Open Thread: Overcharging at Ralph’s

Back when I lived in Philadelphia, my home was near a Pathmark supermarket that was in turn right across the street from a low-income housing project. I hated shopping there, because the prices were so ridiculously high — almost as though Pathmark knew that, right across Frankford Avenue, was a fairly captive audience of poor people without cars. The principle of the thing bugged me enough without having to pay three bucks for a half gallon of non-organic milk (this was in the early 90s) because I was in a hurry.

The LA City Attorney’s office isn’t accusing Ralph’s of price gouging per se, but the supermarket chain is on the business end of an overcharging accusation, charged by the city attorney with dozens of criminal counts of overcharging on things like salads and fish. I do a lot of shopping at Ralph’s, because I live within walking distance of one, but it’s not without its problems. For instance: My Ralph’s only ever has two checkout lanes open at any given time, which often forces me to use the self-checkout devices, which keep alerting the Ralph’s staff that I might be trying to steal something. But overcharging? Not really in my experience.

What about you? Are you surprised by the allegations? Do you suspect that your supermarket might be putting a bloated corporate thumb on the scale? Are you one of those sanctimonious types who tut-tuts at those of us who shop at the big-box stores? Or do you refuse to eat anything that isn’t partially hydrogenated and flash-frozen? Satisfy my curiosity, readers.

9 Replies to “Open Thread: Overcharging at Ralph’s”

  1. According the news this isn’t the first time that Ralph’s has been in trouble with the “weights and measures” folks and allegations of overcharging due to packaging or ice on a product.

    Not that they are overly expensive or anything, I’m just not a Ralph’s shopper anymore. Mostly because none are close enough to warrant trekking over to shop. Plus the store in Arcadia always smells of old fish. That is the deal breaker for me. (I prefer the smell be of fresh produce if there has to be an aroma to a store).

  2. My wife watches every penny, so she notices from time to time that the posted shelf price does not match the price that gets rung up on the scanner. I’ve become aware of it as well. I think it’s usually just laziness on getting things right more than intentional deception. What really bugs me these days at Von’s/Pavillions is when they ask for a donation every time you make a transaction. The card reader prompts you, then the cashier asks you the same question. Really annoying. Let me do my charity on my own time.

  3. Are you surprised by the allegations?

    Not really.

    Do you suspect that your supermarket might be putting a bloated corporate thumb on the scale?

    Hadn’t thought about much before, to be honest, but I don’t doubt that it happens.

    Are you one of those sanctimonious types who tut-tuts at those of us who shop at the big-box stores?

    Nope.

  4. I shop at a Ralphs near me, and I remember that, during 2008, their prices skyrocketed, presumably along with the rapidly rising price of gasoline needed for their delivery trucks. However, starting in 2009, their prices came way down. They also have a lot of deals every day for Ralphs cardholders, as well as monthly coupons that include one nice direct cash coupon. So I do not currently feel that I am being overcharged at all by Ralphs.

    Before I start sounding like a shill for Ralphs, I will say that I got “fed up” with their crappy produce, and have started buying all my fruits and vegetables from local farmer’s markets. I’m sure I’m spending more on produce now, but I’m much happier with it, and am rationalizing that the hopefully healthier produce may cut down on my future health care expenses.

    And finally, if you think Ralphs or other supermarket chains are pricey, try setting foot in Whole Foods!

  5. Ralphs’ behavior during the grocery strike – everything from causing the strike in the first place by trying to pressure the existing union members into selling out their future union brethren, to illegally trying to break the strike by bribing union members to scab under false names at distant locations where they wouldn’t be recognized, has made me vow never to set foot in a Ralph’s again.

    I do my routine grocery shopping at Gelson’s instead. Yes, they cost more – but they pay their union employees more than the union minimums, and it shows.

    I get fast, friendly, and competent service from cheerul employees, and I never have to wait in a long checkout line. That’s worth the extra money, in my book.

    Life is too short to patronize businesses that abuse their customers and their employees alike in pursuit of lower prices.

    I’ll happily pay higher prices to support businesses that treat their customers and employees like human beings worthy of respect.

  6. Come on. Don’t you guys see this for what it is? Some City of LA lawyer probably wants to run for a bigger office in the near future, so they decide to make a big splash over this. Get it in the papers, charge the company with “Criminal Negligence” etc.
    I have a close friend who works for Ralphs, and he said that it is human error. They have tens of thousands of employees and accuracy on things like self serve salad depends on the cashier. The salad comes in different sized containers and its up to the cashier to minus out the weight of the container as they ring it up for you. If they don’t know one from the other, they may have charged you a couple of pennies more than they should. But criminally negligent? Please.
    This is a huge company and I find it VERY hard to believe that they are intentionally trying to rob you of a penny here and a penny there. Why would they do that vs. just raise the price of those items by a penny? Think about it.
    I for one have been a long time Ralphs shopper, and as one of the others here said, their prices and specials have been fantastic of late. Plus they have a rewards program where they send me a check every few months. Free groceries. Woo Hoo!.
    I think we should all look at the motives here, and I’m sure this city attorney will be running for something like Attorney General very soon.

  7. This has been Ralphs’ business policy for years. They have pled guilty to fraud on this activity going back, far as I know 20 years. Apparently they make more defrauding customers than it costs them in fines and bad publicity. Boycott them until they really clean up their act!

  8. I’ve worked at Ralphs in Aliso Viejo for almost three years and they do the same price gouging at that store as in LA. I’ve also covered shifts at stores in Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, San Clemente and Lake Forest. They all do it. It isn’t just something in LA. The Service Deli is the biggest scammer with bakery and meat department running a close second. After reading what goes on, now I understand how we rip off customers. I know when I first started I was told by management the price of the container was built into what we sell. They also tell you to use as much wax paper as possible and not to weigh product until it’s bagged. It might not add up to much for the customer, but our deli does $30,000 per week in business. Yeah, I would imagine with 500 customers a day, it adds up for the company rather quickly. No real surprise here though. They currently employ illegal immigrants at our store and falsify health department food logs too. Just another corporate giant that gets away with everything.

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