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'There's no excuse': Union County hardware store caught overcharging customers during state inspection

The North Department of Agriculture believes the labor shortage, coupled with inflation, is behind a spike in stores overcharging customers.

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — A Union County hardware store is in trouble with the state after inspectors found the business overcharged customers. Their recent inspection of Ace Hardware Indian Trail flagged widespread problems in the checkout line.

State records reveal the store's scanners overcharged inspectors by nearly $90 over the advertised prices on a sample size of 50.

"There's no excuse for that amount of overcharge," North Carolina Department of Agriculture Standards Division Measurement Manager Chad Parker said. "It's just someone, personnel, neglecting their job."

Parker said the overcharging at the store in question is by far the worst he's witnessed in recent years.

"All it takes is a little bit of work and you're a whole lot better than that," he said.

Inspectors visited the store in early March after receiving a complaint. Their final report lists more than 20 items that rang up at a higher price, ranging from 40 cents up to $5 per item.

Parker said inspectors are finding more and more businesses overcharging customers. State records identify an extraordinarily high number of stores across the state, 22 in all, fined in the fourth quarter of 2021 for overcharging and Parker expects the problem to continue. He believes it's a sign of the times, the result of a labor shortage coupled with inflation.

"It's just getting very bad right now as far as overcharges," he said. "Inflation causes the prices to go up and it's hard to hire the correct people or enough people to help change the prices."

Overcharging costs customers like Jerry Griffin.

"I got to pay for it," he said. "It comes out of my pocket in ways I don't like."

Inspectors will visit the Indian Trail store again in the coming weeks and depending on what they find then, could fine the company up to $5,000.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

Customers, while shocked by the problem, said they trust the store will make things right.

"I would assume they are going to correct it one way or the other," Frank Witkowski said.

The store’s owner originally agreed to an interview with WCNC Charlotte, but canceled. He later sent a statement.

"The Helpful Hardware Company acquired Indian Trail Hardware, where this incident occurred, in 2021 and has been undertaking the painstaking process of converting it from its previous wholesaler to Ace Hardware," owner and CEO Darin Workman said. "Unfortunately, during this transition there have been isolated discrepancies between our shelf price and our scanned price. Our ongoing policy states that whenever such discrepancies are identified, we will honor the lower of the two. We are currently inspecting our entire inventory to identify and eliminate any such discrepancies and are confident that the Department of Agriculture will be satisfied upon its return to reinspect the store. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve Indian Trail and will continue making every effort to be regarded as a respected, appreciated member of this community."

If you believe a store you frequent is overcharging customers, you can reach out to the Standards Division at (984) 236-4750.

WCNC Charlotte only found out about customers getting overcharged at this store because a viewer sent in a tip. If you have a tip you want our team to investigate, we'd love to hear from you too.

We've made it easy for you. Just email investigators@wcnc.com

Contact Nate Morabito at nmorabito@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is committed to reporting on the issues facing the communities we serve. We tell the stories of people working to solve persistent social problems. We examine how problems can be solved or addressed to improve the quality of life and make a positive difference. WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions for you. Send your tips or questions to newstips@wcnc.com.

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