Whole Foods Fined for Overcharging Customers

Whole Foods has agreed to pay nearly $800,000 to settle complaints of overcharging customers throughout California, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

A one-year investigation by state and county Weights and Measures inspectors found Whole Foods was charging more than the advertised price for food due to several problems.

Investigators found stores failed to deduct the weight of containers when charging for self-serve foods from the salad bar and hot bar and overstated the weight of products sold by the pound. The grocery chain was also accused of selling items, such as kebabs and other prepared deli foods, by the piece rather than by the pound as required by law.

The agreement was reached with the city attorneys of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego. All 74 Whole Foods stores in California are subject to the five-year court injunction.

Under the terms of the agreement, Whole Foods must appoint two state coordinators to oversee pricing accuracy at stores throughout the state and designate an employee at each store responsible for ensuring pricing accuracy. The chain will also conduct random price checking audits at each store four times a year.

“We’re taking action to assure customers get what they pay for,” LA City Attorney Mike Feuer said. “No consumer should ever be overcharged by their local market.”

Whole Foods will pay $630,000 in civil penalties, $100,000 to a statewide consumer protection trust fund and $68,394 in investigation costs. The LA City Attorney’s Office will receive $210,000 of the civil penalties.

Whole Foods spokesperson Marci Frumkin said the company cooperated with prosecutors. She said a review of investigative reports and the company’s records found their pricing for weighed and measured items was accurate 98 percent of the time.

“While we realize that human error is always possible, we will continue to refine and implement additional processes to minimize such errors going forward,” she said.

Whole Foods Market California, Inc., and Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Foods Markets, Inc., which controls the stores in Southern California, are bound by the terms of the judgment.

The City of Los Angeles has ten Whole Foods Markets, including stores in Porter Ranch, Woodland Hills, Tarzana and Sherman Oaks.

  • alaska3636

    If you wanna do business around here, you gotta pay for “protection,” see. Nice store like this, lotta people gonna wanna shut you down, see.

    • soberingtruth

      So true…when a company makes some money the city wants “its share”.

  • abcd

    Too bad they didn’t go after Trader Joe’s too. That store has all kinds of shenanigans. It’s no longer the great company it was long ago. At least Whole Foods hasn’t repeatedly given my family food poisoning, or doesn’t pad bulk produce with rotting items

    • AgNO3

      Lol trader joes.is owned by the same person who has owned it for ages. Some guy that owns aldi. German company. When was trader joes so wonderful? I like it but its average at best.

      • abcd

        Not sure what is “LOL,” Never said it was a different owner, said it’s not the same store it was. Management, however, has changed along with the credo of the store, product quality, customer service and way of doing business. It has also become a mass chain that cuts corners not always ethically or safely. Trader Joe’s was a great store 20-30 years ago.

        • AgNO3

          its been a mass chain since 1979 when Aldi bought them. They still get all their produce locally that they can and even have most of the breads made locally. I have never had a produce problem at a trader joes in California or PA. But in PA we shop at Wegmans since its produce is dept is about the best thing short of the farmers market. (they buy direct from local farmers)

          • abcd

            You are misinformed and curiously obsessed with this given your stated indifference to the store.

            No it has not been a mass chain since ’79. Traders was a mom and pop operation founded by Joe Coulombe, and has exploded from 20 locations in SoCal to 418 nationwide in the last decade. The smallest store is 5599 square feet. Its stated goal has been to become nothing but a mass-level grocery chain, sacrificing product and business integrity.

            They do not “get all their produce locally,” resisted the fair food movement, and most of their produce is flown from all over the world, for which they have been widely criticized. Their moldy produce (and moldy expired breads) is widely criticized. They do not properly refrigerate their perishables and cut dangerous corners. These are just some issues, with others being environmental, GMO, false labeling (for which they just lost a huge class action lawsuit) and more.

          • AgNO3

            Theo Albrecht, of Aldi Nord, bought the company in 1979. GOOGLE IT.

          • abcd

            I know who owns TJ. That was not the point. We’re done here.

          • Ed

            No, no. Keep going. Please.

  • Brandon Williams

    Whole foods. Went in there once. Everything costs twice as much as anywhere else.

  • JD Noho

    An $800,000 fine for a practice that’s been going on for how long and netted how much for Whole Foods? And random audits conducted by the company itself? Boy, I wish I’d been born a corporation instead of a average “person.”

  • adam

    you guys are all crazy Whole Foods is a great place and I don’t care if they charge me for packaging. stop being so cheap and realize that Whole Foods has a lot of costs D did you know that if you simply don’t like the taste of something and you’ve already eaten most of it you can still return it and get a full refund did you also know that if there’s anything in the store even if its in a sealed container you can sample it for free? Nobody offers this kind of service and it comes at a hefty cost in addition to all of that they carry mostly all natural and organic products you’re getting what you’re paying for and if you think it’s too expensive than you simply can’t afford that kind of service and that kind of quality of food so get over it

    • Ed

      “did you know that if you simply don’t like the taste of something and you’ve already eaten most of it you can still return it and get a full refund did you also know that if there’s anything in the store even if its in a sealed container you can sample it for free?”

      This is how Adam can “afford” to shop at Whole Foods.

  • NightValeCitizen

    I heard somewhere that Whole Foods keeps venemous snakes under the fruit in the produce section.

    • Ed

      Ridiculous.

      Everyone knows they’re under the vegetables.