Call Collett

Call Collett: Scales that lie

When it comes to watching money at the grocery store, everyone wants to get what you paid for.  But a News 2 investigation found that's not always the case when you check out.

The average American family of four spends $203.90 on groceries every week. Dr. Ann Kulze says a healthy majority should be on fruits and vegetables.

“There is not a category of food that we have more data on,” Dr. Kulze explained to News 2. “Some of the healthiest are among the cheapest. That would include sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions, and carrots.”

She recommends five to seven servings daily.  Most often those items are bought by weight that is measured at the checkout scale. 

News 2 wanted to know how reliable those scales are and how often they are checked. 

The Department of Agriculture audits all of the 100,000 scales in the state annually to make sure shoppers are not paying too much or too little. There are 420 scales in Berkeley County; 1167 scales in Charleston County; and 327 scales in Dorchester County. 

To check grocery scales for accuracy, weights with known values are calibrated at the Department’s metrology lab in Columbia. Then 20 field inspectors across the state take them to the grocery store to check for accuracy.  

A News 2 records request revealed 28 grocery store scales in the tri-county were cited for not measuring weights accurately since 2016. Roughly 30 percent of the time, the scales cheated customers. But more often, the scales tipped in consumers’ favor. 

“We check to protect the consumer and the industry,” Derek Underwood, Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner, explained.

It's likely the scales are not accurate because of constant use and vibration. 

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