News

Local Whole Foods markets implicated in pricing violations

Parent company to pay $800,000 for statewide pricing inaccuracies

A statewide investigation of pricing irregularities by Whole Foods Market, including at its Los Altos store, has resulted in an $800,000 court settlement in penalties and investigative costs, according to the Santa Monica District Attorney's Office, which led the investigation.

The City of Santa Monica launched the year-long investigation after the Los Angeles County Department of Weights and Measures reported pricing violations. Consumers were paying for the weight of the packaging as well as the food they purchased when products were weighed, along with other violations, said Adam Radinsky, head deputy city attorney for the City of Santa Monica.

The investigation spread to 10 counties, he said.

Santa Clara County Weights and Measures inspectors investigated six stores and found violations in 41 percent of inspections. The stores included Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Los Altos, Cupertino and San Jose, said Stan Toy, deputy sealer for the county. Two out of five inspections at the Palo Alto store failed price accuracy, he said.

The investigation uncovered widespread pricing violations throughout Whole Foods' California stores. Inspectors found that Whole Foods was charging more than the advertised price for a wide variety of food items.

The problems included failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up charges for self-serve foods at the salad bar and hot bar; giving less weight than the amount stated on the label for packaged items sold by the pound; and selling items by the piece instead of by the pound as required by law, such as kebabs and other prepared deli foods, Radinsky said.

The statewide investigation began in 2012. Weights and measures departments in San Diego and Los Angeles found the same problems as in the Santa Monica stores. The problem was widespread and involved inconsistency, with one store having one system and another store a different system for tracking measurements, Radinsky said.

Attorneys for the three cities filed a civil consumer-protection case against the supermarket chain on behalf of the People of the State of California. Whole Foods agreed to a five-year court injunction prohibiting all of its 74 California stores from inaccurate pricing, he said.

Whole Foods Market California, Inc., which controls the northern California stores, and Mrs. Gooch's Natural Foods Markets, Inc. in southern California are bound by the judgment.

In addition to the injunction, the stores are required to:

• Appoint two "state coordinators" to oversee pricing accuracy at stores throughout California

• Designate an employee at every store in the state who will be responsible to ensure pricing accuracy throughout the store

• Conduct random audits at each of its stores four times per year, to ensure that all prices are accurate and that proper weight is being deducted for all containers

• Charge accurate prices and provide the advertised weight on all items.

The companies will also pay $798,394 in penalties and costs, including $630,000 in civil penalties, $100,000 paid to a statewide weights and measures enforcement trust fund, and $68,394 in investigative costs.

"Consumers have a right to accurate pricing and the right to pay for only what they bought," Radinsky said.

By adding the weight of containers and packaging -- especially on higher-priced, per-pound items like seafood and meats and even prepared food -- the subtracted amount of actual product can add up fast and be hidden from consumers, he said.

"If you're paying $30 a pound for exotic fish, even a handful of ice can put you back a few dollars," Radinsky said of prepackaged products.

The city attorneys' offices hope the case will serve as a wake-up call to supermarkets and other food retailers to make sure their per-pound charges are accurate, he said. Consumers should always pay close attention to their purchases and make sure the store deducts the weight of all packaging and containers, he added.

Inaccurate measurements are a common consumer problem. Some stores don't know they are supposed to deduct the weight of the container, but large companies such as Whole Foods do know the law and can get sloppy, he said.

Whole Foods spokeswoman Beth Krauss said the company takes its obligations to its customers "very seriously, and we strive to ensure accuracy and transparency in everything we do."

"We cooperated with the city attorneys throughout the process, and based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports from various city and county inspectors throughout California, our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98 percent of the time. While we realize that human error is always possible, we will continue to refine and implement additional processes to minimize such errors going forward," she said in an email.

Santa Clara County performs routine inspections for scale and pricing inaccuracies, and various products are tested to determine if adequate tare weight -- the weight of the empty container -- is taken off the product, Toy said.

Comments

Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Oh great. $800,000 for the bureaucrats to ensure that their bureaucracy survives. Who is paying for this? We are. Whole Foods will recover the money via their pricing. The state saved us a few pennies on the box our salad comes in, but you can be assured that our salad will cost more...


