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'Whole Paycheck' Dodges Overcharging Claims with $500K Settlement

Investigation found overcharging ranged from $0.80 for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.

A Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas. (Photo: That Other Paper/cc/flickr)

A Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas. (Photo: That Other Paper/cc/flickr)

The Whole Foods grocery chain—dogged by its "Whole Paycheck" pricing reputation—on Monday announced it would pay $500,000 to the city of New York to settle against allegations that it overcharged customers.

An investigation launched earlier this year by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) found that Whole Foods had "routinely overstated the weights of its pre-packaged products—including meats, dairy and baked goods—resulting in customers being overcharged." 

According to the DCA, the overcharges ranged from $0.80 for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp.

The ongoing investigation had sought $1.5 million in reparations, but the grocer agreed to $500,000 "to put this issue behind us."

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In a statement Monday, DCA Commissioner Julie Menin applauded the agreement.

"After discovering the troubling and repeated mislabeling of pre-packaged goods at Whole Foods last year, we are happy to have reached an agreement with Whole Foods that will help to ensure New Yorkers are better protected from overcharging," Menin said.

And while the company denies any wrongdoing, pointing to its third party audit system for pricing accuracy, it is possible that the price-gouging is occurring at locations across the country.

Last year, the company paid $800,000 in fines after a separate investigation into alleged pricing irregularities in California.

And as economist Richard Wolff noted Tuesday, the fine amounts to but a third of a cent per one dollar of sales for the retail giant. In other words, he said:  "Great for them, not customers."

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