Whole Foods' New York City locations are under fire for allegedly overcharging for pre-packaged items, in what local Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Julie Menin said was "the worst case of mislabeling" inspectors had seen in their careers.
Inspectors weighed 80 different types of items at Whole Foods’ eight locations in the city that were open at the time. They found every label was inaccurate, with many overcharging consumers… The overcharges ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a container of coconut shrimp, Lootens said.
The News explains that one of the problems noticed by inspectors was that many of the prepackaged items were listed as having the same weight. The DCA elaborated in a statement:
The snapshot suggests that individual packages are routinely not weighed or are inaccurately weighed, resulting in overcharges for consumers. The overcharges were especially prevalent in packages that had been labeled with exactly the same weight when it would be practically impossible for all of the packages to weigh the same amount.
Ultimately, DCA said, the "findings point to a systematic problem with how products packaged for sale at Whole Foods are weighed and labeled."
Whole Foods, for its part, is denying the allegations. Company spokesman Michael Sinatra told Fusion in an email that "We disagree with the DCA’s overreaching allegations and we are vigorously defending ourselves… 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. ”
The last time Whole Foods was investigated for overcharging customers —last year, in California—the Austin-based company ended up paying $800,000 in damages.
And the people running Whole Foods' social media accounts are doing some serious damage control:
— Whole Foods NYC (@wholefoodsnyc) June 24, 2015
Best of luck to you, tweeters, this too shall pass. And to our fellow mad New Yorkers, may we suggest a trip to your local bodega. It will likely be pricey, but you might get to chill with a deli cat.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.