Gas. Produce. Meat. Packaged goods. Cordage. These are just a few of the everyday products consumers in Sacramento County purchase by weight, measure or count and rely on the Agricultural Commissioner’s /Weights and Measures staff to ensure they get what they pay for.
The Weights and Measures division is in charge of monitoring, inspecting and citing commercial providers of goods that use or are distributed through gas nozzles, scanners, scales or counting machines. They are regulated through the California State Department of Food & Agriculture.
The frequency of inspection of any given provider is dependent on the risk of malfunction and consumer complaints. For example, a home improvement store that counts out chain or cordage through a machine is more likely to malfunction than one that uses a human and yard stick to tally costs.
One of the most common “measured” products we purchase is gas – in fact, gas is also the most reported for fraud and regularly inspected for accuracy. Look for the little round sticker that says when the pump was last checked next time you fill up!
Other areas of inspection include pre-packaged and priced meat products, produce and bulk scales at the point of sale (scales in the produce section are not regulated, as they are for reference only), scanning devices, shelf vs. register pricing and luggage scales at the airport.
The division also regulates what is called “slack fill”, which means a product cannot be deceptively packaged to appear bigger than it actually is. Before you feel swindled about that half full bag of chips you bought last week, note exceptions to slack fill rules are products that have extra bulk for the preservation of the food, such as bags of chips or crackers. The extra air in the bag prevents the chips from being crushed.
Consumers may report suspect inaccuracies or fraud by the merchandiser to the Agricultural Commissioner’s /Weights and Measures division for inspection. Provide location and name of vendor, commodity and date of transaction. The more information provided, the better. The Division will go out and investigate the claim and either determine it was unfounded, post a notice of violation and schedule a recheck or place a fine on the merchandiser. If the fraud is determined to be deliberate, the merchandiser will face stricter penalties.
If the merchandiser works across multiple counties and other counties have reported similar violations, a larger investigation will take place across the state against the manufacturer.
The Agricultural Commissioner’s /Weights and Measures provides a little known service that impacts and improves your buying experience every day. Next time you fill up your gas tank, buy a pound of apples or notice a sale price of your favorite product and it rings up correctly at the register, consider the hard work that goes into making your transaction fair and seamless!