New York City patrons of the supermarket were likely charged double for their produce and meats.
The New York Department of Consumer Affairs had an announcement that had many in New York City up in arms. In a city where everything is expensive, it seems that Whole Foods took advantage of people. The health food superstore accused Whole Foods Market of overstating the weight of some prepackaged products sold in the company’s stores in the city, according to NBC News.
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The Department said that they tested over 80 different prepackaged products bought in the company’s nine New York locations (including boroughs), and found that all were labeled with "erroneous weights," the department said.
In one particularly memorable case, the department said that consumers who were buying vegetable platters priced at $20 each were overcharged an average of $2.50! In another example of the company's problem, eight packages of breaded chicken tenders, which were priced at $9.99 a pound on average for urban locations, cost $4.13 more than they should have. So not only was the price higher in general, but the weight was higher as well.
John Hempfling, who is the Chief Litigator that represents this branch of Whole Foods, has made a statement that the company had been working diligently to address the city’s concerns since December 2014. They have walked officials and key members of the staff through its auditing, packaging, supplying, and training programs and have also met with regional executives.
“They’ve never provided any evidence,” Mr. Hempfling said in an interview. “All I’ve seen from them is the violation sheets.”
Tom Willey, who is an organic farmer in Madera, California says that Whole Foods this isn't the only problem - they are subtly shifting the costs of its marketing program onto growers. He says that the new advertisement, which tries to woo shoppers into the store for healthier options, actually hurts the growers. He also said that made it hard for the store to assess the city’s report, as they are out of the loop in a way.
Mr. Hempfling went on to explain: "What Whole Foods called a vegetable platter was a platter of cut vegetables that could be served as hors d’oeuvres. Each platter is priced as a unit rather than by weight, which may differ from platter to platter." So basically, you paid for the appearance.
“In the majority of times, customers are getting more and paying less in such cases,” Mr. Hempfling said. He also said that Whole Foods is not the only company to do this, but wonders why they were the only ones cited.
This isn't the first time, just last year, Whole Foods paid an $800,000 fine in California after several boroughs brought a civil protection case against the chain, accusing it of, once again, overcharging customers.
Mr. Hempfling said the company planned to fight the fines sought by New York, however, because they were “excessive.”