Thursday, June 25, 2015

Whole Foods Price Gouging

Several years ago, I found myself living alone for the first time in over a decade and suddenly in charge of acquiring the items I would need to eat, I started shopping at the closest supermarket, which happened to be Whole Foods. My long distance girlfriend at the time soon told me that the chain was a rip-off and that I was wasting money every week. I laughed off her concern for a couple of months and then decided to test it rather unscientifically one week. I went to a competing store and bought the same items I generally do. When the last item was run through the scanner, I realized she had been right all along, to the tune of about $30 per $100 bill. My trips to Whole Foods became much less frequent after that, even as I still liked the store more than any other I’ve visited.

Now I occasionally make the foray there for specialty items or when a friend is in town. They do have a better selection of quality goods, a more extensive wine section, the best pre-prepared food of any supermarket and a better milieu in general. That is until today, when I read a rather troubling article about price gouging by the popular upscale market (WP). Apparently, they are being investigated by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs for “systematic overcharging for pre-packaged foods.” This includes testing 80 different kinds of prepackaged products at the nine New York Whole Foods outlets and finding ALL had mislabeled weights. The U.S. Department of Commerce says a package can deviate from its stated weight by only so much, according to DCA, and 89 percent of the packages DCA tested did not meet this standard.

DCA Commissioner Julie Menin claimed, “Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers, which DCA and New Yorkers will not tolerate.” Corporate malfeasance has become so normal we rarely give it the careful critical analysis it deserves. In this case, a popular upscale store is not only ripping off willing customers to keep out the riffraff, but illegally by providing less than the promised amount (by overstating what is included). It’s not surprising, but it is yet another example of a company putting profits above the interests of the customers it purports to serve. Maybe it is time to do something about the culture of greed currently plaguing us before we all end up on the bread lines again, hoping a corporate sponsor isn’t skimming the cake.

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