As retailers prepare to stock their shelves with garden and landscaping supplies, standards inspectors with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are out to make sure consumers get what they pay for at checkout.
The department employs 38 weights and measures inspectors who inspect everything from gas pumps to price scanners. The inspectors recently completed their review of mulch packers and are currently checking fertilizer plants across the state.
“We want to make sure we catch any discrepancies in items sold by weight before they hit the store shelves,” said Stephen Benjamin, director of the department’s Standards Division. “If you pay for a 50-pound bag of fertilizer, we want to make sure you’re getting a full 50 pounds of fertilizer.”
To do this, measurement inspectors visit fertilizer plants and select a sample of bagged products to weigh. Using a certified scale, the inspectors verify that the sampled bags are within the maximum allowed variance. If errors are found, they are addressed and corrected before a shipment leaves the fertilizer packer. Even minor abnormalities can add up to enormous price differences for consumers and retailers.
“If a scale is overweight, consumers aren’t getting all they paid for, and if it’s underweight, businesses end up losing product.” Benjamin said. “Accuracy in commerce serves the common interest of every person and every business owner.”
Benjamin, who also serves as chairman of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, offers the following tips for consumers buying fertilizer, mulch or other items sold by weight this spring:
•Make sure you can see a customer indicator on the scale. The seller and buyer must be able to see the transaction.
•Make sure the indicator is at zero before anything is placed on the scale.
•If the product is placed in a bag or container, the scale should show a negative amount before weighing to account for the weight of the container.
•Make sure you are being charged the correct price per pound.
•Always double check your receipt.
•If you experience any problems, contact the Standards Division at 919-733-3313. The number can be found on scanners and scales at the register, as well as gas pumps across the state.
NCWM celebrates the efforts of state and local weights and measures inspectors during Weights and Measures Week, March 1-7. The date for Weights and Measures Week commemorates the signing of the first U.S. weights and measures law by John Adams on March 2, 1799. Since then, there have been advancements from mechanical devices to highly sophisticated, software-based weighing and measuring instruments.
NCWM is a professional nonprofit association of state and local weights and measures officials, federal agencies, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Benjamin has served as chairman of the association since July.
For more information about the NCDA&CS Standards Division, go to www.ncagr.gov/standard. More information about the NCWM can be found at www.ncwm.net.