Whole Foods is being accused of overcharging customers
Jun. 24, 2015, 10:43 AM
New York City officials are investigating Whole Foods amid accusations that the grocery chain overcharges customers, The Daily News reports.
In a sting operation during the fall, inspectors weighed 80 items from eight Whole Foods stores across the city and found inaccurate labeling on every item, according to New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
The investigation found many of those labels overcharged customers by having weights listed that did not match the actual weight of the product.
"Our inspectors told me it was the worst case of overcharges that they’ve ever seen," Julie Menin, the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, told The Daily News.
For example, inspectors weighed eight packages of chicken tenders, which were priced at $9.99 per pound. Consumers who purchased these packages would have been overcharged by about $4.13 on average, according to a DCA release. One package was overpriced by $4.85.
Overall, the excessive charges ranged from an extra $.080 for a package of pecan panko to an additional $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.
In the past five years, New York City’s Whole Foods stores have been fined roughly $58,000 for more than 800 violations during 107 separate inspections, according to a Daily News analysis of data obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.
Whole Foods spokesman Michael Sinatra told Business Insider the company had "never intentionally used deceptive practices to incorrectly charge customers."
Mallory Schlossberg/Business Insider
"Due to the ongoing nature of this matter, we have no further comment other than to say we disagree with the findings and we’re vigorously defending ourselves against allegations to the contrary," Sinatra said.
As a matter of company policy, customers can get refunds for any items that have been incorrectly weighed or priced, he said.
The findings are a blow to Whole Foods at a time in which the chain is trying to shed its "whole paycheck" image.
The company has been cutting prices to better compete with retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kroger that are expanding their selection of organic food.
But not all the reported Whole Foods mislabeling was bad for customers.
In its investigation, the Daily News found some items that were actually underpriced.