Overcharging rampant at city supermarkets

You may want to check your receipt a little closer at the checkout line.

A yearlong sweep of more than 700 supermarkets and bodegas in the city found that 52 percent were bilking shoppers, according to a report released Wednesday by the city Department of Consumer Affairs. Supermarkets failed to put price tags on items, didn’t subtract promised discounts and incorrectly slapped on taxes, among other offenses.

“Compliance is terrible,” agency commissioner Jonathan Mintz said Wednesday. “Supermarkets must do right by their customers.”

In the first sweep of its kind, inspectors issued more than $380,000 in fines for 516 violations found throughout the city. Surprisingly, bodegas had far fewer violations than supermarkets.

“I’m very disappointed,” said George Rondo, 77, a shopper of the Broadway Fairway, which received a violation earlier this month for failing to have a customer scale in a mandated location.

But Fairway spokesman Bruce Bobbins said the company was unaware of recent violations, and any past problems were “immediately” corrected. Still, customers at the Broadway Fairway yesterday weren’t happy about the news.

“That’s really disturbing. I shop here regularly so I trust they’re using good business practices,” said Kate Stinson, 27, of the Upper West Side.

Supermarkets rack up the second-most violations among the dozens of sectors regulated by DCA, and the situation has not improved despite discussions with storeowners, Mintz said. Going forward, officials pledged to double the number of spot checks performed by the city’s 80 inspectors, who monitor 12,000 supermarkets and bodegas.

“There has been no improvement,” Mintz said. “Thousands of New Yorkers continue to be overcharged.”

Store owners say inspectors nitpick over taxes on obscure items like eye drops and 99 percent of products are typically priced correctly, said Nelson Eusebio, director of the National Supermarket Association, a trade group based in Queens.

“They are looking for the most minuscule thing,” said Eusebio, who has gotten fines for his Queens supermarkets. “Their main agenda is to write a summons.”

About 90 percent of storeowners pay the fines, which range from $50 to $600, according to DCA.

(With Katherine Lieb)
 

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