By New York Post
New Yorkers are getting short-changed by supermarkets, delis, drugstores and gas stations that illegally inflate weights and measures, charge higher-than-marked prices and slap the sales tax on nontaxable items.
City inspectors issued 2,976 violations so far this year to retailers who soak their customers — a 58 percent increase over last year’s 1,882 tickets.
“We have zero tolerance for an uncalibrated scale, and when the economy is in distress, that’s especially important,” said Jonathan Mintz, commissioner of the city Department of Consumer Affairs.
“In the vast majority of cases, we don’t think it’s purposeful fraud. But whether it’s a significant overcharge or a small overcharge to a significant number of people, that’s unacceptable. Pennies add up.”
Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 17, virtually every grocery chain in the city was slapped with “weights and measures” violations, which carry fines up to $600 for the first offense and $1,200 for each additional offense.
And it wasn’t just grocery stores that ripped off shoppers.
Inspectors issued summonses to a host of drugstores, including branches of Duane Reade, CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreen’s, mostly for prepackaged merchandise that was weighed incorrectly.
The department also found 227 gas-pump meters that didn’t work right and ticketed almost every type of station across the five boroughs: Shell, Amoco, Mobil, Getty, Hess, Sunoco, Citgo, BP, Gaseteria and Lukoil.
It stressed that inspectors reported a 98 percent compliance rate at the pumps and that some of the faulty meters actually benefited the customer.
Still, gas-station complaints shot up 40 percent this fiscal year, rising to 1,329 from 948 in 2008, Consumer Affairs said.
Inspectors tagged a number of other name-brand stores, including K-Mart, Staples, Foot Locker, Radio Shack, Cohen Fashion Optical as well as many lesser known shops.
Not all violations involved overcharges.
Some related to items that didn’t have price tags or had improper or missing labels. Other summonses were for misleading advertising, cash-register problems, and receipts.
What you can do:
Customers can get cheated in several ways, but being a savvy shopper can protect your wallet:
* Inaccurate scales. Clerks need to hit a scale’s “tare” button before weighing your item. It’s a clean slate for the scale, setting it to zero after deducting the weight of the container. Check the digital readout before they weigh.
* Wrong prices. A common problem involves goods that go on sale but register at the original price. Always inspect your receipt. Some stores will give you items for free if you get charged the wrong price and complain.
* Unfair taxes. Many staples, including food and beverages not sold in restaurants, as well as clothing and shoes that cost less than $110, are exempt from the combined city and state sales tax rate of 8.875 percent.