Summer is in full swing, which means it’s high season for frozen yogurt shops around the state. But the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is urging customers to be wary: what you pay for might not be what you get. Many yogurt shops determine price based on the weight of the yogurt and toppings, but they are required to subtract the weight of the cup or package first (which is called the tare weight). According to Jerry Butler, NCDA & CS Weight and Measures program manager, not every shop is aware of that.
Butler heads a team of 24 inspectors whose job is to inspect scales in the state, and he guesses that they’ve inspected around a hundred or so yogurt shops so far. Of those, he estimates about 75 percent have not been using their scales properly.
“Say you’re a family of four,” Butler says, “you could be paying up to a dollar extra just for the weight of the cups. So it’s important that the shops know how to use their scales.”
Butler says that they haven’t received a single consumer complaint so far, but they have received numerous tip-offs from other businesses.
“Most are complaints from the competition,” Butler explains. “We’ll go in and inspect [a frozen yogurt shop], and they’ll say ‘Well, how about Mrs. R— down the street?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, give me their address and I’ll go over there.’ And then he or she will tell me about another one, and before you know it we’re checking a whole lot.”
Yogurt shops only comprise a fraction of the places Butler and his team inspect. Most of the time, they busy themselves with grocery stores, hardware stores, and gas stations. That’s because larger businesses hire a scale company to install their scales, and that company will report the installation to the state. But yogurt shops are easy to overlook because their scales are often so small they don’t require installation, and so the state never learns of their existence.
Now that the NCDA & CS inspectors have discovered that yogurt shops use scales, they’re keeping an eye out for them as they drive to other jobs. If they see a frozen yogurt shop while they're out, they’ll step inside to inspect it. Most shops that have been violating are quick to correct their mistakes, which were usually made in ignorance, Butler says. A second offense would result in a notice of violation, and a third offender must pay a penalty of up to $5,000.
So what can frozen yogurt eaters do to make sure they’re getting the most yogurt for their buck?
“The bottom line is: the consumer needs to look and ask,” Butler says. “Make sure that the yogurt shop employee uses the tare. And if they’re not, the consumer needs to call me.”
Customers can report their claims by calling 919-707-3225.