Your Shopping Rights

Stefan P. Parnay, Agriculture, Weights and Measures - Marin County

Scanners (Point-of-Sale)

Were you charged the lowest advertised or posted price? Bar code readers, scanners, and price look-up systems have replaced individual prices on items at most stores. This program consists of our staff performing periodic simulated purchases at businesses using scanners, or point-of- sale systems, to ensure you are paying the lowest advertised or posted price. This area has become more important because many or all stores of national chains determine their pricing through a central computer; an error in one store is an error in them all.

Test purchases of other commodities, such as deli items, health foods, hardware, landscape materials, U-haul concrete, recyclables, and firewood are also conducted. Firewood dealers are required to leave an invoice with their name, address, date and amount of wood delivered. Any shortage from the amount invoiced is a violation.

Packaged Commodities

This program involves the inspection of packers, distributors and retailers to audit the contents of packaged products. The contents must equal the amount stated on the label or contain more. Routine inspections of meat counters, bakeries, and deli sections of supermarkets are conducted. Samples of packages are taken and re-weighed using the county’s scale or measured in calibrated flasks. The labeled amount and the true net contents are compared. Some commodities require special test methods and are given certain allowances for moisture loss, and individual variances are factored in.

Every type of commodity is subject to quantity control inspection, not just food items. Categories of commodities tested include: packaged seed and garden products, bread and bakery items, cheese and dairy products, farm products and supplies, building materials and maintenance supplies, feed and grain, and automotive and industrial lubricants, chemicals, and cleaners. The State Division of Measurement Standards assigns commodity categories to different counties on a quarterly basis, so the same categories of products are inspected over a wide geographic area.