Posted by p, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm

It sounds like the only people to really benefit are government officials. It didn't say the fine would be returned to the public. So the net result is that we pay the government to police this, then they keep the fine to finance whatever boondoggle they choose. Maybe some new furniture for the commissioner's office or maybe a nice Hawaiian vacation...


Posted by Hawaiian Vacation, a resident of Castro City
on Jun 26, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Go with the Hawaiian Vacation because the office furniture will be paid for by the taxpayer.


Posted by Duh, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 26, 2014 at 3:43 pm

"Whole Foods agreed to a five-year court injunction prohibiting all of its 74 California stores from inaccurate pricing, he said."

Its really great that part of the agreement is that they formally promised to follow the law. I don't understand the point of this since it seems that they were prohibited from inaccurate pricing even without this injuncion.


Posted by Barbara , a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 26, 2014 at 5:27 pm

It's a shame customers are gripping about a few penny's.
The public should be outraged at the wages WF's pays there employes and the demands put on them. That's there real story. Union stores like Safeway pays higher wages.


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

I was just discussing this issue with a former VP of Whole Foods and what he told me is that Whole Foods has always understood the requirements and trained their employees to take into account the container weight, but that ultimately, it is the employee that cuts the corner and doesn't enter the TARE weight of the container when they ring it up. It's not some evil profit making scheme, it's simply employees that don't give two bits to do their job right.

As I said before, the NET NET of this investigation and subsequent fines is simply more indirect taxes on the consumer to support a needless bureaucracy...

As for Barbara's comments, she obviously has no clue about Whole Foods employment practices. Just because a store is unionized has no relevance to how their employees are treated. In fact, union shops tend to have very adversarial relationships with their employees. Whole Foods is respected among the grocery industry as the best grocer to work for. I have known many happy Whole Foods employees and in fact, the VP I spoke of, worked his way from a bagger in high school to VP of the company over a 26 year career. Try doing that at Safeway....


Posted by Barb, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 26, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Former VP, Greg Davis, I think that says it all. The problem with WF's is they hire cheep labor, train inadequately, and pay minimum wages. Part of the problem regarding tare is in pre packed foods from deli and produce. But of course your friend, FORMER VP, is going to pass the blame onto the clerks. That's the WF's way. Bottom line is WHOLE FOODS will re-coop their loses by passing it on to customers and employees. You can be sure costumers will be screaming at underpaid WF's clerks. "Whole Foods, whole pay check."


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Barb, why so hostile to Whole Foods management? They have processes in place for proper weighing of food, yet some employees don't follow them. How is wrong for them to blame the employees? The employees are the ones making the mistakes. Do think if somehow they paid them more they would stop making mistakes? Besides that, I have a few acquaintances that have worked for whole Foods and all of them made significantly more than minimum wage. Sure, it's still not a lot compared to tech jobs, but grocery stores aren't generally a place to start a career. For those that choose it as a career though, Whole Foods is a great place to do it.

My primary point is more about the money squandered by our state agencies to investigate and fine WF over something that is a minor issue. It's not systemic, it's not intentional, and the vast majority of WF's clientele really wouldn't give a damn.

If you don't like Whole Foods, just don't shop there.


Posted by UC Davis Grad, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 27, 2014 at 5:29 pm

So Greg, exactly how much Whole Foods stock do you own?

Alternatively, how much is Whole Foods paying you to shill for them here?


Posted by Donna, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm

For what Whole Foods charges and all there community out reach, you'd think they'd pay there people better wages. I'd like to see there nickel give back go to there employees. Mr. UC Grad I agree Greg has an invested interest.


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2014 at 11:34 am

Greg David is a registered user.

No vested interest whatsoever. No stock. I don't even shop there.

I just know people that have worked at many different levels of the company from the bottom to the top and all of them were very happy there.

I am a businessman and I understand the pitfalls of businesses both small and large. I think people tend to have kneejerk reactions to a lot of issues without fully understanding the subject.

Frankly, I'm wasting my time trying to explain myself here, because where I live has turned into a region of idealists and dreamers. A leftist cesspool filled with socialists hell bent on spending other peoples money...


