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Local Whole Foods markets implicated in pricing violations

Original post made on Jun 25, 2014

A statewide investigation of pricing irregularities by Whole Foods Market, including at its Palo Alto 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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 4:29 PM

Comments (27)

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Wonder why the fines for these violations--that have clearly cost customers a lot more than the fines--go to the government, and not to the bilked customers?

> 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."

Oh, yeah! Like we're all gonna believe what this Whole Foods employee is going to tell the media. The words are so similar to what other stores say that there must be a script that gets handed around.

Posted by one word, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 25, 2014 at 5:07 pm


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 25, 2014 at 5:46 pm

They don't call it "Whole Paycheck" for nothing.

Posted by Shopper, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 26, 2014 at 7:12 am

Why pay the fine to the government? It wasn't the bilked customers that found the fraud, reported it , took it to court, and is requiring correction. It is government employees who are not so poorly paid that they take bribes to put tainted meat on their own tables. We get the government we pay for and I am glad for my tax dollars at work in consumer protection.

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

> It wasn't the bilked customers that found the fraud

And how do you know that? You are aware that this particular department encourages the public to alert it to possible problems that need investigating. And if the State wasn't tipped off by a customer--what took them so long to get around to testing Whole Foods?

By the way--all of these government employees were paid with our tax dollars to this sort of work. Customers are. However, customers should become aware that outfits like Whole Foods has failed in some of its most sacred obligations to its customers--which is providing full value for the price people pay,

This article seems to not discuss how this situation came about. Was it contrived by Whole Food Management, or was it the result of not really having any Whole Foods management?

Sorry .. but if I were a Whole Foods customer, I'd want some of that fine to come my way.

Posted by Not Surprised, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

There's a good reason why this store is known locally as "Whole Paycheck".

Posted by Charlie, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 26, 2014 at 10:56 am

Whole has a hole.

Posted by Sandy, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I went to customer service at the Whole Foods in Palo Alto to ask why I was being charged for a full container of oatmeal when I only filled the container half way. Customer service had no answer and didn't really know why but said that I had to pay full price for only a half full container. I also asked why I was being charged for the weight of the container too. I probably lost close to $3 each time I purchased oatmeal. Disappointing. For all of the customers that purchase items from the food bar, each of the containers used should have a deducted tare weight.

Posted by skeptical , a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 26, 2014 at 1:43 pm

If thy can cheat their customers on weights how can we trust that their products are truly organic?

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 26, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Is there sales tax charged on that?

Posted by Dennis, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm

It is the same thing that permeates our society to it's very ethical core; GREED!

Posted by Their mistake, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2014 at 4:12 pm

>Two out of five inspections at the Palo Alto store failed price accuracy<
Just last week I bought a cake at Whole Foods that had a SALE sign, $2 off.
When I got home I saw that they charged the original price, not the sale price.

I took the receipt in and the Customer Service guy gave me a refund and talked to the counter people, but it took an extra errand and wasted my time that should not have been necessary.
I can't ever recall such a mistake at any other supermarket.

Posted by wholly, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm

''whole paycheck'' is outdated . we call it ''whole bank account''! americans slavishly repeat things and don't come up with their own slang.....''whole bank account''!

Posted by wrong, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 26, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Honestly if they ring up the wrong price for something you should demand that it be given completely free of charge. That's the policy in some stores.

Posted by buyer beware, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Their mistake
>I took the receipt in and the Customer Service guy gave me a refund and talked >to the counter people, but it took an extra errand and wasted my time that >should not have been necessary.
>I can't ever recall such a mistake at any other supermarket.

It happens all the time in all sorts of stores. You are suppose to watch the prices that are rung up while checking out.

Posted by iconoclast, a resident of University South
on Jun 26, 2014 at 8:40 pm

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

So Whole Foods needs a court injunction to make it do business ethically. Can't seem to do that on its own. No surprise.

This shows how Libertarians like John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods, work the free and open market they fulsomely worship and fervently subvert: gouge your giddily gullible customers until you get caught.

Moral: ditch Whole Hype and buy from local stores.

Posted by jan, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2014 at 12:43 am

I do not think it meant to do fraud.

Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Jun 27, 2014 at 6:23 am

"...and buy from local stores."

Where can I find similar offerings at a local store in University South?

