Whole Foods Shrink Rays Holiday Dinner

Paul and his wife purchased a pre-cooked feast for eight people at Whole Foods, but they claim that they didn’t get their whole order of food. Their two-pound side dishes, sold by weight, actually weighed in at as little as 1 pound, 3 ounces. Is their kitchen scale broken, or is something wrong at Whole Foods?

My wife and I decided to save some time this year and buy some prepared dishes from Whole Foods — a cooked turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, brussels sprouts and some sort of au gratin potatoes. When we picked up the order, our first thought was, “Oh my god, this isn’t enough food for eight people! How could we have done such a poor job ordering?” On a whim, we we started weighing the items when we got home. Everything except the turkey was sold in units of 2 pounds. Every single item we had with the exception of the mashed potatoes was far less than 2 pounds (32 ounces). Brussels sprouts were about 19 ounces, au gratin potatoes about 20 ounces. The stuffing came closest at around 24 ounces. I went back to the store and they properly added additional quantities and then some, so the customer service was not in question.

However what is most concerning is that all of the containers were filled to capacity. This wasn’t a matter of the store not filling the container to its proper weight, there was physically no possible way to put 2 pounds of those items into the size of containers they were using. Which tells me that everybody else that purchased prepared food from them this week was grossly underserved!

Oops. It sounds like a call to Paul’s local department of Weights and Measures might be in order, so they can check out the scales and quantities at Whole Foods, especially if the items are priced and sold per pound. Paul didn’t say what state he lives in, but here’s the list for New York, where Consumerist is based.

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  1. Villnius says:

    It might not be the scales that were screwed up. Many of the local shops, especially the big chain stores, include the weight of the packaging. For example, if I buy a 2Kg pack of ground beef, it’s not 2Kg of beef. It’s 75g of styrofoam tray, 5g of plastic wrap, 25g of “diaper”, and 900g of meat. When a special’s on, you might notice that the product is a bit more “moist” than usual. I suspect that they might not make enough to cover the styrofoam at that price per mass, or they’re losing on the price in general, so they inflate the measured weight by adding liquid.

    I don’t know how legal it is, but if you took the stuff out of the packaging to weigh, try again with the styrofoam. Having government inspectors check the scales won’t find anything wrong if that’s what they’re doing.

    • Villnius says:

      Oops. Should have checked my math a bit better.

      I meant 75g + 5g + 25g + 1.895Kg = 2Kg

      • chgoeditor says:

        I’m assuming you’re not in the US, Villnius, but I’m pretty sure that’s illegal here in the US. At our self-service checkouts, it actually asks you what kind of packaging is used for items sold by weight, and the scale automatically deducts the weight. In deli and meat departments, the machines either automatically adjust for the weight of the packaging, or the employee puts the empty package on the scale, zeros out the scale, then adds the per-pound product.

        • heldc says:

          At the deli counter here in Northern VA, they put the empty container on the scale, 0 the scale, and then measure out the ordered item.

        • enthreeoh says:

          yup this is called a tare, the product packaging is subtracted from the packaged weight.

    • Kishi says:

      I’d be fascinated to find out what the package was made out of that might weigh 13 ounces. =)

    • dg says:

      100% illegal to include the weight of the packaging here in the US. What you pay for, and what they must provide BY LAW is the weight of the product – what’s known as the TARE weight. The seller puts the container on the scale – hit’s TARE (or ZERO), and then fills up the container…

      If they used the wrong size container (maybe they just ran out of the correct container size, and the temp behind the counter didn’t realize it) then that would explain it.

      They made it right for you, but yes – how many other people got the shaft? I’d call the local Dept of Weights and Measures and let them sort it out.

  2. twophrasebark says:

    “However what is most concerning is that all of the containers were filled to capacity. …there was physically no possible way to put 2 pounds of those items into the size of containers they were using.”

