New York – Whole Foods Market has been subjected to an ongoing investigation after the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) found that customers in several stores have been overcharged due to inaccurate weights printed on pre-packaged products, according to the press release.
Of the 80 different types of pre-packaged products tested by DCA, which includes products such as meat, dairy and baked goods. It was found that each category had packages with mislabeled weights. After the initial inspection was conducted last fall, DCA returned to several locations months later to find that the issue was unresolved, forcing them to expand their investigation.
“It is unacceptable that New Yorkers shopping for a summer BBQ or who grab something to eat from the self-service aisles at New York City’s Whole Foods stores have a good chance of being overcharged,” says Julie Menin, commissioner of DCA. “Out inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers, which DCA and New Yorkers will not tolerate.”
For instance, eight packages of chicken tenders were priced at $9.99/lb. Customers, on average, would have been overcharged by $4.13. One package was overpriced by $4.85. The store would have made a profit on $33.04 on the eight bags. The mislabeled products ranged from a package of pecan panko being $0.80 over to a package of coconut shrimp being $14.84 higher than advertised.
“We always strive to satisfy and delight our customers,” the company said in an email to The Washington Post. “It has always been our policy to fully refund any items found to have been incorrectly weighed or priced – We assure our shoppers that we’ve NEVER intentionally used deceptive practices to incorrectly charge customers.”
According to the press release, the fine for falsely labeling a package can cost the company as much as $950 for the first offense and up to $1,700 for any that follows. Whole Foods Market is currently facing more than 1,000 violations.
This investigation started after an inspection of more than 120 supermarkets in New York was conducted to determine if companies “were accurately weighting store-packaged goods to protect New Yorkers from overcharging,” according to a DCA spokesperson.
A similar investigation was done to Whole Foods Markets in California in 2012. The investigation, which also found irregularities in pricing, resulted in the company agreeing to pay almost $800,000 in addition to appointing a “state coordinator” to oversee pricing and conduct random audits at each of the stores.
UPDATED ON JULY 2: On June 29, Whole Foods Market addressed this issue on their website in "A Message to Our Customers," claiming that one reason for the alleged errors is due to their "Hands-on Approach."
"The reason for many of these inadvertent errors is because Whole Foods Market packs many of its fresh products in our stores instead of in factories or distribution centers," the statement reads. "This involves team members handling, weighing and labeling containers of products, such as with cut produce and fresh squeezed juices. This is who we are and how we deliver the freshest products to customers, but this also means there will be some unintentional human errors."
The statements finished by saying, "Our number one priority is to ensure that our customers have a great experience every time they shop at Whole Foods Market. Falling short of a great experience is not acceptable to us, and we are committed to doing better."
Posted on WholeFoodsMagazine.com 6/25/2015