Posted by Common sense, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2014 at 1:47 pm

This comments thread is amazing. Resident Greg David makes a few (signed!) arguments critical of the settlement, and people here have to respond with name-calling (he's a paid WF agent or investor) to explain his comments to themselves, and/or deploy stunningly illiterate,* unsupported assertions of what's wrong with WF. Do these people have ANY IDEA how they come across, or how good they make Greg David look???

* "Barb:" customers are gripping about a few penny's . . . the wages WF's pays there employes . . . That's there real story. Union stores like Safeway pays higher wages . . . cheep labor . . .

"Donna:" I'd like to see there nickel give back go to there employees. Mr. UC Grad I agree Greg has an invested interest.


Posted by UC Davis Grad, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Sorry David, but thou does protesteth too much. And when you use phrases such as "...because where I live has turned into a region of idealists and dreamers. A leftist cesspool filled with socialists hell bent on spending other peoples money..." you show yourself to be out of touch, AND bigoted to boot.


Posted by Common sense, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Sorry, "UC Davis Grad," but you've already declared your sensibilities implicitly (and incidentally, done your purported alma mater no favors) by the earlier post accusing someone of being a Whole Foods investor or paid shill, in order to explain away why they posted something you didn't happen to like. (A famous, classic telltale of people caught up in the grip of some rigid ideological mind-set, who must then bend reality to fit the constraints of their world-view, rather than vice versa). It might have looked better (or at least more polished) had either of your posts to date used some other form of expression besides name-calling, but that opportunity is now lost.


Posted by UC Davis Grad, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 28, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Nice try, "Common" sense. Given some of your posts, the term "pot, meet kettle" richly applies.

Try again.


Posted by Team Memvet, a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I work at WF's 8000,000 is nothing for Whole Foods.
Bottom line the only one making money are team leaders.
Oh and Nepotism is in full swing at Whole Foods Market.
So Mr. Greg Davis take that to your VP friend.


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Perhaps if you learn to read and observe, they might promote you to team leader also. My name is NOT Greg Davis, it is Greg David. How difficult is it to get that right. This is the exact issue at hand, the ACCURACY of the lowest level of WF employees. If you can't take care to hit the correct keys on your keyboard, why would anyone expect you to enter the TARE weight of a food container?

As for nepotism, who cares? Show me a company where people don't hire friends and family. Frankly, I support it. It allows an employer to hire a known commodity. It's no different than promoting from within.

One of the things I find most amusing is how people come on here and bash others without having the guts to sign their name to their commentary.

BTW, thanks "Common Sense". You seem to "get it".


Posted by I. Ron Yee, a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 29, 2014 at 11:12 pm

That's funny coming from Greg. Of course he loves nepotism. Daddy gave him a gun store! Now, he makes a living selling guns and ammo to people that most likely should not have them. It's interesting to note that the truly well educated people in this country are for increased gun controls or outright bans, while the, uh, less educated are for them.

You such a funny guy Greg!

And why won't people sign their names in the public forums? Because of Greg's customers who may just track a poster down at home...


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 2:11 am

Greg David is a registered user.

Daddy gave me a gun store?

You are as ignorant as the rest. My dad is dead and gave me nothing but a good upbringing to be my own man and stand behind my words.

Yes, I worked for my father for many years learning my trade, but I also spent many years working in the corporate world (HP) and for myself. I chose to return to this business three years ago and have been very successful because I provide products to law abiding citizens throughout the Bay Area. My customers are doctors, lawyers, engineers, all types of techies,etc. You have no idea how many law abiding citizens around you exercise their second amendment rights. Not until one saves your arse.

My trade has nothing to do with this conversation abou Whole Foods, but just like Common Sense pointed out, you shift this to a personal attack against me.

Less educated? You know nothing of my education and nothing about me. Your commentary is nothing other than libel.


Posted by Common sense, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 5:56 am

Take heart, Greg: Sensibilities paraded in this comment thread (and many like it), while sad, can't be taken as representative of the populace. They actually drive some sensible and informed readers away from participating, meaning that the readers ("hits") that these forums deliver to the advertisers fall in quality, partly compensating for the higher quantity that this publication seeks by allowing unregistered people to comment (unlike many other periodicals' web sites). One respected neighbor, shaking his head, characterized the cranks and losers who are regulars in these Town Square forums as "scary."


