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BayStateWest.com's
Weights & Measures

The intent of this web site is to provide information that will be
useful to both consumers, and W&M officials.

Weights & Measures Tips For Officials ~ Click here


Weights & Measures Tips For Consumers
Getting What You Pay For

Q. Why Weights & Measures?
A. It's hard to be a smart consumer today. You think about the products you buy and the amount you can spend. Can I afford this? Is this the best buy? Am I getting my money's worth?

Almost everything we buy is sold by weight, volume, length, count, or measure. Think of examples--a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, a liter of wine, a yard of cloth, a pound of hamburger, 128 cu. ft. of firewood.

Without standard measurements, it would be difficult to do even simple things like use cookbooks or buy carpeting, laundry detergent, and fabric.

Q. How do we know we are getting what we pay for?
A. For hundreds of years, your local weights and measures officials have been working behind the scenes to protect consumers, businesses, and manufacturers from unfair practices.

Weights and measures officials work in agriculture departments, consumer protections offices, and other state and local government agencies.

These men and women use highly accurate equipment to inspect scales, meters, scanning equipment and packaged products at supermarkets. They also inspect weighing and measuring equipment and packages at warehouses, packing plants, feed mills, shipping companies, lumber yards, and gasoline stations. They act as a third party to help maintain fairness and keep the marketplace in balance.

Q. What does "Net Weight" on a package tell me?
A. When you buy apples in a plastic bag, you should pay only for the weight of the apples, not the weight of the bag. If you buy potato salad at the deli, you should pay only for the salad, not for the weight of the container.

In many stores, the electronic or computerized scales used at the check-out counter are set to automatically deduct the weight of the packaging. On other scales, the sales clerk must adjust the scale, setting it under the "0" mark to deduct the packaging materials.

Scales must be placed so you can see the weighing process. If you have a question about a packaged item, you have a right to have the package weighed again before you buy. Make sure the weight of the packaging has been deducted.

Weights and measures officials often visit stores to inspect and reweigh prepackaged products. The same officials are required by law to check the accuracy of all commercial weighing and measuring devices at least once each calendar year. If you see a weighing or measuring device that does not have a dated seal from the current year, or the previous year, contact the Massachusetts Division of Standards at (617) 727-3480 for assistance. You will be helping yourself and your neighbors.

Q. What can I do to lessen the chance of being cheated?
A.
There are several things you can do to lessen the chance of being cheated.
First: Watch the scale before and after the item(s) are placed on it. In Massachusetts, the scale must be placed so you can see the complete weighing process, and witness the weight, price per pound, and other information displayed.

Second: Make sure the scale shows a zero condition before anything is placed on it. The weigher may enter information that will cause the scale register a minus sign on the display. This is called "entering the tare", which is a process of deducting the weight of the packaging.

Third: Make sure you pay ONLY for the net weight (product weight. DO NOT pay for the packaging weight, also known as the tare weight.

Fourth: State law states that you have the right to have a pre-package item weighed again in your presence. If a scale showes a zero on the display with nothing on it, and you place a pre-packaged item on that scale, the scale should show a weight that is greater than the net weight stated on the package. This greater weight is called the gross weight, and is the sum of the tare weight, plus the net weight.

If you have any questions about how a store weighs or measures its products, ask the manager for information first. He or she should answer your questions.

If the problem is not resolved, contact your local weights and measures office, or the Massachusetts Division of Standards at (617) 727-3480 for assistance.

Make sure the scale shows a zero or minus sign before anything is weighed. Pay ONLY for the product. NOT for the packaging.

If you have any questions about how a store weighs or measures products, ask the manager for information first. He or she should answer your questions.

If the problem is not resolved, contact your local weights and measures office for advice or assistance.