Time For A Refresher: What Is Tare Weight & Why Should I Care About It?

What you don’t know can hurt you — at least when it comes to feeling the pain in your wallet. So if you’re not savvy when it comes to tare weight, you could be leaking money at places like the grocery store salad bar. It’s been awhile since we’ve discussed tare weight, so let’s have a little refresher course, shall we?

Tare weight came to mind after a recent article from the Star-Ledger in New Jersey highlighting one with-it shopper who knew he was paying more for salad bar items from ShopRite. A cashier weighed two of his plastic containers stacked atop each other, one larger than the other, and got a total of 2.43 pounds worth of product. When weighed separately by another cashier, the total was 2.35 pounds — all because of tare weight.

So what is it? It’s the weight of a container or package your food comes in, from to-go containers at the salad bar or the styrofoam “boat” and piece of absorbent paper — aka the “diaper” — cradling chicken breasts. Before a cashier can charge you for an item, the tare weight must be subtracted from the entire weight of the package.  The Division of Consumer Affairs has a specific department dedicated to keeping an eye on how tare weights are handled — the Office of Weights and Measures.

As the Star-Ledger found at different stores, many containers are weighted in stacked fashion, meaning the tare weight wasn’t properly subtracted. And then there’s the problem that many cashiers don’t even know what tare weight is — so how can they know to subtract the appropriate amount?

Tare weight comes into play in other places — anything heavy loaded onto a truck might be weighed with the entire vehicle. The weight of the truck would then be subtracted as the tare weight. All scales must be tested and certified annually by a state’s Weights and Measures offices. A slight variation in weight, called the “maximum allowable variation” is permitted.

Makes sense, which is why if the container isn’t entered properly into pre-programmed digital scales, like the ones at supermarkets which can have codes for various sizes and types of packaging, consumers could be paying extra.

The office of Consumer Affairs in New Jersey says it contacted ShopRite’s parent corporation to make sure thing are done correctly from now on.

“They represented to us that they corrected the matter after speaking with us, and agreed to re-train all staff at the store to ensure employees properly subtract the tare weight from items when it is necessary to do so prior to sale,” said Consumer Affairs Director Eric Kanefsky. “Our Office of Weights and Measures will follow up, on an unannounced basis, to ensure this concern has indeed been corrected.”

If you think a tare weight hasn’t been calculated correctly on your purchase, ask the cashier, and follow up with your state’s Consumer Affairs office if need be.

Previously in tare weight issues: Walmart Fined $89,705 For Overcharging Wisconsin Customers 

Bamboozled: Shopper says he was unfairly charged for deli counter container [Star-Ledger]



Edit Your Comment

  1. Blueskylaw says:

    “And then there’s the problem that many cashiers don’t even know what tare weight is”

    What do expect from a 16 year old cashier that listens to music 16 hours a day and spends the other 8 hours sending thousands of misspelled texts with lowercase i’s and no periods or commas?

    There’s a store in my old hometown that has the freshest and best salad-bar yet the cashiers stack the containers together if I don’t pay attention and these are heavy duty plastic containers.

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

      Don’t blame the cashier, blame the training and store policies.

      • Jawaka says:

        I agree. If they can train monkeys to do many tasks then I think that most teenagers can be trained. And if they can’t, replace them.

        • Rhinoguy says:

          Train teenagers? It’s easier to train cats.

          • Difdi says:

            Cats can be trained. One of the easiest things to train a cat to do is to use the toilet instead of a litterbox and flush afterward.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      Apparently I expect a lot more out of people than you. The first time I had to use a digital scale, I saw that button that said “Tare” and I immediately asked my boss, “What’s this button do?”

    • George4478 says:

      wut u suk 4 sure old man

      /Sent from my iPhone

    • Mary says:

      I worked at the fresh foods section of a grocery store last year.

      I was finishing up my master’s degree. Half the other people that worked there were working on an Associates or Bachelor’s. One woman had been a microbiologist in the Middle East before she came to America. Another was working on his master’s in business.

      Everybody there was pretty highly educated. But we also had a lot more crap on our minds and so we didn’t always think about things the same way the customer would.

      And for the record, if we stacked two containers together we would increase the tare weight because our store made you enter it every single time, it wasn’t automatic. We always rounded up and gave the customer more off of the top than they were owed. We also would take meat off of the deli slices until it hit the amount they asked for, then put the sliced meat back on after the sticker was printed so they were getting more than they paid for.

      Not everybody is trying to screw everybody over.

  2. 2 Replies says:

    “If you think a tare weight hasn’t been calculated correctly on your purchase, ask the cashier, and follow up with your state’s Consumer Affairs office if need be.”

    HA! If you’re a frugal consumer THAT concerned with paying a few extra cents, but seriously think that a minimum-wage cashier is going to waste THEIR time contacting the Consumer Affairs office because YOU think they screwed up YOUR purchase…. then you’re deluding yourself into thinking your time and money is more important to everyone else. X’-D

    • Martha Gail says:

      It’s not just your money, though. It’s everyone’s who shops there as well. If the state is putting pressure on them, they might just train their employees do their jobs correctly.

    • George4478 says:

      Why do you think the cashier is supposed to contact the Consumer Affairs office? You are supposed to do that.

      The article says “talk to the cashier and follow up with…” not “talk to the cashier so that they can follow up with…”

  3. 420greg says:

    Don’t put all of your frozen yogurt containers on the scale at once. It is only adjusted for 1 container. The cashiers at the place by my house know this and wait for everyone to get to the register as they want to weight them all at once. I told them no dice. 4 ounces less when weighed separately, at 54 cents an ounce it adds up.

  4. TBGBoodler says:

    Isn’t it the fact that the two containers were different sizes that made it less when rung up separately? The tare weight was figured as if they were both the large container?

    • Daggertrout says:

      The scale was tared for only one container, so weighing them stacked includes the weight of all the other containers.

    • library south says:

      say you have two full containers that weigh a pound each and empty, the containers weigh a half pound. if they were weighed stacked, the scale subtracts one half pound (the tare weight) from the total (1+1-.5 container weight=1.5), and you end up paying for the weight of that second container as if it were all food when you really only purchased one pound of food.

  5. PragmaticGuy says:

    Hell, my wife’s weight watcher’s scale allows me to deduct the tare weight of any plates I put on it (even crappy paper as light as they are). It’s not rocket science people.

  6. Not Given says:

    Golden Corral counts the containers you have and weighs empties, then they deduct the weight from the total.

  7. aweirdguy says:

    My local Cub foods has a self checkout, and it recently updated the software. Now when you ring up any produce that charges by weight, it asks what type of container you have it in and subtracts the appropriate weight from the total on the scale.