I read this story in this week's People magazine. This article is from The Boston Globe:
CANTON -- Alana Lipkin walked out of the Shaw's Supermarket here last week with 12 items -- everything from a Kodak disposable camera to Neutrogena hand cream -- all for free.
She wasn't shoplifting. She was taking advantage of the chain's price accuracy guarantee, which gives shoppers a product for free if it scans at the register for a price higher than advertised. Lipkin is so good at finding mispriced items that she says she typically snags more than $200 worth of free merchandise per store visit.
But her days as the queen of supermarket pricing errors may be nearing an end. The region's two largest supermarket chains have banned Lipkin from their stores, calling her a disruptive influence. Lipkin, a 45-year-old single mother of two from Framingham, says the stores are blaming her for their failure to accurately price their products.
Lipkin has been pursuing pricing errors and the free merchandise they yield at a variety of retailers for close to nine years, usually three to four times a week. She calls what she does a hobby, but others who know her describe her as a professional shopper.
At a Shaw's in Ashland recently, Lipkin said she snared products worth more than $1,200. Her car is filled to the roof with shopping bags full of cups, sponges, toys, candles, and hand creams -- all obtained for free.
Lipkin uses some of the products she gets, gives some away, barters some with friends, and stockpiles the rest. She said she has been training friends to do what she does.
``This is a way, in an ideal world, that I would get the stores to comply with the law," she said. ``If more people did it, there would be fewer problems at stores."
Stop & Shop Supermarkets three years ago notified Lipkin she would be arrested for trespassing if she entered any of its stores. Shaw's sent Lipkin a similar letter Aug. 10, which she received shortly after the Globe accompanied her on one of her shopping trips.
``We do that with any customer who becomes disruptive in our stores," said Judy Chong , a spokeswoman for Shaw's.
Faith Weiner , a spokeswoman for Stop & Shop, said she believes Lipkin is the only customer the store has ever banned. ``We felt that she took unfair advantage of our price accuracy policy and tried to manipulate it to her advantage," Weiner said.
Howard Friedman , a Boston civil rights lawyer, said retailers are entitled to bar customers from their stores, particularly if the customer is being disruptive, but he said there might be a public policy issue if a store used the trespass laws to exclude someone who was merely exercising his or her rights.