    Right. Instead of weight, they were selling you volume. Sounds like they are not weighing the containers to make sure you were getting what they advertised. Or somewhere along the way, they themselves started to believe it was a full container that was part of the deal and not weight.

    • bennilynn says:

      I thought usually they fill the containers then put them on the scale and print out a sticker with the price and the weight.

      Maybe this is less a conspiracy and more an employee not thinking it through.

      • RogerTheAlien says:

        I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, but I don’t think it was just one employee. What I DO think is that Whole Foods has taken to just assuming that all foods, of all densities, fill a certain size container at a certain weight. And that’s wrong and, in fact, is false advertising. Knowing how whole foods operates, I think it’s just laziness and not anything malicious.

  3. Colonel Jack O'neill says:

    You order 2lbs. of food, you should get 2lbs. of food. It should be 2lbs. without styrofoam , plastic, or whatever.
    It should be illegal to advertised 2lbs. of food, and you not getting 2lbs.

  4. coren says:

    Weights and Measures might not be the call to make – like Paul said these were to capacity, so it’s not a matter of the scales being off…

    I can think of two thinks happening – one being that a, for lack of a better word, denser food item fills that container and weighs approximately two pounds (the potatoes, perhaps, since they were close to, if not completely, right). Someone not realizing that different foods will weigh different amounts…well there you have it.

    Also possible is someone being hired (especially in the “busy” season) who wasn’t aware of the per weight and just filled containers…

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      Our local supermarkets have 3 different size containers…. 1/2 pd, 1 pd, and 2 pd for items in their deli, like baked beans and coleslaw ETC. I guarantee you those containers aren’t an accurate depiction, but they DO weigh the item and you still pay a per pd basis. They are just giving you an idea of how much a 1/2 a pound would look like and so on.

      I think for this “meal deal” they should of incorporated the per pd weight in the side dishes, so people are clearly seeing how much food they recieved. At least by a STICKER or something on the front.

      The OP should speak to the manager of that store, or contact Whole Foods corporate. It’s like he said, it’s not that the store didn’t make up for it… but many people were probably screwed out of a lot of food they paid for and someone needs to get their shit together.

      • Syrenia says:

        I think that some deli containers are actually pints and portions thereof rather than pounds. Pints measure volume, and pounds measure weight.

        Of course, I also hurt my back and on some nifty meds at the moment…

        • XTC46 says:

          our deli has the containers makred as pounds/ounces. Im in hawaii, and the big thing here is poke (raw fish mixed with various things until delicious). The big container at most stores holds about 2lbs. Of course, this varies based on density, liquid in the mix, etc. So they throw the thing on the scale, 0 it out, and fill it up to 2lbs. If it goes over or under, they ask if its ok, and tag it with the approproate weight and cost.

    • mythago says:

      Weights and Measures is almost certainly the department that handles these problems, whether or not it’s an actual ‘weight’ issue.

  5. ConsumerWolf says:

    I stopped shopping at Whole Foods once their owner basically said that poor people deserve to get sick and die. I don’t miss spending twice as much on the same food I can get at Publix.

    • KashmirKong says:

      The Whole Foods shareholders felt the same as you, and they’re giving John Mackey the boot as CEO.

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      Wow, this is one of the most ignorant comments I’ve ever seen on this site. He did not say (or even imply) he wanted poor people to “get sick and die”. On the contrary, he made a very concise and logical argument as to why single payer health care will not help.

      I applaud his willing to speak up and not simply be caught in partisan rhetoric and scare tactics that people on both sides of the political aisle love to employ.

      • mythago says:

        His argument was far from concise, although I suppose it may have seemed logical to a Libertarian. Mackay certainly did not say ‘poor people should get sick and die’, but I think it’s entirely possible to point that out without pretending that he said something intelligent.

    • Hoss says:

      You’ve certainly never met the owner of Whole Foods. I have nver been to pubix, but they must like you there.

      • ConsumerWolf says:

        Publix has great food at low prices, and doesn’t advocate the genocide of the poor. What’s not to like?

