Study: One-fifth of grocery stores cheat foreigners in Prague

A new study says that customers are often cheated in the Czech capital's grocery stores

One out of five grocery stores in Prague cheated customers buying snacks, often by more than half the value of the purchase.

This is according to a new study called “Cheating Customers in Grocery Stores: A Field Study on Dishonesty,” published in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics.

The researchers who published their findings the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics examined 259 grocery stores in Prague, with the help of customers posing as foreigners unfamiliar with Czech currency. They shopped in both the morning in and evening and gave clerks a chance to steal money by not giving back the correct amount of change.

Prague City Center
The historical center of Prague. via Raymond Johnston

“The customers were cheated in 21% of stores, the median overcharge was 54% of the value of an average purchase, and overcharging occurred more often in the stores with on-line reviews mentioning dishonesty of employees,” the abstract for the study states. The result means that half of the cases of cheating involved less than 54% of the purchase value, and the other half was for more than that.

Men were cheated slightly more often than women, but the gender differences were not significant.

One interesting finding of the study was that it contradicted a popular theory that people are more honest in the morning, known as the “Morning Morality Effect.” In Prague, foreigners were cheated more often in the morning than in the evening.

Thousands of tourists flood Prague's Old Town Square during the summer season
Thousands of tourists flood Prague’s Old Town Square. via iStock

“The results show that cheating of customers in grocery stores is relatively widespread and it is especially prevalent in the central city district where the odds of being cheated are more than three times higher in comparison with the rest of the city,” the abstract stated.

The study was carried out by researchers from Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Economics in Prague, the Faculty of Social and Economic Studies at J. E. Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, the Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University in Brno, and the Faculty of Science at Charles University in Prague.

This follows after the Czech Trade Inspection Authority (ČOI) found similar instances of dishonest practices at Václav Havel Airport Prague and restaurants in the city center.

Persistent problems have also been found in money exchange places, with the city recently making efforts to shut down offices on city property. Taxicabs have also long been a source of problems, with foreigners charged many times the normal fee to get from the airport to the city center.

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