By Olivia Scheck, Yepoka Yeebo and Heather Grossmann
MANHATTAN — The Consumer Affairs Department sent out press releases far and wide Wednesday proclaiming Fairway and other Manhattan supermarkets among the city's "worst offenders" against consumer rights — and then sent out an e-mail later saying they were plain wrong.
"This morning the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) announced the results of its yearlong inspection of supermarkets. We deeply regret the error but unfortunately the supplemental list of the worst offenders in each borough was inaccurate," an e-mail from Department spokeswoman Abby Lootens read.
DNAinfo was among the many news outlets that reported on DCA's announcement, citing Fairway — possibly erroneously — as the supermarket with more violations of consumer protection regulations than any other supermarket in the city.
After following up on the e-mail reporting the Consumer Affair Department's error, DNAinfo was told that the Department could not confirm whether Fairway should have been on the list of "worst offenders" at all.
The Department attempted to gloss over their huge blunder with a very brief apology — "we apologize to the supermarkets that were mistakenly included in this list" — and an affirmation of the general findings from their inspection, but they made no effort to immediately rectify the situation with a list of those supermarkets that were wrongfully included on the list.
One of the few things the city agency could standby as of Wednesday night was that almost half the supermarkets across the city violated consumer protection rules by, among other things, failing to put price labels on individual items, inaccurately weighing unpackaged goods and incorrectly charging customers.
"If you count the literal dollars and cents that come out of a consumer's pocket, it can be 35 cents, a couple of dollars," DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz explained earlier in the day. "But that can add up to such a significant amount."
Overall, New York City's supermarkets' rate of compliance with consumer protections regulations, which insure that products are priced correctly and consumers are correctly charged, was "atrocious," according to Mintz.
However, an accurate list of which stores are among the so-called "worst offenders" has yet to be revealed.
Looks like the Department of Consumer Affairs has a clean up in aisle PR.