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Life in Brief — week of Nov. 17

Most barcode mistakes
are not in buyer’s favor

Big retailers depend on the accuracy of their computer systems and barcodes to provide consumers with the correct price. But errors are made, and because most scan errors are not in the customer’s favor, be sure to check your receipt before you leave the store.

Here are some tips:

• Monitor the price register as your items are rung up.

• Most errors will occur on the first day of a sale: Typically Wednesdays for grocers and Sundays for drugstores and retailers such as Target and Walmart.

• If you find the error after your items are bagged, ask about it. Be polite — the staff member is not responsible for the error and was not trying to overcharge you.

• Know your store policies, because they differ store to store.

• Some stores will give you the item free if it was incorrectly scanned. At Walmart, the customer will receive the product at the lowest market price. CVS will give you $2 off the correct price if you find an item that is scanned incorrectly.

— Tara McAlister

Charlotte Observer

Hints from Heloise:

Spare key ensures valet
only has access to car

A reader writes via email: I have read many hints in your column about security and car keys. When I know I am going somewhere that I will be using valet parking, I always grab my spare key. It is on a key chain by itself. When I get to the valet, I hand the person the spare key and keep my regular keys with me. This way, the valet only has access to the car and nothing else, like my home keys, etc.

— King Features

Music lessons of youth
resonate in adulthood

Childhood music lessons can sometimes leave painful memories, but they seem to carry benefits into adulthood. A new study reports that older adults who took lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not.

“It didn’t matter what instrument you played, it just mattered that you played,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and an author of the study, which appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

She and her collaborators looked at 44 healthy adults ages 55 to 76, measuring electrical activity in a region of the brain that processes sound.

They found participants who had four to 14 years of musical training had faster responses to speech sounds than participants without any training — even though no one in the first group had played an instrument for about 40 years.

Kraus said the study underscored the need for musical education. “Our general thinking about education is that it is for our children,” she said. “But in fact we are setting up our children for healthy aging based on what we are able to provide them with now.”

Other studies have suggested that lifelong musical training also has a positive effect on the brain, she added. Kraus herself plays the electric guitar, the piano and the drums — “not well but with great enthusiasm,” she said.

— Sindya N. Bhanoo

New York Times


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