Whole Foods accused of overcharging customers

FOX 5 News (WNYW) -- The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs is accusing large chain grocery store Whole Foods Markets of overcharging customers for pre-packaged, weight-based products.

The items include meats, dairy and baked goods.

The DCA launched an investigation of the upscale chain during inspections dating back to 2010, reported the NY Daily News.

According to the DCA, examples of overcharges include:

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.

"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," said DCA Commissioner Menin. "Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers, which DCA and New Yorkers will not tolerate. As a large chain grocery store, Whole Foods has the money and resources to ensure greater accuracy and to correct what appears to be a widespread problem—the city's shoppers deserve to be correctly charged."

In a statement to the NY Post, Whole Foods denied the accusations.

"Whole Foods Market has never intentionally used deceptive practices to incorrectly charge customers," said spokesman Michael Sinatra.

The following are some tips for consumers to avoid being overcharged at the grocery store:

-- Check your receipt for accuracy to ensure you were charged advertised prices, for the correct number of items and the correct taxes.

-- Store ads must be truthful. Stores must honor their advertised prices and have reasonable quantities of the advertised goods available. If an item is out of stock, ask for a rain check.

-- Check the scales. Each must have an up-to-date sticker certifying that it has been inspected and judged to be accurate.

-- Check the weight of packaged goods yourself. In New York City, markets must provide a scale within 30 feet of the section where weighed packaged goods are sold or a sign directing shoppers to a scale.

In emailed statements, Whole Foods said, "We disagree with the DCA's overreaching allegations." It said the department had made "grossly excessive monetary demands" to settle the dispute, but it would not disclose the amount.

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