manager might be available. When that cashier balanced their drawer at the end of that shift, they would have reported over and this discrepancy would be on file (maybe*). They likely wouldn't have a way to tie that back to a specific card to automatically issue a refund, and may actually be expecting to hear from you. Even if you don't have the receipt, they will have transaction records from that time and will be able to dig into it. It might take some time, depending on what systems they have access to without going through their tech support team. Going and having a chat with the Publix people in person is your best first step. If they flat out refuse to help, you could file a claim with your bank indicating the charge was fraudulent. This can get tricky if you entered a PIN and essentially agreed to the amount and have no receipt to prove otherwise. Publix can find that receipt, though, they just have to put in the effort.

*I say maybe here because there is also a chance that the cashier rang you up higher marking your sale as one with cash back, hoping you wouldn't notice. You didn't, so the cashier may have pocketed the discrepancy which would cause the drawer to actually appear balanced at the end of the shift.

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    Thank you very much for your helpful answer. I'll follow your instruction. – Math.StackExchange Aug 24 '18 at 19:27
  • Not sure how likely this is. A 10x difference would mean normal purchases are about $25, which is only a handful of items at my local supermarket. – Eric Aug 24 '18 at 23:46
  • @Eric when I was a college student, my normal purchase at a grocery store was regularly under $20. In my entire 4 years of undergrad, I never spent more than $50 at any one time in a grocery store. Seeing $50 would be very unusual, much less $250. Even now, over a decade later, a $250 charge from a grocery store would make me question what happened as my shopping is scheduled so that I wouldn't spend more than $100 in any one trip. – iheanyi Aug 25 '18 at 0:46
  • @iheanyi What I meant is that $25 worth of items would be such a small number of items that a $250 charge seems impossible to overlook at the time, both by the OP and the cashier. Getting to $250 with only a few items would likely require getting cash back or buying gift cards. – Eric Aug 25 '18 at 0:51
  • @Eric ah, I see. Yes, it is hard to overlook. My initial thought was that there was a cashback added to the transaction by an unscrupulous cashier, I just can't remember if you are asked the cashback question before or after you enter your PIN. – iheanyi Aug 25 '18 at 0:55

In absence of receipt; going to Publix and asking is the best option. In past I have seen errors like;

  1. It could a simple case of cashier entering the wrong decimal. Happens occasionally. If the amount if 25.01; they type by error 250.1.
  2. The item is priced incorrectly in the electronic scanner. e.g. instead of ordinary fruit of $1; its bar-coded incorrectly; an exotic fruit that costs lot.
  3. The quantity is entered incorrectly; I had bought 10 pcs of an item; but the quantity got entered as 100 [there are buttons on cashier that have single "0" and double "00". So just pressed incorrect key]

If its the first case; refund should be easy. If its other 2; it would be difficult to justify later as its your word against theirs.

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  • The cases you've suggested are all plausible. I'll mention these possibilities when I talk to them. – Math.StackExchange Aug 28 '18 at 14:25
  • I went to the store today and got a full refund. They somehow mistakenly added the subsequent customers' purchase into mine. I'm curious why this is even possible, but I'm glad things went so smoothly. – Math.StackExchange Aug 28 '18 at 22:52
  • @Math.StackExchange glad it worked out fine. It's surprising that next customer bill got added. Quite strange. – Dheer Aug 28 '18 at 23:24

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