Update – Agency Says Whole Foods Overcharges: ‘Worst Case of Mislabeling’

Posted on July 2, 2015 by


Whole Foods execs are admitting the chain has been overcharging customers in New York City stores, but promised that if that ever happens again they’ll give the food to customers for free.

John Mackey and Walter Robb, co-CEOs of Whole Foods (WFM), apologized to customers in a video filmed in the sliced fruit section of one of their grocery stores. The casually dressed execs admitted that some customers had been accidentally overcharged for sliced fruit, fresh squeezed juices and sandwiches by workers who made errors.

“Straight up, we made some mistakes,” said Robb, framed by containers of sliced strawberries, kiwis and pineapples. “We want to own that and tell you what we’re doing about it.”

Mackey said there has been a “very, very small percentage of mis-weighing errors” made by the workers prepping and pricing the food.

“We know they’re unintentional because the mistakes are both in the customers’ favor, and sometimes not in the customers’ favor,” said Robb.

Whole Foods co–CEOs John Mackey (left) and Walter Robb admitted that they accidentally overcharged on some sliced fruits. But if it happens again, you get the fruit for free.

The admission followed a recent investigation by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, which uncovered what it called “systematic overcharging for pre-packaged foods.”

“Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers,” DCA commissioner Julie Menin said at the time .

Related video: This Brooklyn rooftop supplies Whole Foods

The city said it found only a few instances customers where benefited from underpriced food.

Mackey said that Whole Foods is going to increase training in New York and nationwide “because we want to be perfect in this area. We don’t want there to ever be any mistakes.”

“We’re going to be reporting back to you, the customer, on exactly what kind of progress we’re making here,” he added.

He also offered a “100% guarantee” to customers.

“If there’s a mistake that’s not in your favor we promise to give you that item for free,” said Mackey.

by Fred Imbert

New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) said Wednesday that an ongoing investigation of Whole Foods Market stores has found systemic overcharging of its customers for prepackaged food.

“The overcharges ranged from [80 cents] for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp,” the agency said in a statement.

“Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers,” said DCA Commissioner Julie Menin in a statement.

In its investigation, the DCA said it tested 80 different package types and found they all had mislabeled weights, adding that 89 percent of the tested packages were not in line with the federal standard for the maximum amount “that an individual package can deviate from the actual weight.”

“The overcharges were especially prevalent in packages that had been labeled with exactly the same weight when it would be practically impossible for all of the packages to weigh the same amount. These products included nuts and other snack products (flavored almonds, pecan panko and corn nuts), berries, vegetables, and seafood,” it added.

Whole Foods said in a statement: “We disagree with the DCA’s overreaching allegations and we are vigorously defending ourselves. We cooperated fully with the DCA from the beginning until we disagreed with their grossly excessive monetary demands. Despite our requests to the DCA, they have not provided evidence to back up their demands nor have they requested any additional information from us, but instead have taken this to the media to coerce us.”

Falsely labeling a package carries a first-time fine as high as $950 and up to $1,700 for subsequent violations. “The potential number of violations that Whole Foods faces for all prepackaged goods in the NYC stores is in the thousands,” the agency also said.

The investigation was first reported by the New York Daily News.

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