Posted by Libel, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:34 am

Greg libeled us first: ". A leftist cesspool filled with socialists hell bent on spending other peoples money..."

Cesspool? Please move to one of your beloved red states where the populace shakes their angry fist at the "guvm'nt" while taking more federal funding than their own tax base generates.

I've been in his store a few times and have yet to see any "pillars of society". Pretty sketchy characters!


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 9:42 am

Greg David is a registered user.

If my shop is full of "sketchy characters", why on earth would you come there?

Once again, defamation on your part. You know NOTHING about my customers.

As for libel, how is a general statement libel? I did not name you. I can't name you. You cower behind a pseudonym.

When you accuse me of selling to criminals and being uneducated, you sir are committing libel.

Yet you remain cowered behind your pseudonym...

Must be a sad existence.


Posted by stopdodgingthequestion, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm

So, Greg, can you guarantee that none of the weapons or ammunition that you have sold in your store over the years have been used in a crime?

This is a very simple question, but I'll bet you'll worm your way out of answering it!


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

What does this have to do with Whole Foods?

This discussion has turned into a personal attack on me. Par for the course.

You should at least be consistent in your pseudonyms mr. moreregulation. By the way, I don't know your name, but I know who you are. If you come in my shop again I will have you arrested for trespassing. You are not welcome there.


Posted by Canthandlethetruth, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 30, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Once again Greg fails to answer a valid question. If the products he sells were never used in a crime, he should be able to answer that.

How is this relevant to Whole Foods? Well, he is testifying against their employees, against the government and against Mtn View(which he calls a "cesspool"), so it is quite valid to point out his moral and ethical weaknesses. Might just be ignorance though..., hard to tell.


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

I have never had any ATF traces on any firearm, so none have ever been recovered at a crime scene. I can't guarantee that every gun or cartridge I sell will never be used in a crime. But that's not the point. I sell legal products to law abiding citizens.

Car dealer sell cars used in crimes.
Department stores sell knives used in crimes.
Hardware stores sell hammers and all sorts of burglary tools, not to mention fertilizer used in bombs.
Gas stations sell diesel,fuel to complete those bombs.
Our Senators sell machine guns and portable missiles.
The list goes on and on.

What's your point?

How does this relate to Whole Foods employees not doing the job their trained for.

It is nothing more than you trying to discredit every opinion I give because you don't like the industry I'm in.

Sad.


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Go back and re-read if your able. I said "region", not Mountain View.

Quit trying to manipulate my words as so often do.


Posted by Proof, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 30, 2014 at 2:18 pm

"How does this relate to Whole Foods employees not doing the job their trained for."

Great question Greg!

"their" is not a contraction of "they are." Since you don't neem to understand basic grammar, how can we possibly take you seriously?


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

I type fast. My thought was "their job" and it came out wrong. Big f'ing deal. Have you resorted to being the grammar police?

I guess you ran out of ways to defame me.

Hopeless.


Posted by WF's team member, a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2014 at 4:37 pm

WHOLE FOODS LEADERSHIP SUCKS. A FEW MONTHS BACK THERE WAS A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST THEM FOR TEAM MEMBERS WORKING OFF THE CLOCK. EVERYONE GETTING AN EXTRA PAY CHECK. THEY CLAMED NO FAULT YET PAID. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU. WHIOLE FOODS AND LEADERSHIP ARE UNFAIR.


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

WHY ARE YOU YELLING?


Posted by member, a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jun 30, 2014 at 5:07 pm

ahh greg are people always yelling at you!!! happy now all lower case. you feel better. now now now go suck your thumb in the corner.


Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Nah, I'm taking an arsenal to the gun range instead. Care to join me? It's lots of fun. I'm even bringing evil assault weapons with high capacity magazines!


Posted by Law, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 30, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Greg,

"If you can't take care to hit the correct keys on your keyboard, why would anyone expect you to..." follow the law regarding gun transactions?


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