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2014 at 10:09 am

SteveU is a registered user.

(I used to service POS scales and registers)
Containers are supposed (REQUIRED by law) to be 'Tared out' at the scale.

1) If the STANDARD container (eg bag) is supplied by the store, it can be programed into the register and you would not see the math.

2) If the user brings the container, the USER is responsible for getting the container marked with the 'Tare weight' BEFORE adding contents. The Register clerk must then key in the tare as part of the transaction. To get around this delay at the register, some stores have a Bulk Desk, where this is weighed and a 'variable weight" type barcode (like the kind used on meat) is attached. The item and final cost are pre-computed and are not weighted again.
While I have not seen it done, I believe a Tare weight barcode could be affixed to the users container and that would be scanned as part of the weigh-out at the register.

Tare violations should be reported to the local COUNTY weights and Measures.

Posted by Local, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2014 at 10:17 am

I like Whole Foods, but I'm finding Sprouts is getting better all the time, and it's less of an ordeal to shop there. Sprouts usually has way better prices on supplements, and they give you an extra 10% off if you spend more than 100 on supplements. WF has great dairy sale prices and probably the best floral shop in that area. Easy to get nice inexpensive fresh flowers. I get produce from the farmers market.

This discussion is worrying me for a different reason. We keep pretty careful track of our receipts and expenses, and there's almost always at least one purchase at Whole Foods we can't account for. It doesn't mean they did anything, but we've actually been so worried, we've been trying to figure out how to use our cards to see if something is not right. It's always WF that has the missing receipts we can't match up, but we do shop there many times a month...

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2014 at 10:33 am

> I do not think it meant to do fraud.

Maybe, Maybe Not. But when these sorts of violations are detected by a government testing unit--the question remains: "why did this happen?" Isn't general, and local, management responsible for goes on in the stores that they are paid to manage?

Fraudulent, or sloppy, or no, management amounts up to the same thing. Loss of a significant amount of customer cash. There is nothing in this article that might let us know how long it was since the last test where WF was honestly charging its customers--so the amount of money stolen from them is unknown.

We all trust our vendors to be honest. It's clear that WF has not been very responsible with our trust. Maybe it's time for some sort of law that requires stores to hire a testing agency to validate their weighing practices ever 4-6 months. The County's weights and measures unit can't get to all of the stores in the County--so why not outsource the activity, and then use the County to deal with frequent violators?

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

In many cases the PLU tables are maintained by Corporate by remote.
In the case of Big, Nationwide Corporate they deal with thousands of Jurisdictions, all with varying rules (taxes: Ca is simple compared to others. Scales: In early 2000, CA did not allow manual tare=no user containers until they revoked that rule)

This explains some errors. It does not explain Not FIXING them immediatly.

Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Because overcharges are so common at the Palo Alto Whole Foods location, I check my receipt before I leave the store. If there is any discrepancy, I point it out to the customer service team member and ask that I get a full refund on that item. I have never been denied my request.

Posted by OY!, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Too funny! Go figure, who knew right?

Posted by Prof. Villian, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 18, 2014 at 7:47 pm

I just got back from Whole Foods where I was charged $21.98 for a half a pound of salmon. When I questioned that, the cashier said it was $43.96 per pound. The cashier didn't seem fazed by that amount.

After paying, I went to the prepared foods counter and saw that the salmon was priced at 10.99 per pound, so the amount should have been $5.50. I went to the customer service desk and got a refund, but the representative didn't seem concerned to check on which deli worker had keyed in the wrong amount, or finding out what the actual price of the salmon was.

Oddly, upon inspecting the receipt further at home, I saw there was a mysterious item coded "CP item" "Give it a try" with a $5.00 credit, although we got nothing that was not billed on our receipt.

I think both charges are suspicious and I'm upset that after being fined for overcharging, Whole Foods doesn't seem to have a system in place for ensuring accurate pricing.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2014 at 12:14 pm

The Palo Alto Whole Foods store is the worst one in the area, the worst stocking, the worst service, the worst cashiers. Their prepared food is never supervised correctly and often too disgusting to eat. If you care enough to complain they will respond ... but I dislike have to do that.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I wonder if there is some incentive that leads to this overcharging ... like cashiers or buyers get to keep the money from overcharge?

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