    • cmdr.sass says:

      I knew when I saw Whole Foods in my feed that someone like you would be along to bring politics into the discussion. I’m willing to bet you never shopped at Whole Foods.

  6. Paladin_11 says:

    It’s not called “Whole Paycheck” for nothing.

    • Dutchess says:

      Funny, I thought I came up with the name “Whole Paycheck” myself, but turns out many many people have been saying this for a while.

      Kinda funny.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        I picked it up from some friends who work there — and who, despite the employee discount, do their grocery shopping at cheaper stores.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          i also got it from friends who work there. but it seems likely that our friends who work there are working at the same store, so i wasn’t sure how widespread it was until seeing it on here on other stories

      • Peter Nincompoop says:

        What’s really funny is that I work there and if you follow an all-natural (like I do) and/or organic diet, you can’t beat whole foods prices, even before my discount applies. Sure, you can buy foods laced with high fructose corn syrup and chemical additives/preservatives for cheaper at other stores, but try buying all-natural items at your local grocer and having the bill come out to less than it would be at whole foods. In the Cleveland area, conventional grocers complain about the price differential in said products because of the volume of business we do with the large natural and organic food distributors affords us much lower costs.

        Whole Foods is what you make it: You can be extravagant and spend a lot of money there or you can be a savvy shopper and find some great bargains there. It’s all in how you eat and shop.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          If I went all-natural and all-organic, I wouldn’t have a paycheck left for bills. What frustrates me so much about Whole Foods is that it doesn’t offer many alternatives to their organic items. Usually the produce is good quality, though pricier than the other grocery stores – but there’s absolutely no reason why I need organic pasta, and it’s ridiculous that I don’t see many non-organic store brand alternatives. And for all the HFCS stuff they sell, it’s still pretty funny they want to bill themselves as a healthy food store.

  7. Razor512 says:

    this happens a lot, look at the advertised weight for things like hamburgers then weigh it your self, you often get 20-40 grams less than what you paid for.

    It needs to be illegal

    • hypochondriac says:

      Maybe it was precooked weight like fast food places advertise.

      • Razor512 says:

        the problem is the nutrition label doesn’t tell you if it is before being cooked or after, but generally the nutritional label should be net weight.

    • Kryndar says:

      Uuuum, depending on how much you’re getting 20 grams is very little. Less than an ounce. In some situations it’s a lot, but really only if you are ordering less than a pound. Stuff will also sometimes be over the amount by about this much too.

  8. mszabo says:

    So did they actually sell you 2lbs of food or 32 fl. oz? It seems to me they could have been selling you 32 fluid oz of food not 32 oz. As you say the containers were full and they probably all held 32 fluid ounces (volume). Which if it happened to contain water would also contain 32 oz (weight) which is equal to 2 lbs. As Stuffing/Sprouts/Potatos are less dense than water there was less weight for the same volume.

    • drizzt380 says:

      Well, lets say they were using fluid ounces. I’m going to go out on a limb, and say that while that container may hold 32 fl. oz., at least the brussel sprouts would still be less than advertised. Its not 32 fluid ounces of brussel sprouts if there are big gaps caused by the way the brussel sprouts fall. You would have to really pack them in there. Thats why they generally use fluid ounces for things that are liquid.

    • shepd says:

      This is why making volume units and weight units have the same designation is fail.

      Metric doesn’t have this problem (Litres are NOT an SI measure, use cubic centimeters instead, although I admit it *is* handy and non-confusing), but sadly the US is still dragging Canada down. Oh well, at least I can legally order everything bulk in kg and it’s not a problem (since all scales here price by kg, anyways), but using intelligent units for buying wire (Units based on how many tiny circles fit in an area? How quaint!) and wood (Dimensional lumber has to be the world’s first consumer screwjob, a 2×4 isn’t?!), well, for those I’ve given up. And then you have the half-assed conversions, like for tires–it’d only make sense if they were pressurised in pounds per square centimeter.

