No Prices in Supermarket - Is this illegal in NYC?
- K. McB. May 13, 2005 12:07 PM
I thought I heard somewhere a while back that it is against the law not to list prices, or to show them wrongly (such as a box of unpriced cornflakes sitting over shelf price sticker for Lucky Charms).
My local (Food Dynasty in Sunnyside) is worse and worse every day. Seems everything I pick up isn't priced, and it's never in the spot corresponding with the shelf label.
It may be dependent on the size of the market. I believe there's also a distinction made between having the price on the item and having the price on the shelf itself.
Check with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. I think the number is: 800-554-4501.
Annoying, isn't it? I think prices should always be on the package, so that when you go to replace it, there's the reminder of what you paid last time.
There was a New York State item pricing requirement, but that law expired in 1991 and has since been superceded by local laws. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs web site gives some info on the law:
"5-67. ITEM PRICING IN FOOD STORES
Stores are required to mark individually the prices of most food items. This applies to stores, or chains, doing at least $2 million of business yearly. Exemptions include frozen foods and sales items that appear in special displays"
Practically every supermarket I've been to in the city is like that.
One story: during my time as a member of the Park Slope Food Co-op, we switched over to an electronic inventory system (barcode scanning). Previously, each item was individually marked with price stickers and inventory had to be done each week by handcounting every item. Prior to the switch, there was a heated debate about whether we still had to mark every item even with the electronic system, and the law others had cited was invoked many times.
I'm sorry, but I can't let this pass with offering a tangential contrary opinion.
I've called 311 perhaps a half-dozen times, and I find that they're idiots and know nothing about the workings of the city. They are not only not well trained, but I was told that they're not even allowed to tell you anything except what they read off a computer screen, and the computers have only the most general information (e.g. they'll give you a number for the buildings department main line but can't point you to the correct division). Unless, by calling them well-trained, you mean they're trained to operate a computer.
If a person is totally clueless about where to start, 311 is better than nothing, but that's about all I can say for it. In this case, I'd try calling Consumer Affairs before 311.
I know in Nassau and Suffolk it's the law, and supermarkets are fined big bucks for violating (Waldbaums is alway the worst offender). They say it costs so much to do it they'd rather pay the fines, it's cheaper.
Here's the explanation from a New York consumer website:
"The New York State item pricing law  expired in June of 1991 and has been replaced by regulation at the local and county level. New York City and several counties have enacted local item pricing laws and others are considering local laws.
Although local laws vary, they generally require food stores or grocery departments of a general merchandise store to disclose to the consumer the price of each consumer commodity (food for humans or pets, paper goods, cleaning products, toiletries and non-¬ prescription drugs) by marking conspicuously the selling price on the item. They also provide that when an item is marked with a price that differs from that which is displayed by a computer controlled screen, the buyer pays only the lower price.
Item Pricing Complaints
Complaints concerning item pricing should be directed to the local county weights and measures office. Complaints arising in New York City should be directed to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
Consumers in counties without local item pricing laws are protected from a higher price being charged than the price advertised (on the shelf, in a promotion or on an item itself), by General Business Law §§ 349 and 350. These complaints may be referred to the Consumer Protection Board or the countys consumer affairs office."