No, it's not your imagination, Whole Foods really is charging too much (sometimes)




98% of the time is terrible. That's 1 in 50. I assume he means that for every 50 items, one of them is mispriced. Let's suppose that the average customer buys 10 products. That means that 1 out of every 5 customers is being overcharged. That's appalling. Class action time?


Hardcore Libertarians likely to break the law in their business doings? Someone! Please! Come knock me over with a fucking feather!


For the salad bar/bulk food containers and bags, they always show up on my receipts as a tare credit in the amount of 1-2¢. It doesn’t sound like these other violations are for any significant amount of money either.

Come to think of it, just the other day I was overcharged when the butcher’s scale hadn’t been updated with a sale price for spare ribs. When I brought the label and receipt in after noticing, the manager refunded the entire price instead of just the sale difference, so I wound up with a couple pounds of free ribs.


What about that whole aisle that is basically nothing but 1oz vials of water and sugar pills?


You're assuming that the remaining 2% of the time they are always underweighing.

As much as this is fun to believe, I seriously doubt it. The people who work at my Whole Foods are just people -- they have no stake in overcharging you, they are just human and will probably occasionally mis-weigh things.

I know enough about how the stores work to know that the top manager isn't sneaking in and re-weighing the produce himself.

I actually remember a math problem in High School that started with the assumption that bags of product would be mis-weighed on a random normal distribution, and to calculate how much the store ought to over-weigh in order to have 95% of the bags have the right amount. Of course, I assume Whole Foods isn't doing this, so half the time (with tare problems, maybe a bit more) you will be overcharged. The other half you will be undercharged.


We have a device to prevent this problem. It's called a scale. It would have solved all of the violations mentioned above - except the math problem.

I think the scales in your math class must have been broken, or the hypothetical employees were simply confounded by such advanced technology. In order for the results to fit a normal distribution, the cashiers would have to be literally guessing the weight of product. I hope real cashiers are accurate a lot more than 95% of the time - so the error would be a negligible rounding error. Cases where they actually misuse a device as simple as a scale should be vanishingly rare.


Did anyone here even read the short blurb in the OP? They weren't deducting the weight of the containers. If you believe that was only done in 2% of cases you're an idjit. Since when does the corporate double-speak get treated as trustworthy?


Not that it effects your point or anything, but commercial deli/supermarket scales aren't really all that simple. Especially compared to what you might have at home. They can have multiple pre-programmed tare functions as well as a standard one where you weight the container first. They're often pre-programmed with the price by weight of many different items, which you might select in a couple different ways. Including scanning a bar code, typing in an item number, or just selecting one of a set of programmed buttons. And all the pre-programmed shit needs to be updated frequently. Not much of problem if the scale is part of the point of sale system. But the non-wired ones that get used for deli, butcher, and buffet items its a bit weird. I haven't worked with one since I was 14. But mistakes were common. It was like working with an ATM from 1980. These things aren't just intended to weight things, but to calculate the pre-tax price and generate a printed UPC and labeled price tag. A lot of the time they just end up getting used in an "open" fashion. You use the open tare, or a preset amount of a couple cents. Then you type in the price manually. That's pretty simple. But all the other bullshit is there to prevent over and under charges (and inventory control etc). So assuming Whole Foods is like every other business in the world that uses these things it doesn't surprise me that over charges happen frequently. I'd assume undercharges happen at about the same rate and its all a wash.


 Whole food is overprice and the products are questionably better...Wow that's a breaking news. I moved to the US in 2003 and I came to that conclusion pretty much on my first trip.Even if back then finding "real food"(I called it that back then) was almost impossible ,I could not convince myself to go there. But if you don't know any better, the yuppization of the product was convincing...I suppose .
Anyway, "real food" is now ubiquitous and price have also dropped. I don't understand the existence of WF in 2014.


"Overcharging" and "being so upscale that it's insane for reg'lar/sane people to shop there" seem to be two separate issues here. So yes, there's overcharging on a minority of items (still a lot of items). And as others have noted, the statistical result is that practically everyone who occupies their market niche (a.k.a. is eating their conspicuous consumption in the form of kale-bling) is overcharged.

It's insane to shop there for any goods, whether they blatantly defraud you on your purchase or not. It's the shopping equivalent of paying someone to kick you in the fork.


Not like I needed more reasons to not shop at wholepaycheck. This just adds to my dissatisfaction with this company. The biggest reason I hate attempting to shop there is their clientele (ditto for Costco). Bunch of clueless yuppies that were never taught how to shop in a civilized, social fashion. It's like trying to navigate a store full of oversized toddlers.


this may surprise you, but real-world statisticians have methods far more advanced than those in an AP statistics course.

overweighing is fraud, plain and simple, and not that uncommon. it's also not that difficult to subtly pressure your employees to cut corners (even subconsciously); you don't need to sneak in after-hours and do it yourself while cackling maniacally.


that's not entirely true. for instance, if you're a vegan on a subsistence diet (tortillas, bulk beans, etc.) you can get pretty good stuff for competitive prices. not as cheap as spanish harlem, but far from crazy.

i just found some high-quality generic coffee beans there the other day for $5.70/lb., which is about the same price as Folger's swill at a regular supermarket.

but overall, yeah, they mostly sell 60th to 80th percentile quality stuff for 99th percentile prices. i was amazed at how mediocre Whole Foods really was, at least compared to specialty shops which are usually a bit cheaper. still, if you're in the middle of nowhere and a Whole Foods opens, you suddenly have the option to buy nice things. i can see the appeal.


I live on the south side of Chicago.  You've heard about "urban deserts"'s a huge problem here. Whole Foods is one of the few reasonable choices, and we are very glad to have it down here. One opened only a few years ago on the near south side and has been very well received, and another one further south is planned to open next year (still north of me, but definitely well-placed for the area). Lots of SNAP ("food stamps") customers, buying nutritious food instead of the overpriced junk at neighborhood stores.

You can choose to spend a ridiculous amount of money there, or you can be budget-conscious and get good food for the week at reasonable prices. Both options exist.


And we have a south side Costco too. I totally agree with your statement -- for the north side stores -- but if you go into non-yuppie neighborhoods you'll get a much better shopping experience.


That's a different case, assuming you have properly done things like taking the weight of containers out correctly, apparently.

I had no idea they had to exclude container weight. They don't weight much but do cost money!

Oddly enough, in my stats class we covered an example where by sampling heinz was shown to be shorting containers by 5%, and was fined millions.


The court injunction stays in place for 5 years, and affects all of the store's 74 California locations.

Whew. They can safely continue doing this in the rest of the country.


To me, Whole Foods is a nice occasional splurge before a party or a special evening with the hubbie, not my regular shopping destination. They have a lovely selection and it's a fun change of pace every so often. The prices are high, yes, but to me this is very similar to a local chain that caters to Italians that has beautiful meat, a huge selection of deli foods including all kinds of homemade pastas and specialty cheeses plus an entire aisle of olive oil. When you go to a place with all these specialty items, prices are UP, Just by reading the short article, it's very hard to tell if this was a genuine issue or one cooked up by lawyers. Frankly, when I'm paying $7 for artisinal cocoa, a few cents one side or the other doesn't worry me. They should be fair in how they weigh and price goods, but great prices are NOT the reason I ever shop at Whole Foods.


Yeah, not an option when you live in the Detroit metro area. Anyplace these stores exist, it's specifically because yuppies live around those parts.