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Melody Schubert

Balancing The Scales Of Progress Benefit Consumers
By Melody Schubert
Jun 7, 2004 - 7:13:00 PM

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Many of us have used one of the self checkout lanes in our local grocery store. Each product we scan through these convenient tools of progress is accounted for by the weight of the actual product listed on the packaging. Not the container itself. The handy bags we place our groceries in are attached to scales, which then calculate the exact weight of the products we scanned, minus the packaging. The same principal applies whether we are using the self checkout lanes or a clerk weighs our produce at the register. We pay for six oranges, not the plastic bag we placed them in.
Remember when Gas didn't pinch your pocket?

What you may not have noticed in the past is the green sticker of approval from the State Dept. Of Weights & Measures. The colors of stickers may vary from year to  year or state to state. Take a closer look and you will find the name of your inspector for the Department of Weights & Measures. The Inspector's work may go unnoticed each day across the country, but it benefit's consumers and businesses.

Practically everything we purchase is sold by weight, volume, length, count, or measure. The fruits and vegetables we buy, the gasoline we pump, and the prescriptions we fill at our local pharmacy are all accounted for by quantity. The thousands of inspectors around the country ensure businesses sell consumers the exact quantity of the product they advertise. They do this by following the standards set by the State Board Of Health, which governs The Department Of Weight and Measures. All of the equipment used by the inspectors in the field is checked for accuracy through the Metrology Laboratory. Throughout the year inspectors are required to attend various classes. These classes held by the State Board Of Health keep inspectors updated on any changes in the laws, new equipment, and inspection procedures they will be using in the field.

The next time you pull up to the pump at a gas station you might also notice the green sticker with your local inspector's name on it. The prices you pay at these pumps will vary according to the octane level, the amount purchased, and any discounts offered. Since 1992 when the Motor Fuel Program began, inspectors have made random test of octane levels and the pumps at gas stations. If an inspector finds a violation while at the station they can give the business a ticket similar to those we receive for speeding. Fines can reach up to a thousand dollars depending on the type violation, which helps discourage future infractions. By using highly accurate equipment to check these pumps and the gasoline they pump The Department of Weights & Measures, "Saves the consumer and the business owner money," said Bill Elmore, a Inspector in Indiana.

An Inspectors duties vary according to the county and state they are assigned to throughout the country. At any given time they could be inspecting Fuel Dispensers, Vehicle Tank Meters, Grocery Stores, Retail Outlets, or the Prescription scales at Pharmacy. While across the state in another county an inspector could be inspecting Taxi Meters, Laundry Mats, Car washes, and Meat Packing Plants. They check the accuracy of Commercial and Non-Commercial Scales alike, in addition to Vehicle and Heavy Capacity Scales.

Consumers can help protect themselves with these few simple tips below:

  • While at the grocery store:
    • When choosing a product check the unit price against the weight of the product to determine if you are getting a value for your dollar. One brand may have a lower price, but offer you less, and visa versa.
    • Be certain the scale is set to zero or shows a minus sign when products are being weighed. If not, mention it to the staff serving you.
    • Be aware of the price and the weights of the items you are being charged for while checking out. Alert the person scanning your items of any differences in price.
    • Always keep your receipt in case you arrive home and realize there is a problem.
    • Should you have any questions or concerns, bring them to the attention of the manager. If they are unable to solve the problem contact your local Division of Weights and Measures.
  • While at the Gas Station:
    • Make certain you are using the right pump for the gasoline you intend to purchase. Mistakes can easily be overlooked while in a hurry. The price of this mistake can be expensive if you accidently put diesel fuel in a car that requires regular.
    • As with the scales in the grocery store, be certain the pump is set to zero before you begin pumping.
    • If the station offers a discount, calculate it, and check your figures against the amount charged.

Keep a copy of your purchase or request one if paying by credit or debt card, and check it for accuracy.

Although we may not notice inspector's like Bill Elmore, his work, and that of his fellow inspectors who are out there working on our behalf benefits everyone and is appreciated. Thank you.


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Melody Schubert
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