In August 2021, an image supposedly showing a receipt from Walmart with an erroneous $30 charge for “GALE” was circulated online. Many of these posts included a “public service announcement” warning other customers about this “glitch,” while some claimed that Walmart was purposefully adding this phantom charge to bilk customers out of $30.
Holly and I grocery shop every Saturday. 1/2 at Walmart and 1/2 at Kroger. After all of these years I know we spend between $90-110 at Walmart. Today…$144.02. I told Holly this is to high, after review of the receipt I go to the Customer Service and say ” what is Gale for $32.00″?
I’m told there is a glitch in the Walmart system, and that “Gale” pops up randomly.
After tax… $34.24 overcharged. Check your receipts!
While this appears to be a genuine picture of a receipt with an erroneous charge on it, this is not a widespread issue. Furthermore, this receipt is from 2019, not 2021.
We found a couple of other reports from 2018 and 2019 of people seeing an erroneous charge for “GALE” on their receipts. These reports all included a $32 charge and the same 12-digit serial code (00000000003k). In all three examples we found, the posters included anecdotes about how they quickly received a refund after bringing this error to the cashier’s attention:
Facebook user Rhea Azure wrote in 2019:
Always check your receipts!!! This was at the Walmart in Bottineau. I went to spend a certain amount of money and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have enough money for all my items when I added everything up and included taxes. After paying, I looked through my receipt and found GALE for $32.00. I had no idea what that was and neither did the cashier/supervisor. She immediately reimbursed me for it. ALWAYS check your receipts!!
A December 2018 Reddit post provided more information. That person said that the customer service representative said that the cashier likely entered a wrong number by mistake:
After a 32 minute wait in the customer service line, the customer service representative said, “Nah. That’s not something we sell.” The immediate response was somewhat suspicious. They told me, “That’s not a legitimate item code.” I knew I was on to something. She called over a more senior representative of Customer Service, who told me, “Yeah, we see that sometimes. The cashier accidentally hits a number and then ‘Enter’, and a phantom item is rung up.” Without complaint, they refunded my $32.34. (I even had to pay tax on my phantom item.)
We reached out to Walmart for more information but have not yet heard back. The above-displayed explanation, however, mirrors what we heard from a Walmart spokesperson in 2019 when we examined a similar rumor.
Around the same time that these “GALE” receipts started circulating on social media, a similar claim was circulated about a $10 “phantom” charge for JAJKET. In this case, too, it seemed like social media users were exaggerating the impact of an individual’s mistake into a nationwide issue.
A spokesperson for Walmart told us at the time:
We immediately began looking into this issue when it was brought to our attention and want to assure customers at our Clinton store that they are only being charged for items they purchase. We isolated the problem our customer experienced to an incorrect product barcode that one of our cashiers entered as she was checking out.
The issue was immediately resolved and as a precaution, we’re training the store’s associates on what to look for should anything like that happen again and ensuring none of our other stores are affected. We reimbursed the customer for the incorrect charge, apologized to her and appreciate that she brought this to our attention.
While the images of a Walmart receipt with a “GALE” charge are real, these were isolated incidents involving human error and not a widespread systematic glitch. Furthermore, these receipts all date back to 2019 or earlier.