CITY INSPECTORS SAY WHOLE FOODS IS MISLABELING AND OVERCHARGING; COMPANY FIGHTS BACK

whole foods

City inspectors with the Department of Consumer Affairs say Whole Foods is ripping off customers by mislabeling pre-packaged foods to make them seem heavier.

The DCA examined 80 kinds of pre-packaged foods, including meats, dairy and baked goods, and found widespread mislabeling, and not just by a little bit: “89 percent of the packages tested did not meet the federal standard for the maximum amount that an individual package can deviate from the actual weight, which is set by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The overcharges ranged from $0.80 for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.”

They detailed some of those mislabelings in a release:

  • DCA inspected eight packages of vegetable platters, which were priced at $20/package. Consumers who purchased these packages would have been, on average, overcharged by $2.50—a profit of $20 for the eight packages. One package was overpriced by $6.15.
  • DCA inspected eight packages of chicken tenders, which were priced at $9.99/pound. Consumers who purchased these packages would have been, on average, overcharged by $4.13—a profit of $33.04 for the eight packages. One package was overpriced by $4.85.
  • DCA inspected four packages of berries, which were priced at $8.58/package. Consumers who purchased these packages would have been, on average, overcharged by $1.15—a profit of $4.60 for the four packages. One package was overpriced by $1.84.

The Daily News reports that the Columbus Circle location may be one of the most egregious offenders:

“The Columbus Circle location has the dubious distinction of being hit with the most pricing violations in the entire city — 240 during 28 inspections dating back to 2010 — The News found. The violations range from failing to display prices to overcharging at the scanner and adding tax to items that are not taxable under state law.”

The fines for this can be very expensive: “The fine for falsely labeling a package is as much as $950 for the first violation and up to $1,700 for a subsequent violation. The potential number of violations that Whole Foods faces for all pre-packaged goods in the NYC stores is in the thousands.”

Whole Foods told the Daily News that they “never intentionally used deceptive practices to incorrectly charge customers.”

Company reps also implied that the city is shaking them down for fine money:

“We disagree with the DCA’s overreaching allegations and we are vigorously defending ourselves. We cooperated fully with the DCA from the beginning until we disagreed with their grossly excessive monetary demands. Despite our requests to the DCA, they have not provided evidence to back up their demands nor have they requested any additional information from us, but instead have taken this to the media to coerce us. Our customers are our number one stakeholder and we highly value their trust in us.”

FOOD, NEWS | 23 comments | permalink
    1. Chris says:

      Gotta find a way to pay the high rent of Columbus Circle somehow. Why do it legally when you can just rip people off and figure they will never notice. Of course it’s not Whole Foods fault, just a coincidence every package is heavy and not light, giving the advantage to the store. Funny how that works out. Never shopped there and never will.

      • Whole Foods has the same problems as the rest of our UWS supermarket chains. Poor management and training of staff in procedures and regulations has probably brought them to this point. In many cases, the answer to mislabeled product in Whole Foods has been giving the item for free. There are many other issues and we are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

      • Terri says:

        I WHOLEheartedly agree!

    2. Scott says:

      WF shouldn’t worry about the fines. My next shopping trip should cover it all.

    3. blogenfreude says:

      Who could have predicted?

      Fairway forever.

      • Kenneth says:

        Fairway is an overpriced, filthy, disgusting mess with toxic shopping carts, rude employees, crowded aisles and, by and large, crappy produce. Pick your poison.

        • ScooterStan says:

          Re: “…rude employees, crowded aisles….”

          Hmmm…have NEVER encountered a rude employee at Fairway, and that’s saying something, as these (mainly) young people of color have to deal on a daily basis with the most self-important, arrogant, and entitled customer-base in the city!

          Yes, the aisles ARE crowded (because it is an old store) and, even worse, they are crowded with nasty shoppers who delight in cutting in front of one just because they can.

          Fortunately the store’s incredible variety of food provides a reason to shop there, despite its arrogant sharp-elbowed clientele.

          • Jake says:

            Thanks you, Scooter Stan, i couldn’t agree with you more. i have never had a really bad experience at Fairway in the years I’ve been shopping there. Their selections are just fine,
            and I have found the over-worked employees to be, for the most part, helpful and hard working. To those who are complaining, try a different time of day when those workers are not so exhausted from dealing with countless crabby
            West Siders!

    4. hans says:

      Only good thing whole foods is good for is their wine store on 97th st….other than that its not nicknamed whole paycheck for nothing

    5. Joey says:

      The DCA is bullshitting everyone and hasn’t ever provided any proof whatsoever. It’s only trying to badmouth Whole Foods, which is one of the greatest companies in the U.S. I will forever remain loyal to Whole Foods. The rest of you can deal with the rats and mice in Fairway and the cheap quality and preservative-laden foods at Trader Joe’s.

    6. denton says:

      Use the legally mandated customer scale to check weights especially of expensive items. You might be surprised to find out WF is not the only offender on the UWS.

    7. Cyrus Pavel says:

      this is America. Land of the Free and home of the Capitalists. Overcharging people is perfectly fine in a capitalist society.

      • dannyboy says:

        kinda the whole way of doing business at whole foods.

        They are deceptive about the “Whole Food” to begin with…
        ….and the deceit just continues from there.

    8. What no one is asking, is why this has been going on for five years? Where has the DCA been all this time? Why hasn’t there been any action sooner to correct this problem? What are the motives behind this announcement? What are we not being told?

    9. Upper West Hazel says:

      Customer weighing stations, as in a supermarket, would be a step forward in convenience and inspiring trust.

    10. D.R. says:

      I shopped for bulk food items in Columbus Circle’s Whole Foods this morning.

      The scale had been turned off.

    11. Meredith says:

      Instead of bringing our own bags, maybe we should bring our own scales – there should be an app for that

      • D.R. says:

        Cute!

        Either “bring your own scale” or a pound bag of beans to test the thing.

        It was back in operation this morning.

    12. D.R. says:

      It has to be difficult for WF to resist the temptation to overcharge at Columbus Circle.

      You have customers all around who live in $20-million-dollar apartments. You have the Mandarin Hotel. You have servants and cooks exercising free rein with the boss’ dollars. You have a plethora of happy tourists, many from overseas, who don’t consult conversion tables at the scale or the cash register

    13. justice says:

      What a deceptive monopoly whole foods market is. Not only a huge rip-off but the most unsanitary disgusting place to eat. This is a trap for the entire USA and no one dares to compete with WFM ? I’ve witnessed a woman putting her Boston terrier dog (bare ass ed in a shopping cart, which is for the where consumers put their food put their food. When I went to complain at customer service they said, there is nothing they can do about it, it was legal for a customer to being there dog into a supermarket. Who is running our country a terrorist? NOW we can have dogs asses on our food? Whole foods imports most of its vegetables and fish (that’s killing you today from the pacific Ocean) I wonder how many rats are running around at night after WFM is closed. Not something I want to think about but I’m reminded when I’m preparing the tumeric roots, because they smell like Rat pee.!