After a recent study by the Department of Con- sumer Affairs (DCA) showed more than half the supermarkets throughout the city were “abusing” their customers, The Forum decided to take a look at several supermarkets in our readership area.
Violations were issued to more than 700 supermarkets during the DCA investigation for a number of infractions including inaccurate or unavailable scales for customer weighing, the col- lection of tax on non taxable items, the lack of in- dividual price tags on specified items and insufficient data on date freshness labels.
Shoppers would be well advised to scrutinize their supermarket receipts to see that they have not been overcharged for individual items or paid tax on exempt products.
Here are some tips we have come up with in order to keep you from getting ripped off, save you money at the supermarket and also to protect your rights while shopping:
•If you are buying sale items make sure the price is in agreement with the advertised or circular prices. Remember that if you want to purchase a sale item that is out of stock, you are entitled to a rain check for the maximum amount of the item advertised. For example if the limit is 4, then you should get a rain check for that amount of product.
•In smaller stores watch for adjustment of prices sometime in the middle of the sale run. Many smaller grocery stores have been sited for false ad- vertising for not honoring the complete sale pe- riod. This does not usually happen with the chain markets.
•Always check your receipt to make sure you were not charged tax for non-taxable items. One commonly repeated violation of this type is in charging tax for bottle deposits in addition to the beverage itself.
•You should also check your receipt against individual prices in the store to see that you were not charged more than the labeled price.
•Use the unit-price label under each product to compare prices of different brands. This can be a very useful tool in saving money at the consumer level. This pricing tag must be listed on the shelf below most products.
•Supermarkets must have a scale within 30 feet of their prepackaged food section. Check for short weight and tare weight deduction—the deduction taken for the weight of the empty container from the gross weight. The scale must have a DCA seal on it, start at zero, and come to rest before weight or price is quoted. The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs requires that an accurate computing scale of adequate capacity, which displays weight and price/lb, must be available within 30 feet of the prepackaged display counter.
•Item Pricing - All market commodities sold or of- fered for sale in New York City must have a stamp, tag or label giving the item’s cost, except:
- milk - eggs - fresh produce - some frozen foods - baby food in jars - vending machine products - snack foods - food sold for on-premise consumption - tobacco - bulk-food sales - display items at the end of the aisle - items on sale for seven days or less
• “Open” or “Freshness” Dates - These dates show the last recommended sale or use date, and must be marked on perishable food product packages, such as egg cartons, dairy products, meat and baked goods.