Whole Foods has been overcharging Californians for weighed foods


Whole Foods? It’s right this weigh. (J.B. Reed/Bloomberg)

If you splurged on a $15 plate of brown rice and kale at Whole Paycheck Whole Foods recently, you might have wondered to yourself: “How much does this compostable food container weigh, anyway?” And you might have worried that you’re paying for that weight.

Well, your fears have been somewhat justified.

This week, the city attorneys of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego announced that the company has agreed to pay nearly $800,000 in fines for overcharging its customers on weighed foods at 74 California stores, according to the San Fernando Valley’s Post-Periodical.

Imagine that!

The charges include, unsurprisingly, that the weight of containers weren’t deducted for self-service foods; that other foods weighed less than the amount printed on the labels; and that stores served foods such as kebabs and other deli items by the piece rather than by the pound, as is required by California law.

“What brought this [investigation] about was a lack of consistency throughout the state,” Santa Monica Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky said in an e-mailed statement to the Christian Science Monitor. “Cashiers were using inconsistent methods to measure goods and [measurements] were not always accurate. It led to a number of problems.”

The total fines include $630,000 in civil penalties and $100,000 that will go to a statewide consumer protection trust fund. Another $68,394 covered the investigation costs, according to the Post-Periodical.

Of course, Whole Foods customers in other parts of the country will probably continue to wonder about those pesky containers.

And a spokesman for the company said in a statement to the Christian Science Monitor that they get it right a vast majority of the time:

“We cooperated with the city attorneys throughout the process, and based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports from various city and county inspectors throughout California, our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98 percent of the time,” the company said. “While we realize that human error is always possible, we will continue to refine and implement additional processes to minimize such errors going forward.”

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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