Vintage Weights And Measures Scams

Before leaded toymakers, these homegrown shortchangers profiled in a 1938 issue of Mechanics and Handicraft conned “Mr. and Mrs. Buying Public” with lead-weighted ducks, berry boxes designed to look like they held more than they really did, and various deliberately faulty scales.

“Gypping” the Public (May, 1938) [Modern Mechanix] (Thanks to Charles & Virginia!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. vanilla-fro says:

    At least you could still leave your door unlocked. Maybe that doesn’t make it any better but how funny is it that when they did this it probably only cost you an extra cent whereas now the chicken won’t be as fresh and it costs much more.

  2. VA_White says:

    This was my email to Consumerist on this subject:

    Overlooking the obviously politically incorrect use of the term “gyp” the article talks about dishonest merchants who secretly spray their vegetables down with water to increase their weight. At the time of the article, it is apparent this was considered a dishonest and possibly illegal practice but in every modern grocery store I’ve been in, they have misting systems that hose down the produce at regular intervals. My kids love this spectacle because of the thunder sounds they play right before misting commences.

    I personally hate the misters because wet apples and wet cilantro rot faster in the fridge but I hadn’t given much thought to the increased weight of the produce. For each consumer, this probably doesn’t amount to much per order but for the store it’s going to add up. What would Mrs. Katherine Powers, ace sleuth of the Department of Markets have to say about that?

  3. Rusted says:

    Will that be leaded or unleaded chicken? Now they add water in the processing.

  4. AlexPDL says:

    Hmmmmm “gyp” is perfectly accurate and appropriate;y used. Although I doubt gypsies were involved here. LOL

  5. Mary says:

    I’ve read plenty of arguments that the term “gyp” has absolutely nothing to do with gypsies.

    Not saying I know the origin of the word for sure, but avoiding using it when linking to an article that HAS it in the the title? That’s going too far. When linking to original source material, or talking about it, using their words exactly is considered best.

  6. Mary says:

    Just for future edification, where I read that the terms origins are very murky:

  7. VA_White says:

    I think it’s best to err on the side of sensitivity. The title of the article was spelled out in the link. Good compromise, imo.

  8. HungryGrrl says:

    a wad of meat pressed to the underside of the scale? yuck.


    I always thought that the Department of Weights and Measures was kinda like a bunch of clerks in an office somewhere, but the article makes them look like those Cops who went around busting up liqueur operations during prohibition.


    Even better, on the last page of this article on scams run by vendors is an advertisement for what could only be a pyramid scheme, as well as the sort of dodgy ads one usually see in the backs of comic books from a while back.

  11. adrock75 says:

    I bet this still happens all the time in China.