  9. edrebber says:

    The manager should have issued a full refund for the order. It’s irrelevant that the containers were full. The customer was short changed and had to make a second trip to the store. If the roles were reversed, it’s called shoplifting and the manager calls the police.

  10. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Was the OP billed for 2 pounds of brussel sprouts or only billed for 19 ounces?

    I am not familiar with Whole Foods. Is it like a butcher’s counter where meat is priced by the pound but you only pay for the amount you buy?

    • TheSkaAssassin - College Man says:

      From the looks of it it was a package deal. He wasn’t billed for two pounds, but promised two pounds.

    • baquwards says:

      usually these are sold as package deals with a single PLU so it is rung up as one item, so each container is not priced individually.

  11. MooseOfReason says:

    Call Congress. They’re in charge of “fixing the standard of weights and measures.”

    *Rimshot*

  12. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Brussel sprouts etc… are priced per pound according to their website (link below) – but it doesn’t clear up if the OP was billed a prorated price.

    http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/SW/downloads/holiday09.pdf

    • Wombatish says:

      At Kroger’s Deli (friend works there) the sides are normally sold by the pound, as is common to most delis.

      But for the Christmas Dinner special, the whole dinner just had one price and was supposed to contain a pound and a half of all the various sides, plus turkey, gravy, rolls, etc.

      The one I peeked at actually did though, with the various sized containers and their individual weight stickers and everything.

  13. feckingmorons says:

    It seems that the staff do not know the difference between weight and volume. As the OP was made whole – and one can hope enjoyed a delightful dinner – a call to the store manager and a friendly chat will probably be more fruitful than a call to the government.

    This can be a positive experience for all and a learning experience for the staff.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Unless it was a continuing problem. A report to Weights & Measures probably wouldn’t be acted on for one instance, but a few complaints might result in a visit.

      • Difdi says:

        Yes, and some government agencies are scarier than others. Weights & measures is generally much scarier to a retail business than the tax collectors, by and large.

  14. SunnyLea says:

    Has to do with some screwed up deli measuring system. What the OP got was 2 lb containers, i.e. 2 pint containers. (Pint’s a pound the whole world ’round… in water, of course.)

    Deli’s always call ‘em “pounds” though.

    A few posts in, here, you can see several people talking about what I’m talking about: http://msgboard.snopes.com/message/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/26/t/001168/p/2.html

    I’m not saying it’s *right* but it has been my experience, in any case.

  15. Charmander says:

    Well, I just looked up the Holiday Dinner offerings at my local Whole Foods and here’s what is listed:

    Serves up to 8
    Comes with:
    Fully cooked all Natural Smoked Diestel Turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
    Fresh Green Beans with Shallots and Herbs (1 1/2 pounds)
    Savory Herb Stuffing (4 pounds)
    Mashed Potatoes (4 pounds)
    Turkey Gravy (1 quart)
    Classic Cranberry Relish (1 pint)
    Dinner Rolls (8 each)
    Traditional Pumpkin Pie (1 each)

    Looks like the potatoes, beans and stuffing are by weight, and the gravy and cranberry sauce are sold by volume. I couldn’t find a meal where the side dishes were all 2lbs each, but then the store offerings probably vary from state to state. (This is WA state)

    Now I’m really curious as to what exactly the OP was promised, what the actual advertised quantities were. Screen shot?

  16. ash says:

    The good thing is that if they indeed gave him something that was not as promised, Whole Foods has excellent customer service in my experience. They do have a money back guarantee in which one can return any product for any reason (within 30 days, with packaging and receipt). One time a sales employee gave me a little flak for returning a $4 package of cookies and the manager gave me a $10 GC for my troubles. I’ll be interested in seeing how this situation ends.

  17. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I’m thinking somewhere in the fine print were the words “up to.” Not that that is ethical in any fashion.